How one recruitment outsourcing firm succeeds with workplace perks.

Kelly Shumaker
Recruiting in general is not a typical nine to five job if you want to be successful. So when Cindy Lu, president and CEO of managed recruitment outsourcing firm The Novo Group started her company in late 2003, her goal was to employ top-notch recruiters—and keep them.

“I was concerned that recruiters would burn out working a typical office schedule on top of extra hours from home. It didn’t give them the time they needed to get the things done outside of work,” she says. “I didn’t want them to have to choose between work and family to go the extra mile to get the job done.”

Lu looked to workplace flexibility options to solve her dilemma.

The Case for Workplace Flexibility
According to the Families and Work Institute (FWI), workplace flexibility—such as flextime, part-time work, and compressed workweeks—is proven to help businesses remain competitive while benefiting employees as well.

“Our research consistently finds that employees in effective and flexible workplaces have greater engagement on the job and greater desire to stay with their organization. In addition, they report lower stress levels and better overall health,” says Ellen Galinsky, president of FWI.

Take, for example, Novo recruiter Emily Ling. Ling joined Novo in 2006 to recruit IT professionals and since then has moved to San Francisco and had her first child. Lu didn’t want to lose her so Ling was offered the opportunity to work from her new location on a flexible work schedule to accommodate her growing family. Ling continues to be one of Novo’s top-performing recruiter, which has earned her a promotion to director.

“If it wasn’t for the flexibility they provide I would not be able to work with Novo,” notes Ling. “Novo has been extremely supportive throughout the various phases of my life, allowing me to achieve a work-life balance and providing me with the tools to grow my career.”

Flexible work schedules are also offered to other Novo employees. Beka Hanaman puts in full-time hours, but in a way that allows her to tend to her kids’ school schedules. Bonnie Hoeft, another Novo recruiter, has the options to shift around her 35 hours if she needs to attend activities such as field trips or sporting events. Both nontraditional set-ups have increased employee retention and productivity.
“I have two children and appreciate the flexibility to be more involved with their activities and lives,” says Hoeft. “Novo has been very supportive and respectful of my reduced work schedule. And, it has not limited my growth opportunities at Novo. In fact, I was recently promoted to a client services director role.”
Under Solid Results
Novo’s workplace flexibility options have helped the company attract and retain top talent. Since implementing workplace flexibility options in 2008, Novo has reduced employee turnover by more than 20 percent, while increasing employee productivity by 28 percent. And, for the third year in a row, Novo has earned a national Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility, ranking the firm among the top 2 percent of employers nationwide in terms of flexible work programs, policies and culture.
Novo recruiter Sabrina Hughes has clients that enforce workplace flexibility to garner retention. Hughes works with companies in the high-tech and professional-services industries and estimates that 40 percent of her clients offer workplace flexibility options.
One in particular, a large professional services firm, provides executive sales opportunities that are extremely flexible. They have to in order to recruit and win passive top talent from the large competitors in their space. The flexible work options they provide include:

Flex hours. Employees in the executive sales level are only required to be in the office on Fridays and can flex commute to and from work throughout the week, depending on their travel needs.

Less travel. The standard in this client’s industry is between 60 and 80 percent, however at this particular company, travel is about 25 percent at its peak. They achieve this by “zoning” their consultants to specific geographic territories, so if they are required to travel they can make shorter, faster trips.

The caliber of talent on board. By having many subject-matter experts on board, employees are able to better balance and cover tasks and commitments across their teams, providing a less stressful environment.

Not only does workplace flexibility help attract and retain top talent, but as companies become more global in their scope of services, suppliers, and products, the ability to interact with customers and clients all around the world requires a workforce that can operate flexibly in terms of hours and locations.

Kelly Shumaker is a marketing communications consultant for The Novo Group.

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