Talent Fueller – Jonathan Clarke @ Kilburn & Strode

Jonathan Clarke (pictured on the right) is the HR Director at the patent and trademarking law firm, Kilburn & Strode. We heard about K&S’s enlightened approach to fathers, flexibility and shared parental leave and asked Jonathan to tell us some more.

In a nutshell, could you tell us who Kilburn & Strode’s clients are and what the practice does for them?

We work with clients from just about every industry sector. This means that day-to-day our attorneys are dealing with a hugely diverse and constantly evolving range of intellectual property issues. In the most basic terms, we’re here to protect our clients’ interests and make their lives easier. Offering a complete intellectual property service is key to our ability to deliver on that promise.


As the HRD at Kilburn & Strode what are you working on at the moment? And what do you want to say you’ve created/delivered/changed/improved 12 months from now?

We entered the Times Top 100 employer survey last October. We have had a people survey for the last 3 years and we wanted a more in-depth survey and a better understanding of how we are actually doing. We were accredited as “One to Watch” – that really means we have quite a way to go to be a top 100 employer – but we are determined. That’s my focus for the next 12 months.


You have a trusting, open culture and you embrace flexible working. Could you give us a flavour of what “flexible working” looks like at Kilburn & Strode and how it’s relevant to the practice’s success?

We have just short of 100 people who charge their time to our clients – they all have a laptop and Skype soft phone – that means they are equipped from an IT perspective to work anywhere they choose to. We encourage that. Success for us is about client satisfaction – that is not measured by people being in an office. Our gender split is approximately 50/50 and that reflects itself in thosde who choose to work at home. The majority of our Partners have at least a day a week working at home – that sets the tone.


You have beautiful, carefully designed offices yet you’re keen to get more people working from home. Why is that and how are you going to encourage that shift?

It’s a beautiful space – thank you. We want our people to be able to choose where they work and when you let them choose you soon realise that for the majority, they like coming to the office – I think that is about the space but its also because we like working together – face to face time is so important. As we continue to invest in IT and move away from any paper altogether, I believe more people will be as efficient at home as they are in the office.


What do you think are the main risks for law firms and professional services companies who don’t have a widespread culture of flexible working?

It’s a shame isn’t it – I think the risks are that you lose good people, that we don’t look innovative to our clients and that the clear message is that sitting within sight is more important that quality of work and client care.


Any final thoughts on flexible working?  

What I’ve noticed is that many of our 20-30 year olds prefer coming into the office – perhaps that is because in London they live in shared accommodation and their homes aren’t really set up with a place to work.


What messages are you giving to fathers, and when, about Shared Parental Leave? How many have taken SPL and how do you see that changing (or not) over the next 5 years?

We made a big deal of SPL at the time of its launch and not since then. This needs one senior dad to get it going – everyone needs a role model and new dads will follow. Two of our mums shared their leave with their husbands – and we were of course delighted to have them back sooner than expected. Once it takes off, it will be normal – we in K&S want to be leading on flexibility and your question reminds me to do more.


We know that take-up of SPL has been very low since it was introduced in April 2015. There are many reasons for this, including it being counter-cultural for men to stay at home with an infant whilst the mother works. If a firm was really serious about getting more men to take SPL, what do you think it would be doing?

Constantly talking about it, sharing the policy with fathers, suggesting that fathers talk to their employer when they are expecting (men rarely tell anyone at work for quite a few months) and the most important – persuading a senior male role model to do it.


If we lived in a society where men and women took equal amounts of leave upon becoming parents what changes do you think we would see in workplaces? In wider society?

We might not have a gender pay gap, we might not have all male boardrooms.


What would be your advice to an expectant father who would like to take SPL and who works in a long-hours culture where taking SPL is not common practice?

If he worked in Kilburn & Strode, he’d be our first role model.  But that’s not your question – its 6 months, spending time with your children is a precious thing, work can wait.


What we told the Treasury Inquiry on Women and Finance

The average cost of childcare across the UK ranges from £213/week for a registered childminder to £512/week plus tax and NI for nannies, with nurseries sitting in between. In London, our financial centre, the cost rises to £276/week for a childminder, £278/week for a day nursery and £616 plus tax and NI for a nanny (50 hours/week). [Source: Family and Childcare Trust]. This means a family living in London, working full time with one child, without access to free childcare – provided by a grandparent for example – needs to earn a minimum of £14,352 (childminder cost) after tax and the cost of commuting, simply to break even.

Many families take the view that it is better to make the financial sacrifice in the early years in order to keep both careers on track, rather than suffer the huge financial and career penalties that are known to accrue to women who take large chunks of time out. For example, see the work of Mary Gregory and Sarah Connolly.

The financials are only one part of the childcare story though. Women in financial services are often married to men in financial services and herein lies a big problem. Of the hundreds of women we have talked with in financial services who are returning post maternity or a longer career break, many talk about their husbands/partners feeling unable to be as ‘active’ a father as they are a mother. This is because there simply isn’t encouragement for fathers, or men more generally, to work part time or set boundaries about finish times (to collect children from nursery for example) and when they can or can’t travel. This problem becomes more acute the more senior they become and both planned and unplanned (last minute) facetime with clients involving travel (often international) intensifies. We’ve coached many women in financial services who talk about needing to swap roles once they become a mother because they can’t see a way to continue in a ‘demanding’ role and be back in time for when the nursery closes or the nanny needs to leave. “Demanding” is often code for facetime expectations; needing to be able to drop everything for a client at the last minute and work late into the evening if necessary to please the client/win a piece of business. The default setting is that they trade down or switch roles because it’s seemingly unthinkable for their male partner/husband to do so. We believe limits on mothers’ careers in finance will persist until the culture changes such that men in finance are as likely as their female colleagues to:

  • Feel comfortable asking for flexible/part time work options
  • Make requests for flexible working/part-time roles
  • Actually work flexibly/part time
  • Be vocal about constraints such as needing to be at home to relieve the nanny
  • Be the person primarily responsible for thinking about/actioning tasks that relate to the home and children.

Some suggested solutions:

  • A campaign from the Treasury to run alongside or be part of the Women in Finance Charter to encourage men to explore part-time and flexible working possibilities.
  • Individual FS institutions raising awareness of the opportunities and benefits of men working part time and/or flexibility.
  • Individual institutions showcasing senior males who work PT and/or flexibly.
  • Individual institutions gathering data on expectant fathers and encouraging them to take shared parental leave (and paying it at full pay). On this point, also see this helpful article on how employers can increase the number of men taking Shared Parental Leave.

My contribution to this inquiry on behalf of The Talent Keeper Specialists was made in collaboration with Genderbuzz, under whose name this submission appears.

Click here for a full list of submissions.

Client case study – Creating a coaching culture, Enfield Council

The Challenge

case studyEnfield Council is on a mission to transform the way it delivers services because the way people transact in the wider world has changed. Transforming the way people work at the Council was at the heart of the challenge for Head of Organisational Learning & Development, Jo Clemente. Jo talked to us about three key shifts she wanted to make:

  • Colleagues working more independently and make decisions
  • Colleagues being more curious in order to make changes
  • Line managers encouraging and developing staff to find their own solutions.

Coaching Triads

The Solution

The Solution

Enfield Borough Council’s Head of Organisational Development, Jo Clemente, approached The Talent Keeper Specialists to develop a day’s immersion in coaching for line managers that would:

  • Challenge the idea that a directive style of leadership gets the best results.
  • Explain the purpose of coaching conversations and the benefits for team members, line managers and customers.
  • Introduce essential skills and provide a safe place to experiment with them.
  • Provide an opportunity to see coaching in action, be coached and be a coach.
  • Leave participants feeling energised about using the coaching skills outside the training room.

The Outcome

35 Council employees took part in the pilots (and not just the eager beavers who usually put their hands up to be involved) and at the end of the sessions:

  • 100% of participants agreed the content was relevant to them
  • 100% felt actively involved and that they would make use of what they had learned
  • 100% said they would recommend the course to their colleagues.

Along with positive anecdotal feedback these metrics provided a good case for the Council commentto add the course to their broader suite of learning offerings. All managers now have an objective in their PDPs around demonstrating their commitment to moving the Council towards a coaching culture. Attending the course has been a positive starting point for 140 mangers to date:

  • “It provided me with so much more than I thought it would. The most enjoyable and beneficial training I have done in a long time.”
  • “I have already identified specific action points that I want to share and work on with my team.”
  • “I thought the course was presented by a knowledgeable trainer who made the content very relevant to our requirements.”
  • “I found it fascinating to see the difference it made to people when someone takes the time to listen to them. The practice sessions following the learning were really useful.”
  • “A refreshing and most welcome course. Clearly explained and useful to individuals in the workplace. I stayed engaged all day.”

Sustaining the learning

After the day’s immersion participants are invited to attend two “let’s talk coaching” action learning sets, spaced four weeks apart to sustain the learning. It’s a safe space to practice skills, help each other and continue the coaching activity and the aim is that the groups become self-sustaining.

Enfield Borough Council’s Feedback

“The training from Jessica has been extremely well received and were always client_viewoversubscribed.  Mangers have enjoyed learning a new skills and the organization will benefit from the coaching approach to work.  The action learning sets have also been very successful and helped to embed the learning and enable manages to practice their skills in a safe environment.  We are just starting to see the changes, with managers being more confident to use the skills they have learnt and really believing that coaching is the way to help with the huge changes in the council.” Jo Clemente, Head of Organisational Development, Enfield Borough Council.



Thanks to Jo Clemente and Kathryn Lammas from Enfield Borough Council for this case study https://new.enfield.gov.uk

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