In a post pandemic world and during a time of increasingly hybrid working styles, both managers and hiring teams need to be more agile when it comes to recruiting – especially for those hard-to-find skill sets.  

Recent research from Cranfield University found that 40% of managers who had trialled bringing furloughed workers back part time during the pandemic, were not only more open to part time working in general, but also better equipped at managing this style of working effectively.  

It’s not hard to see how this increasing acceptance of managing more part time staff has emerged from the challenges forced on managers and employers during the pandemic years. Pre pandemic, many employers had little experience managing a team made up of multiple part time workers. However, the introduction of the furlough scheme has helped managers think long and hard about core capabilities, specific job requirements and what transferable and key skills they need within a team.  

Whilst navigating furlough, managers really had to consider things like how long tasks take to perform, how work was generated and what type of workflow and expectations were appropriate to match a given number of working hours.  

This has resulted in a shift in opinion around managing multiple part time workers and fewer managers now consider this to be overly costly or difficult. In fact, furlough opened up opportunities for more strategic, streamlined and prioritised workloads, as well as allowing employees to thrive within a more personalised working schedule, that suits their own lives and outside responsibilities.  

Even before the pandemic, as many as a quarter of full-time employees said they would like to work part-time. The recent research from Cranfield University shows an increase in this desire, partly being driven by the cost-of-living crisis as people look for extra jobs to boost their income but also a stronger demand for a better work-life balance. 

The pandemic forced employers previously resistant to flexible and part time working to see the value it can create in terms of employee wellbeing, as well as from a financial and reputational point of view.  

This can only be positive news for both employers and candidates and it also could be an important way for employers to attract to work the 22% of English, Scottish and Welsh people who are classed as economically inactive, including the retired, those with caring responsibilities and people with disabilities.  

But despite progress made during and immediately post pandemic, there is still more that could be done in promoting more flexible working environments and schedules for existing employees and new hires. 

More open and engaged conversations around reduced, condensed and part time hours, as well as flexible working locations and styles, need to become more of a ‘norm’ within recruitment processes. As a result of the pandemic and the disruption that brought to ‘normal’ working weeks, more and more candidates are looking for roles that offer something more than an office-based environment, but also something different to a standard 40-hour week.

If a company has a particular skills gap, instead of advertising a full-time role to fill that gap, there is merit in considering how much of that skill makes up the job itself. Can hiring teams and managers separate that specific and highly sought after skillset into a part time, or reduced hours position and then share out the more generic elements across roles already held within a company, or create another part time role to support?

Lead author of the Cranfield University research, Professor Clare Kelliher said: “Flexible furlough was a unique experiment in part time working, and it was one that many employers and employees learnt a lot from as they put it into practice. It’s vital that we don’t lose that knowledge or willingness to innovate in the workplace – employers should now be looking to build on what they learnt to attract and retain talent. 

“The world of work is going through unprecedented change with the move to hybrid working and events like the great resignation. Part time work offers a route for employers and employees to successfully navigate upheaval and thrive into the future.” 

I believe agility in employment and recruitment models is likely to play a larger and larger part in securing the very best talent for a business as we move further into 2023.  

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