Studies of how men and women behave in the workplace suggest men are more likely to ask for what they want than women. Our Rocket Women posts shine a light on women who have asked for something in their professional life that has had a significant impact on their career. We hope they fuel your resolve to ask for what you need to get on.
Yvonne Garricks, Learning & Development Manager at Dentons
Inside Dentons, an established city law firm, talented people are having unusual flexible working practices granted. We spoke to the firm’s UK, Middle East and Africa learning and development manager, Yvonne Garricks about her flexible working pitch.
Yvonne’s role involves creating the training strategy, making sure it’s aligned to business needs and working very closely with key partners to ensure what’s delivered, hits the mark. Yvonne was asked to join the firm on a permanent basis after a four week interim project where her ‘fit’ and ability to deliver were clearly noted. Yvonne takes up the story.
You negotiated from the start, please tell us about it.
“I was very upfront at the beginning and admitted that I was not quite sure permanent would work, as I come with certain conditions. The conditions were that I worked four days a week and that I take August off to be as a family overseas where my husband currently works. It’s important for us to maintain that. Happily, I work for a supportive firm and they accept flexible working where they believe it’s going to work. They said yes and I’ve been in post a few months.”
What would you have done if they’d said no to your pitch?
“I was quite happy to continue on an interim basis and focus on six and nine month roles that would fit around my personal circumstances. Because of my experience and achievements with other firms, I know it can work. But it’s interesting how some law firms from the outset would not consider a four day week, showing that the firm I work for recognises that talent comes in many forms and it’s not just Monday to Friday nine to five.
How’s flexible working, working for you and the business?
It is working extremely well for both of us. As the firm has shown flexibility with me, I am very willing to be flexible too. I am happy to swap my days around when necessary and keep an eye on emails when I am away. I have to work hard in the four days, manage my time well and prioritise. Occasionally I will have a quick look to see if there’s anything I need to be aware of but I do not work on my day off.”
Truly pioneering flexible working arrangements
“There are many people who work flexibly around the firm and job sharing is common within our support services . We have an example of two individuals who work for six months each then take six months off to pursue other interests. I have never heard of that before in a law firm.
We recruit driven, ambitious and talented people but recognise that a diverse and flexible working environment helps individuals to balance their working and personal life. This results in more satisfied and productive staff.
Perceptions of flexible working
“Within the support service teams, flexible working is accepted and I am not aware of any negative perceptions. A number of lawyers here work flexibly however, I have friends in other firms who tend to keep their flexible working arrangements under the radar as they do not want to be perceived as being less committed. Another friend of mine works four days a week and she accepts that she is not going to necessarily get the same quality of work or work for certain clients because she cannot be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week so there’s always a compromise.”
You side-stepped many of those issues by working on an interim basis, could you share some of the other benefits of this style of working?
“Interim work is not for everybody, but I found it to be the best way of getting back into work after children without the full time, permanent responsibility. Working as an interim is a tremendous opportunity to do interesting work, gain visibility of other firms and also develop a solid reputation in the industry. I would recommend it.
You mentioned the role of self-belief in being confident to pitch for career opportunities. Could you expand on that?
“For me self-belief comes from knowing what I’ve achieved in other roles and knowing I can do that again. Even when I wasn’t working, I kept up to date with everything that was going on: I still read training journals, I was still a member of the CIPD, and I never ever let anything drop even though I knew I would not need it for another year or two. Having that link within the industry stopped me from feeling that I had lost some of my skills and wouldn’t be ready to return when the time was right.”
Is there someone in your organisation who’s making efforts to keep, support and stretch female talent that we could shine a light on? Go on, make their day and put us in touch with him or her.