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What better time to… leave my job?

Well, 2020 has been just a little insane so far.

I have been incredibly fortunate to be with an employer, and working for a leadership team, that has displayed person-centered decision making in a time of crisis. The role of People & Culture has never been harder, or more critical than it has been in recent times, and I think we’ve all seen companies and their leaders show their true colours.

Next time you are approached about a role, or are looking for one, getting a good understanding of how an organisation has dealt with COVID-19 would be one of the best tests of what they really stand for and who their leaders really are.

So in saying all that – I’m doing something many people have responded with “but, are you sure…?” when I’ve told them the news. I’m leaving my incredibly safe, close-knit P&C team, with a fantastic Executive and Leadership Team, to return to the nonprofit world as a result of a dream gig appearing in front of me, in the middle of a pandemic.

Sure… starting a new role completely remotely will be challenging, and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m a tiny bit nervous for a career-shift right now. But something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot over the past year, ever since our family had a life-changing diagnosis, is what I truly value in life. For me, this means returning to a learning and organisational development-focused position, rejoining the nonprofit sector and enrolling in further post-grad studies in digital adult education.

So it’s goodbye to bloom hearing specialists, and hello to Life Without Barriers, I’m excited for the next adventure!

Leadership, personal

The whole world turned upside down: brain cancer & awesome workplaces

In June this year my life took an unexpected turn. I had my parents (John & Jenny) visit from New Zealand, they said it was to visit Sam and I (but I knew the truth, my 2-year-old was the main attraction).

After an action-packed week of Aquarium and Zoo visits, and tramming their way all over Melbourne they were ready to go home.

One day before they were due to leave, Mum and I took John, my wonderful, kind, generous Stepdad, to the hospital after some headaches and confusion.

The outcome of that long ED visit was a Stage 4 GBM (brain cancer), brain surgery, chemo and radiation. Their short stay, arranged during school holidays, was then extended indefinitely as we fought this. They ended up staying with us an additional 9 weeks.

I cannot help but look at the past couple of months and see some of the best lessons of my life playing out.

The biggest part of that lesson for me was a personal one. Despite his diagnosis, despite the uncertainty and surgery and tears from us all, John has been unashamedly positive.

* Positive because of the incredible care he received at the Royal Melbourne.

* Positive because of the doctors, nurses and staff who took the time to care for him.

* Positive because, despite the circumstances, we had unexpected bonus-time as a family together, with my brothers and sister visiting from NZ and America.

* Positive because of the outpouring of love from family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and ex-students of my parents who sent messages of aroha and support from near and far.

* Positive in continually repeating that he’s lucky, he’s got a great life, and wife(!) and wonderful kids, it could all be so much worse.

John manages to find good in everything, and everyone. (after you meet his Mum, Nana Jean, you know where this comes from). The one nurse who during his time in hospital was a little short, hungover and on her phone? He refused to complain, because “you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, she might be having a really hard time”. John is the definition of positivity and love. I’m so fortunate that he came into our lives when I was a kid.

The second biggest lesson was what I experienced, along with each member of my family during a really tough time. My parent’s employers (Devon Intermediate, and Frankley School in NZ) were both amazing. They made organising time off easy and they sent messages full of love and hope. They sent tins of tea and flowers and fruit. They contacted us and asked what would help and listened.

My work (bloom hearing specialists), and, in particular my direct manager, have been nothing but incredible. While I’ve been on the HR-end of many crises, that’s not the same of the overwhelming sense of thankfulness you get when your manager makes it clear that there’s nothing that matters more than being there with your family. When your colleagues forgive your absentmindedness and don’t mention your horrendous eyebags/unkempt hair after another sleepless night. When you are encouraged to do what is right for you and your family, knowing it really is OK.

This post is part thanks, and part encouragement. Encouragement to do what you know is right, and treat others with empathy and love. At the time you might not consider it something monumental, especially when you know someone is going through *big* things. But every message, every small gesture meant an incredible amount to us as we grappled with all we had to deal with during this time, and it won’t be forgotten.

* John & Jenny have now returned to New Zealand, leaving our two-bedroom house very quiet.

#SHRM19, Human Resources, SHRM

#SHRM19 Q&A: Howard Wallack on Global Leadership Development

When I saw the opportunity to speak to Howard ahead of #SHRM19 I jumped at the chance. Howard is a former employee of SHRM (who seem to have an impressive ability to hire some absolutely brilliant people – just check out the social media team!) and the Deputy Chief HR & Administrative Officer at Jhpiego – a non-profit affiliate of The John Hopkins University. Jhpiego operates in 40 countries with 3,900 employees – so long story short, Howard knows global HR.

HR-across-borders is absolutely a favourite topic of mine, as an international member of SHRM who makes the trek each year for this conference, there’s nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to learn from the people who make workplaces the best. If I’m going to get really specific, I’m interested in global leadership development – and that’s what Howard is speaking about at SHRM19! (Along with HR and Business Challenges in International Nonprofits.)

Tell me more about why you wanted to speak about managing a global/virtual leadership development program?

I wanted to speak on the JLDP because of its diversity, pulling in participants from different countries, different functions, and different career paths, with it responding to their needs to improve managerial and leadership capacity. Like many other organizations operating across many borders, working in a global matrixed company with nearly 4,000 employees in 30+ countries we’ve had a challenge building consistent internal organizational culture, solid supervisory skills across locations and functions, and promoting a continuous learning environment, all of which we trust serve to reinforce employee engagement and productivity.

The Jhpiego Leadership Development Program (JLDP) is just one element among many that moves us in that direction, building on our other efforts of standardized onboarding, roll-out of a global learning management system (LMS), design of an internal supervisory curriculum, and career pathing.

What has been your most valuable lesson professionally so far?

Know your own moral and ethical “north star” and don’t be pressured by others to ever let your own personal compass deviate from it.

What is your favourite part of attending SHRM?

My favorite part of attending the SHRM Annual Conference is the energy and networking of being in a place with fellow HR practitioners from all around the world, from different sized-organizations, with different backgrounds and journeys that led us all into HR. I learn as much from fellow attendees as I do from the presenters!

What do you think attendees will be most interested in in your session?

I anticipate questions will come up about how we’ve managed as a non-profit entity to design, budget for, and finance a global leadership development initiative.

Any sessions that you’re excited about attending yourself?

Among many others, I’m looking forward to hearing Lisbeth Claus (#ZigZag HR), Stuart Chittenden (Transforming HR with Design Thinking), and Jonathan Smilansky (Building Management Teams in International Businesses).

What do you do when you’re not at work?

Swim, kayak, hike and occasionally bike; spend time with family and friends. For the past 7 years I’ve volunteered time as a board member of Cultural Vistas, a non-profit that works to promote global understanding and collaboration among individuals and institutions through international exchange programs and professional internships.

What’s the most important lesson you want attendees to your session to walk away with?

I have two:

(1) Build choice into a curated leadership development program, because it gives decision-making agency to learners and their commitment to the effort goes up.

(2) Linking leadership development with solid mentorship makes for a potent combination.

Make sure you follow Howard on Twitter at @How_Globalist

#SHRM19

#SHRM19 Q&A: Jonathan Segal on HR & Sexual Harassment

#SHRM19 is just around the corner, and one of the speakers I always make time to see is Jonathan Segal. This isn’t just because he is a genuinely delightful human being who also is a champion for animal rights. It’s also due to his exemplary knowledge and wisdom in the field of gender bias and sexual harassment and his ability to clarify complex issues for an HR audience.

I spoke to Jonathan recently to hear more about his session Sexual Harassment Case Studies.

Tell me more about why you wanted to speak about sexual harassment case studies?

We all know now that harassing conduct is both severe and pervasive. No industry is immune. Responsible employers have done even more to prevent and remedy harassing conduct since the “great awakening” in 2017. This includes strengthening policies, complaint procedures, training, etc.

Now, however, I fear that HR may have some #metoo fatigue. After all, it has been the topic de jure for more than a year. While #metoo is not the only issue for HR, it must remain top of mind. This means focusing not only on compliance but also on culture.

This program will provide guidance to HR to assist other leaders navigate the gray, receive complaints, respond to potentially harassing behavior, avoid retaliatory conduct, etc.

What motivated you to get started in law?

I grew up in a family where social justice was very important. Dr. King remains my hero. I became interested in how law could increase equality.

When I went to law school, I became particularly interested in employment law. Originally, I had considered being a plaintiffs’ lawyer. But, for many reasons, I decided I wanted to try to make a difference by working within the system, that is, for employers. A recovering litigator, I focus entirely on maximizing compliance and managing risk with an eye toward culture. I love what I do. I am quite fortunate.

What has been your most valuable lesson professionally so far?

There is no such thing as risk avoidance. In HR, it’s all about managing risk.

Avoid risk by hiring a questionable applicant? You may have a riskier termination if things do not work out. Avoid risk by not terminating an employee who should be separated? You may be creating a bad “comparator” when you terminate someone else for same or similar reasons. Plus, what damage can the employee cause while remaining employed?

Somethings are legally mandated or prohibited. But where there is legal risk rather than illegality, we must get comfortable with the gray. Afterall, sometimes the greatest risk of all is to take no risk at all.

What is your favorite part of attending SHRM?

I love the short and not-so-short conversations with HR professionals, scheduled or impromptu. I like listening to what issues HR people face day to day. I think I am a better business partner as a result.

But it goes beyond the professional. Annual is a great opportunity to meet up with people I don’t see often live but really like. It is also an opportunity to meet people I “know” from social media and get to know them the old fashion way.

What do you think attendees will be most interested in in your session?

I suspect people will be interested in how to respond “in the moment” to harassing and other unacceptable conduct, even if no complaint. This is so important and so much room for error.

I anticipate there may be questions on navigating the gray. I never expected that a large part of my counseling practice would be the “when and how” of hugs and compliments.

What sessions are you most excited about attending yourself?

So many great sessions but here are but 5 (in alpha order):

1. Steve Brown, HR Rising! From Ownership to Leadership

2. Sol Adrianna Echeverría, Doing Business Globally with Multicultural Teams: Strategies to Manage Integration

3. David Edelman, The Emotional Connection Between Your Brand and Employees

4. Jim Reidy, When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Legal Issues and Hiring Strategies in Era of Legalized Marijuana

5. Allison West, He Said, She Said- Now What? Tips for Effectively Assessing Credibility

What do you do when you’re not at work?

My passion outside of work is animal rescue. I have been a hands-on volunteer virtually every week for more than a dozen years. Thank you Montgomery County SPCA. In the interest of full disclosure, I am now a Board member, too.

No feeling is better than getting a shelter cat or dog adopted. I have a soft spot for the older animals, so I push a bit harder for them and, by a bit, I mean a lot. We cannot save every animal. But we save a universe with every animal we save.

To quote Anatole France: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” In addition to the shelter animals, Scotty, Finny and Larry awaken my soul every day.

What’s the most important lesson you want attendees to your session to walk away with?

That the problem of harassment remains, and that HR plays a critical role in ensuring that our workplaces are respectful, safe and productive.

We can make a difference. We must! I hope to support HR by sharing some practical tools to make this happen.

Difficult Conversations, Ethics, Leadership, Reflective practice, Thinking differently

Your Organisation is Drifting. And You’ve Got No Idea.

New year new you!

Or something similar.

It’s natural to strive for better. You look at the previous year, note your accomplishments (high engagement score ranking – tick!) and want to build on that momentum.

What you often don’t see when you’re constantly engaging with the people within your organisation that are high performers and those that are close to you, is the organisational drift happening under the surface. You’re focusing on big changes, becoming bigger and better than the year before, all the while not realising that something insidious is eating away at the fabric of your organisation.

People may have brought individual issues up before. Some big. Some not so much. Isolated they don’t look like a pattern. Because you’re surrounded with those who are super engaged and likely are very focused on their own areas of expertise they also don’t see the cumulative nature of what’s happening.

But I guarantee your employees do.

They notice the few instances of people ‘moving on’ under cloudy circumstances with unclear communications.

They notice the difference between decisions made by management and the values of your organisation.

They notice their friends and high performers choosing to opt out after having realised that this isn’t the place with the great culture/opportunity/leadership it once was.

They see people being appointed to roles who don’t care about their teams.

They see snarky emails/veiled threats being thrown about with no consequence.

Do they bring it to you?

Probably not.

They’ve probably already made their decision. They’re out. They’re still smiling and saying the right things when you ask them, but they’re scouring LinkedIn and job boards looking for their next opportunity. They’re responding honestly when someone asks what it’s like to work for you. They’re moving to your competitors.

All of a sudden it happens. You realise that you’re no longer ahead of the game. You ignored too many warning signs. Conveniently chose to listen to those who told you what you wanted to hear, not those who would challenge you and tell you what you needed to hear.

Many organisations go down this path. Some parts of it are beyond your control. Some are well within it.

So instead of thinking of the new year as one to build on the previous – maybe take some time to reflect, engage in continuous learning practices and ‘get under the hood’. You may not like what you find, but at least you have an opportunity to fix it if you do come across something.

AHRI, Australian HR, Career, Human Resources, Leadership

5 Key Takeaways From The AHRI Awards

AHRI get a lot of things right for me as an association – they work incredibly hard (every employee or volunteer I’ve met have confirmed this), they listen to their membership, and they lead with the genuinely good intent that our profession can be better and can create better work environments for others.

Last week I attended the AHRI Awards, a national event that I have never had the opportunity to go to before. It was fabulous. Not just because of the great MC (Peter Berner), performances & food – but for the great conversations and stories that were shared throughout the evening.

The “people profession”, as described by Lyn Goodear, came together to celebrate the hard work of both individuals and workplaces in bettering work for others.

Ok, ok, ok – without further ado, here are my 5 key takeaways from the event:

1. Individual awards are where it’s at

The first two acceptance speeches for the night really set the tone, both giving heartfelt thanks to their teams, mentors and managers who believed in them. It was a timely reminder that no matter how busy you are, how much you’ve got going on, the support you give those in your team will make an impact far bigger than you realise at the time.

There is amazing talent coming through in the field of HR and I’m excited about the impact and change that this will inevitably bring.

2. Diversity & inclusion is where all the cool work is happening

The HR Diversity Champion Award as a really big one for me. The Defense Force isn’t necessary an employer that I would have picked as a front runner in innovative HR practice (which I full well acknowledge may be my own denseness) but I was really impressed with Shane Cox’s work in providing career pathways for indigenous youth.

3. The numbers of people with AHRI certification are growing

I’m really enjoying the growing professionalisation of HR in Australia, largely due to the efforts of AHRI. Certification was a topic of conversation at the awards – which definitely prompted me to reflect on exactly when I will be getting my A into G on that one!

4. AHRI = genuine advocacy

A message I heard loud and clear – not just from AHRI (because what member association isn’t going to advocate this), but from volunteers, staff members, and from what efforts are recognised makes it clear, we are fortunate to have this be our professional association.

I heard multiple times from the winners in their acceptance speeches of the honour of their work being recognised by AHRI. What AHRI is doing is celebrating work that is changing the way others work, interact and experience their own work. Work that is genuinely changing peoples’ lives.

5. Conversations!

The AHRI Awards was a fabulous opportunity to get out and meet (and reconnect with) people who do great HR. Sometimes life can get busy and its easy to forget, or just not prioritise, meeting new people and listening to what makes them tick. I was lucky enough to sit next to someone who had also rejoined the workforce, and changed role, soon after becoming a parent for the first time. I got to hear about the fascinating experiences of someone who has moved into HR after a long career in energy. These conversations, among others, were a good reminder that its easy to get caught up in your own bubble and forget to take the time to learn from others.

I had such a brilliant night. Not just because of the organ (OMG THE ORGAN), the showtunes from Wicked, the Phantom, Les Mis & Jersey Boys, but because of the honour of being around people that are so brilliant at what they do that they inspire me to be better.

AHRI, Career, Human Resources, SHRM

Finding My Tribe & The Power of Multipliers

This morning I sat down for breakfast with Greg Hawks ahead of presenting at the Illinois SHRM 2018 Conference – #ILSHRM18. A completely random occurrence: both Greg and I were speaking at the equivalent Ohio conference (a fabulously run event), and upon seeing we were both going to be in Chicago, Greg suggested we have breakfast.

Greg, myself and 110 mousetraps sat down, main-lining coffee, chatting about how we’d both ended up at the Hilton Suites ahead the conference kicking off. We just didn’t shut up! We discussed conferences (how well run was #OHSHRM18?!), kids, HR, business, speaking, American hospitality (it’s disconcerting how polite everyone is here), and the amazing people we’ve met along the way.

If you asked me a few years ago whether I’d be here, bouncing around ideas with a phenomenal speaker (do make sure you check him out) in the restaurant of a hotel in Chicago where I’d been invited to speak at a conference the answer would have been a resounding hell-no!

But here I am. And the unreal nature of the situation has not been lost on me – I’m incredibly fortunate. Yes, it’s taken hard work to get here, but much of how this has all come about has been because I’m surrounded with a tribe of smart, successful, kind people, like Greg, who have been generous with their knowledge, friendship and time and paid it forward.

I worked with a wonderful human, also called Greg (Jennings), in Melbourne at the YMCA – it was this Greg (perhaps there’s a consistency with the name?) who introduced me to the concept of ‘Multipliers’ (from Liz Wiseman & ANOTHER GREG (McKeown)). Multipliers are people who believe in the concept of plenty and are all about helping others, encouraging growth and creativity in the workplace. I took to this concept quickly as it immediately resonated, providing a reference point for all those people I most admire & the way they work.

As I sit here in my hotel room I reflect that the tribe I’ve got gathered around me are all multipliers. Colleagues, past and present, friends, random acquaintances-turned-good-friends, mentors and of course the incredible #HRTribe, many whom I first met via social media, have all helped me grow, learn and be more confident in my work. There are far too many to name, but I am particularly excited that over the next 3 days at #ILSHRM18 I get to spend some time with a few of these multipliers – who probably don’t really understand the impact they’ve had on me, and others, with their approach to life.

Who are your tribe? Are they multipliers? How do you prioritise learning from, and spending time with them?

So without any further ado, a bit of well-deserved gratitude:

Thank you so much to Dave Ryan, Steve Browne & John Jorgensen who I get to hang out with this week! Thanks to Julie Doyle & the whole Ohio SHRM team for my past few days. Thanks to Andrew Morten & Mary Kaylor, the SHRM crew & SHRM Bloggers for everything (there’s a lot). Thanks to Mardi Versteegen, Andrea Martinez, Brylee Neyland & the Widex group for being a fabulous, supportive & scary smart team to work with. Thanks to every single person I worked with at YMCA Victoria – there are far too many to name here – but you’ve impacted me more than you’ll ever know. Thanks to the AHRI team for all the the education, support & leadership you show in the HR space. Thanks to the incredible network of Melbourne-based business & HR leaders that are so generous with their time and gifts.

Disclaimer: This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are many, many other people who have had a huge impact on my professionally. I’m just quite jet-lagged, forgetful and am happy to trot out the excuse of being a mother to a 1-year old to explain my forgetfulness.

I’m really looking forward to the next couple of days at #ILSHRM18, I hope that I am able to do half as much for others as they’ve done for me. I want to thank the committee, volunteers, speakers and attendees ahead of time – as it’s the hard work that you all are doing that allows me to learn from each one of you.

Thank you to my #HRTribe!

Australian HR, Human Resources, SHRM

MORE SHRM CONFERENCES! (Tips & tricks from a conference pro)

With a matter of days until heading to #ILSHRM18 & #OHSHRM18 I figured it was high time to share some tips & tricks of how to get the most out of attending a conference. From 19-21 September I’ll be at the Ohio SHRM Conference and then 23rd – 25th I’ll be at the Illinois SHRM Conference – I’m at both to speak about HR in Australia. So much conferencing and so much to learn! I now consider myself a seasoned conference pro and, having learned a few lessons along the way, (never, ever wear heels to a conference unless you’re a serial-wearer and can stomach the foot pain,) thought I’d share some of my favourite tips.

 

seasoning

Seasoning for seasoned-professionals

 

Conferences are what you make them. Yes, amazing headline speakers (of which #ILSHRM18 & #OHSHRM18 deliver in spades) are often the major draw-card, but the real value I believe they deliver is having an opportunity to get yourself out of your day-to-day headspace, creating opportunities to think about problems and solutions differently, and sharing the awesomeness of your profession with other attendees. It’s incredible what you can learn waiting in the line for the bathroom!

 

What are some basic do’s and don’t’s for a HR Conference?

Do: bring a phone charger, find out where to get the best coffee and talk to as many people as you can. Have a look at the agenda ahead of time and mark your ‘must sees’. I like to have an element of flexibility but if there’s a have-to-attend you don’t want to miss out because you decided that was the best time to line up at Starbucks!

Don’t: wear new shoes (very important) or get hung up on planning out every second of your experience. The gold always comes from something you didn’t expect.

 

I get the most out of conferences when I talk to as many people as possible, although I find it daunting to rock up to new people and strike up a conversation I know that when I do I meet the most interesting people.

An easy way to start that conversation? Asking people about what brought them to the conference – often there’s a particular challenge/area of interest where you can find common experience. If that fails, find out whether they’re a cat or a dog person. You can then dismiss them entirely based on their response (you know there’s a correct one).

I’m also excited about the opportunity to visit Ohio (I’ve never been) and head back to Chicago (favourite city ever).

Suddenly realised you didn’t book? Head to Ohio SHRM Conference or Illinois SHRM Conference and get on it!

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Australian HR, Human Resources, SHRM, Social Media & Learning

HR in Australia (Unlike everything else here, it probably won’t kill you)

Everything is more likely to kill you in Australia right? The snakes, the spiders, the great whites…

When I moved to Australia (from New Zealand, a rainforest-filled paradise with amazing beaches… but a small economy) I had a rude awakening – luckily this wasn’t in the form of meeting the wildlife face to face. Despite having heavily preparing for the changes in employment law I would encounter on my transition ‘across the ditch’ I realised there was a lot I didn’t know. There are a lot of facets of HR that are location-agnostic. Sure, there are legislative differences, and cultural/business practice differences. But the core of what we do is understanding both people and organisations and help them work better together – and that doesn’t change across borders. I relied on this in my move, although I think I underestimated how much there would be that I didn’t know.

Now, 5.5 years later, I’m travelling to the USA to speak about lessons learned over my time working in HR in Australia; the good, the bad & the ugly (just kidding, there’s not too much that’s ugly). I’ve learned from some amazing HR practitioners, both in Australia and internationally, I’ve benefited from some (forced) networking and getting my head around social media and I’m excited to share the lessons learned over the past few years.

In a matter of weeks I’m catching up with my SHRM friends, speaking at both the Illinois and Ohio State Conferences. Even though it was just a couple of months ago that I had the pleasure of seeing many of these superstars at the SHRM18 National Conference, I’m even more excited about this trip, reasons being;

– smaller conferences are less overwhelming (There were 22,000 people at SHRM18 – TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND!) and I find it easier to join more conversations, learn from people and you get a better chance of speaking with keynote speakers at a smaller conference

– the speaker line ups for both conferences are incredible – seriously, check them out

– even though I’ll miss my son I’ll get a good week of uninterrupted sleep – win!

I can’t wait to share my learnings and meet more SHRMers at these conferences. If you’re heading along and would like to find out about something in particular message me – I’d love to chat. I hope to see you there!

 

Career, Human Resources, Parenting, Working in People & Culture

How NOT to lose your employees to a competitor while they’re on parental leave

Lately there’s been more and more discussion around parental leave. Who legally has to offer it. Who goes above and beyond. Who pays for it. Who doesn’t.

But what isn’t often discussed is the risk you face of losing your employees while they’re on parental leave. Not just to full-time parenthood – but to your competitors. This isn’t just something to think about in terms of women who work for you – 50% of men say they’ve passed up work opportunities or switched jobs after they’ve had kids.

There are few times within a person’s career when they’re more susceptible to being approached than when they’re in the new fog of parenthood. People are disconnected from their role and organisation – even when engagement is high. During this time people are far more likely to be revaluating their priorities, what they enjoy, and what they want to be doing when they’re ready to re-join the workforce.

Last year I went on parental leave to have my first baby. Despite working in HR for many years, I wasn’t quite prepared for the up-ending that taking a break from my role would mean for me in how I saw myself and my career going forward.

My former employers did a great job of trying to keep me engaged. They were accommodating in my hours of work as I worked through severe ‘morning sickness’ (the name of it which still makes me laugh). They were very thoughtful when sending me off from my role. They agreed to me coming in for meetings now and again (at my request) with my baby, so I could stay connected with my team.

So why did I accept a role at another organisation when approached as I neared the end of my leave? (And what made me consider this role, rather than the offers I had prior to going on parental leave?)

Changes were happening, and they made me uneasy

While I was on leave there were some major changes within our leadership team, including a couple of people leaving who I worked with closely. I found out about these changes on the grapevine, rather than directly from my team. This made me nervous – were my role and key objectives going to change on my return? When would I know more?

I wanted career progression when others assumed I’d want to put my career on hold

Not linear career progression, but new projects, challenges and opportunities. I started to feel (whether this was rooted in any truth was irrelevant) that my new role as a ‘New Mother’ was defining me in my interactions with some people at work (please note, this was not true of the organisation as a whole, but it was true enough with some people that I felt limited).

I had originally intended to take a relatively short break of 7 months; however, I was approached by my current company who wanted to meet me in relation to a role they had come up. I initially said no but due to a superb recruiter I came and met her and the reporting Executive. It was (professional) love at first sight.

  • They reassured me they knew what it was like to juggle babies and work
  • They had created a role that had heaps of opportunity to deliver on outcomes – and help shape the focus of HR
  • The role was an excellent career step for me
  • They were unbelievably awesome at what they did (people say people leave managers? I would challenge you to think about that flipped – I joined because of a manager).

In the end, my decision to leave my role came down to quite a few reasons – and I must be honest, there were a couple of times when I regretted making such a big change at the time that I did.

If you’re thinking about how to keep your people engaged when they’re on parental leave, steal some tips from employers that do it brilliantly:

  • Remember that different employees may want different things – no matter your approach be clear that you can accommodate individuals wants and needs accordingly
  • Utilize technology – you don’t have to just rely on emails and phone calls – Pinterest & Reddit both offer employees access to parenting app Cleo and there are other similar things out there
  • Be inclusive – families come in many different forms and it pays to run a critical eye over any materials/advice you’re circulating. Don’t assume the primary carer is a woman, remember same-sex parents, and don’t accidentally not include adoptive parents – they need accommodations too!
  • Find out more about organisations similar to yours who are ranked highly in terms of appeal to parents – Fortune Magazine has a list of the best 50 workplaces for parents and you can also check out lists of employers that promote gender equity (as often a factor in calculating this is recognising flexibility for any parent rather than just women)
  • The best advice though? ASK YOUR EMPLOYEES! What do they value? What benefits/approach would they appreciate. Being a great employer for new parents doesn’t necessarily need to cost big dollars – workplace flexibility is priceless!