Case study: Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Growing success

The senior management team at Highlands & Islands Enterprise view flexible and family friendly working as a crucial component of when it comes attracting, retaining and developing the best people to continue grow and develop enterprise across the region. HIE employs around 320 people across the region and has a reputation as a local employer of choice, due in no small part to their approach to flexible working.

There are many older employees among the workforce, which is also dispersed across hundreds of miles of rural countryside. Two thirds of employees are female, and their people are spread across the Highlands and Islands from Shetland in the north to Argyll in the south.

Agile working is essential in order to ensure employees have a good work life balance and avoid over-travel and burn out. Research provided by the employer reveals that 74% of young people seeking employment in the Highlands feel flexibility and a good work-life balance is the most important factor in an employer.

The employer’s approach to flexible working is enhanced by a range of practical workplace support, tools, facilities and resources to help all our employees balance the demands of work and home.

Winning insights:

Support and advice to source childcare, foster care or eldercare.

Flexible retirement options for employees 55+

Flexible leave for community volunteering.

Paid leave for parents with disabled children

Paid leave for parents with dependents going through specialist treatment or therapy

Special leave and support for people managing long term health issues or complex domestic situations (e.g. divorce)

Staff Forum inviting engagement on all policy information and related communications

Support for carers including paid leave to explore and access caring resources

Emphasis on sharing the message that flexible working is not just for working parents

30% of the total workforce now working flexibly.

Low turnover – the median public sector turnover rate is 14.7%, HIE’s rate is significantly lower at 6.25%

Inter-generational working groups focused on planning for a flexible future


What their people say

“ The way our team has developed over the years shows that working remotely and with a range of different working patterns has been a positive experience for the team overall, as well as for HIE. Within the team we have a culture of give and take and we all rely on each other. Despite some perceptions that it must be difficult to manage, we’ve been able to accommodate different personal needs that allows people to balance their changing work life balance commitments with an achievable workload. I know I’ve found the working set up at HIE really supportive and have appreciated the opportunities for career challenge and progression while still being able to work flexibly and maintain a good work life balance.” Director, HIE

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