Talent Fueller interview with Tim Yendell, RBS. “Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’
Tim Yendell is the Head of RBS Choice, with a remit that includes spreading the adoption of agile working practises across the bank. We met Tim when we did a double-header for the RBS Parents and Carers Network on pitching for flexible working and making it work for you and your team. Keen to hear more about the RBS Choice team’s work we picked up after the event.
You’re an advocate of flexible working, what would you say to line managers who are new to, or sceptical about it?
“Be confident about trialling a new way of working with one or a handful of people. Start by being clear on what it is that you both expect and how you’ll communicate. Find the right tools that you can use to make that contact easier – it could be IM, phone calls or e-mail. Be very clear about who is doing what, and when, so that in your minds eye you know what resources are available to you on any given day. Trust will only come if the team member is doing the things that they say they will do, so they have to put as much, if not more, effort into getting their line manager comfortable that this is something that will work. It takes time, it’s not something you can buy off the shelf.”
Tell us about the agile working programme you call ‘RBS Choice’?
“It’s been developed to ensure that, over the years and into the future, we’re able to give people more choice around how, where and when they work, to enhance their lifestyle and their work style as well. We see it very much as a key differentiator for us as an organisation and it is a key enabler for many other strategic agendas such as inclusion, environmental, efficiency and people agendas as well as helping us serve customers at times and places convenient to them.”
And the benefits to RBS of offering this level of flexibility in the way employees work?
What we get as a consequence is, not only people who are more effective and productive because they’ve got a good work life balance, but the communities they operate in also benefit from that flexibility. I’m a school governor and I flex some of my days so that I can support that role in my community. We get a lot of discretionary input and productivity from our people because we trust them to do the work that we need them to do, and we trust that it doesn’t always have to be done between the hours of 8am and 6pm – some people are more effective at different times of the day. I think I get more from people when they get something back into the bargain. That could be someone who now doesn’t have to commute so far where the additional contribution is that they think ‘actually, I’m going to give an hour or an hour and a half of that back to RBS.’ Or someone going to the gym first thing in the morning and then working later in the evening.
We’re in a competitive labour market where all organisations are looking to have the best people, so that they can provide the best service to customers, and organisations that provide flexibility will attract those people.
I think it promotes a broader talent pool too, because we’re liable to find and keep people who might be excluded from joining other organisations but who are very keen to work for and commit to an organisation that is flexible.
In my own team, one of the clear impacts I’ve seen is that we’ve been able to keep some very talented women who might otherwise have gone elsewhere, because of the flexibility that’s been on offer.
This sounds like a good point to hear about how you’re embracing flexible working in your team….
I have around thirty people in my team split between London (40%), Edinburgh (40%) and the remainder are in Bristol, Manchester, the US or working from home. Everyone in the team works flexibly in some form. I think it’s interesting how flexible working varies and flexes in response to what’s happening in people’s lives. Some have gone onto compressed hours to support their caring responsibilities with aging parents, some have done variable hours so that they are able to drop off or pick up their children from nursery or school. From the variable hours perspective, one of the women in the team works term time only and two work part-time. We’re flexible enough to allow people to fix their start times, so for whatever reason, some people work from 10 to 6 on some days, some do 8.30 till 5.30, some do 8 to 4… that really helps them balance their professional responsibilities with what’s important to them in their personal life. I have people who work the standard thirty five hours over fewer than five days a week and the remainder work flexibly on an ad-hoc basis. Some have different types of flexibility that they draw down on and others just work from an appropriate location as and when it suits. We work hard to keep the team connected and engaged with each other through audio calls, instant massaging, ad hoc telephone catch ups and team sessions, where people can come together.
Can you give us some practical pointers on how you manage a team who are all working flexibly in some capacity?
- We’ve agreed some protocols in terms of the types of meetings we have, how often we get together so we try to get everyone in together for the lunch sessions/catch up sessions. I have an hour long session with the team each week with a different team member leading the meeting and everyone participating.
- At least once a month I aim to get everybody to go into either the London or Edinburgh offices and linking up by video conference. I have my monthly management team meeting on that day, straight after that, there’s a “lunch and learn” where everybody can just chat. There isn’t an agenda for it, it’s just people catching up – those people that work from home will come in for that, those people doing compressed hours will make sure that’s not their non-working day and it seems to work really well.
- Technology plays an important part, particularly Office Communicator, our instant messaging system, which allows us to carry on having those conversations you’d have if you were co-located. There are other pieces of technology in terms of video conferencing which we use – every other week, we try to get a video conference so that we connect people visually together. It’s all about trying to ensure the flow of information and encouraging connections however remotely they might be working.
- One of the things we’ve cut down on where we have a lot of people dialling in from different locations, is having those people who are in the office joining from a single room. The reason behind this is that people can feel excluded if there’s a lot of banter happening in the room and they’re not able to see what’s going on. So we make sure that in certain meetings, everyone is on a conference phone independently so they all get the same experience.
- Its small little incremental things which have the most impact. Sometimes you’ll be working a bit late and you’ll see someone else is working too and you can have a quick on-line chat. It’s not a case of checking up as it’s likely to be someone who’s flexed their hours that day. It is important though, that I, and the managers in my team, look out for signals that people might be working too long hours and keep an eye on people’s wellbeing – and that’s part of my role as a line manager, taking care of people really.
Your final thoughts?
When we think about the future and think about all the different generations that are going to be coming up through our organisation, or being attracted to our organisation, RBS Choice is important.
And it’s important to lots of different people at different points in their life journey – people will look at other organisations and, by giving them the flexibility they need to lead the lifestyle that they want to lead and the work life that they want to lead, we’re giving people a really good reason to want to join us or stay with us.
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.