To Work Flexibly, Be Flexible - EY, Director of D&I, EMEIA, Fleur Bothwick

To Work Flexibly, Be Flexible - EY, Director of D&I, EMEIA, Fleur Bothwick

E10 S1 - "Talk with Roleshare" Podcast

Fleur Bothwick, Director of Diversity & Inclusive Leadership at Earnst & Young for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, talks about the future of work and diversity and how it’s ridiculous we are not absolutely littered with more people sharing roles today. She talks about how professionals seeking flexible work must themselves also be flexible and agile to make it work.

Episode Transcript

Sophie Smallwood: Hey, this is Talk with Roleshare, I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. Ridiculous, This is how Fleur describes the concept of role sharing, but it's not what you think. Fleur Bothwick, director of diversity and inclusive leadership at Ernst and Young for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, talks about the future of work and diversity and how it's ridiculous we're not absolutely littered with people sharing roles today. Here is Flo.

Fleur Bothwick: I lead diversity and inclusion at E.Y For a mere area. So that's Europe, Middle East, India and Africa and it's 98 countries and roughly one hundred and five thousand people. And in itself, it's not global, but it's incredibly diverse because you have west versus east, you have your emerging markets, you have different local challenges. So, it's a brilliant job. Every day is different and I'm learning something all the time, which is great. I've been in the field of DNI for like 18 years and I fell into it. My career has been a talent or it used to be called human resources. And in my mind, DNI is talent management. It's getting the best possible people. I fell into DNI. It was very, very new 18 years ago and probably focusing only on gender, on women. But my whole career has been geared around human resources. What we call talent now and DNI is just a different way of talking about talent. It's about getting the best possible people into an organization and then engaging them in a way that means they can perform at their best and be the most engaged. So, I love what I do. I love that element of talent. I love the fact that it's its legacy. It does make a difference to the experience that people have when they come to work.

Sophie Smallwood: So, what is your vision of workforce diversity and leadership, for that matter, in the next five years? And what do you think it will take to get there?

Fleur Bothwick: Well, it started already. People are talking about the fourth industrial revolution and people keep talking about the future of work. A lot of that future is with us already, and I think it has significant implications for how talent is thought about. So, if you take, for example, the gig economy, people in the gig economy are going to think very differently about employment and they're going to think very differently about what they want from an employer as they come and go. So, where you've built an employee value proposition that looks at long term engagement, you're going to have to rethink things like contributory pension schemes or even benefits you offer, like maternity, how you engage people, how you enable them to flex how they work. That traditional nine to five sitting in the office in many organizations has gone already. But in organizations where it hasn't, it will be going. We know that a younger workforce coming in, they don't actually want to work from home. They like working together, but they certainly want to feel empowered to work where and when they want. That's a fine line between supervision and development and letting people feel that they have the freedom to operate in their own way. The whole approach to how we manage talent needs rethinking and needs to be much more flexible.

Sophie Smallwood: Very interesting the way I think about the talent pool out there. Have you seen these optical illusions where you look at it one way it looks like a vase, but then if you sort of change the focus of your eyes, you suddenly see two faces looking at each other.

Fleur Bothwick: Yes.

Sophie Smallwood: When I think about the talent pool, I feel like we've been looking at the vase perhaps, and that there's another way of looking at the talent pool out there. And we'll see that there's a lot more. You make me think about the workforce today. Typically, companies are looking for full time employees when they're looking to fill roles, and such there's a huge portion of the workforce that potentially could be missed out. Great talent that is not being considered because they're not necessarily looking for the 40 hour work week, but they have the incredible levels of skills for the roles and they're senior roles, for that matter, that need to be to be filled. So. I agree with you. There's going to be a lot to be to change. And the gig economy obviously is at the forefront of this. Who knows what it will open up as it continues to press forward when other flexible working options start to sort of trickle out of of this movement.

Fleur Bothwick: Exactly. When I first started recruiting or actually even if you think of EY when they used to go out onto campus and talk to graduates, they would say to the grads, you, too, could make partner in eight to ten years if everything goes according to plan. You can't now talk to grad about what's going to happen in ten years' time if they come in and lock step towards partner. We haven't talked a lot about this at EY, but even the whole model of partnership and how you get there is going to have to change.

Sophie Smallwood: So, speaking of EY, I saw a really interesting article not long ago about an initiative in Australia that I thought was so inspiring. And I know you handle it, but you have some insight on this and where this came from, really. I read that EY April this year decided to introduce a life leave, I believe it's called, enabling any and all employees to have an extra month of life leave. It's not paid, but they still have their job and they can take that time to really disconnect. Where did that come from? Is this something that you think EY will start to deploy in other markets? Love to hear your thoughts on that.

Fleur Bothwick: Honestly, I don't know where it came from, but it sounds very similar to what I would describe as a sabbatical. And what I've been really interested in is the high level, it's not hundreds, but I often come across people who have had some sort of sabbatical. Some have taken time out to very specifically do something, like write a book, and others have just decided they just want time out. They want to do something a bit different. And I think one driver of this and it's not EY, but my thinking around this is certainly in the UK the whole topic of mental health is enormous. In fact, we hosted something this Monday for the Center for Talent Innovation, and we had the head of Mind come and speak to us. And there was probably 20 companies there, all with a big focus on mental health and prevention rather than management of, so being much more proactive. In fact, I was watching television yesterday and you may have heard of Tom Bradbury, who is a newsman, but he's published books. But he certainly he was became very famous for interviewing the Prince William and Kate when they got engaged. He was being interviewed and he had, I think he said, five months of last year for proper mental detox and to get over some sort of anxiety he was having. So people are being much more public, talking much more publicly. And it's amazing how many people, at periods of their life, have found everything just too much to manage. So life leave to me sounds a little bit like a shorter version of a sabbatical. And I think it's great. The more it's talked about, the more it's pushed as a benefit, the more it becomes the norm, the better.

Sophie Smallwood: So within EMEA, how have you attempted to solve the notion of full time work life balance? Where conscious companies need the coverage, companies have to continue to operate, of course, and then the talent pool have needs. Right. Some can operate at a 40 hour a week for 50, 40 years. That's absolutely fine for some, but for others it might not. So love to hear about some of your initiatives within EY within a year.

Fleur Bothwick: We have approached this under the umbrella of something called New Ways of Working. And it's a it's part of the global talent strategy. And it's got four components. It's got wellbeing, communities. So volunteering core responsibility is at work, which is all about our new offices. When we start, when we move or we refurbish offices, it's changing the whole look and feel of them. So, it's moving to things like unassigned desks, taking away offices so that people work in open plan. And then the fourth element is flexibility. And when I talk about flexibility, I'm talking about informal flexibility. So, that's not some formal, flexible workers. So, someone who's on a maybe a three day a week contract or works nine to five, sometimes they can be the most inflexible, sometimes for good reasons. So, this is about informal flexibility and it's not about just working from home. It's anything from starting your day ten minutes later to leaving early. Many of us, certainly in my role, because it's AMEA. Many of us work any time, any place, but we juggle it to suit what we need to do. So, I've got three children. The youngest is autistic. So, during the week, this Friday, for example, I will be going to visit a special school, a special needs school for him. But I'll make those hours up somewhere else. And my boss just knows I know what I need to deliver and I know when it needs to be delivered. I'm left to then organize how I'm going to deliver it. So, that's the ideal. That's the vision we're working to. We've done loads of work around this. We have a half day workshop where teams get together and talk collectively about how they can be most effective.

Last year or the year before, we did our fun ideas jam where we asked people to tell us what they'd done, what they changed in their work-life to be more effective, and we had about 150 examples. Mine was one of them. What I found was I'm on the phone most of the day if I'm not traveling because obviously I'm working with is virtual and automatically outlook books meetings for an hour. So, I decided to say for face to face meetings, I would do an hour because you have the niceties of, hi, how are you? Can I get you some water, whatever. But actually on phone calls, you can get to your topic quicker. So, all my phone calls are now 45 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. And by changing that, I actually got back about two hours a day to deal with the deal with emails and other things. So, we did an ideas jam. We copied Australia, who are obviously very forward thinking in all of this. And last year we copied their initiative, which is Flextober, which is where, for the month of October, every day or every week, we're talking about new ways of working, sharing ideas, prompting different geographies to host webinars. South Africa introduced take five where people take turns leaving early on a Friday. Little things, but just getting people thinking about it. It's a hard topic because we are client driven. So, it does depend. We have people on site, not in our office, but on the client sites. We have client deadlines, but we're learning. We talk about this a lot at the moment. We're learning that there are smaller things that teams can do. So, for example, a client said something like, when you when I ask for something by Friday, you invariably say you're going to have it Wednesday. And she said, I don't need it Wednesday. I'm happy to wait till Friday.

So there are definitely things we can talk about as teams and do differently and be much more open with the clients. We had a lovely example of a team on site that wouldn't ask the client if they could every so often work from home. One of our competitors came on site as well, which often happens, and they did have that conversation and the client said, absolutely, that's what we do. So, the other thing we're working on is talking about behavioural change. So, a classic example would be a disorganized manager, who only remembers at four o'clock that they need something for the following day. So, the individual being asked can't leave at six, they have to stay till nine to finish it. Or when a partner asks for something urgently and the individual stays and does it, and then the partner doesn't look at it till later the following day. So, we talk a lot about the little things that added together can help people get a better balance. We look at flexibility in our Global People Survey and we have a demographic question for every region which asks people, do you feel that you can work flexibly in an informal way? And and we monitor that year on year, to date, that number's always improved. It's always gone up.

Sophie Smallwood: Very interesting. This concept of flexible working for the individual need, in essence, because not ones need is the same rights.

Fleur Bothwick: Exactly.

Sophie Smallwood: Someone could be very happy working from home because it suits their needs, whereas someone else who perhaps has a very demanding, personal responsibility at home would perhaps need a more structured way of flexible working and think in the past we've thought of flexible working as one broad term, but there are, in essence, these micro ecosystems of different types of flexible working.

Fleur Bothwick: We did a global retention survey looking at why people exit and I wasn't surprised. But it was nice to see that one of the top reasons for leaving was life balance. And it was men and women, not just women.

Sophie Smallwood: That's really insightful. Right. And so that would definitely motivate you to continue on these programs as you are, which is great.

Fleur Bothwick: We also say that when we see levers and I haven't done this for a while, but a couple of years ago we were looking at levers, particularly women leaving, many left to set up their own business. So, to become entrepreneurs and we all know the entrepreneurs work incredibly hard, incredibly long hours, probably longer when they're in some sort of corporate. But they are choosing to do that and they're choosing when and where and how. So, going back to this empowerment piece.

Sophie Smallwood: It's so true. That's exactly my scenario, being an ex-Facebooker and now being the co-founder of a Roleshare, I completely relate to that. And yes, it's having the choice, in essence, the control to choose when and where. As you said. What's the first word that pops to your mind when you hear of shared roles?

Fleur Bothwick: Ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous that we are not littered with people job sharing. The very, very few examples that I have seen work so well and I just believe it's so win-win. The company gets so much more and obviously it's enabling the individuals to do what they need to do. So, for many years I watched a job share, which was head of DNI at Credit Suisse. And I can remember, Michelle, this is years ago saying that it was hard for her at first because she moved from full time. She was very proud of what she did. And it was quite hard when the job she started to work and people were quite happy to do meetings with her other half and not wait for her to come back in on Monday. She said that at the beginning they did work. They the two of them had to work very hard to be efficient about using up too much time. But I've seen her job share with two, maybe three people. And it's it's so impressive. We've got a couple of EAs here. EY that job share. And again, superefficient. The company gets potentially more out of the two in that one week than if it was one person. And yet it seems to be so difficult for organizations. They just see the negative bit. Is it going to cost more money? You know, some companies have this approach to that manage everything by headcount. So, suddenly it's double the headcount. So, if they're doing full-time employee FTE, we call it, there are silly processes that are reasons why they don't do job share.

Sophie Smallwood: This is definitely one of the challenges. There's a lot of education that needs to to come with this. And there are indeed a lot of questions and blockers that come up. What I've often come across are questions around how job share, or as I like to call it, a micro team works, 'what happens if this,' and my answer often is the same thing as any member of a team. When you have that issue on any team, you will have to resolve it. And within a micro team, it's the exact same thing. So, A question that often comes up is, well, what if one person in the micro team chooses to leave? Then once I say, well, the role continues to operate because the other person is still in the role and at least you have some some momentum still in that role.

Fleur Bothwick: Continuity.

Sophie Smallwood: Yeah, exactly. There are these questions, but there are typically answers for those. But it's just a new way of thinking, as I was mentioning earlier, that optical illusion. It's a new way of looking at things and it takes time for people to think differently. What are some of the other concerns that you have seen pop up and perhaps even the ones that you would think of?

Fleur Bothwick: The biggest one is how the two people make it work. And a lot of that's down to them. We talk about the positive continuity piece, if one leaves and the other is still there, the intellectual capital stays. But that you also need a continuity piece, where if Joe isn't around Thursday, Friday, someone does know where the file is. And again, the few job shows I've seen, they've always been hot on that. They probably most efficient and effective, because if one person suddenly goes off sick or is on holiday, it's far better that you know someone else is coming in on Thursday that will know the answer. So, certainly Michelle, who I've talked to a lot about this, who did the job share at Credit Suisse, there was a strong element of the need for really good communication and the two individuals to be effective in their own right. So that you weren't handing over a muddle to someone. It was easy to pick up where they left off. But the two top ones for me that you always hear is the FTE Challenge and the potential additional cost. And it's the hidden cost of holidays and the benefit side people then but then that should be prorated if they're part time. So, I'm trying to think what other issues people have come up with. It's to do with what if the client rings and they want to specifically talk to Joe and Joe's not now until next Monday. So, it's to do with the continuity of cover of the work.

Sophie Smallwood: Yeah, and that comes down to the way the team decides to split the roleand the transition that they have with each other. And I've interviewed a number of individuals who are doing job share. And it's interesting, there are so many different models. There are the mirror individuals, the people who basically want it to be completely seamless from the outside. They do the exact same thing to manage the exact same roster of clients. And then there are others who decide to split it based on skills and then teams, so they might have their own portfolios or they might actually share a portfolio. But one person might be front of the house most of the time. The other might be more back of the house because they might an inclination to analytics and reporting and such. So very interesting. But from what I'm understanding, and tell me if I'm wrong, what would be really critical in order to make a job share happen would be for the team to really come up with a succinct plan and present that to their line manager to H.R. if they wanted to have the best chance of actually having them have a go at it, perhaps pilot it.

Fleur Bothwick: Yeah, absolutely. That's a really good idea. If you start off by saying, look, let's pilot it, that takes a bit of an edge off where people are starting to think about all the negatives. It's interesting. Michelle was quite senior with her job share. I've seen EA jobs share where arguably it's easier. But I can remember years ago going to a conference and seeing, I want to say it was the head of the BBC or quite a senior job at the BBC, was a job shared to women. And I remember at the time thinking, they must both think independently about things. So, what if one makes a decision on Tuesday the other doesn't agree with on Friday and I can remember them having a discussion about this. It's a bigger commitment from the individuals than it is for the organisation if this works.

Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely, there's no doubt about that. It's it's a greater onus on the individuals doing this. They have to prove that it works. They're the ones who really want this type of arrangement. What I've seen work really well is when individuals almost at the get go, they have a bit of a kick off and they identify what I like to call their version of the Ten Commandments. OK, here are the principles by which we will abide, I will handle this, these are the things that I will handle. If you are not in the office, the decision that I make will be the decision. However, if you're unhappy with it, open communication and transparency, feedback in real time, these types of things. And it's just a different way of working. So the has to be very flexible. The question that I've come across often is, this is just for certain types of roles. And I would say no, it's for a wide variety of roles, but is for certain types of individuals. There are soft skills that individuals have to have in order to make and to be part of a successful micro team. Right. And it's not for everyone, because if you are an ultra competitive person who likes to progress and progress your career and your career, only and you're not team player, then it's not going to be for you.

Fleur Bothwick: Agreed. They say it's good practice to every job should be advertised with the caveat at the bottom saying we can discuss the potential of doing this flexibly. So, it should never be the only these jobs can be job. We should say any job you start from the from the approach of any job can be job shared.

Sophie Smallwood: That would be phenomenal. I've seen a few jobs in the fintech sector for sort of New Age companies that very, very specifically in the job description say we are open to shared roles. We're open to flexible working. If this is of interest to you. I love that. I love the conversation happening from the get go. So what do you think would it would take to drive adoption within a company of people who perhaps, as you say, are leaving because they want more flexible working, that perhaps might say if shared roles would be more readily available? How can we drive adoption?

Fleur Bothwick: It's like all the research around gender. One of the big findings is people complain they don't see role models at the top. And I think this is similar. It's chicken and egg, because what you need is more people doing this so that it just becomes the norm. And as I say, I'm thinking aloud and we're talking one hundred and five thousand people here in AMEA. I can think of a handful of job share. Truly Just a handful. I obviously don't know the whole landscape and there might be more, but the ones that I've come across, there are very few. Some of that is down to some of the people seeking part time really do need boundaries. When I first joined by somebody who worked for me, I didn't have to look at my watch, I knew exactly what time it was when I saw her approaching her desk or packing up her stuff. And, you know, she had young children and a commute and she did nine to five, three days a week and that was it. And I do think you work more than your three days when your job sharing because of the communication piece. I've heard case studies where people say we call each other on a Sunday night, talk for an hour and go through this, that and the other. So, there's a part here where I think people seeking reduced days aren't able to make that big a commitment to make the job share work. But if we could just get more job up and running so it became more of the norm, I think we'd be saying, gosh, we should have done this years ago.

Sophie Smallwood: And that was Fleur Bothwick, director of diversity and inclusive leadership at Ernst and Young. Her last point is a really important one. Professional seeking flexible work as part of a culture must be flexible and agile to make it work. Simple. I mean, it's different than doing a part time job for three days a week as a solo player. It comes with a rich partnership and potentially more exciting roles. It's fantastic to see EY proactively promoting flexible working across the organization with their event for Flextober. And I hope in time there will be more professionals there sharing roles at varying levels of the company. EY could be a great example of a legacy organization that is leading the way on New Age thinking. I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. Thanks for listening and join us for the next episode of Talk with Roleshare.

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