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How do you manage a flexible team? Claire Nightingale is Global Head of Finex Financial Institutions Claims Advocacy at Willis Towers Watson, the multinational risk management, insurance brokerage and advisory company. She has built a flexible team and says the benefits for business are significant in terms of hiring and retaining the best talent.
Claire started working for Willis Towers Watson around 10 years ago, moving over from an investment bank. Over the years Claire, who has two children, had worked different patterns.
When she joined the company it was into a new role and with an opportunity to build a new team. She made it clear she wanted to work a four-day week, in part so she could be around more for her children who were at primary school at the time, for which she received support from her manager.
Claire continued to work a four-day week until last year. Now one of her children is in sixth form and the other is at university so the flexibility of being at home one day a week isn’t as important. While Claire worked a four-day week, her day off was fixed, but she would on occasion and if necessary move the day in order to ensure there was no impact on client-facing work.
Claire’s working pattern and attitude has inspired others to join her team. Caroline Sawyer is a claims advocate at Willis Towers Watson.
She joined Claire’s team on secondment from a law firm at the end of 2014. At the time she was pregnant. During her maternity leave she left her law firm and started working for Willis Towers Watson in 2016.
She says: “I enjoyed the kind of work I was doing at Willis Towers Watson on secondment and as Claire and another member of the team were working part time I could see that I could combine an interesting career and high quality work with spending time with my children.”
Like Claire, she works four days a week, but her schedule is more fixed because her children are still at preschool. If there are urgent client-facing issues Claire or another colleague will ensure the work is done, although she says it is often possible to structure client-facing meetings or calls to take place around her day off.
Claire thinks the flexibility in the team works because it is based upon team work, excellence and client service. “It is built along a very collaborative model,” she says. “The whole book belongs to the team. If someone is on holiday then other team members cover for them. It is the same principle. What is important is that it is fair and that flexibility is open to all.” Moreover, she adds, the team is relatively small so flexibility is easy to manage.
Caroline adds: “Claire has created a strong team and fostered a supportive culture which means that no-one minds picking up a call for someone else and that reflects on how she has built the team and how she has role modelled the way the team works. It creates a strong team spirit.”
Claire agrees that there are sound business benefits of flexible teams and a climate in which people are not afraid to mention their lives outside work. She says it is “all about hiring and retaining very, very good people”. She adds: “The quality of people we can attract is very important.”