In an interview with Rhonda Bennett, Head of IT business change at Pinsent Masons, we, Attune Flexible Jobs, asked her how she has worked flexibly for many years, as well as being promoted five times in a career that has spanned twenty years ensuring that working flexibly has never held her back …. When you
Can you work part-time or flexibly as an interim?
There’s more than one way to approach flexible working. We ask Helena Stone, HR and change consultant who established herself as an interim in 2017, but had experience of working part-time for 7 years at PwC, how she found her part-time interim role and how to make it a success.
Tell us a little about your background?
I have a career spanning over 20 years and worked in professional services for 11 years as an HR and change specialist for PwC. In February 2017, I decided to set up my own business as a consultant as I wanted to work with law firms to help them bring about change, ideally three days a week for nine months of the year so I could have the summers off to spend with my children.
You seem very clear on your working arrangement?
I think to successfully get what you want, you have to be very clear. If you know what you want and what you are aiming for allows you to negotiate. It also shows your employer / client that you have thought through how you will manage your objectives, workload etc. I think people can be a bit apologetic or nervous about asking for things and they leave the door open hoping something will stick. But if an employer or client doesn’t know what you want they are not going to be able to agree it.
You are currently working for a law firm, three days a week. How did you manage that arrangement?
The power of networks. I wholeheartedly believe in networks. I was recommended to Attune Flex Jobs via another contact via a friend. Sarah Broad from Attune was unable to help me at that time but in that 30-minute conversation she introduced me to another interim who works part-time. She advised me on the pros and cons (and we still regularly meet sharing ideas and discussing how best to support other interims). Sarah also introduced me to another contact, who placed me three days a week at an International law firm for 6 months. It was perfect and they are a great firm to work for.
Why does your flexible working arrangement work?
For two reasons. The people I’ve worked for are open to different ways a job can be performed. They tend to focus on my credibility, the value I bring and trust in my ability to deliver. So as long as the job is being performed, they don’t mind how it is done.
The second is because I make sure it works. Blending work and family life is important to me. I want to deliver at work, have the opportunity to share my skills and feel valued plus have time with my family. I am no less interested in my career now than before I had children and I want to be able to develop and grow.
Do you approach work differently as an interim to that of an employee?
I am really mindful of showing results and understanding the impact on the business regardless of whether I am working as an interim or as an employee. As an interim there is more pressure to perform and achieve objectives as you are expected to hit the ground running and they are paying a premium for your level of expertise. You are expected to deliver on day one and I like that level of expectation as I enjoy making a difference. As an employee you may have a broader role and are involved with other aspects of the role and business that you do not have to get involved with as an interim.
What advice would you give to those seeking part-time / flexible work?
Be honest and clear about what you are looking for and why it is amazing for the client! Sell the benefits to them and why it will work with you in post! Request a trial change to your current working arrangements if you and the employer are unsure. Focus on the outcomes, but do think about the process of how you’ll do it. It may be prudent to agree how and by what you will be measured, focus on those priorities and stop those activities that are not as important.
Recommend having a coach, mentor or join a forum or groups supporting women back to work or balancing part-time work, where you can discuss best practices, share stories and get support. Showcase your story too. You never know it may even increase numbers working flexibly and give others confidence.
Does working as in interim suit everyone?
Many businesses want to hire interims rather than full-time employees as they want to hire specialists for a set period of time. Change programmes are perfect for this as well as roles in, for example, project management. Some people would find regularly looking for new work, or frequently changing employers, quite stressful but I find this concept very exciting.
How do you find your next interim assignment?
This job is my first in the law sector and I have already been invited to networking events where I get to meet others in the industry. I have also met new suppliers, which are all organic ways to meet new people, develop contacts and potential for new work. Networks are always a great way to find work and working alongside good recruitment agencies who value your skills and are not inhibited by the prospect of working with candidates who want to work part-time / flexibly.
Working flexibly is still not the norm in many firms. Do you apologise for working part-time?
No, albeit I may have when I first started working part time 7 years ago at PwC. It does take some practice but you are being paid to do a role and I deliver my objectives. I have learnt to identify where I can get the most value in the hours I am working, where I can prioritise and I make very conscious decisions on what needs to be delivered. I obviously can’t blindly push on with my agenda as I still need the buy-in from the rest of the team / business. But at the beginning of the day I set myself two or three objectives that I need to complete and I focus on those and try not to get side-tracked.
Huge thanks to Helena for sharing her thoughts and advice on working part-time as an interim. If you would be interested in taking part in a Q&A to share your story on flexibility in the workplace, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us at email@example.com or follow us on LinkedIn