Involved fathers, committed professionals


Committed professionals can be involved fathersOn a recent project for the Law Society of Scotland we heard some great examples of men doing their very best to be active fathers whilst still delivering commercial goals. Here are men in their own words reflecting on how to get off to a good start as a new father. 

“Be involved, be upfront with clients, prioritise sleep.”

“Your kids are only young once. If you don’t read to them or put them to bed now, you never will. And the benefits to your mental health are amazing. If you are zombified by a poor night’s sleep, tell your clients. Most of them will understand. Those that do not are likely to be “those clients” anyway. Sometimes, moving to another room is a survival technique if you want an uninterrupted night’s sleep – just be prepared to make up for it in other ways. Keep a picture of your children in easy view in your office; if your clients/colleagues/whoever are difficult, a look at your kids will make you smile no matter what. If you hadn’t before, learn to say no and leave the office promptly from time to time. If the culture is such that you’re expected to be there all hours God sends, you probably need to re-examine your priorities. First day of school? Take the day off and be there for them.”

Senior male solicitor, private practice @longmores

Chea Meakins“Draw boundaries, be focussed, get home for bathtime.”

“My wife and I worked out a routine fairly early on after our daughter was born. I would always be home to do the evening bath (subject to the unavoidable marketing/seminar engagements, but I try to limit these to 1 per week where possible). This means that I always have to work to a deadline and leave work at a certain time. Without this there is always the temptation to stay that little bit longer because there is always something else that can be done… The bath/getting ready for bed routine means I am always guaranteed at least one hour with my daughter per day. This sounds so little on paper but in reality a lot can be achieved within that time. I usually get back home an hour before bath time so in practice I get 2 -2.5 hours. This is also a huge relief to my wife who appreciates me taking over at the end of the day for those last few hours.”

Che Meakins, Solicitor, Rayden Solicitors @RaydensLaw

 

“Eat together and have a planned weekly late night at the office.”

“I’ve been very lucky to be able to balance work and fatherhood to give me lots of time with my daughter, and I am now nearly a year qualified and I feel I have also progressed hugely as a solicitor in the same time.   As I live walking distance from the office I would go home most lunch times and see my wife and child. I tried to ensure that I took my lunch each day to guarantee this time at home. I also designated Thursday evening as a ‘late night’ which I would work late before heading to my regular football practice. This meant I could head home on time the rest of the week. Having that one evening each week was really important allowing me to catch up or get on top of things outside office hours.”

Liam Colville, Solicitor, Debenhams Ottaway @DebenhamsOtt 

 

“Flexible working has made me more efficient.”

“There are 3 options in my view: Option 1 is ‘the continue as before’ in the knowledge that others are looking after your child well. Option 2 is to say that being a father is considerably more important than a career so you shift towards the “work to live” view. Option 3 is a mid-point between the other 2. If you intend to take option 3 then my suggestions would be as follows. First try to build a platform of a work pattern that is agreeable to both work and home. Come to an agreement with your partner that you feel allows you to be the involved Dad that you want to be whilst still allowing you to maintain your career progression (albeit at a slightly diminished rate for a period). Be disciplined. Leave work when you have agreed. This may mean having to say no to certain meetings etc. Equally, agree regular days when you will work late so you know that you can focus on work on those days. I have also found that my focus on making the flexible working pattern work (and be seen to work) has made me more efficient at work. My time management has improved due to my focus on, for example, getting everything done so I can leave to be home for bath time. Having both the set agreement and the discipline has, paradoxically, given me the flexibility to adapt such as to busy times at work where some flex in the agreement is needed or to take calls at home etc.”

Chris Purcell, Solicitor, in-house third sector.

  

OVER TO YOU

The following prompts are designed to help you consider how you can make a positive start to combining fatherhood and career.

  1. 1) How much leave will you take and when?
  2. 2) How much time will you strive to give to work and family each week?
  3. 3) What are your top professional priorities and how will you fit them into the time you have allocated to work?
  4. 4) What points do you need to discuss with your line manager?
  5. 5) What one thing can you start to do differently for the good of family life?

 

The Talent Keeper Specialists help men adjust to fatherhood through in-house seminars and one to one executive coaching. If you got something from this post you might also like:

Employers benefit by ‘talking flex’ when recruiting

Employers benefit from talking flex

In this opinion post Jessica Chivers shares her views on the competitive advantage gained by employers who state upfront on job adverts and at interview that there’s scope to talk flexible working.

“Should I mention that I’m really looking for four days a week rather than FT?”

“Will I put them off if I ask about flexible working at interview?”

“At what point in the hiring process is it best to ask about flexible options?”

These questions, and variations of, are commonplace in executive coaching sessions where women are exploring how to move on and/or up in their career.

It strikes me that many employers are missing a very real competitive advantage by not placing the words “up for talking flexibility’ on job adverts seeking mid to senior professionals for full time roles. This is particularly relevant if the organisation has made a public commitment to increasing the number of women at the top of their business, as say McKinsey has done. The employer is under no obligation to offer flex but by including these words, they’ve probably doubled the pool of people who might apply. A winning strategy, surely?

As an aside, McKinsey have just revealed their latest gender equality research (in conjunction with LeanIn.org) and show that women’s journey to the top is still appallingly slow. Change needs to come quickly.

In reality the onus is all too often on the candidates’ shoulders to ask about flexibility, and with so many stories about women noticing a negative change in the recruiter when they ask, it’s no wonder women hold back from applying for FT roles.

Where jobs adverts make no mention of flexibility, it would be useful if the recruiting manager ‘put it out there’ at the start of the interview (and not just when they’re interviewing females of a certain age – men want more flex too). “We’re advertising for a full time member of the team to be based predominantly in Manchester but depending on who we meet, there’s scope for the role to be done flexibly. We can talk about that further down the line.” There, easy.

I’m noticing a growing problematic pattern of women ‘choosing’ to stay in jobs they’ve outgrown because it gives them the flex they want (or more likely need) to be able to have a decent, wholesome family life where kids get help with their homework and at least one meal gets eaten together as a family.* There’s a belief that the only way to maintain this flex is to put it on hold, work full time for a new employer and prove oneself again (a hazy concept, but that’s an issue for another post) and then negotiate flex. The difficulty with this is it’s usually not that easy to switch to being an FT worker if you have children too young to have a key to the front door. For starters, the chances are you won’t be able to up your childcare to cover it.

A final point to ponder: could it be that the journey towards gender balance at the top of our organizations is slow because women are staying put when it’s time to move on? That they’re sacrificing stretch for flex and just not going after the next job? Giving women and men permission to discuss flexible working could be the key to change.

I’m optimistic that smart employers will soon start to print words to the effect of “up for talking flex” on their job ads and that their businesses will be all the better for it. I suspect we need some ballsy HR Directors to tap their CEOs on the shoulder to make it happen. Are you out there?

What do you think? Are you explicit about flexibility in your recruitment activities? Have you asked about flexibility at interview and had a good response?

 

* Yes, there are people without children who crave flex too. There are people with horses that need turning out each morning, there are people with elderly caring responsibilities and there are people who just want to have a darn good time at the weekend living a different life by the sea. They all want or need flex too and if they can get the job done without having their backsides on their swivel chair from 8.30-5.30pm every day then why not?)

 

Client case study – CIPR

The Challenge

case studyThe Challenge

The 2014 State of the Profession findings were a breaking point in the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in taking action on equal pay and gender balance.

Amongst other defining statistics, the survey identified a mean average pay gap of over £12,000 in favour of men, as well as a lack of women operating at a senior level. These statistics are in context of an overall industry that is just under two-thirds female. As a policy commitment the CIPR aimed to tackle this issue across five broad areas:

  • Deliver a support network for women in public relations to successfully navigate the challenges of maternity leave and then return to work confidently
  • Encourage greater acceptance of flexible working practices
  • Increase the number of female role models
  • Provide better mentoring opportunities
  • Reflect on transparent pay structures as a solution to equal pay

London, United Kingdom - Tuesday 23 September 2014, CIPR - Training Workshops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Client.

To specifically tackle the issue of maternity leave and return to work, in September 2014 the CIPR reformed our membership offering. Made available from Monday 1 September 2014, the ‘Managing Your Maternity Leave’ package included:

  • Up to 12 months payment holiday from CIPR membership – to ease the financial burden of Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Up to 12 months discretionary CPD credits – to maintain levels of accreditation
  • Quarterly KIT (Keeping in touch) emails – providing bite-size access to the latest on-demand learning and development opportunities
  • Access to a private online community – to promote knowledge sharing, advice and support

The package was announced in context of research published in August 2014 from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) which suggested that “women begin to fall behind at the age when they are most likely to be starting a family”, and from research published on 12 August 2014 by Slater & Gordon which found that “a third of managers would rather employ a man in his 20s or 30s than a woman of the same age for fear of maternity leave and that six in ten mothers felt side-lined from the moment they revealed they were pregnant”.

This was supported by Ruby McGregor-Smith, CBE, Chair of the Women’s Business Council and Chief Executive of Mitie Group plc, the FTSE 250 strategic outsourcing company.

In publishing this package the CIPR felt they needed to offer more substance and guidance to inform and educate maternity-leavers. The CIPR’s aim was to deliver greater confidence and self-belief, and ultimately deliver a greater number of women effectively returning to work in PR.

 

The Solution

London, United Kingdom - Tuesday 23 September 2014, CIPR - Training Workshops.The CIPR approached the Talent Keeper Specialists to create a bespoke suite of materials for their members and non-members to specifically address an education and knowledge gap on maternity leave and returning to work.

The guides were to be produced for the benefit of maternity-leavers in CIPR membership.

 

The Outcome

The Talent Keeper Specialists produced a series of ten guides containing a series of hints and tips on managing maternity leave, and featuring practitioner case studies and points of view. These were published in October 2014.

Guide 10, Best practices for managing maternity leave for line managers, was made publicly available and covers issues facing ‘maternity leavers’ and their managers before, during and after maternity leave. It also features a 12-point plan and reflective exercises, including information on planning and maintaining a structure for Keep in Touch (KIT) days and how to manage broader career progression conversations.

The other nine guides, made exclusively available to CIPR members, covered:

 

The CIPR’s Feedback

comment“Working with The Talent Keepers was an easy process from day one. After providing a comprehensive selection of prospective solutions to tackle the challenge, a clear structure in planning out the process of creating the guides was delivered, with the team always supplying their work before the deadline.

Jessica’s understanding of the issue led to the additional production of the publicly available guide for line managers, doing this was important in addressing a knowledge gap and has proven to be popular (the third most downloaded PDF in the last quarter of 2014).

Since the production of the guides, we have seen regular stream of downloads and positive feedback on social media. Regular comments from members focus on “the essential nature” and “informative but not restrictive language” of each piece of guidance, always crediting the confidence that they inspire. This is testament to the quality of the final product.

Finally, Jessica’s infectious enthusiasm for the issue, alongside her energy and genuine drive to positively effect change make her stand out one of the most inspirational people I have worked with.

Having established an incredibly useful working relationship with Jessica, I look forward to working closely with the Talent Keeper Specialists over the coming years as we continue our work on equal pay and gender balance.”

Thanks to Andy Ross, Public Relations & Policy Manager for this case study.

Talent Fueller – Nikki Gatenby, MD of Propellernet

Nikki ‘Director of the Symphony’ Gatenby is the Managing Director of Propellernet in Brighton, one of the most progressive Search Marketing agencies in the UK. She fuels talent by asking her people to be ‘stunning colleagues’ and they’ve been hailed one of the top 25 places to work in Europe.

In an instant we know Propellernet is a special place to work when Nikki tells us her job title is not so much MD as ‘Conductor of Our Symphony’ – a job she says is about creating unity and harmony from diversity. Propellernet was the Best Place to Work in the UK 2013 and the Top 25 of the Best Places to Work in Europe in 2014 by the Great Places to Work Institute & The Guardian.

Nikki was MD of the Year at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards, partly for Propellernet being recognised as one of the most democratic businesses in the world by Worldblu 2012, 2013 & 2014 and achieved the Investors in People Health and Wellbeing award (one of the smallest companies in the UK to win an Investors in People). Their clients include Marks & Spencer, Sportsshoes, L K Bennett and The Telegraph.

Incredibly high colleague retention

 

Propellernet

“Attracting and retaining talented people (55/45% male/female split) is my top priority – we put on a high impact experience for our clients, buy pulling together multiple different disciplines and personalities.

Both women and men are equally important here and each person is treated as an individual, based on their own personal circumstance.   One of the outcomes of the way we support and develop our team is really low staff turnover, at less than 10%, with our nearest competitor being c30% – and our clients love it.  Our Net Promoter Scores this year across our client stands at an industry leading 94% and we regularly get new business through client referrals.

It commands leadership that is intuitive and emotionally intelligent, wrapped up and an obsessive interest in others (rather than self). You have to be completely aware of everyone’s personal circumstance and the environment in which they operate best – it’s the same for men and women. Everyone is an individual and we all have needs beyond the company.

You also need to recognise when it is time for someone to take on a new challenge or experience and that may not be with Propellernet. I actively encourage the team to take up a travelling adventure or go for a role with a client if I truly believe it will benefit them.

Personalising flexibility

 

45% of us are parents, again, pretty evenly split between men and women. The responsibility to care for the children and get back to work can fall on either party and we make great efforts to support the mums and dads. We have enhanced maternity and paternity to offer paid leave and flexibility on hours on return to get into the swing of things, but there’s so much more;

One of our dads became a father to twins who were 3 months premature. We thought about what would support him the most at this worrying time – a mixture of dog walkers, cleaners and ready prepared luxury food parcels were on the menu, along with extended flexible working to allow him to visit the hospital during the day for the 3 month period before his full paternity leave kicked in. It was an agreement we came to together and totally based on personal circumstance.

A lot of our working parents want to have the flexibility to work different hours than the standard working week. 25% of the company work a mixture of part time on 3 or 4 days a week, shorter working days over the full week, 4 longer days over the 5 day week or variable mornings or afternoons at home or a mixture of all of the above! Whatever is needed.

Saying that, it’s not just parents. Recently one of our team was really passionate about writing a book, as we encourage diversity of learning and experience, we changed her working hours to enable her to take a day a week to concentrate on writing her book – which is going great guns.

Each of us taking personal responsibility, makes flexibility work. We have a set of values, but also a set of behaviours that work well for us. We’re focusing on this quite a lot right now and one of the key things in terms of behaviours is ‘to be a stunning colleague.’

This is not about employer – employee relations. This is human to human care and attention.

Education, Education, Education

 

I’ve been experimenting with better ways of working in competitive digital agencies in London, Paris and now Brighton over the last 15 years.  Having graduated from Kingston University and alumni of London Business School and Cranfield University, I have a keen focus on personal development and continuous learning for everyone in the company.  I don’t believe there is a week that I come away from work without having learnt something and I expect others to be able to feel the same.

We have developed our own internal Propellernet Academy, where everyone in the company, male, female, oldest, youngest , technical, creative, PR etc has a role to play in sharing and learning. We are in a fast moving environment and need the collective energy and intellect of the full team to keep us all up to date is imperative.

As such, we don’t bill out all of our time to clients. We aim to limit it to 80% (in previous agencies, this often goes over 100%). The rest of the time is to learn, share, read books, go to events, take part in the Academy.

Our Academy ‘lunchtime learnings’, ‘bitesize briefings’ and ‘shareback Thursdays’ all take place during the working day, to enable those with time bound responsibilities, such as picking up children, to still be able to take part.

Our weekly ‘New News’ company meeting on a Friday is hosted by me and another of our Directors, but owned by everyone – the agenda self forms each week based on what individuals feel they would like to share to inspire or simply keep each other up to date. It’s like a family breaking bread together around the dining table, sharing stories and experiences.

Opportunity cost of the Academy in terms of billed out hours last year was over £1m. But the actual strategic return across the business is invaluable.

The Academy, headed up by one of our part time working mums, has been recognised by our industry as leading the way in talent development, winning awards most recently of

  • Brand Republic Award 2014 – Talent Management Expertise
  • Guardian Best Awards 2014 – Best Development of Agency Talent

Values. And putting your money where your mouth is.

 

Our agency values are Creativity, Innovation, Adventure, Fun and Wellbeing.  They are woven into the very fabric of the operation. For example, good health and wellbeing puts us in pole position to develop and grow – so everyone qualifies for Propellernet funded healthcare (extended to their families)and we allocate 5% of our profits every month to specific wellbeing activities. Thus ensuring our individual and collective creativity rises and that we remain energetic about our business.

Wellbeing activities can be anything that the team deem valuable to do; such as subsidised Pilates, attending Improv classes, Community work (such as supporting the Brighton Fringe or Brighton University)and  pre-payday lunch to gather everyone together on a regular basis, just before the payday pinch happens.  There raft of options grows each year.

A spirit of adventure and expand our experiences puts us in pole position to develop and grow – so everyone is given a day a month, a Propel Day, to get out of the office and ‘Propel yourself forward’ – in whichever way you see fit. And after 5 years service, we offer the opportunity of a sabbatical, to take a month off, paid, to go and experience something wonderful.  There is no difference between those who are full time, part time or working flexibly. The opportunity is there for all. The one thing we expect back is for everyone to take on the personal responsibility of delivering great work and being a stunning colleague.  And it works.

Rewarding colleagues – the dream machine.

 

By focussing on the right things, people development being one of them, we have experienced triple digit revenue growth. But there’s always room to take it up a level. Imagine if your employer could help make your dreams come true? Or you could help your employees dreams come true…

We have a Dream Ball Machine at Propellernet – an old fashioned sweet dispenser filled with individual dream ball capsules.  Each capsule has a person’s name in it who works at Propellerne and when we hit a major milestone or target, we aim to release a dream ball and make someone’s dream come true. I have Dream Consultations with each person at the agency and ask them how they are going to make us more successful and if we succeed, what we can do to help make one of their dreams come true.

When we won the Great Places to Work award, we pulled two dream balls – last year Steve and Jim took the trip of a lifetime to the World Cup in Brazil, something they’ve both wanted to do since they were small.  With a mix of time, connections and a bit of budget, we got them there.

Carla’s dream ball dropped last Christmas and she took a dream family holiday in the Alps for her father’s 60th birthday – all put together based on our connections in travel and people in the Alps

It’s not all about waiting for a dreamball to drop though; Sophie wants to go on Safari so we’ve started working with a company in Namibia to promote their Safari’s and part of this is Sophie living her dream by spending time out on safari whilst supporting the company in their marketing activities. Mark wants to create a sci-fi-rock-opera – we’re in the process of giving him the time and space to do it, with our collective connections with writers, journalists, those in the music and video industry…watch this space

And there’s many more.

The point being, if you create a company that encourages people to lead full lives and follow their dreams, you can land a full roster of creative, innovative, award winning talent – that makes everyone’s lives better.

The motivation to be different – make life better.

 

We have a real sense of purpose behind our business.  It comes from a vision to ‘Make Life Better.’ If we can make life better for our clients customers online; help them find what they need – great content, great answers to their search queries online, in our connected world, they are likely to talk to their friends about it, to share it and promote our clients

If we can make our clients lives better by having consistent teams, doing great work, getting them results, making them famous, whatever it is they need, they will value our relationship all the more and make our lives better

If we can collectively make life better for each other within our agency team, we are all going to be happier, more creative and productive and enjoy our time at work.

It’s really that simple.

Without this culture….

 

  • We wouldn’t have such good growth figure or great client feedback.
  • Our turnover would inevitably be higher as would our recruitment costs.
  • Less parents would come back to work.
  • All our key metrics would take a hit.
  • The journey wouldn’t be half as much fun.
  • There would be no point, no purpose.

As our CEO once said, after being blown away by meeting the genius of Nile Rogers and listening to him talk about creating great music with soul last year: “Music without soul is just noise, business without purpose is just admin.”

PR daddy challenges culture and works flexibly

DSC_4104

Chris Reed is the Founder of Restless Communications, an agency that helps organisations communicate at the speed, frequency and with the tone required for a social media age. He is @chris_reed on Twitter. Many moons ago he asked to work part-time and started to shift a culture.

 

Asking to work part-time at one of London’s top ten PR agencies

I was an Account Director in one of London’s top 10 PR agencies when my first son was born – back in 2003. I knew I wanted to buck the trend a bit and spend as much time with him as I could. But at the same time I also wanted to progress my career, so I knew I had to demonstrate to my colleagues and clients that it was possible to juggle work and home life.

And at the time, I did feel a bit of a social stigma. I was a bloke, rushing out the door several times a week just after 5pm knowing that many of my colleagues had another couple of hours left at their desks.

It helped that, at the time I was (and still am) pretty geeky and actually quite enjoyed tinkering with the various email and telephone systems to establish seamless call-forwarding and email/remote server access so that I remained in constant contact with the office. If people needed to call they could, and they also knew that I would always log on after bath time to clear any outstanding work.

Going against cultural norms

Later on, when both of my kids were a bit older I asked for, and was allowed to go down to working 3 days a week, so that I could spend more time with the kids, doing more drop-offs, collection and kids’ teas, and also so I could test whether I could juggle that with working for myself. I haven’t looked back since. It turns out I really am a ‘self-starter’ after all. Female colleagues had certainly negotiated four days and one or two did three days a week, but I was certainly the first bloke to do it. It was a few years ago now, but something I was very proud of. And it suited me perfectly.

Colleague reactions – being grown-up and forward-thinking

I have to say, that at the time my bosses were brilliant. The agency had always had a forward-thinking and grown-up approach to career development and I think they realised that they’d get the best out of me if we were both transparent and accommodating about what we both wanted. If/when they needed more of my time (working from home or in the office), I always found it. But at the same time, I was now much more in control of my diary. If I wanted to take two hours off in the middle of the afternoon to collect one of my kids and run a few errands with them I could. I simply made up the time elsewhere.

I can’t say for sure whether it really changed attitudes within the agency, but at the very least I think it showed other new parents that there were all sorts of ways to achieve a good work/life balance. I like to think it set the scene for more people having that proper grown-up chat about what they want, how they can still deliver excellent client service, and how they can push their career forward, even when working fewer hours or having less visibility in the office.

Once you ask and it gets a yes, then….ask for a little more

Once I’d broached the subject about what I actually wanted from work, and from my employer – and got a positive response, I actually felt much more empowered. I felt better about what I actually did, and much more valued as a result.  (Hey, if they’re happy for me to do this, then they obviously think I’m doing a pretty good job), which in turn gave me more confidence when it came to financial discussions than before.

Having those discussions about achieving the work/life balance I wanted definitely made it easier to broach other sensitive conversations at work over money. It was actually quite liberating.

I’ve heard some people say the complete opposite – things like, ‘well work have let me go down to three or four days, so I shouldn’t push my luck and ask for a pay rise or bonus alongside everyone else.’ But I’d take the opposite view. Everyone knows that part-timers routinely work more than their contractual hours and you’re probably more productive when you are working, but also, if your employers are happy for you to reduce your hours then they clearly value what you do – probably more than you realised.

Any tops tips/encouraging thoughts you can share about how to affect culture change, even in just the smallest of ways…?

I was very lucky to work somewhere with a strong culture of personal development, and with hindsight, I think that’s one of the fundamental building blocks of any successful employment, and certainly any successful agency.

From an employer’s perspective the more you understand what your employee really wants, rather than just a pay cheque at the end of the month, and the more you can accommodate this, the happier your employees will be. It’s one of the sure fire ways of keeping people motivated and delivering great work.

And from an employee’s perspective, I can’t stress enough that even though the first conversation might be hard when you want to discuss changing the way you work, or telling your boss what really makes you tick (e.g. I’m in a band which practices every Thursday at 6.30 so I need to leave on time), most bosses aren’t ogres.

As long as you can see things from their perspective as and when you ask, and demonstrate how you can help them avoid problems at the same time as them letting you do what you want, then you’ll generally have a fair hearing.

I’ve also learned, since setting up Restless Communications, my own agency, that most clients are also remarkably relaxed about the culture you want to engender within your agency. 90% of the time if a client asks me for a meeting or call and I reply, actually, could we shift it because that’s when I’m on the school run – how about this other time, they’re very happy to do so. And if they can’t they can’t, I’ll obviously sort something else out.

The main thing I learned all those years ago, which I now put into practice and would encourage others to always do so is simple: Don’t be afraid to ask. Always see things from your employer’s perspective as you do so, but don’t be afraid to ask.

 

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