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This is the sixth of our series of articles aimed at human resource managers, line managers and others responsible for organising, managing, supporting, recruiting, training and retaining staff and with an interest in introducing more flexible working methods.

In this article we summarise the issues associated with the selection and recruitment of staff for flexible working, and teleworking in particular.




Selection and recruitment for flexible working

Factors in selection:

Selecting people who will be involved in initial flexible work pilots and programmes often generates heated discussion.  Different considerations come into play the first time around, as it requires existing staff to work in a different way.

Future recruitment should in principle be less problematic, as new recruits have not experienced life under the previous "inflexible" culture.  Nonetheless their previous work experience and preferred methods of working may limit their adaptability to innovative working methods.

Personal suitability is only one variable in the selection: other variables are 

  • organisational environment and culture

  • the suitability of the remote environment

  • task characteristics.

All of these need to be addressed in the context of the wider change programme.

Specifying personal characteristics:

Recruitment, selection for new tasks and promotion often involve some kind of assessment of personality, sometimes including psychometric analysis. It is quite natural that HR practitioners may see some merit in applying this to assessing suitability for flexible working.  There are numerous publications that outline desirable personality traits, and even software to conduct teleworking-focused tests.

However, this is an area where it is hard to be precise, and once again it is necessary to raise the issue about whether flexible working is for the whole of a job or only certain functions.

And much current advice is simply banal. According to the UK Department for Education and Employment teleworkers should be:

  • mature

  • trustworthy

  • self-sufficient

  • self-disciplined 

  • good time managers

  • good communicators

and this is no doubt right. But to assess the value of such advice, turn the issue on its head. Ask, then, which of your employees do you want NOT to exhibit these characteristics?

In almost all cases, specified attributes for flexible workers are only what you would expect from the best of your workforce as a whole.

And if you are employing people whom you find to be immature, untrustworthy, undisciplined, poor time managers etc, the question arises why you are employing them at all. 

Unless you are content for telework to be available as a privilege, or as an option for a kind of workforce elite, then the issue is not so much about selection on a personality basis as about how to raise standards and how to prepare people for a different workstyle.

Not all teleworking is the same!

Once again, it is difficult to arrive at generic advice, as the devil is in the detail. Much is made, for example, of the need for location independent workers to be self-motivated, self-managed and to be willing to work on a trust basis. While this is often the case, it often is not. If you are at home on phone duty for BT or the AA, or need to be available for clients, you really have to be at a specified place at a specified time.

Management may be at a distance, but it still exists in the same way as if your manager was at HQ and you were at a satellite office.

Next article: Managing and working remotely

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