A four-day work week: the pros and cons
The past 16 months have given organisations time to consider how they operate, including the number of hours and days they require employees to work.It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way we work in the UK, with many businesses having to abandon the office to work from home almost overnight. As well as this, over the last year we have seen the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the challenge of juggling home schooling, leaving many employers no choice but to allow for flexible working arrangements.With this sudden shift to working from home and an increase in hybrid working, we have seen more and more conversations around work-life balance and businesses questioning their ‘typical working week’.The five-day work week has become a cultural norm, especially in the UK, but after more than a year of change, is it time to rethink this approach and, if we do, would businesses continue to succeed? Or would productivity take a hit?We asked our LinkedIn followers: “Would you consider changing your company’s working hours to a four-day working week?”. With 919 votes, 50% said yes, but with the same hours, 33% said yes but with reduced hours, 12% said no, and 6% said they would consider it, but not at this time.With 83% of those surveyed in favour of a four-day week, there are many considerations companies must make when deciding if this is a course of action they would be willing to take.What is the case for a four-day work week?A four-day work week can be defined in two ways; the first is when an employee compresses their full-time hours (typically 35 hours) over a four-day period. And the second is reducing an employee’s hours (typically to 28 hours) over four days, so they are then able to have a three-day weekend.Many argue that, while the five-day work week used to be effective in the 19th century, it no longer suits the needs of the modern-day professional.With the evolution of technology, some day-to-day tasks are significantly more time-efficient, and with an uplift in office-based roles, we are seeing an argument that longer work hours do not necessarily mean staff are more productive.Notably, over the last couple of years, many countries across the globe including Japan, New Zealand, Spain - and most recently Iceland - have trialled the four-day work week to research the effect it has on its employees.Microsoft trialled four-day weeks in its Japanese offices and found the shortened work week led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%. Similarly, Iceland undertook a trial which monitored employees working reduced hours over a variety of public sector workplaces and found it to be an overall success, with 86% of the country's workforce now on a shorter work week for the same pay.In an article for the BBC, Will Stronge, Director of Research at four-day week consultancy Autonomy, said: “It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments.”In the UK, many businesses have also trialled the four-day work week, and some have even made the permanent switch. Gloucestershire-based PR agency Radioactive Public Relations trialled a four-day week for six months and found the business was even more profitable and employees’ sickness days were halved.What are the advantages of a four-day working week?Large and small-sized companies trialling the concept have created an evidence-base of the benefits a four-day working week could bring to your organisation.An increase in productivity levelsResearch has shown that working fewer hours boosts productivity levels. With employees spending less time at work, they can feel happier and more fulfilled, leading to them focusing on their job when in the workplace.A large New Zealand business, Perpetual Guardian, trialled a four-day work week and found not only a 20% rise in productivity, but work-life balance scores increased from 54% to 78%.Environmental and cost-saving benefitsShortening your working week means that employees do not need to commute as much, reducing their carbon footprint.As we have seen throughout the pandemic, those businesses with employees working on the same four days can save on overheads and in some cases even be eligible for tax relief.Happier employees and fewer absencesAccording to mental health charity Mind, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week in England, and one in five agreed that they have called in sick to avoid work.Four-day work weeks leave employees more time to focus on personal development or spend time with loved ones. This will not only increase employees’ happiness, but can contribute to fewer burnouts, leaving them to be more focused and happier in their role.Better recruitment and retentionThe increase of hybrid working and remote working during the pandemic has led to employees wanting greater flexibility from their employers.The CIPD reported that the majority of people think flexible working is positive for their quality of life, and 30% of people think it positively affects their mental health. So, offering potential new and existing employees a flexible working pattern is a fantastic way of attracting and retaining talented professionals.What are the disadvantages of a four-day working week?Whilst there are benefits to a four-day work week, there are disadvantages too:"A four-day work week wouldn’t work practically because of the need to cover more shifts during a time where we are already facing staff shortages."Not all industries can participateUnfortunately, the four-day working week model does not suit every sector. Some businesses or professions require a 24/7 presence which would make a shortened work week unpractical and, in some cases, delay work - creating longer lead times.A nurse who wanted to remain anonymous expressed her reservations about a four-day week in the healthcare sector, saying: “As an A&E nurse a four-day working week wouldn’t work practically for us. Currently, we work long 12+ hour shifts in order to have four days off, which I prefer as it provides more of a work-life balance. However, while I know a four-day working week would be better for some of my colleagues due to childcare, the shorter, more regular shifts we would have to do on a four-day week wouldn’t work. It would mean the need to cover more shifts during a time where we are already facing staff shortages.”Unutilised labourA four-day week is not for everyone; some employees prefer the structure of a five-day working week or would prefer to put in more hours than a four-day working week offers.Likewise, some professions have tasks which simply take more time than others, which would lead to paying more in overtime or drafting in further staff to make up the shortfall (as happened in healthcare for the Icelandic study), which can ultimately become expensive.Final thoughts: should your business adopt the four-day work week?Although the shortened work week has taken off in many European countries and been successful for many UK businesses, it is an extreme approach for a company to take and requires a shift in mindset from the employer and employees for it to work effectively, so it may not be for everyone.While a more flexible approach on working hours is now expected from employees, a less disruptive, more gradual process would be adopting a hybrid or flexible working policy instead.Likewise, as mentioned above, the four-day model may not work for all sectors. What studies and data have proven is that organisations who are putting more focus on maintaining staff wellbeing, engagement, morale, and productivity are reaping the benefits.
Top 10 competency-based interview questions to find the perfect candidate
This list of competency-based questions encourage interviewees to use real-life examples in their answers. You get to understand how a candidate made a decision, and see the outcome of their actions.Our top ten list of competency-based interview questions will help you recruit the skills your team needs.1. What are your greatest strengths?This is a classic interview question, and with good reason.It’s a chance for your candidate to prove they have the right skills for the role. Keep the job description in mind to see whether the interviewee understands how their skills relate to the role.Remember you’re looking for transferable skills, not proof that they’ve done the role before.2. What will your skills and ideas bring to this company?This competency-based question is an opportunity to see which of your candidates stand out from the crowd.A good candidate will show an understanding of your company goals within their answer. A great candidate will offer practical examples of how their skills can help you achieve that vision.3. What have you achieved elsewhere?Confidence is key in this competency-based question. It gives your candidate an opportunity to talk about previous successes and experiences that relate to your vacancy.Make sure the achievements you take away from their answers are work-related and relevant to what you’re looking for.4. How have you improved in the last year?Candidates can tie themselves up in knots trying to disguise their weaknesses. This competency-based interview question is a chance to show a willingness to learn from their mistakes.It’s also an opportunity to test the candidate’s level of self-awareness and desire to develop."Competency-based interview questions ask for real-life examples to show a candidate’s skills."5. Tell me about a time you supported a member of your team who was strugglingThis competency-based question will test your candidate’s ability to show compassion towards their colleagues without losing sight of their own objectives.Those further along in their career should be able to reference training or mentoring that not only helped their co-worker but also improved team performance.6. Give an example of a time you’ve had to improvise to achieve your goalIn other words: “Can you think on your feet?” It is increasingly important to be able to react to unexpected situations.The candidate’s answer should highlight their ability to keep their cool and perform in a scenario they haven’t prepared for.7. What was the last big decision you had to make?The answer to this question should be a window into your candidate’s decision-making process and whether their reasoning is appropriate for your role.This is a competency-based question designed to highlight how an interviewee makes decisions. Do they use logical reasoning? Gut intuition? However they manage big decisions, does their approach match what you’re looking for?8. Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult personAll candidates should be able to reference an experience of working with a challenging colleague. Look for them to approach this question with honesty and a clear example of working through the experience.Rather than passing blame, there should be a recognition of the part they have played in the situation, and how they might tackle it differently next time.It’s essential to get a sense of how candidates would fit and thrive within your company culture.9. What was the last thing you taught?You’ve asked the interviewee about their skills, but can they show a capability for teaching others about these skills?This question isn’t restricted to managerial or senior roles, and should be asked whenever you’re looking for a candidate who will add value to your team.10. Why are you a good fit for this company?The key to this competency-based question is whether the candidate can explain how their transferable skills would fit your role. This tests both an awareness of their own abilities and an understanding of what you are looking for in a new employee.The candidate should be able to confidently explain why they want to work for your company, and convince you that they would fit your team culture.If you’re interested in learning more about interviews, please contact your local recruitment specialist.
Second interview questions to ask candidates
The second interview may seem like there is a light at the end of the tunnel after weeks of recruitment to find someone for an opening at your business. Your previous interviews have removed candidates who don't fit the role, which leaves only a handful of people, one of whom you most certainly will be working with in the near future. But working out who this person should be is often decided by running a second interview.The second interview is an important comparison task for you and your team and therefore the questions you use need to give you some real insight into the person you may employ. Yet, just as in your first round of interviews, asking the right questions can be crucial in order to understand if a candidate is suitable for the role.Although there are never a fixed set of questions to ask in the second interview, here are our selection of questions for employers to ask which will hopefully allow you to understand a candidate more fully before making a decision on who to hire.Second interview questions to ask candidates:What are your personal long term career goals?The way your candidate answers this question will give you an insight into where they would position themselves within your company in the long term. If they answer directly referencing your business then they are thinking of remaining within the company for the future and will work hard towards achieving their own career goals whilst working hard for the business. It also allows for you to gauge their personality as their honesty will be very important when making a final decision about who to hire.Do you have any questions about the business or the role since your first interview?This gives your candidate the opportunity to ask questions they may not have thought of during the nerve-wracking first interview. This is good for both of you as it allows you to see how much they have prepared for this interview but also gives them the chance to ask the really good questions they probably thought of on the journey home from the first time they met you.What skills do you think are needed for this role?This does not directly ask them what they could offer but questions their ability to comprehend the role and think critically. It then invites them to state the skills they have and how they compare with what they think is needed.Why would you not be suitable for this role?This asks your candidate to think about problem and resolution - how they would overcome any professional issues they may have in the role. How positive they are in answering this question gives you an idea for their own motivation for achievement.What changes would you make at this company?This invites your candidate to analyse the business constructively from the research they may or may not have undertaken prior to the interview. It gives you the opportunity to see how they would deal with negative questions and how they would positively bring about change. Good answers could include more specific training or offering more responsibility to certain members of the team.How soon would you be able to start this role?This is quite a typical question but an important one as the logistics of taking on new staff can be an administrative nightmare. It can be purely comparative as some candidates will be able to start sooner than others. It also shows their commitment to their current roles and how professional they are in their conduct. If they mention leaving their current position without serving notice they may do this to your business as well.Ultimately, good questions are essential in establishing who will be best for your business. Hopefully, having met with a candidate for the second time, you will have a much better understanding of their skills, capabilities and – most importantly – whether or not they would be a good fit for your business.
8 ways to get a job with no experience
You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience... How do you get your foot on the ladder? Whether you're fresh out of education or looking to follow a new career path, feeling like you don't have the experience to land that first job can be frustrating. So, here are some of the ways you can achieve the (seemingly) impossible and get a job with no experience!Address the issueIf you lack experience, don't try to brush over the fact. A cover letter is the perfect place to address any gaps in your CV, so use the opportunity to address any concerns the employer might have. Then...Focus on what you DO haveExperience is important, but so is your attitude to work, your personality, your understanding of the company and its activity, motivation, resilience, ideas for the future - the list is endless, so don't get too hung up on any one thing.Find experience you didn't know you hadBefore you decide you don't have the experience, make absolutely sure this is true. Think back over your past jobs and try to draw links between the experience you need and the experience you have. Remember: it needn't be exactly the same; the key word to keep in mind is relevant. If you've organised a meeting or answered the phones, that's admin experience. If you've set up a Facebook page or created a flier, that's marketing. Think outside the box!Create some experienceDo some voluntary work, work experience, or an internship."Don't be afraid to start from scratch. Getting your foot in the door is crucial, and you never know what might come next."But (as above) make sure the experience you're getting is relevant. If you're still taking your first steps, don't waste time with unrelated work, especially if it's unpaid!Demonstrate your intentIf you really want to get into a particular industry, make sure that people know about it. Get involved in relevant industry discussions on LinkedIn, join relevant groups, attend networking and careers events, and make sure you make your enthusiasm public.NetworkIf you don't have the desired level of experience, you need to be trustworthy. Network, and get your contacts to recommend you. Employers are more likely to overlook the gap in your experience if you come with a recommendation from someone they can trust. Find out more about effectiveness networking.Apply speculativelyIf you only apply for advertised jobs, you're going to be assessed against set criteria. Apply speculatively to companies that interest you, demonstrate you've done your research, and ask if there's any opportunities for you as you're looking to break into the industry. If the answer is no, ask if you can apply again in 6 months, and find out what you can do in the meantime to improve your chances.Get an interviewIf nothing else, just focus on getting an interview. This is easily the best situation in which to address your lack of experience and the best place to sell your other strengths. Remember: whether you can do the job is just one factor the interviewer is considering, alongside your motivation, and your fit with the company culture. Ace both of these and who knows... 2 out of 3 might be enough!
Top 10 soft skills you need to work in finance
When searching for a role in finance, it's often not what you know, but what you can offer. Job hunters have long been told to list, and give prominence to, technical skills on their CVs, but finance sector employers are increasingly looking for candidates with interpersonal abilities known as ‘soft skills'. Demonstrating these 10 characteristics will help candidates prove their value in the workplace.10 soft skills to help you prove your value in the workplace.1. CommunicationEarlier this year, analysis by LinkedIn showed that 57.9% of new hires who changed jobs in 2014-15 listed communication as one of their strong suits. Good communicators are in demand across a range of industries, and they're vital in fields that require employees to explain their specialist knowledge to others. An aptitude for number crunching won't get you far in finance if you can't justify and explain your calculations.2. NegotiationWhether you're closing a deal or managing expectations, it's important to know how to fight your corner without ruffling any feathers. An aptitude for negotiation will allow finance professionals to reach an agreement that benefits all parties. Failure to compromise effectively can create frustration and damage interpersonal relationships or, at worst, result in loss of revenue for a business. Having a demonstrable knack for negotiation will put you ahead in any financial enterprise.3. InfluencingFinance professionals must be prepared to explain how their objectives are mutually beneficial and anticipate objections. If, for instance, an investment banker wants to sell off a stake in a joint venture, he or she must be able to show how this will benefit the bank – even if some colleagues disagree.4. Critical thinkingA critical thinker objectively analyses or conceptualises a situation from a balanced perspective. Often, customers and clients will look to financial professionals to rationally evaluate a scenario – be it a ledger or the performance of a stock. In fast-paced business environments, a poorly thought-out decision can cost a company time and money. So the ability to make critically-informed choices is crucial for modern finance professionals.5. FlexibilityFlexible employees are capable of weathering change and staying productive in high-pressure situations. Good stockbrokers provide the most dramatic example of this: their day-to-day work revolves around coping with constant fluctuation and determining the best course of action. However, cultivating a flexible mindset also means being able to see through the eyes of others and understand their motivations. A flexible finance professional will always ask: "Why might someone think this way?"6. ResilienceResilience refers to one's ability to bounce back after facing adversity. While this is an important skill in any workplace, it's especially important in high-pressure situations. Being able to cope with changing circumstances, having confidence in your ability to deliver and thinking carefully about what you're trying to achieve can prove valuable – particularly in financial roles.7. CollaborationIt's no secret that top-level financiers are on the lookout for team players. A recent survey by Adaptive Insights showed that 70% of chief financial officers considered collaboration to be their top priority for 2016. In the financial sector, it has become increasingly common to work across multiple teams and geographies to achieve a shared goal. Someone who approaches group-working scenarios with an open mind and a willingness to listen will benefit any team.8. Problem solvingEffective problem solvers identify the issue at hand, weigh up their options quickly and make a firm decision about the best course of action. Those who excel at problem solving can really drive an organisation forward and will earn the respect of their colleagues by offering meaningful input in even the toughest situations.9. DedicationDedication is fierce commitment without the expectation of returns. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by a single task, dedicated workers will devote themselves from start to finish. Discipline, hard work and acceptance of delayed gratification are key ingredients in developing the dedication mindset.10. EmpathyIt's a common misconception that roles focused on data and numbers require a detached approach – empathy should never be undervalued in finance. Clients often seek financial advice during stressful life events, and dealing with someone who has suffered a loss requires a different approach from a couple seeking their first mortgage.An empathetic person shows that he or she cares. In displaying understanding, finance professionals will also build trust in their relationships with co-workers and clients.It's not enough to simply tell an employer you have the soft skills they're looking for. Instead, strive to demonstrate your skillset by offering up examples from previous job roles and highlighting talents you've developed outside of the workplace. Remember, employers are always seeking the right personality for the job – not just a list of positions and qualifications.How to identify your own skills:Reflect on your reactions to tense situations at work and compare them to those of managers and co-workers you admire.Prepare answers to interview questions that screen for soft skills, such as those about workplace experience in problem solving and collaboration.Ask current or past colleagues to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. They may be able to offer insights you hadn't previously considered.Consider your strengths in relation to the job you want to apply for so you can be confident about the criteria you already fulfil and areas that you can develop on the job.How to acquire new skills:Make a conscious effort to improve your soft skills every day – remember, they're attributes to develop, not innate qualities.Take up skill-building hobbies in your leisure time. Something as simple as a cooking class might prepare you to prioritise tasks and work under pressure.Ask for help and feedback from colleagues and senior staff in your workplace.Enrol in a course designed to build soft skills, such as those offered by Reed.
Top questions to ask candidates on a telephone interview
They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but telephone interviews have a lot of advantages. They are fast, easy to arrange and arm you with just the right level of information to begin whittling down your applicants.Of course phone interviews present challenges too. Mostly arising from the fact that you can't see the person you are talking to. Here's a primer on the kind of questions you should ask to get the best out of your phone interviews.Keep things simple...It's important not to get carried away with telephone interviews. Remember they are intended as a screening measure to decide who to invite for a face-face interview. You don't need your candidate's entire life story. Simple questions are the best policy.Candidates can often be nervous, which can make for an uncomfortable conversation where you fail to get the insight you need on your candidate. Put interviewees at ease by introducing yourself, explaining how long the interview will last and telling them how it will be structured.What type of questions should you ask?Remember to keep things simple. The lack of visual interaction means that phone interviews are not suited to complex questions that require lengthy answers. Of course, you want your candidates to be thorough with their answers - but don't attempt to ask anything too brow-furrowing.Questions should be geared to find out more about the applicant - expanding on the information supplied on a CV and cover letter and assessing whether their professional experience is suited to the role. Here are our tips for the best phone interview questions to ask candidates.1. What made you apply for this position?Does your candidate sound like they want the job? Look for a passionate answer. You want a candidate who really cares about getting hired by you, rather than someone who sounds indifferent and apathetic. Genuine enthusiasm shows that your candidate believes they have what it takes to succeed in the role.2. Screening questionsScreening questions allow you to gauge whether an applicant has the essential minimum experience or skills required for the role - such as expertise with a certain piece of software or a key qualification. Example screening questions might be:Are you willing to travel?Do you have a clear driving license?Do you have PRINCE2 certification?Screening questions will always be determined by the type of role you are recruiting for - and should be led by the job description. They are a simple way to make sure no unsuitable applicants make it through to an in-person interview and can be as simple as yes/no questions.3. What experience do you have that will help you succeed in this role?Look for evidence that the applicant has studied the job description. They should provide concrete examples that prove they have the experience required. Ideally their answers will also show how they have applied their knowledge/experience to provide tangible, measurable results.4. Why are you leaving your current job/Why did you leave your previous job?If your candidate launches a full scale diatribe about how much they dislike their current employer, it should probably set your alarm bells ringing. Seek out candidates who are hungry for a fresh challenge or who have been waiting for an opening in this particular field or - even better - with this organisation.5. What challenges are you looking for in a post?6. What is important to you from a job?7. How would you describe your approach to work?This set of questions is great for finding out more about the professional mindset of your applicant. How ambitious are they? Are they looking for professional development? What's their self-discipline like? Listen carefully to how they structure their answers and look for similarities with the person specification document.8. What motivates you?9. What type of work environment do you perform best in?These questions allow you to assess how well the candidate will fit with your organisation's environment. Do they need a lot of assistance or are they self-starters? Do they prefer working alone or are they great collaborators? Sometimes individuals simply aren't suited to certain working environments, no matter how talented they are.10. What are your hobbies outside of work?It can be easy to forget that your candidate is a person first and a professional second. Look for signs that the person on the end of the line will click with other members of the team.11. Do you have any questions?It's important to field any queries your candidate may have, whether about the job or the recruitment process. Once you have answered any questions, close the interview by thanking the candidate for their time and giving them your contact details - they will appreciate being able to get in touch should they think of any further questions.Getting the information you need from telephone interviews is about keeping things simple and looking for evidence that your candidates have the essentials required for the role. Come the face-to-face interviews you will have saved a lot of time by filtering out unsuitable applicants, meaning less time asking basic questions and more time deep-diving into the people behind the CVs. Just the way it should be.Looking to recruit? Contact your local Reed office.