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  • Report
  • 10th Jun 2021

Flexibility by default: Increasing the advertisement of part-time or job-share options

Key findings

  • How can we increase the number of female applicants to managerial roles? 🤷 In an RCT with @JohnLewisRetail we found that simply changing the job-ad default to include part-time options boosts applicants from women by 13%.
  • Progression for part-time staff can be difficult. How can we improve their chances in the labour market? By changing the default on job ads to include more flexible options we boosted applications to @JohnLewisRetail managerial roles by 50%. 💼

BIT partnered with the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) to test whether increasing the advertisement of part-time or job-share options would increase career progression among JLP’s part-time staff.

We ran a two-armed randomised controlled trial (RCT) where John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets were randomly assigned to either continue with their business-as-usual process (control group) or start advertising new managerial vacancies part-time or open to job-sharing by default (part-time default group). While JLP already advertised selected jobs with a flexible working option, in this trial flexible working options were included by default and made salient to potential applicants. The intervention included the following components:

  1. changing the default for advertising above entry-level vacancies to be available on a part-time and/or job-share basis, including both in the job title;
  2. adding the following line to the job advert: “This job is available part-time, as a job-share, or full-time. This is because we want the best people for our roles and we recognise that sometimes those people aren’t available full-time.”; and
  3. sending emails to the hiring managers about the new process.

None of the hiring managers in the part-time default group opted out. Promotion rates for part-time workers were slightly higher in the treatment group compared to the control but the difference was not statistically significant.

The intervention resulted in a 50% increase in the number of applications per vacancy. This is similar to our findings in the field trial with Indeed – the global job site – where job adverts offering flexible working attracted up to 30% more applicants.

Moreover the share of female applicants increased from 38% to 51%. Over time, this can lead to an increase in the share of women in above entry-level grades.

The number of vacancies and the overall promotion levels were low as the trial took place during Covid-19 lockdowns. We are confident that the intervention would have a bigger impact over a longer time period.

In combination with our previous trial with Zurich Insurance which found that a part-time default boosted applications of women to senior roles by 19%, this trial strengthens the evidence of the value of a part-time and job-sharing default for gender equality. We encourage organisations across all sectors to make part-time working available by default across all seniority levels. This would contribute to a more diverse pool of applicants and a better equality in the workplace.

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