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Flexible working: a reward or just good working practice?

Posted: 02 July 2015

When I began thinking about writing my latest post (And if you hadn’t already guessed, I do write them, not some PR company.) my intention was to provoke a debate about reward – “what constitutes a meaningful reward in a sales/commission led environment?”

If I’m honest, it felt like a boring subject that’s probably been done to death and I wasn’t relishing putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). I did my research, read tons of articles and other peoples’ blogs, LinkedIn posts and it seems that the “challenge” is universal. Reward means so many different things to different people and it would seem there has been a whole industry spawned out of trying to give people extra feel good factors – from at desk massages to fruit on Friday, duvet days or even flying lessons.

What I did find interesting was the subject of flexible working. It seems that the recruitment industry (like many others) is struggling to balance the idea or ideal of giving people flexibility whilst expecting a target to be hit. Some companies seem to offer flexible working as a reward; it’s normally listed as early finishes or later starts. Of course some do more than this but it isn’t easy to find hard evidence, my research mostly involved speaking to recruiters who work for different organisations.

This had led me to conclude that the “reward” of flexible working is often given to the high performers. People who hit their sales targets are given the most flexibility and have more freedom.Of course, I’m generalising and I’m sure there are lots of brilliant recruitment companies that just don’t give flexible working to an elite few, but let me pose this question to you all:

Should we give flexible working to everybody who wants it and what exactly does that mean?

If one presumes that most recruitment businesses that have a new business arm or division manages its people through a sales target (I appreciate there is clearly more to it than just that) and that a mathematical formula is applied to basic salary and commission vs. target e.g:

Target of 200k NFI per annum
Base salary 40k
Commission 20% of everything billed

And that the employee has passed the “does he or she know how to do the job, lives by the company values, can hit a sales target” test, then why should I, as business owner, care how many hours, minutes or days somebody has to put in per week to achieve it.

More to the point, should I care if the recruiter comes into the office, works from home, sits in Starbucks or on the back of a boat? I understand the arguments of sales environments needing people, but I know that’s not for everybody. I married an amazing recruiter who is twice as productive from the comfort of her own private study with nothing to distract her apart from the cat.

I think flexible working should or could mean more than an early finish or a late start, it could be about empowering sales people to dictate their own flexibility and be measured by which side of a 100% sales target they stand on.

Do you agree? Join the conversation by following us on LinkedIn.