Thursday, 8 October 2015

Lib Dem jobs - opening them out to the regions

Following my post yesterday, I was in the pub with some Lib Dems talking about Lib Dem jobs (and specifically Mark Pack's post on the HQ restructure).

One of the points we all agreed on (unsurprisingly for a group of Yorkshire Lib Dems) is that it's all too London-centric. Having part time jobs (which would be accessible with longer commutes) could be part of the answer - but the other is, why can't we do more work remotely, or based in other offices around the country.

For example, why can't a Head of Digital Engagement (for example) be based in the Scottish or Welsh Lib Dems HQ, or in the ALDC HQ in Manchester, and travel to London once a week. Office costs could be slightly cheaper, we could probably pay them slightly less, and the difference would probably more-or-less cover their travel costs. And by advertising the jobs with flexible location, we'd open them out to the widest possible range of people - which means the best possible hires.

Being really radical, people could even work remotely and then travel to London 1-2 days a week, or we could come to agreement with one of the bigger local parties to allow them to use their space.

If we wanted them to be in London two days a week - there are thousands of Lib Dem members in London, and I'm betting that at least one of them could be persuaded to offer up their spare room one night a week to a visiting employee (incidentally I've often wondered if we could also do this for interns, but that's another story), saving the cost of hotels (and we count as an in-kind gift to the party and treat them as a valued donor accordingly).

Flexible working opens up jobs to a wider range of people, it cuts the costs of commuting (both financial and environmental), it can help people with young children remain in the workforce, and it can help rebalance jobs to the regions. All of these are things the Lib Dems talk about - time to start walking the walk.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Lib Dem HQ should embrace job shares (and part time jobs)

Earlier this summer LDHQ advertised for political advisers - three posts, each containing a range of linked policy areas. They were advertised on a reasonable salary (£28k, though that's pretty tight for London) and it was great to see the party investing in policy advice for the new parliament.

I don't know who they hired - but I suspect youngish politicos. I say this because although £28k is pretty good in most places - in London it doesn't go all that far. It's not likely to be appealing to people much beyond their early 30s, unless they're fortunate enough to have savings from previous jobs or a higher-earning partner.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing - most youngish politicos are incredibly smart and dedicated, and I'm sure the people hired will be nothing but assets the party. But I also think it was a missed opportunity. While the jobs were advertised and in the months since, I've spoken to a number of people - all genuine experts in fields relevant to the jobs - who said that they'd been interested but hadn't applied for various reasons, including: £28k not enough to pay the mortgage; not keen on a 5 year break from current career; don't live in London and don't want to move; kids.

When I asked if they'd have considered applying for an equivalent part time job or as a job share, several said yes. Working part time would have been more flexible for the people with kids. It would enable people with technical jobs or academic study relevant to the subject area (e.g. teachers, doctors, economists, PhD students) to stay in touch with their careers. People living outside London who might not be willing to move, might be willing to commute 2-3 days per week. Some of our local councillors (those we have left) might not want to work full time but might want to work part time.

More people would be able to access party jobs - and the party would be able to access advice from a broader range of people, including those with experience 'at the coal face'. And the half-a-week that people spent not at HQ would mean continued interaction outside the Westminster Bubble - closer to the people who actually vote for us.

It's possible that that's not what the party wanted - they're Westminster Bubble jobs, so it makes sense to hire Westminster Bubble people. And when things can come up at short notice, having someone only in the office 3 days a week may not be what you're after (though in practice, lots of very busy and fast-paced organisations make it work). But we know that diverse teams make good decisions - so expanding the pool and giving yourself a choice has to be a good thing.

So a concrete suggestion: next time something link this comes up, instead of advertising for one job, advertise for two, grouped jobs. For example:
Political Adviser for Bears and Wolves (20 hrs per week, £28k pro rata)
Political Adviser for Hawks and Kites (20 hrs per week, 28k pro rata)
These two jobs may be appointed separately or as one full time position. Please indicate clearly your interest in your application.

Political Adviser for Bears, Wolves, Hawks and Kites (full time, £28k)
As well as full time applicants, we would encourage people interested in doing this position as a job share to apply.

Loads more work in the hiring process? Definitely. But the benefits we could get from diversifying our team could justify it. I know very little about the black box that is HQ - but given the current reorganisation, maybe this is something that could be piloted with some of the roles?