Introducing employee-led flexibility to Siemens

We have 15,000 employees in the UK, working hard to deliver on the company objectives. Our well-being is important to us. To enhance well-being and to make Siemens a desirable, aspirational place to work for a more diverse and inclusive range of potential employees, how can we provide wider opportunities for flexible working at Siemens? Enter employee-led flexibility, or ELF for short… 

While certain areas of the business may already adopt aspects of flexible working, Employee-led flexibility is all about addressing the availability of flexible working across the entire business. It has been identified as one way we can help make a real, positive difference to staff retention, wellbeing and growth and skill succession planning.

It has been identified as one way we can help make a real, positive difference to staff retention, wellbeing and growth and skill succession planning.

Today there are 650 people that work part-time in Siemens only 2.5 per cent of men work part-time compared to 16 per cent of women. The possibility is open to everyone and has been for 12 years but the fact it has not been adopted more widely suggests our culture and mind-sets need to change. 

Flexible working should be for everyone for any reason. ELF is not about asking permission from your manager it is a different kind of conversation about being innovative to resource things differently and allow a new way of working to help our people and our business flourish. It is trust in action from all parties to ensure flexibility can be responsibly implemented.

That’s why Carl Ennis, Managing Director Energy Management, Angela Noon, CFO and Simone Davina, General Counsel chose to participate in this experiment at the Nottingham site and in the CF R Hub, Tax and Legal.

ELF's wider roll-out

Employee-Led Flexibility is an umbrella term for any kind of flexibility. There are three main parts for ELF:

1. Informal elements

  • Colleagues will be empowered to employ a flexible location, reducing the onus on a presenteeism culture, where applicable.
  • Working pattern – should you need to stop work in the day for an appointment or caring duties this is fine. If needs be you can adjust your work tasks to accommodate and make up any time lost, moving away from a fixed 9-5 structure

2. Formal Contractual Changes (flexible working policy)

  • Sabbatical (long period)
  • Part-time working opportunities where working weeks are reduced to four or three days.
  • Role-sharing.
  • Working patterns and flexible hours.

3. Unpaid leave

  • Colleagues will be given the opportunity to take a significant number of days unpaid leave.
  • Part time (reduced days)
  • Sabbatical (short)

A well-earned break

A manager’s immediate reaction may be: ‘How on earth am I going to manage my business with employees wanting time off work?’ The test of success is that it becomes the norm and is taken up much more broadly. We may find a more diverse group of people joining Siemens because of the flexibility on offer. The Future of Work brings us new tools and new techniques which we can deploy to help with the resourcing challenge that flexible working requests can pose. It could be difficult to match the gap with the skills required but these problems should not be insurmountable. The idea is that Siemens evolves from a permission-based flexible working policy, to an individual-led flexibility culture.

William Waldron – Smart Metering, Nottingham

“I got married in 2016 and in discussion with my wife we talked about the future. She told me that she’d gone straight from university into work as she’s a midwife. She wanted to do something and see the world. Her policy with the NHS was that she could take up to 12 months unpaid and come back to her position.

“At the time I was running a team of 25 people in one of our operational teams in one of the larger segments of the managed services business. I asked for 11 weeks’ leave to travel around Asia.

“I went with a proposal to my manager. He was very keen that the business kept good people so was really keen to support me. I’ve been at the company for 10 years and I’ve been working for my boss for five years so he knows how hard I work and my results. I came up with a solution that there was someone in my wider team that was capable of stepping up in a secondment type capacity. They have been champing at the bit for development. He was comfortable with the solution.

“I gave 12 months of notice as a bare minimum so we were well prepared for the leave.

“I think leave and holidays have a huge business value. I value it. It physically displaces me from the office and gives me a sense of recharge when I come back. I think there’s a payback to Siemens for that. I came back extremely recharged.

“I think my whole experience has increased my loyalty towards siemens. I feel very privileged to have been allowed to do this. The company has got more loyalty from me and I will continue to work hard. It’s also had the positive effects of cross-training and developing people. People have stepped up to undertake the next level of project management in my absence. They were rewarded for that and also rewarded on their development journeys.

“I was part of the creation of the conditions and enablement to allow the junior person to step up. It’s about making sure the team still works. There is an onus on the employee to work with the manager to put something in place in your absence. Employees need to take a bit of ownership of what they’re leaving behind and I wouldn’t allow it to limp along and be a disorganised when I came back as it’d be even harder so it was in my interest to leave things in a good state. 

A flexible approach for all

Peter Playle – Senior Project Planner Monkton/Hebburn

“I’m in my 70th year and I’m coming up to 55 years of continuous service, with Siemens, Reyrolle, Northern Engineering, VA Tech and a few others, but now Siemens.

“One of the things was that when I was thinking about going on to short term working, things changed unexpectedly. When my daughter had our first grandchild that was an unexpected consequence for us. It was great as it happened. I was saying at the time that I wanted to get my 50 years in but I wanted to spend more time with the family at home so I approached the company and asked to go onto a four-day week. Then when I got to 65 I asked if I could change that to a three-day week. I’m not ready to retire but I’d like a little more flexibility. It’s worked very well for my circumstances especially because of the team I’m working in.

“The longer weekends are a definite benefit. When I got to 65 I went on to the three day week as more grandchildren came along and it turned out that the family needed more of my time.

“There was always an opportunity to take reduced hours and they would encourage it for people approaching retirement age. It was more appealing to keep our knowledge than lose us altogether.

“There is a shortage of people with my expertise. Project planning using primavera systems. We had extensive experience as we’d used them for 20 years. There were three others all approaching retirement age. And I explained that we shouldn’t lose this experience and we should mentor new talent, but the time with family was appealing.

“I still manage projects. We’ve had a series of recruits that have come through the business. They’ve been helping – project engineers, graduates. I’m always here to help them. That’s what I’m keen to do and have been like that all my career to share my experience. It benefits them.

“We’ve got a young planner who’s very good. He has skills that I don’t have on IT and they can do things I could never do. I have the knowledge of the customers and relationships. As you do get older you do tend to bore them with experiences of the past!

Liban Abadid – Financial Controller – Manchester

Back in 2017 I wanted to build my own house in Somaliland. To build a house you really have to be there to oversee it. I spoke to my manager and explained the planning and what I wanted to do. Essentially I used all of my holiday allocation in one go.

What was important to me was that while I was away, the work of the team and the department needed to carry on. I didn’t know unpaid leave was an option when I took the five weeks. If I knew I would have taken three weeks and used two weeks of holiday and then I’d have some holiday left for the year.

The five weeks were at the end of year end, which was very busy. It starts in period 1 which is very quiet; there is no reporting. I had five weeks of preparing for p2 closing. I made sure that everything for p2 closing was in place. I worked extra hard to get ahead. My manager was very cooperative and it all went very well and he was very supportive.
The house was completed in five weeks. From planning to building and finishing.

It was nice to come back as it was very motivating. If the company give you the opportunity to go away and do something that is personal to you, you feel energised to deliver. I think you feel more loyalty. If Siemens trusts you, then you feel like it’s your own company and you need to give that trust back. Loyalty is very important and something Siemens gets back.

It’s about having flexibility throughout the whole year and some nights you may work late and some days you may leave early but it’s all about trust. When you need the flexibility, it’s there, just like when the company needs you, it’s there as well. Your company should be as flexible as you are for your company.

My advice is for people to look at the options available to them. If the opportunity is there then use it. I am someone that values time away from work as I have all of my family living in Somaliland. I use that time to learn more about my relatives and my family. I could add more time to my holiday which means a lot to me. I grew up in the Netherlands and I moved from there to the UK in 2008 when I was 9, so all my family are in Somaliland. Everyone out there knows me but I need to get to know them. 

If you’d like to know more about how ELF can work for you and further details, please register your interest by clicking here.

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