Altum HR is an HR outsourcing solutions consultancy that specialises in all aspects of HR, employee development, employment law and payroll, all with a refined legal focus.
As well as advising their clients on the benefits of a flexible working culture, Altum HR have looked internally at their own policies and practice. Based in Altrincham, the company became involved in the Caring, Working, Living project in December 2019.
We spoke to Tara, HR Consultant at Altum HR, about working at Altum HR and the benefits of flexible working.
Why did you first become involved in the Caring, Working, Living project?
I spend a lot of time speaking with employers about how they require the right talent in their businesses; parents and carers are talented people that shouldn’t be avoided because they cannot commit to the 9-5 requirement. Employment relationships need to move to the here and now and I believe flexibility in working is one of the ways of achieving this.
How does flexible working work for you in practice at Altum HR?
All staff have the autonomy, trust and ability to manage their individual workflows across their working day. This allows the team to structure their working days with the view of achieving the optimum business requirements and output while balancing individual personal priorities. We operate our business model through modern technology which allows remote and flexible working for the employees, but also ensuring the needs of our clients are met efficiently and effectively at all times.
What do you think are the main benefits to the individual in offering flexible working opportunities?
As a full time employee and a working mother, flexibility in work allows me the satisfaction of working in a sector I love and being able to spend quality time with my family. In previous work environments, my working day was structured against the requirements of the administration of a business, typically 9 – 5 working. Although these are core hours of business transactions at Altum HR, our autonomy allows our work to be completed outside of these hours, meaning flexibility throughout the working day.
Furthermore, the benefits of remote working, supported through cloud based systems and mobile technology allows me to continue working when I am not in the office. If my child has a medical appointment, I am able to attend an appointment and still attend my emails or pick up a piece of work while waiting. Flexibility in the workplace also allows me to structure my ongoing studies and continuous development plans, with the ability to structure my day around seminars, extra-curricular activities and study time without impacting my day to day work requirements.
Do you have any tips for how to make flexible working successful?
Trust is the key to embracing a fully flexible work place. For an employee it is important to understand and appreciate the relationship with your manager and ensure that its foundation is built on trust. Adopting an open, transparent and honest communication with staff, being organised and effective in your work, but ultimately being aligned in the goals of the business and understanding where your part in that journey is embodied are all important in ensuring flexible working is effective.
Are there any challenges within a small organisation and how do you overcome these?
Travel can sometimes be a challenge, however being organised and planning in advance can easily overcome these barriers. If a client requires immediate help and travel is needed urgently the team work together to support in the best way to achieve the requirements of the client. A short term continuous handover plan, i.e. everyone knowing enough to support the employee and take over is key.
What happens when someone needs annual leave or to attend an appointment at short notice?
It’s never a problem due to the ability of all employees being able to manage their own time. Holidays are booked in advance and appointments tend to be organised within the contingency parts of our day. As we all work as a team, there is ability to support each other in the requirements of the business when faced with unscheduled absence. It is important to understand however, because of the engagement of employees and the way in which we work, absence is a very rare occurrence at Altum HR.
Due to our team work, the high performance capabilities of staff and the manner in which we conduct our business, Altum HR embraces an environment where stress is minimised through mental health awareness and support. The workplace, although can be stressful with the processes that are involved in our work, allows for open discussion, collaboration and innovation. Although everyone can get sick at times, there is a lot to be said for a low stress environment.
Is there anything further offered to parents or carers at Altum HR?
As a HR Consultancy we offer policies and contracts to all of our clients and therefore it is important for us to practice what we preach. Some of the policies we use include;
Parental leave policies
Flexible working policies
Mental health awareness policies
Time Off In Lieu (TOIL) Policies
Is there anything you have learnt from your experiences with clients about how flexible working has worked, or challenges faced, within other organisations?
Flexible working tends to be a tool that is not utilised effectively by organisations, most failures in flexible working are due to the process being one sided and focused on part time working rather than embracing the cultural and experienced benefits that can come with flexible working. A small investment in the right policies, procedures and training can benefit not only employees but also business in increased productivity, employee loyalty and competitiveness in the workplace.
We know that you are involved in a number of other projects locally, can you tell us about this?
Our team is very diverse and love to support admirable causes in the local area. Currently, we are business patrons of the fantastic Warrington Wolves Foundation which supports mental fitness in the Warrington Area through their Offload Programme. Additionally, our employees are CIPD Steps Ahead Mentors, which is a fantastic new volunteer scheme run through CIPD. The team support mentees up and down the country in returning to work, with everything from CV writing to interview preparation and mental & emotional support. Finally, our team are also Mental Health First Aiders, on hand to support our clients and their employees through mental crisis, advising clear sign posts to help raise awareness and find support for those who require it.
Finally, is there anything you have learnt as a working parent that you feel is important for employers to be aware of?
Being an invested parent gives you skills that are applicable in business. Emotion fuels us all in decision making, understanding this is important. There are a lot of transferrable skills that parents and carers have, including empathy, loyalty, tenacity and personal drive, skills that nearly all business owners I have met want in their employee teams.
Afterwards we caught up with Josie, HR Consultant and Business Owner at Altum HR.
Was flexible working always a part of Altum HR’s culture?
Yes, I became a self-employed Consultant for the flexibility it offered my family and at the time, my young son who is visually impaired. I was more motivated, fulfilled and as a result attracted more work. Rather than take that on to put myself back at breaking point, I wanted to emulate what I had achieved by way of work life balance with others.
What would you say are the benefits for the organisation?
A self-motivated workforce who embrace a continual professional and personal development pathway. Fulfilling all client and business needs. The employees are happy to go the extra mile as they own their own work from end to end.
Is there anything you would do differently if starting again?
I would have started sooner and that is my only regret. Because it was a conscious decision the recruitment of likeminded motivated individuals is key.
If you would like to share your organisation’s experience of flexible working in practice, please contact Rebecca Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 277 1014.
To find out more about flexible working download the Caring, Working, Living toolkits here.