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Our people – Embracing flexible working

Category: Educational, Flexible Working, Flexible, Cambridge Assessment, Education Solutions, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, education

Flexible Working.

Cambridge Assessment recognises the importance of balancing work and home commitments, and we believe that flexible working practices can help with this. We are committed to providing access to a range of flexible working options, and many of our employees benefit from arrangements such as part-time working, job sharing, term time only working and homeworking.

One of the biggest advocates and driving forces behind our existing flexible working culture is our CEO, Saul Nassé. Saul and the rest of our Corporate board started discussing flexible working a lot during ongoing conversations around making Cambridge Assessment an even better place to work.

As of November 2019, we officially launched a brand-new Flexible Working Policy to further embed our culture of flexible working across Cambridge Assessment.

Here, Saul shares his thoughts, experience and advice on becoming a successful organisation with a flexible working culture.

Becoming an organisation that embraces flexible working

The real key to flexible working is not thinking about the time that people are spending working...

The real key to flexible working is not thinking about the time that people are spending working, it’s more a focus on what people are achieving with their work. I think organisations that work flexibly are very good at that - defining what to expect from someone in a role and then being able to measure whether they are delivering.  As soon as this is clear you can decouple the focus on time and place, because it is up to the individual how, when and where they achieve their objectives. Until you have done that thinking around measuring the output, rather than measuring attendance, you will not be a truly flexible organisation.

“The real key to flexible working is not thinking about the time that people are spending working...”

Managing the necessary cultural changes

To successfully achieve a flexible working culture, you need to take baby steps and then you can take bigger steps. Over the last few years at Cambridge Assessment there have been some great examples of people who have different approaches to flexible working: people who vary their start and finish times to avoid commutes, people in formal part-time arrangements, people working at home for part of the week or working compressed hours, and so on.

Often there can be a lot of bureaucracy around the formalising of such arrangements, this has even been true for us at Cambridge Assessment in the past. However, we have now cut through some of that to make it easier. For example, arrangement decisions do not need to be passed through management chains, and flexible working arrangements can be made as soon as someone has started their employment with us.

“Flexible working isn't about not working, it is actually about getting more out of our people.”

It is important to keep making it easier for people to work with managers to ensure these working arrangements are effective.  Flexible working isn’t about not working, it is actually about getting more out of our people. When I have seen flexible working work well it has been about aligning business needs with people’s needs, making organisations more effective and more efficient. We need to give everyone the tools to help this land well.

Overcoming the potential challenges

In most organisations there will of course be challenges. For example, there are roles that some types of flexible working requests won’t suit – not everyone is in a role where they can work from home. There will be challenges of people feeling that they might want an arrangement that actually does not suit their team or the organisation. Yet, there will always be ways to find and offer other solutions.

Flexible working should be based around a discussion between a person and their manager, because in the end they are the two people who can make the best decisions for them and their team.  The challenge around that is consistency; for a type of job and team in one area we would broadly expect the same approach in another area, but that can be a challenge. It shouldn’t necessarily be identical, but it comes down to applying common principles and making it clear where the responsibility for the conversation and decision-making is, and giving people good examples of best practice.

“I think if you have that openness then you will build trust.”

Establishing the trust required to make it work

Trust comes from openness fundamentally, so if individuals and their managers are discussing flexible working, they need to be open about what they are each looking to achieve from the arrangement. It is also important to be open about the worries.  If you want to work part-time and are worried that your manager is going to try to make you do as much in three days a week as you did working five, then you need to articulate that worry.  If you are a manager and are unsure about how well a remote-working arrangement is working, then you should talk about that with the individual.  I think if you have that openness then you will build trust, because you will have addressed whatever is causing concern.

Each conversation should be about what you’re trying to achieve in a role and how you’re trying to achieve it.  That conversation is as important as how many hours you’re going to work a week and where you’re going to work them.

Advice to those seeking flexible working

Do not be nervous, because the worst that is going to happen is that it will be turned down. If you work for an organisation that is embracing flexible working (or trying to), the more people talk about new ways of working the better. I think people having the conversation need to think about how flexible working is going to be good for you as an individual, how it’s going to be good for your manager and team, and how it is going to be good for the organisation.  Great arrangements do all of those things.

“Think about how flexible working is going to be good for you as an individual, how it’s going to be good for your manager and team, and how it is going to be good for the organisation.”

At Cambridge Assessment, the reason we want to work flexibly is so that, ultimately, we can increase the motivation of our teams, allow teams to work more effectively together, and get more done.  By doing this we will reach more learners and create more impact – that’s the prize here.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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  • Disability Initiatives (Physical/Mobility)
  • Leadership Programmes
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