Marketers have a very important part to play in shaping the future of work. Whether it is exploring new ways of working, embracing greater flexibility or abandoning burnout culture, marketers are leading the charge for change.
Results gathered from the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey 2018, a study of 4,154 marketers across 24 different industries, highlights the importance marketers place on flexible working in their quest to achieve a better work/life balance.
Some 92.2% of those surveyed currently work full time, 4.7% work part time and 1.7% are on flexible working contract. Among this sample, 87% say the option for flexible working is very important or important to them. Yet despite the importance, just 42.6% have the opportunity for flexible working available and only 34.2% have actually used it in the past year.
Microsoft commercial marketing director and co-founder of career development business Amazing If, Helen Tupper, sees a number of barriers standing in the way of flexible working, despite a clear appetite from marketers. Her recent LinkedIn post on the subject has received 23,000 views and more than 116 comments to date.
A number of reasons emerge as to why people do not feel empowered to opt for flexibility even if it does exist within their business, from issues of trust to concerns their future progression will suffer or that the technology does not enable it.
Flexibility is an individual knowing and having confidence in where they add value and an organisation trusting and being agile enough to manage that.
Helen Tupper, Microsoft
Presenteeism and the need to be seen to be in the office has a big part to play in the stigma says Tupper, who is calling for a shift that reflects the different flavours of flexibility. That could mean working from home at times, or reducing your hours to work on other projects.
“It doesn’t work if you say ‘I’m granting you flexibility so you can work four days a week and then you have a day off’, because that is inherently not flexible. You can’t mandate it,” says Tupper.
“Flexibility is an individual knowing and having confidence in where they add value and an organisation trusting and being agile enough to manage that. That is very scary for organisations when you have got 60,000 people. So I do get the organisational challenges, but you cannot ignore nearly 90% of people saying they want to work flexibly, because they will leave places that are inflexible, where they can’t bring their best selves to work to do their best work, and they will go elsewhere.”
Having role models in the leadership team who not only support flexible working, but actively take the opportunity for flexibility in their own working lives, helps junior marketers feel able to reframe the way they work.
Moonpig CMO Andre Rickerby believes flexibility is a very important way to achieve balance and goes a long way to empower the team and build trust. He is surprised that given the online nature of the working world, with the proliferation of Wi-Fi, Skype and Google Hangouts, that flexible working is not used more often.
While working in his previous role as vice-president of global marketing at Etsy, Rickerby ensured that he took advantage of the generous paternity leave, both because he wanted to on a personal level, but also because it was really important to set that example.
“If it’s on offer you’ve got to take it and be an example. On the day of my oldest child’s school nativity last year, I worked from home [so I could go]. I think you should set that example out of the gate and encourage it,” says Rickerby.
“Flexible working is important, I would hate someone to have missed out on their children’s nativity play because I’m making them work. So it has to come from the top and be very fair, from the most junior position to someone who’s been there forever.”
The inclusion of flexible working in a job description is the thing parents most want to see, according to Mumsnet founder and CEO, Justine Roberts. To change the culture she believes senior leaders need to feel confident that flexibility will bring real benefits to the business.
“There’s a growing body of evidence to this effect – not least in terms of talent recruitment and retention – and the message is slowly getting through,” Roberts explains.
“The other thing we’ve learned through our Family Friendly programme is that where flexibility is formally on offer, the role of line managers is crucial. In order for flexibility to be more than a paper option, line managers need to be trained and empowered to overcome short-term logistical challenges so that they can embrace the long-term benefits of flexibility for their teams and for the business overall.”
Marketing director at TSB, Pete Markey, agrees that the normalisation of flexible working comes down to culture and the balance between it being offered and seen as accessible.
“It’s back to not measuring people on being in the office and measuring them on the quality of the output, which I think is more important than being there from 9am every day of the week. That goes back to role modelling culture,” Markey adds.
If there are no role models in your organisation, Tupper suggests referring to the Timewise Part Time Power List 2017, which profiles business leaders working part-time or in job shares, as proof employers are becoming more creative in the way they shape roles.
It’s back to not measuring people on being in the office and measuring them on the quality of the output.
Pete Markey, TSB
She emphasises that flexible working is not a millennial issue, but relevant to anyone regardless of age or gender. Marketing, Tupper argues, can lead the charge within businesses as it is a profession inherently filled with creative, open-minded people.
Over the next two to three years she expects more marketers to move towards project-based models of flexible working being pioneered by global freelance community The Hoxby Collective or The Fawnbrake Collective, the brand strategy and experience design collective founded by TBWA London former chief strategy officer, Amelia Torode.
“Right now you’ve got these innovative companies who understand that people want to work differently and lots of companies haven’t caught up. So they’ll curate the talent and be this interface between the big corporates and the people who want to work differently,” says Tupper.
“It is easier for agencies and startups to work like that, but what we need to do is find feasible ways for big companies to adopt those ways of working. If they don’t, the current talent who want to work differently will leave and new talent who want to grow a career will look at that rigid working structure and say no thanks.”
Attraction and retention
While flexible working is undoubtedly of great importance to marketers, the opportunity for career breaks, counselling and mindfulness are also rising up the agenda.
Some 48.7% of respondents believe it is very important or important to have the option to take a career break. Yet despite the demand, only 8.3% of respondents are currently able to take a career break and just 0.7% have taken one in the past year.
The low adoption of career breaks could be driven by the difficulty companies have deciding when is the best time to make it available, suggests Andre Rickerby, CMO at Moonpig. This is compounded by the fact that marketers are often not staying in their roles long enough to qualify for a career break.
The largest proportion of marketers answering the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey have been in their role for one to three years (44.4%), followed by four to six years (15.3%), zero to six months (14.9%) and seven to 12 months (14.5%).
“It’s tricky because if people are moving on within one to three years to a new job, it’s a business decision as to when you start offering career breaks,” says Rickerby.
“I think it’s good for the person if you think of how hard we work today. But when is the right time? Some brands have a 10-year sabbatical policy, but 10 years in a brand is a long time. I’d love to look at this as a manger and think how you make this work.”
Millennial employees, in particular, are proactive with regard to requesting sabbaticals, notes Roberts, given that extended periods without full pay are slightly less attractive for older employees with mortgages and dependent children.
“Our approach is to consider requests on a case-by-case basis and to try to say ‘yes’ where we can, especially if the staff member in question has demonstrated loyalty and commitment to the organisation,” she explains.
Alongside the option to take a career break, counselling and wellbeing are becoming more important to marketers. Some 14.4% of those surveyed have the option to receive counselling through their current employer, though only 2.1% have used this service in the past year. The survey also shows that 10.2% of respondents have mindfulness support open to them, but just 3.8% have used it in the past 12 months.
Work done over the past year to open up the topic of mental health and encourage people to ask for help should help improve these numbers, says Markey. “Wellness and mindfulness are really good aids in life and I think we should do more to encourage it and to role model that as well.
“It’s one thing to offer counselling or mindfulness, but I think it’s about role modelling it and making it part of the culture.”
A very important part of company culture is balance, whether that is offering marketers new ways of working, providing them with fresh challenges or enabling them to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work.
Avoiding burnout is a crucial part of retaining this sense of balance. However, 26.7% of marketers report working 2.5 to 5 hours over their contracted hours in a typical week. Some 15.8% are working 5.5 to 7.5 hours extra, 10.3% working 7.5 to 10 hours extra and 6.7% working 10 to 15 hours extra. Only 12% of the total sample say they do not work any extra hours in a typical week.
Workload is the responsibility of the leadership, says Roberts, who believes the answer is to focus on outputs, rather than hours worked.
“There will always be periods of intense working that might result in long hours, but this shouldn’t be a permanent state of affairs or employees will end up being burned out,” she acknowledges.
“If you’re lucky enough to have staff who happily work extra hours when workloads are high, then it is important management reciprocates with an understanding and constructive approach to requests for flexibility.”
This opinion is shared by Markey, who believes marketing leaders should ensure there is balance to counteract the moments of intensity and openly recognise the contribution made by their team.
“You can’t relentlessly work people to the point where you don’t cut them slack for those other moments. I’ve always felt there has to be a balance and you measure people on the quality of their output, not the fact that they’re working really long hours and they’re the first in and last out,” he explains.
“That’s where it comes down to leadership creating the environment to allow those things to happen and being aware of the wellbeing of the people in your team. You need to understand them, their lives and what matters to them.”
Rickerby has seen his priorities change over time since being a middle manager, when it was easy to fall into the habit of believing every task is “most important”. That is why he says it is essential that leaders set a good work-life balance themselves.
“So that’s not emailing at night, because people immediately see it’s from their manager and everyone freaks out. It’s also encouraging people to leave on time as much as possible,” he suggests.
“You need to empower your team with the skills to push back to their manager and say, ‘I can’t do all this, you’ve got to set me realistic goals’ and that’s a really hard skill to have when you’re quite junior.”
This is why, Rickerby argues, marketing leaders need to work on setting priorities, creating a supportive culture which recognises not everything is possible and then making that transparent to the wider organisation.
- The 2018 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey analysed the responses of 4,154 marketers from 24 different industries including agencies and consultancies, the automotive sector, entertainment, FMCG, financial, telecoms, sport and travel. The seniority of the respondents ranged from graduates and marketing assistants to senior managers, board directors and partners. This is a nationwide sample of UK marketers, including digital specialists. In all cases relating to pay marketers were asked to give their basic wage, excluding bonuses and benefits.