Learning & Development Asia 2024
Parents' special: HR leader Fiona Chan on ways to build a workplace that fits employees' family life

Parents' special: HR leader Fiona Chan on ways to build a workplace that fits employees' family life


On the occasion of Father's Day, Head of HR Fiona Chan talks about making parental leave policies gender agnostic, in a walkabout interview with HRO's Tracy Chan.

When it came to parenting in the past, fathers had presumably been considered secondary caregivers. Thus, parental leave benefits were more targeted to female employees than their male counterparts.

But the situation has changed as gender equality issues and equal parenting have come into the spotlight.

To better support employees to fulfil their shared parental responsibility, many companies have enhanced their parental leave policies by providing the same benefits for all workers regardless of their genders, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is one of those that has championed such an approach.

As part of the company's 'Work That Fits Your Life' programme, HPE has introduced 26 weeks of fully paid parental leave in 2019 for new mothers and fathers working at its offices globally, including the over 300-strong workforce in Hong Kong. Furthermore, new parents can choose to work part-time for up to 36 months based on their needs under the company's flexible work arrangement policy, namely 'Parental Transition Support'.

"We treat everyone equally, regardless of their gender," affirms Fiona Chan (pictured above), Head of Human Resources, HK & Taiwan, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), with HRO's Tracy Chan at a recent walkabout interview at the company's Hong Kong office.

"We understand that new parents need more time for their newborn babies. We want to provide them the flexibility so they can take better care of their families and maintain a good work-life balance."

Under the policy, new parents can take parental leave within the first 12 months after the birth or adoption of a child. According to Chan, all new parents who have had babies since the launch of the programme in its Hong Kong and Taiwan offices, have chosen to take advantage of HPE’s parental leave. Two-thirds of all eligible dads chose to take the full six months off in Hong Kong, while half in Taiwan did so.

As the parental leave may be taken in one go or separately, she shares that male employees usually take part of it in the first month after the delivery of their child, and continue to use the remaining leave days at different times within the year on demand. Among those who chose to take partial leave, they took an overall average of about four months of leave.

Chan expresses that today's talents prioritise their family and children. Men, however, tend to be less expressive about themselves. Adding on the possible concerns about job security, many would put 99% of their effort into working rather than parenting.

With the enhanced parental leave benefits, HPE aims to provide them with a psychologically secure environment and a safety net, empowering them to better fulfil their family roles and responsibilities while performing at work with ease of mind.

"We are committed to supporting every colleague as well as their families. This is rooted in our culture. Both male and female colleagues appreciate the support provided by the company. With such support, they feel more secure as they grow their families."

Building on a culture of 'work that fits your life'

In fact, HPE's commitment to its employees and their families extends beyond the parental leave benefits for new parents. Catering to employees' needs for flexibility, HPE has implemented a hybrid work policy for its global employees, enabling them to work from home depending on their personal and family needs.

The company also understands that employees may face challenges working at home, especially given the constrained living space in Hong Kong. Therefore, HPE has renovated its Hong Kong office in 2018, providing ample working space, conference rooms of different sizes, and various common areas, to encourage employees to work in the office more frequently, as well as promote collaboration.

"We also have a nursing room as we welcome employees to bring their children to work," Chan says. "We believe face-to-face communication is most productive and effective for work."

On the other hand, the company has extended its global initiative 'Wellness Fridays' according to the feedback from its employees. Instead of encouraging them to leave the office three hours early on one Friday each month, employees can now enjoy one Friday off in four designated months a year. In other words, employees are granted an additional four days of annual leave a year.

"This year, 'Wellness Fridays' fall in April, June, July and August. We chose June to August because it is summer time. Our employees can spend more time with their kids during the school holiday," Chan elaborates.

She adds that the leave days are decided early at the beginning of each year so employees can plan their schedules accordingly.

"The leave days are aligned across HPE's global offices. All employees will be off on the same day, ensuring they can fully enjoy their long weekends without disturbances."

Outside work, employees get company-wide charity opportunities to contribute to the community with their children and families. She cites some recent examples: "In Hong Kong, we partner with World Wildlife Fund on beach clean-ups and dolphin-watching activities, and with Food Angel on preparing meal boxes to serve the underprivileged communities.

"HPE even provides all employees 60 hours of paid volunteer time off per year."

Putting people first

After all, as a company, Chan says it is crucial to understand employees' needs and support them accordingly, and this is what HPE has been proactively advocating for.

Apart from the supporting initiatives for parents, she further shares other measures for the team members.

"We provide different learning opportunities to employees according to their strengths and expertise, such as certification programmes for those in technical roles. We also offer them different exposures with job rotation, keeping them motivated to keep working at HPE."

Retirement transition support, meanwhile, is another highlight.

"At HPE, there is no mandatory retirement age. Employees preparing for retirement will be given the opportunity to work part-time to help adjust to identity changes, while transferring their knowledge and serving as a mentor to other HPE employees."

By providing employees with personalised support, HPE has achieved positive results in attracting and retaining people, including a Top Talent retention rate of 100% for four consecutive years.

"We also see talent attrition. But our people resigned purely for family reasons. We have many colleagues who have rejoined, and some have even rejoined twice," Chan says.

She further reveals that most employees work an average of five to six years at HPE Hong Kong, with many top performers working for more than 20 years. Of that, the longest tenure of an employee is over 35 years.

She concludes: "HPE is like a family. We always put people first and emphasise teamwork. This is our culture."

Photos / Provided

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