As we continue to face a global pandemic, few could deny the importance of a strong employer brand — one that can continue to attract and retain talent during even the most turbulent times. But with new challenges emerging every day and tighter budgets in place, how do HR leaders harness this appreciation of Employer Value Proposition, sell it to C-Suiters, and continue to drive their all-important diversity and inclusion initiatives?
This was the topic tackled in our recent EDGE (Executives Driving Gender Equality) event: How to sell Employer Value Proposition (EVP) to Stakeholders. As the first virtual EDGE event, we welcomed attendees from across Australia to discuss the topic with a panel of HR experts from three of our WORK180 Endorsed Employers:
- Nate Delmenico | Senior Manager Employer Branding, Diversity and Inclusion, Carlton & United Breweries (Panelist)
- Nilesh Singh | General Manager, Employee Experience, Origin (Panelist)
- Julie Moss | Diversity, Inclusion & Wellness Manager, TransGrid (Panelist)
Together, the panel and attendees discussed the challenges, opportunities, and even found solutions to encourage stakeholder buy-in for EVP during the pandemic. For those unable to attend but eager to gain from this valuable event, you can watch it on Youtube or read some of the highlights below…
An inspiring keynote from Kimberly Burns, Human Resources Manager at Penten
To kick-start the event, Kimberly Burns shared her inspiring journey implementing innovative people initiatives for the cyber security company Penten.
On joining the company 18 months ago, Kimberly said there was already a strong desire from leadership to create a diverse and inclusive workforce. However, as part of the IT, tech, and defence industry, underrepresentation in women was a clear challenge. In fact, Kimberly was only the sixth woman out of 54 employees. To further illustrate the issues they faced, Kimberly shared some confronting facts from Rapid Context’s report on women in the defence industry:
- Less than one in five defence industry employees are women, compared to a national average of one in two
- Women represent only 12.4% of Australia's engineering workforce
- 90% of the South Australian defence manufacturing industry workforce is male
- One in seven Managers in the defence industry companies are women, compared to a national average of one in three
- One in five new graduates in the defence industry companies are women
In order to tackle the issue, it was clear to Kimberly and the team that the policies needed to create genuine equality:
“We know that in order to create more equality in the workplace there needs to be more equality in society, especially when it comes to unpaid care work and caring responsibilities. We know that men continue to take less than 5% of parental leave in Australia, which leaves the caring responsibilities to women, which in turn holds our gender progress back.”
They set to work creating a set of policies that not only reflected what Penten was currently offering, but where the company wanted to go. What’s more, they decided they wanted to be leaders in their space, challenging both themselves and their peers to raise standards:
Our first thought wasn't about how we can get more women into Penten; it was how can we put people practices in place that are going to support not just our people, but will also have a positive impact on their families and communities. And we knew that we just needed to start being bold and a leader in this space.
They costed out the policies, presented them alongside their evidence-based research, and — with some admitted hesitation — laid out a set of recommendations to the board of directors. From a generous parental leave policy of 26 weeks for either parent to unlimited paid sick and carer's leave, the recommendations were bold. But to Kimberly’s surprise, within five minutes, each policy was approved.
Since implementing the policies in August 2019, they’ve had three men take parental leave. One has also taken this leave on a part-time basis to take responsibility for the children’s school runs. Today, the company is made up of 21% women, with 35% of the new hires in the last year being women. Penten has also been nominated as Best Place to Work for Women in Security in the Australian Women in Security Awards.
5 key lessons and learnings from the HR panel discussion
Of course, Kimberly’s inspiring story was primarily set pre-pandemic. So, next on the agenda was a discussion with our panelists around diversity and inclusion endeavours during this time. From silver linings to HR predictions, here are some key lessons and learnings from the insightful conversation:
1. Flexible work can improve equality
Nilesh Singh explained that 75% of Origin employees were already benefiting from some form of flexible working. However, the current pandemic has seen an increase in men accessing flexible working arrangements. Nilesh described this as a ‘game changer’ with relation to supporting gender equality in the workplace.
This sentiment was further supported by Julie Moss from TransGrid:
“Men are experiencing working from home in a way that many were prevented from experiencing previously. Now when I say prevented, they were not prevented through policies, they were prevented through culture. We always saw more women take up flexible work options than men. So yes, that’s a big game changer.”
2. The talent pool has widened
While once seen as a perk that required managerial permission, working from home has become a norm that many employees expect and more leadership teams are embracing. And those leaders looking at the policy long term have a larger talent pool to hire from, including candidates from underrepresented backgrounds across Australia.
Julie from TransGrid also predicts that for those with an ambition to become an employer of choice, there will be an increased focus on suburban meetup areas for employees:
“Now it’s a case of looking at suburban hubs so that people can go into the ‘office’ that’s a local hub in a suburb near them, so they can meet up with colleagues locally without having to come into that central city hub.”
3. Remote working has given people a voice
Nilesh Singh from Origin spoke of the inclusion benefits of embracing a new way of working:
“From an inclusion perspective, [working remotely due to the pandemic] has created some additional disciplines that may not have existed in a physical sense; a lot more focus on one-on-ones; a lot more asking questions that are non-work related between managers and employees; a lot of peer support between employees around solving challenges [...] Technology has also allowed people to find their voice and not feel intimidated in a meeting setting.”
4. Know your data points and leadership personalities
Preparation is key when it comes to harnessing opportunities to gain support from leadership. For Nate Delmenico at Carlton & United Breweries, this means preparing the stats and understanding how to best present them to the given audience:
“When talking to the senior leaders within the business, it’s imperative to have the data points and the insights. So for us, it might be around engagement scores — seeing the mood within the business [...] It’s important to identify the problem and go back with the solution. I know with our leadership team the personalities are quite competitive, so we highlight what competitors are doing.”
5. Be prepared to challenge and change leadership’s approach
Even when leadership is onboard, there are potential pitfalls and challenges to be prepared for. For example, Julie Moss discussed how she approached the heartfelt but harmful patriarchal approach to inequality in their workplace:
“They were looking for higher parental leave for women and more flexibility for women, and I said: No, it’s about the men. It’s about giving men equality on parental leave [and giving] men equality on flexibility. Because once you’ve got that equality, then it’s a level playing field. So when a hiring manager is wondering whether to hire a man or a woman, there is no unconscious bias because now the man or woman can have a child."
Concluding the conversation
The conversations continued between panelists and attendees, tackling even more issues within the topic of buy-in for EVP. The result was a range of inspiring ideas, from how to bravely challenge the mindset of meritocracy to the ways in which HR can drive inclusion and diversity on a budget.
A final takeaway from the event was the influential position held by those in HR. We hope all attendees felt empowered and excited to go forward and make the positive changes they envisage for their organisations. And of course, wherever they are on their diversity and inclusion journey, WORK180 is here to help.
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