Power part-timer

Mike Dean has been named one of Timewise's Top Fifty Power Part-Timers. Workingmums.co.uk spoke to him about how he balances his senior role and his outside interests.

In 2009 Mike Dean collapsed at his desk and woke up in A & E. He was suffering from an adrenal imbalance and his doctor warned him that his adrenal system could not cope with the constant levels of stress it was experiencing due to Mike's full-time job as a senior manager at global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company Accenture and his full-on volunteer youth and church work. Something had to give, but Mike did not want to abandon his outside interests.

Accenture has a return to work and counselling service for people who have had to take time out of the workplace so when he started back to work it was on two to three days a week. The "Mr Fixit" role he had been doing was coming to a natural end in any event. At the same time Mike reduced his commitment to the football coaching he did and became a reserve coach.

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He found that he was more productive at work and enjoyed life more. He decided that he wanted to keep working that way and Accenture agreed. It appears to have paid off. Mike, who has just been promoted to oversee service delivery for Accenture’s multi-million pound Business Process Outsourcing in the UK, Ireland and the Nordics – managing a team of 900 people, was recently named one of Timewise’s Power Part Timers, one of only six men to make the Top 50.

He says the recognition is in large part due to Accenture’s forward-thinking policies. “They recognise that if they are to recruit and retain the quality of people they want then they have to work around the fact that the days of a person committing body and soul to an organisation have gone,” he says.

Mike, who has two teenaged sons, admits that it was not easy at first to go part time. “For the first few months when I said I could not take calls on Fridays because I do work for Bucks County Council I would sometimes get the silent treatment,” he says. He felt colleagues thought he was not pulling his weight, but says that has now dissipated as they have seen that, through smart working, he is more than able to do his job and that measuring work on output rather than input of hours makes business sense.

Passion

Mike is passionate about flexible working and about the need for managers to lead the way. He is on the steering committee of two of Accenture's employee engagement groups, including the Accent on Women group as well as running leadership masterclasses. He says: "People who work flexibly are so focused and having something else outside of work means they have a freshness and different view. Their productivity is higher and they have an energy and passion. It's a no brainer really. I'm a total convert," he says.

So much so that when a new role is posted in his team he looks to see if it could be done flexibly. "We had a job posted recently which was five days a week in Reading. A really good candidate applied from Darlington."

He questioned whether the job could be done differently to accommodate the candidate. "We need to challenge the stereotypes," he says. "Perhaps jobs can be done in a different way. Sometimes people are put off because they think it will lose them business, but our clients are interested in how we do it and that gives us an edge."

Working with Nordic countries means many of his clients are aware of the benefits of flexible working, although he says people there tend to have more formal arrangements whereas at Accenture a lot of the ways people work are agreed informally, for instance, staff who need a little flexibility every now and again to look after elderly relatives. "It's about understanding people's individual circumstances. That's the difference between leadership and management," he says.

Working week

Mike is on a three-day a week contract, but he is paid for three and half days in recognition of the fact that he does more. In fact, he does around four days a week, but this can vary. For instance, if there is an urgent call or text on a Friday when he is working with his youth group he will respond. But similarly he will take calls about his voluntary work during work time.

His team know not to interrupt him for routine issues on a Friday or a Monday, when he does some exercise for his health, does the school run and uses his day 'off' to think strategically.

He has managed to cut his job down from five days a week by cutting out inefficiency – for instance, he says it is inefficient checking emails all the time and he makes sure his team sends documents they would normally have brought to meetings beforehand so he can review them. He has also reduced the amount of objectives his team has to deliver from around 15 to four which he says simplifies what they are doing and makes the team more productive. "They know much better what they are doing and are not firefighting all the time," he says. Having the right people on his team has also helped.

Mike adds: "The important thing is that the company trusts people to deliver and if they do that people step up to the mark. They are basically setting people up to succeed."

Mike admits that his wife does most of the childcare. He says he is well aware of the challenges, though, and champions the cause of working parents. "I take my hat off to working parents who are doing things like homework with the kids when they get home from work," he says. "I feel if work can do anything to make their lives easier it should and that will help to retain them. If these people are so capable that they can manage multiple things like that I want them working for us."





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