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For these companies… Mum’s the word

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See how family-friendly benefits at Hasbro, Lendlease, and Siemens helped increase employee engagement, in this review by Jerene Ang.

For organisations to meet their growing manpower demands, amid a war on talent that is only getting tougher, it is crucial employers seek previously untapped pools of talent such as returning mothers.

However, to effectively attract and retain this group of employees, it is essential for organisations to look beyond monetary benefits.

In fact, according to the 2016 “Bright Horizons Modern Family Index” report, 49% of new mothers have sacrificed salary for a family-friendly workplace and 59% are likely to switch jobs after they have had their first child.

The report further revealed that 96% of expectant mothers were eager to return to work after their maternity leave and 92% intended to be as committed post-baby as they were before.

Realising the need to attract and retain this pool of talent, in the past two years companies such as Hasbro, Maybank, Lendlease, Siemens, and many more, have jumped on the bandwagon in offering family-friendly benefits such as longer maternity leave and flexible working arrangements.

As a guide for HR, rewards and compensation professionals to implement such benefits, we speak to HR leaders from the organisations above to find out how it’s done.

Case 1: Hasbro

As a global play and entertainment company, Hasbro’s mission is to create the best play experiences – starting from home by creating opportunities for employees to be with their families.

Aspiring to create “the best place you have ever worked”, the company recognises that a key step towards achieving this goal is providing an environment where employees see the value in their contribution and can achieve their professional career goals, while balancing family life.

Rachael Adamson, HR manager for Southeast Asia at Hasbro, revealed: “Hasbro has always recognised the importance of family-friendly policies. Globally, we operate a 4.5 day working week providing employees with a strong work-life balance. Employees receive an additional day off on their birthdays.”

In 2016, Hasbro Southeast Asia embarked on a rigorous review of its benefits offerings, actively seeking out feedback through employee surveys and workshops, and using market insights to understand the benefits landscape across markets.

The company now offers all its employees in Southeast Asia six months of maternity leave, 16 weeks of which is paid. Additionally, fathers now receive two weeks paid paternity leave, as well as paid time off to attend prenatal check-ups and medical appointments with their spouse.

At the same time, on their return to work, new mothers can choose to phase their return for the first month, working reduced hours to help ease their transition for both them and their child.

“We feel this is a critical benefit ensuring that women are supported during this often emotionally challenging time,” Adamson said.

Even those team members who were not yet in a personal position to utilise the benefits were excited to be part of a progressive organisation that had not only sought out employee opinion, but had acted upon the feedback.
- Rachael Adamson, HR manager for Southeast Asia at Hasbro

To ensure employees had plenty of opportunities to learn about the changes and ask questions, these new benefits were shared during regional town halls and in smaller employee meetings.

“Even those team members who were not yet in a personal position to utilise the benefits were excited to be part of a progressive organisation that had not only sought out employee opinion, but had acted upon the feedback.”

Thankfully, with strong support and alignment from its senior stakeholders, Adamson revealed the team did not face any challenges with the implementation of the new benefits.

Through enhancing its parental leave policy, Hasbro foresees increased employee engagement, retention and performance which will be measured through the company’s annual employee survey, metrics and talent review process.

Case 2: Maybank

At Maybank, it is strongly believed that success at work does not and need not come at the expense of family. Benefits at the bank are therefore delivered as a whole in ways that demonstrate this belief.

Nora Manaf, group chief human capital officer at Maybank Group, said: “To us, real quality in life means valuing family just as much as work, with an understanding that the two reinforce each other.”

Just this year, the bank released two rather bold policies – a sabbatical leave of up to two years; and maternity leave of up to 365 days.

Commenting on the new sabbatical leave policy, she said: “Our policy allows staff to apply for up to two years off work. During the period the staff is away on sabbatical leave, the staff continues to enjoy staff benefits with no break in service continuity.”

The policy also allows employees to apply to take on part-time employment during the leave period.

As for the extended maternity leave, she said: “Besides having a strong business case for this, we also believe it presents an opportunity for our female employees to cope with the demands of their newborn child and motherhood, while finding the balance to juggle work and life before returning and performing effectively in their roles in the workplace.”

To us, real quality in life means valuing family just as much as work, with an understanding that the two reinforce each other.
- Nora Manaf, group chief human capital officer at Maybank Group

Zooming in on the extended maternity leave policy, she shared that the idea of the policy first came when the team acted upon feedback received from working mothers who shared their thoughts on resigning because of being unable to cope with their newborn and perform optimally at work.

After studying the best practices in the market, the bank redesigned its family-friendly initiatives framework, collaborated and syndicated with stakeholders to obtain ideas, feedback and approval.

“The core of these efforts is really to give our workforce choices that work for their individual needs. After all, choice, ease of accessibility and speed are basic expectations of the current world,” she said.

“Besides having a strong business case in implementing this policy, another winning factor is the opportunity for growth for our talent. Those employees who have to fill in the ‘void’ as their colleagues sign up for the extended maternity leave will need to step up, take on a new role, stretch themselves, be visible and learn new skills.”

Typically, the bank leverages on a host of platforms to engage and communicate to employees, using face-to-face and electronic channels to ensure maximum readership and impact.

However, to make the extended maternity leave policy more significant, meaningful and memorable, in addition to the usual channels, Maybank made the announcement to all employees in conjunction with its International Women’s Day 2017 celebration.

Having 55% of our population comprising women, we cannot just sit back and ignore the challenges that they face in progressing their career and realising their aspirations.
- Nora Manaf, group chief human capital officer at Maybank Group

One of the difficulties faced when implementing the leave policy was to get teams across the business to rethink the way things were usually done and revisit their ways of working, shifting processes to create a win-win situation for both employees and the organisation.

“Stretching manpower, identifying successors and equipping them with relevant trainings and development are some fundamental actions that they had to take. Yes, I know it is not easy at first!

“It demands a great level of agility, nimbleness as well as readiness to make things happen. Our business human capital managers are always ready on the ground to engage with our line managers and businesses to educate and recommend possible solutions in preparing our workforce with the ‘winds of change’ that will continue to blow our way.”

Since the maternity leave policy was first introduced in February 2017, the bank has approved an average of one case per each 1.3 working days.

Commenting on the ROI of the new policy, Manaf said: “What is already clear is the heightened pride and high engagement of our workforce based on staff feedback that continues to come in. And we know there are many studies out there that have shown there is a direct link between higher staff engagement and higher business performance.”

Additionally, she expects the policy to have a significant impact on retaining talent.

“Having 55% of our population comprising women, we cannot just sit back and ignore the challenges that they face in progressing their career and realising their aspirations. This extended maternity leave policy is one of the ways that we retain our women talent and ensure that our business performance track record is maintained in a sustainable and responsible manner.”

Case 3: Lendlease

At Lendlease, diversity and inclusion is one of the company’s guiding principles. Understanding that employees have various personal commitments, the international property and infrastructure group supports employees through various workplace flexibility and family-friendly programmes.

Despite the company’s annual leave entitlement being above industry norms – 22 days per year – in 2015, Lendlease took things a step further by providing employees with three days of wellbeing leave per calendar year.

Vicki Ng, head of human resources Asia at Lendlease, said: “Employees can utilise these three wellbeing leave days to engage in any health and wellbeing activities, or use it to care for their family members, for example, accompanying parents to the doctor. The objective is to emphasise the importance of work-life harmony, encouraging employees to spend time with their loved ones and to rest and recharge.”

Lendlease also has a shared parental leave programme offering employees who are parents up to 20 weeks of time off, applicable to both biological and adopted children.

“At Lendlease, we recognise that each family situation may be different, and if the father or partner is the primary carer, he/she can access the balance of the parental leave not utilised by the mother on top of the father’s existing paternity leave entitlement,” she said.

Apart from leave benefits, Lendlease offers employees flexible work arrangements, including staggered work hours, ad-hoc time-off, working remotely, a compressed work week and sabbatical leave. The company also has a “Blue Sky Friday” initiative which encourages staff to leave the office earlier on Fridays, while the sky is still blue.

To create a greater awareness around these benefits, a workplace flexibility employee resource group was set up, consisting of representatives across the business.

“As part of the launch of various new initiatives, employees were engaged via roadshows, focus groups and communications via internal platforms.”

At the same time, employees were able to access answers to their queries on the new initiatives and policies via “HR Services” – Lendlease’s internal service desk platform on HR matters.

At recent feedback sessions, employees have also given positive feedback and examples on Lendlease’s focus on work-life flexibility practices.
- Vicki Ng, head of human resources Asia at Lendlease

As a property and infrastructure company, one of the main challenges Lendlease faced when implementing workplace flexibility and family-friendly programmes was balancing construction site demands with flexible arrangements.

While a concrete solution has not been found, Lendlease has formed a separate action group, led by senior leaders, to look into the issue.

As for office-based employees, Ng said that with strong IT support, employees are able to work remotely as long as they have an internet connection.

She said the company’s comprehensive work-life harmony and flexible working initiatives had been well-received by employees.

Ng added that in the company’s global employee engagement progress survey, conducted independently by Towers Watson, significant improvements have been seen in the areas of engagement over the past two years.

“Our scores are also on par with, and in some cases, higher than that of global high-performance companies identified by Towers Watson. At recent feedback sessions, employees have also given positive feedback and examples on Lendlease’s focus on work-life flexibility practices.”

Case 4: Siemens

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being “very important”, at Siemens, family-friendly benefits are rated a 10. The German technology company recognises that family is a huge part of its employees’ lives, be it with family or elderly parents.

Michael Haberzettl, head of HR for ASEAN at Siemens, believes that if the company is able to help employees look after their families better, it will also reap the rewards of having happier, less stressed-out and more committed employees.

As such, Siemens has implemented various family-friendly benefits which it communicated to employees via various platforms, including emails, the HR intranet, the employee handbook, as well as information sessions.

The benefits include flexible work arrangements, such as staggered hours, part-time work and work-from-home arrangements, which help employees balance between work and family commitments; and paid parental leave which enables employees to take time out to adjust to the change in their family dynamics.

The company also has a lactation room which provides a private space and relaxing environment for nursing mothers, making it less stressful for them to be at work.

Additionally, Siemens also offers employees monetary parental benefits for every child delivery; paid executive health screening for employees above 40 years old; paid marriage leave of up to four days for newly married couples to go on their honeymoon; coverage of medical expenses for employees, spouses and children as part of its flexible benefits programme; as well as a “bring your kids to work” day.

So far, we’ve seen that employees who work from home are as productive and efficient, if not more.
- Michael Haberzettl, head of HR for ASEAN at Siemens

Sharing how the initiatives were implemented, Haberzettl said: “First and foremost, we obtained strong support from our top management to make our company a family-friendly workplace. As for the technicalities and processes of implementing the initiatives, it’s really down to good planning and partnership with various stakeholders, such as our estate management team.”

He added the company constantly encourages employees to have dialogues with their managers so there is a good mutual understanding and strong trust between them.

“In addition, our CEO holds regular breakfast/lunch meetings and forums with employees at different levels in order to collect feedback and ideas of how else to improve the company.”

A key challenge Siemens faced while implementing work-from-home arrangements was getting managers to trust that employees would be equally productive from home.

“This is a shift in mindset and workplace culture as we are traditionally used to seeing employees clocking hours in the office. Our senior management decided that we have to take the step of faith and to trust our employees to be responsible,” he said.

“So far, we’ve seen that employees who work from home are as productive and efficient, if not more.”

Since the implementation of these benefits in March 2016, he has observed an increase in employee satisfaction and productivity.

How to successfully implement family-friendly benefits

For companies looking to implement family-friendly benefits, Nicole Seah, co-founder of Rewardz, reveals the three things to keep in mind for a successful programme – clarity, need-based prioritisation and no assumptions.

“You need to have clarity of what you want to achieve out of the extension of the benefits. Such benefits come at a cost, some higher than others, so you need to be able to prioritise what is critically missing from the existing benefits portfolio,” she said.

“Don’t assume that you know what your employees want based on your own preferences and cost constraints.”

She suggested having an open dialogue with employees and moving things forward by making tweaks to the basic benefits programme already in place.

“These family-friendly workplace practices do increase the happiness of your employees and perhaps play a part in talent attraction and retention,” she said.

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