Change in senior recruitment practice at Zurich sees more women apply

The global insurer took up the challenge to advertise more jobs as flexible from day one and has seen a sharp rise in women applying for senior roles.

Women signing paperwork
Zurich advertised four out of five vacancies – those deemed viable to carry out under more flexible working terms – using new part-time wording and gender-neutral language between March 2019 and February 2020. It saw a 16% rise in women applying for jobs and a near 20% jump in female applications for management roles.  Alongside an increase in applications, the number of women hired for senior roles as a direct result of the initiative grew by 33%.

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Accessing wider talent pools by refocusing recruitment

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s Head of HR, said, “Flexible working can help tackle diversity and inclusion issues we’ve all been battling with for many years. “Embracing part-time and flexible work is not a silver bullet,” continued Mr Collinson. “But we’ve seen hugely encouraging results, simply by adding six words to our job adverts. “By offering roles that fit flexibly around family life, employers could open the floodgates to a much wider pool of untapped talent. This will also help women progress into higher paid jobs whilst fitting other commitments around their careers. “Workers want a new deal and there’s a danger that businesses that don’t get on board, won’t be able to compete for the best and brightest minds.” 

Research insights into the barriers to progression

Zurich’s headline findings form part of a wider study commissioned by the government and carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team. Zurich joined forces with the unit to identify issues that were blocking career progression for women.The research highlighted a lack of applications from women for senior roles. Many of these roles have not previously been available on a part-time or flexible basis. Female employees reported that this lack of apparent flexibility was making them less likely to apply. 

Across the board, the adverts attracted more than double the number of applications across males and females for every role. This could indicate that flexible working options are just as important to men as they are to women in today’s society.

Inclusive recruitment practices and increased engagement

The change not only encouraged more applications but achieved a near 10% (8%) improvement in the feeling of “belonging” among existing part-time employees across the UK business The push for more jobs to be advertised as flexible from day one is backed by the TUC and the UK government, as well as organisations like Working Families. It’s campaign to keep flexible work practices post-Covid echoes the 90% of 1,000 parents it surveyed in the first lockdown who backed this idea.

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