As many families return from their annual holiday to prepare for the start of a new school year, international executive search firm Edward Drummond & Co is encouraging employers to offer flexible working options to recruit and retain female employees with the right attitude and aptitude to undertake key roles within their businesses.

With competition to recruit good people more fierce than ever, companies willing to adopt a fresh approach are going to gain the most; with many ‘best in class’ companies already using flexible working patterns as a marketing tool to boost their reputation as a good employer, to attract skilled and experienced employees and, ultimately, to grow and sustain a profitable business.

Daniel Watts, Director at Edwards Drummond & Co, explained:

“Despite the right of UK employees to request flexible working hours, there is little evidence that employers have woken up to the business benefits to be gained from fostering a culture where employees are able to work flexibly on either a full or part time basis.”

UK employees have had the right to request flexible working hours since June 2014 yet many employers fail to use this legislative change to tap into the pool of professional women who want to return to the workplace after a career break.

The Office of National Statistics reports record numbers of women in work yet, with ongoing skills shortages in key sectors, the executive search firm argues that the majority of women seeking a return to the workplace struggle to find employers who offer flexible working options.

In contrast, those companies who are willing and able to negotiate contracts of employment are reaping the benefits; with the flexibility on offer providing an exceptional candidate experience – crucial in a highly competitive market – and an overall boost in productivity and staff morale.

Watts continued, “Sociological, technological and legislative changes over recent years have led to a growing demand for a more flexible working environment. At Edward Drummond & Co we’ve embraced these changes by adopting flexible working practices that enable our team of retained search consultants and researchers to develop a rewarding career in executive search while working from home, working part-time, working condensed or flexible hours or working exclusively during the school term.

“It isn’t a matter of one-size fits all. We each have different commitments outside of work and we all enjoy the work-life balance that such a flexible approach creates. The benefits for the business have also been very positive; with our growing team of professionals continuing to deliver an excellent service to our highly valued UK and international clients.”

In addition to an up-lift in the number of professional women in senior management positions returning to work after maternity, or a longer career break, there is anecdotal evidence from Edward Drummond & Co.’s clients that a move away from working set hours, say between 9 and 5 from Monday to Friday, appeals to both men and women and is proven to generate a more loyal and motivated workforce.

While an organisations’ flexible working policy should be continuously evolving to reflect changes in the workplace, issues can arise if there is a lack of clear and open communication. Watts advocates transparency and, regardless of working patterns, the need to openly acknowledge the contribution that each employee is making to the overall success of the business.

Watts, who is about to launch a recruitment exercise for one or more consultants to join the executive search team in Bristol, concluded:

“Naturally there will be differences between what one company and another would consider to be a reasonable request for flexible hours. However our experience shows that, regardless of the industry sector or the size of the business, significant benefits can be gained from striking a balance that works for both the employer and the employee.”