• Q&A: HR director Graham Poole

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  • 5 Jan 2015
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“Being part-time and male shouldn’t be the issue” 

Take the female CEO of a £607bn asset management company, a people manager looking after a £15m budget in the tech sector and the Google executive responsible for launching Gmail in EMEA, and you’ve got the makings of this year’s Power Part Time List. Launched in 2012 by recruitment firm Timewise Jobs, the annual list highlights the most senior executives in the UK working reduced hours, in an effort to prove that ‘part-time’ doesn’t have to mean low skilled and low paid. Graham Poole, head of HR at Camelot Global, one of seven men and five HR professionals to grace the top 50, says he’s mostly worried about becoming HR’s poster-boy for flexible working. 

How does your working pattern fit your role?

At Camelot, I am responsible for defining and delivering the internal HR strategy, but I am also the HR and organisational lead for our bid activity. I do feel a slight fraud because I work nine days out of 10 across the fortnight, and my wife has the alternate Thursday off, which I find quite straightforward. It just needs a bit of juggling.

How did the business react when you asked to cut down your hours?

I knew philosophically it wouldn’t be a challenge, but when you get down to
the working practicalities I think there was a bit of initial concern. I suggested a pilot of a four-day working week, which initially didn’t suit, so now I stick to the nine-day fortnight. I recently took on a broader role that has a bigger remit and increased accountability, and my working pattern wasn’t even mentioned. If you are focused on the output, and the value you are bringing, rather than the time, then the amount of hours you work shouldn’t be a problem.

Did you find the transition difficult?

I would be lying if I said that on my unpaid day I don’t answer emails or occasionally join a call, but that is my choice. I could point to male colleagues, friends and acquaintances working at senior levels who work pretty flexibly on an informal basis. They’ll take the morning off to go to their kid’s nativity, or leave early every Friday to avoid the traffic, but it goes under the radar. When you request regular part-time hours, you just become more aware of how you use your time effectively.

Were there financial considerations?

My wife and I are relatively equal earners so there wasn’t an economic argument. If you take the financial thing away – and I appreciate that is a bigger issue in itself – it just becomes a question of ‘why not?’ If historically it has always been the male earning the most, that becomes the easy reason to justify men staying in full-time work. That is something employers should consider: flexible working should be a gender-neutral issue that works for the individual and the organisation.

Other part-time HR champions

Jenny Duvalier, EVP people at ARM, 90 per cent contract

Michelle Mendelsson and Jennifer Barker, co-heads of diversity and inclusion for EMEA at Credit Suisse, 3 days per week each

Teresa Exelby, head of HR for logistics at Morrisons, 4 days per week 

Pamela Hutchinson, chief diversity and inclusion officer for EMEA and APAC regions at Northern Trust, 4 days per week

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  • I have worked part time since starting a family in 1990. My personnel management examinations were taken when my daughter was just 8 weeks old and I was coerced into accepting a new contract after my maternity leave because I wanted part time hours, losing valuable benefits such as profit share and continuity of service. 25 years on, times have changed but some inflexibility remains - medicine and professions with high demands of training make part time working difficult, irrespective of gender. Great article for stimulating awareness and debate!