Talent Fueller – Tim Loake, Dell

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Tim Loake, is a director at Dell and an ambassador for the Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) programme from Catalyst. He’s opening other men’s eyes to unconscious bias in the workplace to even the playing field for women.

“What is the MARC programme?

“It’s an attempt to engage the company, and the leadership in the company, top-down. Men advocating real change is what it stands for and that’s what it is.  As is typical of technology companies we are male heavy, although we do have female leaders including our chief customer officer. We don’t have enough though; we certainly don’t have balance.

 

MARC is about understanding our own unconscious bias and promoting a more inclusive leadership style up and down the company.”

What was the spark for MARC at Dell?

“Three or four of our leaders got involved in MARC as an external programme from Catalyst. They became ambassadors and persuaded Michael Dell and his direct reports that we needed to do something differently. The executive leadership team then went through the programme and it cascaded down. Because it had that Board level ‘buy-in’, people have never said it doesn’t matter, everyone is recognising that there is something we need to do differently and that it is a personal journey as everyone has their own bias and that everyone is in some way privileged versus everyone else.

Once you have recognised that you have some privilege, you can start to think about how your behaviour needs to be different and MARC is the start of that journey.

We’ve shared a number of videos with staff that highlight where we have unconscious bias. Until you recognise you have it, you don’t realise there is a problem. Watching these films is like turning a light on – you suddenly see that you have these biases, we all do – and people begin to realise they need to do something different.

‘Run like a girl’ is an example of one of those powerful films. Effectively it takes a bunch of young girls and asks them to run like girls, which they do and the point of the video is: when did ‘Run like a girl’ become an insult? It’s a very powerful video, particularly for anyone who has a daughter. Just showing that video to people opens their eyes and shows them that there is something that they might need to do differently.”

What does MARC look like in practice at Dell?

“It’s done in different ways at different levels. Within the Bracknell site, we had a full staff gathering after the leadership team had been through the programme. Everyone was invited and it was voluntary. We started simply by showing some films and asking people to start thinking about how they behave and how we behave as a society.

People often have very emotional reactions, and I’ve cried watching them. The film “Man Up,” is to do with male suicide rates and that’s one of the most destructive phrases in the English language. You can’t help but connect with the message and it gets the audience to a point where they want to do things differently.

As I watched it I kept thinking about my children and how I’ve inflicted gender bias on them without ever knowing it. And thankfully, they are at an age where I can undo that. I have two sons age 8 and 3 and there are things I do differently at home now and my wife as well – I’m much more conscious of my language.

Gender bias is rife in society, a view of what people can and should be able to do. Everywhere you go, there is bias. As parents and people we can only deal with the bias that we are aware of and that we can control.”

Why is the MARC movement important to you?

“Creating an inclusive environment where people are free to bring all of themselves to work and be whoever they are makes Dell a better place to work. If people feel valued and included, they will perform better. It will improve employee retention, it will improve employee performance, it should improve the attitude of our people towards our customers, suppliers, vendors and ultimately make our business more successful. That’s the nub of it. There are other side benefits around the markets in which we engage such as a diverse workforce developing products that match needs of all our customers and potential customers.

Has MARC been measured?

“No. A company like Dell measures everything but we’ve made a deliberate decision not to measure this. The only thing we measure is the amount of people who have been through the 4-hour training or the 2-day ambassador training. We have put 1300 people through the 4-hour training and we’ve now got just over 100 ambassadors. It’s a two-day investment, so director level and upwards are able to be ambassadors, because we want it to be leadership led as that has the biggest impact.

Being an ambassador is a choice. The 4-hour course is open to everybody and is run by ambassadors; normally two, a man and a woman. Beyond that, it’s really trying to advocate for the programme, to change opinion, to tackle stereotype bias in our own business, to try and recognise where privilege is playing a part in decision making – in hiring, in structuring or just in running the business.

Being privileged doesn’t make you wrong or bad or part of the problem, it’s just the group that you find yourself in and if you can recognise that, you can do something about it. As an ambassador hopefully my eyes are more open to when those things are occurring and I’m trying to do things differently and lead the way. Change in an organisation doesn’t start because you tell someone to do something different, it’s because you change the experiences that they have and therefore the perceptions that they hold and that will shape their future behaviour.

That’s why we focused on leadership in terms of the ambassador community because we have the biggest impact on the experiences that our teams and those around us have. And therefore we can change the behaviour of the organisation.”

Could you tell us about the things you’re doing beyond MARC

We do quite a lot of work in the community and ‘IT’s Not Just For Geeks’ is a 2-hour programme aimed at 14-16 year olds, held during school time by Dell employees to show them what working in IT is all about.

We also have a strong women’s network called WISE – Women in Search of Excellence, led by Aongus Hegarty (President of EMEA). WISE does a lot of work within the industry, in terms of engaging with external groups and trying to change and educate within the company on a very practical level. One very popular session WISE have run is a presentation skills workshop as that’s something many female colleagues have said they want.

Other programmes include PRIDE for our LGBT community, Mosaic, GenNext which is targeted at bringing young people into the business, Conexus for all our remote workers and Planet group which is about trying to become more environmentally friendly. We encourage everybody to try and be a member of one of these groups – to do something beyond coming to work, doing the job and going home again. * Link to all employee resource groups http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/uscorp1/cr-diversity-employee-resource-groups

Whats Next?

“It’s hard to see too far ahead due to the combination with EMC, but I’m sure they have programmes we can take advantage of and vice versa. The intent is very much to try and use all of these programmes and activities that we have going on to help create a new company culture as we bring tens of thousands of people together.

To be successful as a new business as quickly as possible, we’ll need to work together and harmonise the beliefs and value structures we have. The cultures are probably not that different but there will be work to do and I see programmes like MARC and the extension of it to the EMC community as well as engaging each other in our employee resource groups as a key way of helping to knock down those barriers.

I think for us it’s how we can leverage what we already have, in terms of established programmes and bring the communities together on both sides and use those as a lever to help create a new company culture for all of us which will allow us to be successful as we go forward as a new company.”

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.”

Talent Fueller – Sue McLean, Morrison & Foerster LLP.

McLean_Sue High ResTalent Fueller Interview with Sue McLean, Morrison & Foerster LLP.

“Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Sue is a senior lawyer in MoFo’s European technology practice and the founder and chair of the MoFo Women London Affinity Group(i) – a group that is associated with MoFo’s firm-wide Women’s Strategy Committee. She was the recent guinea-pig for a new firm ‘Transition Time’ initiative, which supports the return of women post maternity (which she’s now done three times).

‘Transition time’ at Morrison & Foerster

Unusually for an American firm, Morrison & Foerster has several policies that support the return of women and men who’ve taken time out. One of these is ‘transition time’  and another is the automatic right to work reduced hours for one year following a return from maternity, paternity or adoption leave.  They’ve recently been named best firm for work-life balance at the third annual Americas Women in Business in Law Awards(ii) and were shortlisted in the same category at this year’s Euromoney Europe Women in Business Law Awards.

“There was an acknowledgement that prior to, and after, taking maternity leave or parental leave, you need some transition time to allow you to ramp down and ramp up to get back to where you were before. Lawyers all have billing targets and now for the month before you leave and the month following your return, these are cut by 50%.”

Flexible working in a law firm. Really?

“I think in all companies, people are slightly nervous of the concept of reduced hours/flexible working, particularly if they have never had anyone in their team working reduced hours before.  So you have a pilot and then everyone goes ‘oh yes, its fine.’

Certainly, in my experience, what tends to happen here is that when that [automatic] year ends, the arrangement just continues, if you want it to. I don’t know anybody, who, once they have had a flexible working arrangement in place, has had it taken away from them.

We have had many reduced hours returnees within the firm and it is certainly not a barrier to partnership. Indeed, we have had a number of reduced hours returnees make partner whilst on reduced hours. A couple of years ago, for example, four of the fifteen lawyers promoted to partner were currently on, or had been on, a reduced hours schedule.

Tell us some tales of colleagues working flexibly….

“I currently work four days a week and one of those days I work from home. A former colleague in my department worked flexibly for a decade. He wanted to live between London and Ireland so he worked from home on a Monday and a Friday, and he came to London on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, unless he had meetings, in which case, he swapped his days around. So, we have always been open to flexible working in my team.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ here. People can agree arrangements that suit them. For example, one of my colleagues in Berlin does some short days and some long days because she wants to be able to pick her daughter up from school. So a couple of days she leaves at 3pm and so as she works full time, she works late on the other days.

It’s certainly not just a UK or European practice though.  We have a male partner in the U.S. who was made a partner when he worked four days a week, which remains pretty unusual for a law firm. He wanted to spend more time with his young family. We also have lawyers who work reduced hours for other reasons. For example, we had a lawyer in the U.S. who worked even fewer days – he was an artist in his spare time and worked reduced hours to create more time for his art. I thought that the fact we enabled that was brilliant and shows that we’re pretty enlightened.

50:50 women and men new partners at Morrison & Foerster

We have a global Women’s Strategy Committee (co-chaired by a senior male partner and senior female partner) which was formed several years ago – partly in recognition that we wanted to increase the number of senior level women lawyers. As with many businesses, having more women in leadership positions remains a key challenge for most law firms.

We carried out a study and found that we’re generally good at internal promotions (our latest new partner list was 50/50 women/men), our biggest issue is in lateral hiring.

The majority of lateral hires are men and we asked ‘why is that?’ Evidence suggests that one of the reasons may be that women who make partner at one firm and have a working arrangement that works for them and their family may be reluctant to leave. A number of observers think it is because women are more likely to view their practices as being integrated with their in-firm networks. Another reason we suspect may contribute to the issue – and this has been discussed a lot in the context of the UK woman on boards debate – is that historically, headhunters and specifications for lateral hires may have been slanted unconsciously in favour of men. We now consider this issue carefully and try to scrutinise our job specs thoroughly to help rule out criteria that may put women off from applying.

Final thoughts?

The more we have men working flexibly, as well as the women, the more it becomes the norm.

I’ve not had a bad reaction from my team in terms of me working flexibly, because there isn’t a culture of presenteeism here. People know that if I leave early, then I will be logging on later if I need to.  Flexibility has to be two-way; if I was the kind of person who said ‘I am working these days and you must never contact me on a Friday and I am leaving the office at this time and that’s it,’ then that’s not going to work as we are in a client-driven business. As long as the clients are happy, it shouldn’t matter. I know the people I work with directly, don’t care if I leave the office at 5pm and then log on at 8pm, as long as my work gets done and the clients are happy. When I compare my experience as a working mum compared to friends at other firms, I must say I feel incredibly fortunate.


(i) Affinity Groups. Of the firm’s 20 affinity groups, 11 are expressly committed to providing women lawyers with an internal support network to help them advance within the firm and the profession, including D.C./NoVa Women, Los Angeles Women, MoFo Women London, New York Asian Women Associates, New York Women, New York Women of Color, Palo Alto Women, San Diego Women, San Francisco Women, San Francisco Working Moms, and San Francisco Women of Color. Each of these groups regularly sponsors programmes that address work-life balance, parenting, and reduced-hours arrangements.

Here are the groups: New York Women, New York Black Women’s Group, Nippon Women, Palo Alto Women, San Diego Women, San Francisco Women, San Francisco Working Moms, Berlin Women, DC/NoVa Women, Los Angeles Women, Los Angeles Working Parents, MoFoWomen London, New York Asian Women Associates

(ii) Awards. MoFo has also recently been recognized as one of the best U.S. law firms for women by Working Mother magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, a U.S. consulting firm. The annual survey identifies the top 50 U.S. law firms that have created and use best practices in promoting and retaining women lawyers. According to the survey, the law firms included on this year’s list lead the industry in supporting flexible work arrangements, offering generous paid parental leave, and ensuring that lawyers who take advantage of family-friendly programs are not excluded from partnership or leadership tracks. MoFo is among a select group of firms where the most recent partnership classes have included lawyers who have worked part-time schedules at the time of their promotions.  http://www.workingmother.com/content/2014-working-mother-amp-flex-time-lawyers-50-best-law-firms-women.

 

 

Talent Fueller – Katarina Fidler, Carillion

Kat FidlerTalent Fueller Interview with Katarina Fidler, Carillion.

“Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Kat Fidler is the general manager of Sky Blue Solutions, part of leading integrated support services group Carillion, which provides recruitment and resource solutions to the UK construction and services sectors. She initiated and led the creation of the Carillion working mums network which quickly grew from being a small self-help group to a network with 200 plus members, senior sponsorship and influence on policy.

Why a ‘working mums network’ at Carillion?

The working mums network was triggered in part by my own experiences. I wanted to create a support network for others through shared experiences. This rapidly evolved into an opportunity to shine a light on some of the issues that female colleagues face, including career progression, at the point they become parents.

Having evolved from a traditionally male-dominated construction environment, Carillion’s policies at that time focused mainly on managing individual areas such as pregnancy and maternity leave rather than the broader gender agenda. When I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with a well-intentioned attitude, mainly from male colleagues, which said ‘when you have a baby you won’t be interested in coming back’ or ‘you might come back on a part-time basis but your priorities will be elsewhere’. It painted the picture to me and others that if you are having a baby, you won’t be here, and if you are you won’t be in the running for anything else.

I took one year off on maternity leave and returned to a very supportive environment, driven by my line manager at the time. However I still found the process of becoming a working mum difficult. Putting aside the logistical and planning challenges of a family with two full-time working parents, after a year out I felt my concentration span was much shorter and my ability to get my point across was a little rusty. I realised how valuable it was to have a group that working mums can turn to when they go through pregnancy and return to work simply to talk about some of these quite personal insights and worries.  If someone had told me at the time that you have this period of transitioning and adjustment, I’d have stopped worrying about it quite as much.

Creating this peer support for other women in Carillion was the primary reason for the working mums network.

Leadership sits up and takes notice

These difficulties associated with maternity transitions had not previously been highlighted but now diversity and inclusion is firmly on senior leadership’s agenda. Importantly, it is embedded in sustainability targets in the business strategy.  Managing motherhood has been recognised as an important sub-element of our gender agenda. The working mums network was soon seen as an opportunity to get grass-root level insights into the issues faced by working mums which can inform senior-level decision making.

Therefore, there has been strong senior sponsorship for the network from the start. This was really important because sometimes there is a risk that these types of groups can be mis-understood and seen as ‘whinging forums’, if taken out of context. The activity of the network started with a comprehensive piece of research to understand the landscape of working mums in Carillion: what Carillion has to deal with; what Carillion working mums have to deal with; national statistics; and best practice from other companies.

The research evolved into a set of recommendations, broadly around flexibility, maternity pay, line management support and processes.

Working mums network influencing maternity policy

Carillion’s senior leadership team considered the recommendations and asked the network to work up proposals for revised maternity pay. As well as considering responses from our research, we benchmarked Carillion against other companies in the UK – across all industries. We considered the financial implications to the business and proposed a balanced range of options. Our senior leadership team acted swiftly to approve a positive change and Carillion now offers 12 weeks full pay and then an additional six weeks at half pay. This is miles ahead of our competitors in both construction and services sectors, many of which offer the legal minimum.

Personalising maternity time

Our research also highlighted that there was an opportunity to recognise the emotional richness of what  employees experience at maternity time. We felt that connecting with employees in a positive way would help to drive further loyalty to Carillion. The maternity process is under a full review in order to personalise some of the key touch points.

For example, the network has recently trialled sending a copy of a book, Mothers Work! to women who are due to return from maternity leave with a personal note to let them know that Carillion is keen for them to return and will support their transition back to work. The feedback has been really positive. We’ve had people posting messages on our internal social network saying how valued it made them feel. Taking the time to write the card and send the book is an inexpensive thing to do for an awful lot of value; it alleviates the worry about returning back to work as a mum and increases motivation to come back and put value into the business.

Star awards for line managers

Carillion has recognised the need for flexible and agile workforce even before the working mums research highlighted flexibility as one of the key enablers for working mums careers. As a result our flexible working policy was revamped to offer a lot of scope to recognise and make the most of our people’s talents. In the survey we did across the working mum population at Carillion we found we had pockets of excellence where line managers were being really quite creative with how they manage their teams and how much difference it made to the morale, loyalty and discretionary effort of their staff.

We wanted to shape line manager behaviour by highlighting good practice which is making a positive difference. We asked our members to nominate their managers for a Star Award. There have been some really touching stories where line managers had gone beyond the call of duty, not only to show support to their female employees but also to demonstrate openness and creativity in the application of the policy.  These managers fly the flag not just for working mums but also for a balanced approach to work  by sending a message that it’s ok to be supportive and it’s ok not to be driven by ‘bums on seats’ but by output instead.

What’s next?

The working mums network activity has only just began. The next steps are to increase the depth and breadth of what we do with our members and their line managers. Our evolution has to incorporate support for working dads and carers. The network is also represented in a Carillion-wide Diversity Group which gives working mums the opportunity to influence strategic action behind Carillion’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

 

Talent Fueller – Tracy Groves, PwC

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Talent Fueller Interview with Tracy Groves, PwC.

“Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Something interesting is happening at PwC on the gender inclusion front and Tracy Groves is the catalyst behind it. Tracy is a partner in the Forensic Services Practice, based here in London, a day job that includes leading the business ethics and integrity practice for clients. In addition she is the Chair of the newly created PwC Gender Balance Network, formerly known as the Women’s Network.

 

Gender Balance Network Replaces PwC Women’s Network

I asked myself, why when the firm is moving towards a strategy of inclusiveness – so recognising and respecting value and difference on a very positive basis – are we focusing the women’s network just on women?  When I look at the fantastic development programs I have been on within PwC over the years one of my thoughts/feedback was ‘why are we not embracing men as part of this?’ Because all of us need to be educated and informed and helped to understand if we are different, why is that and why is that a positive asset?

In my day-to-day client work I was observing a real appetite for understanding how better balanced decision making is brought about through diversity of thought, experience, age and gender. Taken together with refocusing our strategy on inclusiveness, moving to the Gender Balance Network felt like a natural evolution.

Responses to the idea of a Gender Balance Network

“The vast majority of women said ‘thank goodness, at last!’ When we attempted to name ‘women only’ issues, in response to some resistance, we saw that there are very few and a forum probably isn’t the place to discuss them. If you want to talk, for example, about childcare issues – which have stereotypically been seen as in the women’s camp – there’s the Parent’s Network.

There are different balance equations in different parts of the firm/regions and there may be a greater journey to go on in some places. I think what reassured some of the nervousness was reiterating that the creation of the Gender Balance Network isn’t us saying that there’s a level playing field and that we’ve got it right. My view is that in order for us to move to a level playing field where both women and men have the opportunity to be the best we can be, we need to do that on a far more inclusive basis and not just for a minority group.

Men and women embracing the Gender balance Network

From a soft launch in January to the latest event, the numbers of participants is up. Board members have been involved in each event with curiosity growing on their part as Tracy tells us they’re now asking ‘when’s the next one? When’s it my turn?”

The most recent event welcomed 135 people to a room designed for 50 (because previous Women’s Network events have usually attracted 30-40) and that included 15 men and 10 clients. And the attraction? The title, “Ambition in the workplace.”

“We used the data from the project 28-40 report that we supported Opportunity Now to do, to explore how men and women individually responded to questions relating to ambition. It brought out a huge amount of synergy as well as some differences which we then really began to unpick and explore. People were still talking about it a week later.”

Carrying the conversation beyond events

“It’s important to realise that the role of the networks within PwC is to really enable our wider diversity and inclusion strategy. They’re there to provide a safe environment where we can debate, challenge, question what we are doing and how we are doing it.

If we are to make any impact and real change, it has to happen within the business itself, so if I think about what I am doing within my own business unit (and this is happening across the firm as well), there are ongoing discussions, round tables, and listening groups taking place which are focusing on all the different types of diversity, not just gender balance.

The more people participate, the better.

What’s next?

We have a shortlist of things that we want to talk about, a list we’ve whittled down to three or four topics as well as lunch with leader events. The topics we are going to be looking at include:

  • Power and Politics, including negotiating and influencing.
  • Self-Promotion, including confidence and communication, how do you market yourself and how do you sell yourself – what’s your brand?
  • Making Life work for you, work-life balance – having something beyond work, making life work for you as opposed to working to live. Doing this in terms of getting flexibility in all of our work, given technology, given the way that we work.

 

 

Talent Fueller – Allison Page, DLA Piper

Allison Page

Talent Fueller Interview with Allison Page, DLA Piper. “Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Allison Page is a partner in the finance team of global law firm, DLA Piper. She works in the Leeds office, runs a team of around 40 people and is married with two children. Colleagues put Allison forward to be profiled as a Talent Fueller owing to her longstanding commitment to supporting and developing female talent. In this post we’ve picked out some of the golden nuggets of our conversation.

Allison kicks off by telling us she believes the glass ceiling still exists and the answer lies in businesses putting the effort into women continuously, right from the beginning of their careers. “One of the reasons I believe passionately in supporting women’s careers is that we recruit more female trainees than men and yet we end up having less than 20% female partners and even fewer in the really senior positions.”

A significant part of the answer is sponsorship, she says.

Sponsorship is vital

“A sponsor is not the same as a mentor. Sponsorship is about a senior person pushing a junior colleague’s career, giving them direction; someone who is prepared to go the extra mile for you and to represent you in the room when you are not there. There’s a direct benefit to the sponsor and the recipient and I think it’s important that the latter is loyal to their sponsor – that’s what really makes it work.  I believe a sponsor has to be someone in a position of power who can change the outcomes of your career and has a vested interest in doing so. I believe we have a greater chance of retaining our female talent if they have that level of support.

“I hadn’t realised I’d been ‘sponsoring’ women for years, probably because I didn’t have one myself. I had never heard the word sponsorship as a form of management and talent development. Licensed careers weren’t really discussed in those terms in law firms. You were either on the partnership track or you weren’t.”

Allison explains that she now has what she calls a ‘half way house’ between sponsor and mentor who’s no longer in the business but who knows it very well. “Now that I have that, life is much easier.”

“Mentoring is important too and I think it’s important to encourage women to look for mentors who come from different sources. Mentoring can mean a long relationships but it can also work in the short-term too, depending on the nature of the issues you want to discuss.”

Pearls and The Two Percent Club

Another signal of DLA Piper’s commitment to women is its support for The Two Percent Club and The Pearls programme, both from ‘An Inspirational Journey’ – a business founded by Yorkshire woman Heather Jackson in response to her discovery that, at one time, Yorkshire was the county with the fewest number of women in board positions.  The Two Percent Club drives forward and positively influences the issue of the under-representation of women at the top of UK business. The club is a national organisation with regional representation and engages with the most senior and influential women across all sectors. The Pearls programme seeks to fix the leaking pipeline of female talent by providing career support and direction for women in middle through to executive management through a programme of events, networking and on-line resources. DLA Piper currently has 55 women on the programme. Allison was the driver behind both of these initiatives coming into DLA Piper – she’s currently Chair of The Two Percent Club in Yorkshire and is on the steering committee of the London group.

Career returners

Of course, becoming a parent is a challenging time and it’s a stage where significant dropout occurs. Allison says thinks there’s probably more DLA Piper could do to support maternity returners, “Certainly when it comes to returning to work, returning to the office space, support is really important. I think for some women, it is actually quite a difficult time. Obviously you can get used to things – you can get used to almost anything – but the transition can be very difficult for new mums.

“I also think we also need to recognise that not everybody, male and female, wants to have an all-singing, all-dancing career. Some people just don’t want that.”

Parents working flexibly

“I really encourage people to work flexibly. I don’t care if you are having your phone calls with your clients from your study or in the office.  I think it is a lot more of a challenge for us, but not impossible, for us to work on the basis that people go home at 5pm and that’s it, they’ve clocked off. Our clients tend to be quite demanding and we’re here to service their needs first and foremost. But if you want to go back to work after going home, having a family meal and putting the kids to bed, I think we should encourage that flexible approach.

“I don’t see my children very much during the week and that’s something that not everyone would be prepared to do. You have to take account of the individual circumstances and find a good way to work. What I often say to people is: ‘your career is a marathon, not a sprint’ and we need to find better ways to accommodate that.”

What’s next for DLA Piper in the inclusion space?

“We’re a very large business and diversity and inclusion is increasingly important to our clients as well as us.  You want to run a business as effectively as you can and to ignore the haemorrhage of female talent would be foolish – it’s an economic issue. I’d like to see diversity training included as part of our development programme so that when colleagues step into a management role they’re encouraged to think about what ‘valuing difference’ means and to live the behaviour.”

It’s clear that Allison is absolutely committed to supporting women not just outside her firm, but outside her industry too. Thanks to Allison’s drive, DLA Piper recently hosted a hugely successful event in conjunction with The Two Percent Club, designed to encourage more senior women across all sectors to join, and to support younger women coming through the ranks.

Talent Fueller – Melissa Geiger, KPMG

Melissa Geiger (427x640)

Talent Fueller Interview with Melissa Geiger, KPMG. “Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Melissa Geiger was the youngest female to make partner at KPMG age 32. Now 38 and with two young children she is committed to being a role-model to others and chairs the KPMG Network of Women (KNOW).  She was instrumental in pushing female career advancement into the spotlight when the firm went through a leadership contest in 2012.

On influencing managing partner, Simon Collins to see women in leadership as a priority for KPMG:

“I decided the leadership contest was a good time to debate women on boards. KNOW hosted an event which all of the leadership candidates attended, along with a lot of our partners (male and female) and more junior staff. They came because they wanted to hear what was going to be an important part of the leadership campaign. Simon, who already feels personally very strongly about inclusion, has gone on to make diversity one of the key things on KPMG’s agenda and Stephen Frost (previously the Head of Diversity and Inclusion for LOCOG and played a key role in the London Olympics) who is our new head of diversity and inclusion, is brilliant. One of the first things he did was meet with me as the Chair of KNOW. I feel that KNOW has a key role to play in relation to getting the key messages on the table about gender equality at the point when we can really make a difference.

I hope this year there will be more women making partner at KPMG, because we are focussing on the needs of our business and our clients and the identification of talented and successful women for senior roles.”

Melissa’s own team is a 50/50 male/female split of partners which is out of step with the 84:16 ratio of partners across KPMG as a whole as at the time of writing.

Your team is an exemplar for embracing flexible working – a key tool for employees to have a ‘full and rounded life’ whether or not they have children. Tell us more:

In our team, three of the four partners have at some point in the last two years, not worked full time. One partner (a man) has five children and works three days a week. Another partner has done 90% over the last two years to give herself longer holidays – she still works five days but it means that instead of 6 weeks holidays, she gets 9/10 weeks. When I came back from maternity leave I tried different things and then went back to 100% when I was ready to do that. We’ve set a progressive tone for the rest of the team and I think it’s really important it comes from the top.

Amongst our director population some of our male directors do ‘glide time’ – instead of doing 9.30 until 5.30, they officially do their hours as 10 until 6 which means they can do the drop off for school and their spouses/partners do the pickup. And it works in reverse with some people working 8am-4pm. These two recognised glide times enable parents to actively participate in family life, although it’s not only for parents. I can think of rugby players and people who keep horses who taken up glide time to better manage their ability to do these other pursuits.

I think practises like these are very important because the next generation are expecting it. We are competing, and if we are not flexible, we won’t get the best talent. And if we don’t get the best talent, we don’t do the best job.

You mentioned your return to work – how is KPMG helping maternity leavers make a smooth and confident return?

It’s very difficult coming back to work after having a baby, it’s a bit of a culture shock. We do lots of things to help people get back up to speed including technical workshops to cover what they have missed – in my case it was tax legislation – because you really need to know what’s changed. Beyond up-skilling technically there’s support in the form of workshops and having various conversations with a sponsor who will ensure that any issues are resolved. The maternity programme is for everyone, all levels. Melanie Richards, a fellow Partner and Member of the Board, has been hugely supportive to me when I came back from maternity leave. She set a great example for me and so I feel like I need to set a good example for all the people in my team. And there’s a certain amount of supporting each other and that needs to come all the way from the top.

Additionally there’s access to emergency childcare which allows me a nanny for four days a year or a nursery place for eight days – and without cost to me. I’ve used it and been open about when I’ve had childcare issues which is helpful as it sets the tone for others to use it.

Your thoughts on what more there is to do to support mothers’ career advancement?

We need to have what my group is like as the culture across the whole business and that needs to come from the top. I think Simon has done a lot to start pushing that in his leadership, through talking from both the heart and head, and I think the more he does that, the more that culture will push through the organisation and through middle management and the better it will get overall.

I think there is an issue of people either not believing they are entitled to do things, or there aren’t enough people in leadership who are like myself – young, female and a parent, married with two children.  When you get promoted, as I have, it is vitally important that you use that position to support others and support best practice.

The question for us is that when women return, how do we keep the progression going? How do you get promoted? The first hurdle is that you come back and into the job you were in; you manage all of the plates at that point and then you get an additional plate because you’ve got to manage your home life and your child also. Hurdle number two is then how to progress my career to the next level? That’s the bit we are focussing on – we get a good level of returners coming back (about 97%) but how many of those get promoted? Asking these questions, and acting on the answers, is what I think will move the number of female partners on.

Is there someone in your organisation who’s making efforts to keep, support and stretch female and/or returning talent that we could shine a light on? Go on, make their day and put us in touch.

Talent Fueller – Carolanne Minashi, Citi

Carolanne MinashiTalent Fueller interview with Carolanne Minashi, Citi. “Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Carolanne Minashi heads up diversity, employee relations and engagement for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Citi – a role comprising around 55 countries and approximately 35,000 people. Beyond Citi having a positive, pioneering story to tell on the maternity transition front – our initial point of connection – what attracted us to profiling Carolanne  is her commitment to spreading their learning externally. She says she’s recently accompanied Citi Relationship Managers to client meetings, “We’re basically trying to share our journey in diversity with the client. We’re adding value to them in a different way.”

In this piece we hear about using the ‘diverse slate’ approach to attracting more women to Citi; retaining female talent and Citi’s approach to maternity and paternity transitions. Of her role she says “I think my role is to help shape the organisation – it’s to create the policy that meets the needs of the business and creates an environment and a culture where talented people will grow and develop and thrive.”

Simplifying the gender agenda 

“As far as our gender agenda is concerned, we want to see more women in senior roles. There are only three levers we can use to achieve that:

  • You can hire more women than you have done in the past.
  • You can promote women faster (and more women) than you have historically.
  • You can lose less women.

It’s really simple and two things work in your favour: 1) the size of the opportunity that the lever presents you and 2) how hard you work at it.”

Hiring from a diverse slate

“Looking at those levers in the context of an industry in challenging times, , our opportunity  to make an impact by hiring is limited. Losing less women or ‘talent keeping’ is key. But when we do have opportunities to hire at the senior level, its really important that we are attracting women. Part of our hiring strategy is a concept called ‘diverse slates’ which basically says, any senior position – director, managing director level role that is open should have a slate of candidates considered for that job, i.e. more than just one person and where possible, there should be a diverse pool. We track the appointments made and how many came from a diverse slate.

Having that metric has meant we’ve had different conversations with our hiring managers and recruiting partners to make sure they are seriously searching the available market to get diverse talent, because it matters to us. It just might mean they have to work a bit harder to find where those women are.”

Stoking the female graduate pipeline

At the junior level the challenge is helping young women at university, or even before, to think of financial services as a career option worth exploring. We’ve done a number of initiatives around creating relationships with young women at university and bringing them into our organisation for a week to see what it’s like. The important thing I’ve learnt from looking at junior talent is connecting them with senior people – women who are living the life that they may have – to start to create a relationship where they feel free to ask the women what their career has been like, how they got into it, what the pressures are.

Maternity metrics

Citi are hot on the metrics surrounding maternity and paternity transitions. Carolanne says they’re measuring pretty much everything they can measure on the diversity agenda and that the gender element is the one that can be measured most accurately. She knows:

  • How many women a year in her business go off on maternity leave (200 this year)
  • How many men are taking paternity leave
  • How many people are adopting
  • How long women are taking off for maternity (about 75% take nine months, less than five percent come back within three months and the rest trickle back at the 12 month period – she encourages women to take the time they need by reassuring them that over the span of their whole career a few months won’t have much impact)
  • How much it costs (maternity leavers are paid in full for the first 26 weeks and paternity leavers are paid in full for their two weeks of Ordinary Paternity Leave and of the matched period of  Additional Paternity Leave)
  • How many people become parents every year (five percent)
  •  Retention rate both on immediate return and also 3 years later

“I wouldn’t say we’re perfect but I think we’ve made a lot of progress on how we support and engage women and dads during their maternity/paternity transitions. It’s a very quick win for an organisation to pick up on. It’s about understanding the profile of the women who are going off on maternity leave. I know that when a woman takes her first maternity leave, she’s got about 10 years worth of work experience. So these are women who are highly invested in their careers and predisposed to want to come back. I also know that a high proportion of the women who work at Citi are the main breadwinners for their family and so there is an economic orientation for them to want to continue their career.”

The role of line managers in maternity transitions

Citi’s retention rate was high before they introduced what we call ‘support the returner’ and ‘shape the landscape’ activities so we asked what made Carolanne choose to implement them.  “One of my roles is to agitate the system so the fact that something’s working well doesn’t mean to say it can’t be better and certainly doesn’t mean to say it’s perfect. I was talking to lots of women and lots of managers and what I was hearing was although we were doing a really good job providing the policy, the pay and the backup childcare, the single biggest impact on women going through their maternity experience was their line manager and the quality of their experience with their line manager. When I probed that, I knew we could do a better job.”

Citi started a workshop for line managers of maternity leavers five years ago and it’s since become mandatory. We talk about how to handle it well for the woman going off on maternity leave, for the team, for the client that needs to be covered. “It’s not rocket science; by bringing people into a workshop where you can just share some views, give them some stats, what we found was the quality of that management intervention went up and so that was great. It’s really about facilitating good conversations and I think you could do that if you were a small communications company with 20 people or if you were a manufacturing company in the north east employing 100 people, you could do that – you don’t have to be Citi with all of our resources in order to achieve the same things.”

The difference supporting maternity and paternity transitions makes

Citi’s maternity retention rate in the EMEA region is currently 95%. The line manager training has played a role in that as have the maternity comeback workshops Citi offers all maternity leavers. Out of these workshops has grown a workshop for new dads which Minashi says is making a difference in terms of being valued by the organisation. She says that to date six dads have taken Additional Paternity Leave and in every case so far, mum has been the main breadwinner.

“There’s a new generation of fathers who want to be much more involved with their kids and are with partners who expect them to be much more involved and expect that there is going to be much more of a shared work and shared care deal going on. If I look ahead, I think the majority of the leave will still be taken by women but I think it opens up the space for men to have much greater access and time off from their job.”

Retaining women more broadly isn’t necessarily about flexibility

“We’ve just completed a global study looking at the root causes for senior female attrition.  We did qualitative research with 500 senior men and women who had left Citi in recent years and approximately 30 deep-dive follow-up interviews. Before when I asked senior leaders why they thought that senior women were leaving Citi voluntarily most of them didn’t know, but within a very short space of time said it’s something to do with work life balance, family commitments or flexible work and we found no evidence of that.”

Minashi says that of the women who left their EMEA business, not one is at home looking after the kids. They’re all back in financial services (63% of both the men and women who left Citi have stayed within the industry) or running their own business. The reason for leaving? Frustration with pace of career growth and stretch, not an absence of ‘balance’ or flex options.

We found some very interesting data on flex work and work life balance and some very strong feedback that from their perspective they had the balance and their flex options about right so it wasn’t about that, but about career growth and stretch.

“Maybe it’s like a hierarchy of needs,” Carolanne reflects, “when flexibility isn’t a pressing need the next pressing issue is career development and what we found is that what women want is really stretching career opportunities that continue to grow their skills and for some of these women, we weren’t able to accommodate that quite quickly enough and completely enough and that’s why they left.”

What’s really clear from the energetic conversation we had with Carolanne is that she’s on the front-foot and committed to constantly striving to make improvements. She says her job now is sit down with Citi leaders and to talk to them about the findings (such as how women are not quitting to stay at home with the kids) and to help them understand what they can do. Helping leaders prioritise career development conversations with their team members  and mid-year feedback discussions are key.

Is there someone in your organisation who’s making efforts to keep, support and stretch female talent that we could shine a light on? Go on, make their day and put us in touch with him or her.

Talent Fueller – Nicki Seignot, ASDA

Nicki Seignot - ASDATalent Fueller interview with Nicki Seignot, ASDA. “Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’

Nicki Seignot is part of Asda’s HR team at the home offices in Leeds. She’s also the bright mind behind their Mum2Mum mentoring scheme which helps maternity leavers bring their ‘whole selves’ back to work. After a spot of mutual admiration (we love that it came about through Nicki’s commitment to CPD and she says our founder’s book “Mothers Work!” is the book she wishes she wrote) we got into the nitty-gritty of Mum2Mum.

 

What is Mum2Mum?

Mum2Mum is a maternity mentoring programme, specifically designed to support women returning to work. It connects women coming back from maternity leave with a mentor who has recently made it back and supports them through their transition to becoming a working parent. We flex the approach depending on what stage of the journey she’s at and it’s a very inclusive scheme. We don’t discriminate by job grade, MumtoMum is a scheme open to all women taking maternity in the Asda Home Offices.

Please tell us about how Mum2Mum came about…

Two members of my close team were newly pregnant and I was mentoring them as a pair. In starting this as an early pilot, it became clear to me that as a business we needed to do more and there were lots of other returning mums who also could benefit from support.

At the same time I was talking to one of our executive coaches who had links to the Business School at Sheffield Hallam University. That was a bit of a tipping point, because her recommendation was to explore opportunities to take my practice to the next level and as a result, I started an MSc in Coaching and Mentoring in January 2011.  I was busy working my way through Senior Executives and Directors and members of the People Team, saying ‘Look I’ve got this idea, what do you think?’ I was careful to select both men and women because I wanted to get a balance of challenge to my insights and proposals.   Nobody said ‘I don’t think that’s going to work.’

So I started Mum2Mum with a pilot of 12 working mums and 12 mums to be.  This was absolutely the part of the job that I loved.  It unlocked a passion and enthusiasm in me.  My experience with these colleagues showed the value in pregnant colleagues being able to talk to someone independently other than their line manager. Mum2Mum also became the focus of my Masters dissertation and I graduated November 2013 with a distinction!

You have a strong view about employees literally investing in themselves…

Nobody should underestimate the amount of time, effort and energy required to do a Masters level qualification – it’s phenomenal! I’ve worked flexibly since I had my children and I’ve been fortunate to have had time and head-space away from work to devote to other things. In the last few years, this other significant thing has been the Masters as well as the family!

Asda and I co-funded my studies, which I believe is an appropriate way forward because there is a shared commitment to your development. Probably for the first time, I was signing up for a significant investment in me, and that changed my relationship with it as a learning journey. I wonder that in some programmes where the company makes the investment, you go in preoccupied and with a busy head – but this was a joint thing and I was consciously more focused.

I made a very clear business case to say ‘I’m really passionate about doing this – here’s where the opportunities are, we’re busy building a coaching culture, yet, there’s a load more to do, it will offer new insights and external thinking, and it will improve my practice as a coach and mentor.’

Asda became the most amazing fertile ground to start something of immense value both at an individual level and business level, firm in the belief that what we were doing was the right thing.

What’s the business value in Mum2Mum?

I know I needed to make the case for Mum2Mum from a business perspective, so I ran an internal survey with the maternity returners for the whole of one year.  What that gave me, was a rich picture across those colleagues, of their experiences, the length of time they took on mat leave, the specific benefits and difficulties associated with returning to work as working mums.

The survey indicated many women were working as close to their due date as possible to allow maximum time on maternity leave.  This has implications for health and well-being and the role of line managers in being mindful of changing needs as leaving dates approach. Women were returning to work, across a range of working patterns, though it was clear that a majority of colleagues had returned on reduced hours.  Furthermore, there was an over riding sense that pre-maternity optimism about ease of returning, was often at odds with their actual experiences of returning to work and combining this with parenting.

The survey provided the burning platform and we had some incredibly powerful quotes to put into the strategic Mum2Mum documents. The overall purpose of the programme is about using mentoring as strategic support to improve the experience of women returning to work. There are also clear links to the diversity agenda.  It’s clear to me there is something about recognising the significance of this point of a woman’s career and for organisations to engage in planned support around maternity. It’s not enough to leave it to a briefing session.  With appropriate preparation and support, there are real benefits in harnessing the experience and expertise of existing working parents.

There’s also a potential benefit of new connections being made across the business that probably wouldn’t exist ordinarily – that’s because we match people from different areas of the business. I’ve found that a number of the mentoring relationships have turned into mutual friendships and as one mentor said to me recently ‘it’s an intimate time, you grow together.’

It sounds very positive for all involved, so just who is it that accesses Mum2Mum?

Overall it’s becoming more widely known – people are talking about it and coming to talk to us which is great. We have a spectrum of women taking part across the Asda Home Offices.  It isn’t something that only more junior or more senior colleagues do.  We we match on the basis of peer-to-peer support, so both mentee and mentor are at the same level.

We publicise Mum2Mum through our intranet and word of mouth. We also run a monthly maternity briefing session called ‘Mums to be’ where we bring together pregnant colleagues for an afternoon’s workshop covering the essentials of going on maternity leave as well as opportunities for networking and sampling Asda’s fantastic ‘Little Angels’ products.  As one mum put it ‘It’s nice to be in a room and just be pregnant!’

In these sessions we also invite mentees and mentors to share their experiences – the mentor’s perspective of why they want to be a mentor and the type of support they offer. For the mums to be, it’s really critical that they have somebody to talk to them, who has come back relatively recently. The reason I say that, is that for a lot of first time mums, when they think about mentoring, they don’t think they are going to need any help! There’s a requirement for us (as scheme owners) and our mentors, to be quite proactive in the early stages, to build relationships and prompt thinking before the colleague goes off on maternity leave.

All our mentors are enthusiastic volunteers who have come to me and said ‘I’ve come back to work and I’d really like to be a mentor and help someone.’ We also have a number of Mum2Mum mentees who have returned and now want to offer back the support they enjoyed through Mum2Mum.

On that note of ‘future possibilities’ and shared parental leave on the horizon, are their plans for a Dad2Dad scheme?

We’d love to have a Dad2Dad scheme and this has been on my mind! Becoming a parent is a significant time in people’s lives both men and women and there are lessons we can take from Mum2Mum which could be adapted.

 

Is there someone in your organisation who’s making efforts to keep, support and stretch female talent that we could shine a light on? Go on, make their day and put us in touch with him or her.

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