The 6 words that doubled job applications for a company

Zurich, the UK-based insurance company recently announced that they more than doubled the number of male and female applicants for recently advertised openings because they added six words to those ads.

The press release by Zurich, on November 17th, is mildly infuriating because they do not focus specifically on what those six words were.

I also eventually figured that since two of those six words were hyphenated, it becomes slightly more time consuming to figure out those six words that made such a big difference.

The six words were:
1. part-time
2. full-time
3. job share
4. flexible working

Here’s a snapshot of a job opening that highlights (I have edited it to showcase only the relevant portions) some of these specifics in greater detail.

Quite a few of the openings on their website have these words sprinkled generously.

Also, ‘job-share’ is written with a hyphen making the press release even more confounding since they had called it ‘2 words’, without a hyphen!

Despite my minor quibbles with the framing of the press release and not focusing on the highlights in a better way, I believe this is a pretty substantial change in approach that is beneficial in the long run.

The pandemic has upended the corporate world’s opinion on ‘work from home’. WFH is the new buzzword not because it was a small experiment by some company, but because it had become the default mode of working in many industries across the world, forced by the pandemic.

Along with that came additional considerations around uninterrupted, predictably fast internet access at home, uninterrupted power at home, better quality seating equipment for employees, ways to manage homework and office work while at home even as everyone else is at home juggling either work or school with life, the time we spent on work from home that blurred the rigid boundaries between work and life, increased screen time among others.

But we are in a situation where WFH seems to be here to stay.

But WFH is also largely being seen from the perspective of existing employees by Indian companies. When you shift the perspective to potential employees, the opportunities explode!

Companies outside India have already started exploring this opportunity:

If WFH is taken for granted, then companies may also loosen their grip on several other elements that came tagged with a physical office, like preference to people who live in certain regions (closer to offices; and people moving for the sake of work), preference for people from certain organizations or educational institutions as qualifications and so on.

Work from home, technically, enables a company to hire anyone appropriate, from any corner of the world, subject to local company laws and tax rules. And the person need not visit the office physically ever.

Such possibilities bring more interest in the conditions that can make them happen. For example, vendors who can help with the background documents needed to make such a radical (in current conditions) hire possible – certificates from local law enforcement, letters and referrals/certificates from past organizations in those regions where the language may be different and so on. Or vendors who can screen applicants in a geography agnostic way.

But broadly, flexible working, or WFH, could potentially burst open the restraints previously constraining conventional employment. Managing a large part-time, WFH employee base would be a phenomenal challenge for conventional human resource personnel but that’s also a great learning opportunity!

From the employees’ point of view, they could start searching for better jobs that fit the previously derided ‘flexible working’ or ‘part-time’ criteria, and full-time or working from a physical location need not be taken as default.

Imagine adding the following too, to the six words:

  • work from anywhere
  • applications welcome from any country

‘Geography is history’ was an advertising headline for satellite telephone service Iridium in 1998. But it looks like we’re on the cusp of making geography history in employment.

Cover photo courtesy: Peoplematters

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