Monthly Archives: May 2014

Engagement is key to improving business results & retaining talented parents

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In the face of challenging market forces and economic conditions, organisations that prioritise employee engagement can weather changes more smoothly and improve their financial performance, Aon Hewitt research shows.

This year’s Best Employers research and accreditation program involved 120 organisations and more than 70,000 employees. It found the differentiating practices of Best Employers can be categorised into four critical talent management priorities.

1. Employee engagement

Specific measures of employee engagement are significantly higher among the 16 Best Employers than other organisations participating in the study, the report shows.

Some 86 per cent of employees at Best Employers say they tell others “great things” about working at their organisation (compared to 65% at other employers), and 72 per cent say they rarely think about leaving to work somewhere else (compared to 52%).

Further, 83 per cent of employees at accredited organisations say their employer inspires them to do their best work everyday (compared to 60%).

At Best Employers, 39 per cent of employees are “highly engaged” (compared to 20%), and only six per cent are “actively disengaged” (compared to 17%). Best Employers also maintain consistently high levels of employee engagement, regardless of age group, with engagement levels only varying from 82 per cent (35-44 years of age) to 86 per cent (45-54 years of age).

At other employers, however, engagement dips as low as 59 per cent among employees aged 25 to 34 years, and the highest level recorded is 69 per cent, among workers aged 55 years or more.

According to Aon Hewitt partner Stephen Hickey, “the key is to communicate clearly and constantly through times of change and to understand the drivers of engagement within each segment of the workforce”.

“For example, the myth that it is almost impossible to engage young workers is just that, a myth. Best Employers are able to maintain high levels of employee engagement regardless of age group by understanding that there isn’t a one size fits all solution, and targeting different age groups differently.”

He adds, “Best Employers understand that high employee engagement is not just an end in itself, it actually leads to higher sales growth, revenue growth and operating margins”.

2. Committed leadership

Best employers have engaged and effective leaders that consistently display six critical leadership behaviours, the study found.

At these organisations, senior leaders:

    • communicate openly and honestly (according to 79% of employees, versus 52% of workers in other companies)
    • treat employees as the organisation’s most valued asset (70% v. 44%)
    • are visible and accessible (83% v. 53%)
    • excite employees about the future of the organisation (75% v. 44%)
    • provide clear direction for the future (81% v. 52%)
    • make good business decisions (82% v. 54%).

3. Performance culture

According to the research, Best Employers consistently support high performance in six key ways.

They are much more likely than other organisations to support employees’ learning and development (80% compared to 55%), and offer excellent career opportunities to strong performers (73% compared to 45%).

Their performance management processes enable workers to contribute as much as possible (76% compared to 46%), managers set clear expectations (81% compared to 61%), and employees perceive they are appropriate recognised beyond their pay for their contributions (70$ compared to 44%).

Best Employers are also much more likely to share their financial success with employees (66% compared to 37%).

4. Differentiated employer brand

When it comes to employer branding, Best Employers are much more likely to deliver on employment promises and have a good reputation among both their employees and the external market.

Some 91 per cent of employees in accredited organisations say they are proud to be a part of it, and 84 per cent can clearly distinguish the employment experience from other organisations (compared to 71% and 57% respectively).

Further, 77 per cent of employees in accredited organisations say their employer is considered one of the best places to work for someone with their skills (compared to 46%) and 87 per cent say it has an excellent reputation in its community (compared to 59%).


Source: HR Daily

First published: 29 May 2014

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Why men think women are holding themselves back + 5 tips for embracing female leadership traits

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With all of the talk and ongoing debate about women in leadership, we decided it was time to take a closer look at what is really going on in Australia. So we surveyed 1,000 men and women about their attitudes to work, leadership and their real feelings behind women moving up the ladder.

Some of the results of the research — a combination of online questionnaires and offline interviews conducted with working professionals — were as we thought they would be. But some were quite shocking, even to us.

The Australian Pulse of Women in Leadership found Australian men believe women are failing to make the move into leadership roles because they have difficulty juggling work/life commitments, lack qualifications and are less ambitious.

Sixty two per cent of men want to see more women in leadership, yet almost three quarters of those same men believe there is a level playing field in the workplace, and that women have the same opportunities they do to move into leadership positions.

Meanwhile, the survey found only 35% of women believe they have the same career opportunities as their male counterparts – a massive disconnect about the realities women perceive as they show up at work each day.

The pressure of having to fit into traditional models of leadership that don’t serve the, well is also having an effect on productivity and women’s wellbeing, with 85% of Australian businesswomen saying they are just functioning, rather than flourishing in their career.

With burnout an ever present risk for working women, whether they are parents or not, having such a large percentage of women just getting through the day, but not thriving in it, should be a significant wake-up call for employers and women everywhere.

One of the few survey results where men and women saw eye to eye was on the proposition that Australian businesses would benefit if there were more women in leadership positions. Organisations both here in Australia and around the world are finally coming to understand the bottom-line value of feminine traits – such as openness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility and patience – to improve engagement and productivity in our workplaces.

KPMG economists estimate approaches like these that help employees to feel more motivated, supported and appreciated could be worth up to $305 billion annual in productivity gains for our economy.

Interestingly, out of all of the suggested approaches to address the leadership imbalance, the Pulse found men and women strongly agreed that quotas were the least preferred method to create more female leadership opportunities.

What we know for sure from our work and from these results is that it’s time for a new conversation. This is not about which gender makes better leaders, and it’s time we evolved from trying to ‘fix the women’ or stamp out gender bias in men.

Instead Australian businesses need to embrace the emerging concept of gender intelligence, which means understanding the unique qualities both men and women bring to the leadership table and collectively harnessing these for the greater good.

And businesses need to get serious about embracing feminine leadership traits that people the world over, including in Australia, are screaming for in their leaders.

So what can women do? As a start, try these five tips for embracing female leadership traits at work today.

Five tips for embracing female leadership traits
  1. Invest in kindness. Improve the mood of your business by performing at least five kind acts a day.
  2. Develop people’s strengths. Get to know your staff and discover what people like doing.  Use this to craft their jobs, arrange training and provide feedback around these strengths.
  3. Value appreciation. Genuinely thank one person each day for making your job easier or more enjoyable and be specific about what they did that you appreciated to lower stress around the office.
  4. Cultivate meaning. Give your leaders a sense of purpose by having them clearly define their behavior and the goal they wish to achieve, for example: Everything I do is to ensure my team members feel supported at work, so they are more satisfied in their job and more productive
  5. Ignite hope. Reduce negativity by empowering staff to feel confident in challenging the insecurities and beliefs that may be holding them back: “Is that the only explanation for what’s unfolding?”

For a detailed roadmap on how to begin the journey, you can access the free whitepaper Unleashing the Butterfly Effect for Women and Work, where you can also get the full results of The Australian Pulse of Women in Leadership.

By: Megan Dalla-Camina

First published: 22 May 2014

Source: Women’s Agenda

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Career After Kids Forum – Enrol now – Melbourne – 11th June

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 9.19.01 AMTony Abbott has recently announced changes to the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. Are there any ‘wins’ for working parents? And what are these? Working parents find out more at the Career After Kids forum and learn how to calculate how the changes will effect you and your family.

What is Career After Kids?

Career After Kids is designed for parents looking for practical tips and solutions to manage career as a working parent. These forums bring together parents preparing for leave and returning to work to discuss the challenges and success factors related to managing and advancing your career as a parent.

The Career After Kids Forum is an intimate, group based forum facilitated by leading experts in the field who have collaborated to combine their professional insights and experiences.

The panel presenters (see the guest speaker list on page 2) will use the ‘5 Return to Work Building Blocks’ to offer tips and guidance, around:

  • How to prepare and adjust to life as a working parent
  • Reviewing career and exploring flexible work options
  • Reflecting on personal career and life plans
  • Learning from the experiences of others
  • How to create work-life balance and manage career as a working parent

Who should attend?

Parents on leave ready to return to work, those returning to work and parents who are already back at work.


  • Create and sustain a family friendly, flexible workplace through supporting employees
  • Attract, support and retain talented parents
  • Creative solutions provide confidence in implementing a balanced work environment with an engaging workplace culture
  • Professional guidance on managing career as a working parent
  • Access to coaching experts and help in developing resilience, confidence, perspective and balance

Upcoming 2014 Forums

11 June – Melbourne, Level 11, 360 Collins Street (1.00pm – 2.30pm)

16 September – Sydney, 275 Kent Street (10.00am – 11.30am)

22 October – Melbourne, Level 11, 360 Collins Street (1.00pm – 2.30pm)

11 November – Online via teleconference (11.00am – 12noon)

For information about the speakers and testimonials from past participants open the flyer… Career After Kids Flyer.

Enrol Now

Contact Diane from Parents@Work on 02 9967 8377 or


Proudly Supporting the Gidget Foundation

The Gidget Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness of perinatal anxiety and depression amoungst women and their families.

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Foster individual leadership to build productivity

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Working parents have a lot on their plate. A child for one in no small feat. A career, partner, extended family as well as social and community commitments to juggle can mean creating a work-life balance may seem an elusive and abstract concept.

Why then, is fostering leadership amongst this group of busy balances a good idea for organisations? Why would adding another ball to the juggling mix boost rather than hinder a parent’s (and indeed any employee’s) productivity?

Let’s turn to Google’s Senior Vice President of People Relations for a clue…

“Personally, I believe this culture is an insight about the human condition. People look for meaning in their work. People want to know what’s happening in their environment. People want to have some ability to shape that environment. As a result, Google has cultivated a creative and passionate workforce that holds the key to the company’s innovation.” Laszlo Bock.

The take home message here is people want to feel they have the power to shape their environment and when they do they create thriving work cultures. People are more likely to feel empowered when they have a sense of purpose, are self-reliant and have access to the tools and infrastructures that support choices in the context of their role.

Being a leader (in the context of their role) means the juggling parent is more likely to be motivated to put focused energy and passion into their work rather than working simply to get a pay check and return home to their family.

So how can an organisation make the changes to activate a culture of individual leadership in order to build productivity?

For this we look to a recent HR Daily article…

Workplace teams are meant to pool the individual abilities of employees to tackle challenges, but often end up simply comprising a supervisor trying to get a silent team to produce, according to management consultant and author Stewart Liff.

The answer is to create an environment where everyone is a leader, says Liff in A Team of Leaders, which he co-authored with another management consultant, Paul Gustavson.

This means an environment where people not only work together but assume ownership of the outcomes, deal head-on with difficult issues and feel accountable, Liff says. It is one where members not only feel more excited and fulfilled, but also produce better work. And it is an environment that a lot of workplaces have already achieved.

Many of the challenges that come about in modern workplaces are the result of a traditional and outdated work structure, Liff says.

“That structure involves units or teams of people supervised by one individual who is over his head,” he says. “To make matters worse, this structure is typically supported by a series of management systems and processes that are designed to maintain that relationship and unintentionally keep you and others from becoming a leader.”

The solution Liff and Gustavson propose is a five-stage team development model, which brings a team from a situation where the leader interacts with each member one on one, to the final stage where the team essentially manages itself. The supervisor’s time is then freed up to work in other areas that make better use of his or her talents.

“Your relationship with the team would be very different,” Liff says. “Instead of being a traditional supervisor who manages people on a one-on-one basis, you would teach the team members how to handle these issues and be available to assist them as needed.

“Perhaps most important, instead of pushing and cajoling a disparate group of individuals to work on the team’s goals and objectives, you will be working with energetic and motivated individuals who are leaders in their own right, and who will only occasionally turn to you for help in order to take them to the next level.”

The situation would also be advantageous to team members, Liff says, because they will feel more valued and hold each other accountable instead of fearing the supervisor’s proverbial whip. They will also set and work towards their own goals rather than feeling out of step with the expectations imposed on them from above. They will enjoy a stronger social network. And they will probably return home happier to their families.

The General Electric model

Liff gives the example of the General Electric plant in Durham, North Carolina, which does the final assembly for the GE90 and CF34 jet engines. The entire plant has more than 300 employees but only one boss – the plant manager. This manager sits in an open cubicle in the middle of the floor.

Pay is transparent, and the workplace is divided into teams that own an engine from start to finish. The plant has no time clock, so team members can handle personal matters when they need to. The teams decide for themselves how to manage the work, how to manage time off, how to improve their systems and work processes, and how to deal with problematic teammates. Their work, Liff says, is varied and interesting from day to day.

“As you might expect, everyone does not successfully fit into this environment,” Liff says, “especially ‘people who expect to take orders’”. That is because the plant was designed to be operated by teams of leaders.

“The people in the Durham plant are clearly engaged, have high energy, possess multiple skills, and are very motivated. In addition, they take tremendous pride in their team and the work they perform. More important, the plant’s performance has continued to excel and it is considered by many to be an industry leader. All of this did not occur simply by magic.

“Oh, and by the way, when the GE plant first started out on its transformation effort, the plant had 175 employees. Since then, the workforce has virtually doubled and GE continues to invest in the plant.”

Re-designing the workforce

The problem lies in the way workplaces are designed, Liff says. If a team is designed to operate under an “all-knowing and all-controlling” supervisor, members of that team will react accordingly.

They will be over-reliant on the supervisor, be afraid to exercise independent judgement, not show much initiative and be mere followers. If little information is shared, they won’t understand what value they contribute or the results they bring. The supervisor will also probably work to the point of exhaustion.

Re-designing the workplace will take time but will ultimately pay off, Liff says.

Some design guidelines outlined in the book include:

  • Mission – teams need an energising, simple, concise and supportive statement that identifies their reason for being;
  • Outcomes – teams agree to be measured against criteria including customer satisfaction ratios, returns on investment and the prevailing public view of the company as a valuable member of the community;
  • Culture and knowledge – people in the team agree to share their mission and goals, be open and honest, take risks to make the vision a reality, be multiskilled and flexible, and be accountable for their own actions;
  • Business processes – jobs are designed to be meaningful, people are given the information and tools they need to do their jobs properly, and systems or tasks that do not add value are eliminated;
  • People systems – the selection system is based on having people demonstrate their competency in technical, social and business skills and their potential for leadership. All people receive sufficient training to do their jobs and keep their skills and knowledge current through their careers. And all have the opportunity to acquire multiple skills through education, training and lateral movement;
  • Reward system – individuals are rewarded for their contributions to team and company goals, and rewards reinforce desired behaviours instead of punishing undesirable ones; and
  • Design choices – design choices are periodically reviewed, and renewal is everyone’s responsibility.


Source: HR Daily

Originally published: 5 May 2014


Forbes, Google’s Secrets Of Innovation: Empowering Its Employees, viewed 12.5.2014

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5 ways my manager makes flexibility work for me

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When I returned to my corporate job after maternity leave I learned very quickly that I could not sustain my pre-baby working hours. It has taken me a year to find a work/life/baby balance that works for me and my manager.

For the last few years my corporate job scope has been global and always-urgent. Before baby, I was able to handle being online 24-7 through strategically taking down-time at opportune moments. I did a good job of managing my energy levels and work/life balance, but was essentially always-on and always working with occasional moments of distraction or downtime.

I thought this work/life balance blueprint would work perfectly for a working mum. Not so much. With a full-time job and a beautiful baby to love and adore, I no longer had time for me. And I very quickly fell into a heap of exhaustion, and soon after, depression. This was a good catalyst to seek an alternative arrangement.

I loved my job and did not want to give it up. So I did something I found really difficult and asked my manager for more formal flexibility in my work schedule. The outcome of our conversations was an agreement that I would find specific chunks of time throughout the week to spend with the baby, and specific chunks of time for my own pursuits. I would block that time in my calendar and manage the expectations of people I worked with as needed. I would remain committed to the same deliverables, receive the same salary, but I would work on a compressed schedule that involved working from home once a week.

Here’s how and why that works for me and my manager:

  1. My manager doesn’t care where or when I get my work done. I work from home consistently on Fridays. And when I say work from home, I mean work from home. My manager doesn’t even flinch if I dial into a team meeting rather than show up physically. The reality is that I can get more done when I am heads down in my home office.
  2. My manager is clear on her expectations. If a deliverable is urgent, or if a new deliverable crops up over the weekend or in the evening, she lets me know immediately. This allows me to negotiate my time fairly – if a fire is burning on a project, then I know to drop my other priorities to help put it out. Inversely, if something isn’t urgent, but important, she lets me know so that I can prioritize accordingly. She also makes it clear which meetings are optional.
  3. My manager provides real-time feedback. If I am over-doing something, or under-prioritizing something, she lets me know. It is so refreshing to have a manager tell you to back-off, relax a bit and not get too passionate about a project! I also trust that she will let me know if it is ever a problem that I am not physically present at a meeting, or to let me know if I need to be more visible in the office at any point.
  4. My manager demonstrates care and concern for me and my baby. When I tell her that I am taking the baby to a music class on Wednesday morning, she smiles and tells me to have a great time. She asks how the baby is doing, and seems genuinely interested in the occasional story I tell on a new development milestone or cute moment. If the baby comes into the office to visit, she will indulge her with cuddles and conversation. The photos I have of them together are beautiful and inspiring.
  5. My manager trusts me and has high expectations. I often re-visit my work schedule and routine with her to ensure that it is still working for both of us. I am blatantly transparent about the fact that when I am ‘off’ (doing baby stuff, or mummy stuff) that I am really ‘off’. She knows that I am available via phone if anything urgent comes up, and knows I will pick up the phone. She also knows that I don’t miss deadlines, and I carry my weight.

All of these things probably seem completely obvious, logical and rational, but for me, the more explicit we can be on these things the less stressed and guilty I feel for going offline for a couple of hours. Needless to say, I am completely loyal to this woman and am incredibly happy. If she needs anything from me, at any time, I will do it for her.

What does your manager do for you to help you achieve work/life/baby balance?

Does that make you more loyal to your organisation?


By: Blair Fillingham

Originally posted: 29th April 2014

Source: Women’s Agenda 

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Is there such a thing as a fair and viable Paid Parental Leave Scheme?

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Paid parental leave is a hot topic this week. Tony Abbott is proposing a new policy. It may look good on the outside to many working parents but what does it really mean?

We’ve put together this blog to collate a few thoughts and collect a few more from those who are affected most – you, our readers. It’s an issue we all need to be aware of because whether you’re a business owner, single worker or stay-at-home parent you will be impacted by the scheme.

What the Coalition’s Selling

  • Based on a replacement wage, rather than the minimum wage.
  • Mothers are entitled to six months (26 weeks) leave based on their actual wage or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater).
  • Includes superannuation payments.
  • Payment amounts are capped (revised this week) at the $100,000 salary level meaning women earning over this amount would receive no more than $50,000 in their 6 month maternity leave.
  • Fathers will be eligible for two out of the 26 weeks for dedicated paternity leave at their actual wage or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater) plus superannuation.
  • Fathers can also be nominated as the primary carers meaning the 26 weeks can be divided by both parents.
  • Employees will be paid directly by the Commonwealth Government (Family Assistance Office) not via their employer.
  • Estimated to cost $5.5 billion.
  • It will be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on companies with taxable incomes in excess of $5 million
  • Commences 1 July 2015

The Risks

The policy has been viewed by some as having an “anti-working-women sentiment”.

Why is this? There are some potential long-term economic risks and social consequences we need to think about. These are:

  • It removes employer involvement with paid parental leave.
  • Provides incentive for employers to keep female employee income below the $100,000 threshold.
  • Encourages women to stay at home and disengage with the workforce (especially those on salaries just below the threshold).
  • Administering paid parental leave directly from Centrelink sends a message that this is a welfare payment rather than an employee entitlement or business process
“Many PPL ‘dissenters’ don’t object to paid parental leave in general. They disagree that this particular scheme is the most cost-effective way to meet the objective of helping more women return to work after they have children. The Productivity Commission here, and similar bodies around the world, determined that once a minimum paid parental leave policy is in place, childcare is the real lever in terms of facilitating the return of mothers to the workforce. A more generous PPL, like the Coalition’s, will not increase women’s participation at work, and thus national productivity, the same way that an investment in childcare would.” Georgina Dent, Editor, Women’s Agenda.

The Latest News  (as of May 2, 2014)

Tony Abbott has confirmed he has decided to lower the cap from his preferred $150,000 annual wage to $100,000.

The Federal Government’s Commission of Audit made 86 recommendations to reign in the budget – one of these being to lower the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme salary cap to average week earnings (currently $57,460) rather than pay the actual or minimum wage (whichever is higher). The idea is to use savings for expanded childcare payments.

Tell us what you think?

Do you forsee any other fallouts or risks?

What are your suggestions for a fair and viable Paid Parental Leave Scheme?







ABC News, COAG: Premiers, chief ministers meet in Canberra following Commission of Audit release, viewed, 2.5.14

Liberal Party Website, The Coalition’s Policy for Paid Parental Leave, Payment amounts are capped at the $150,000 salary level, viewed 2.5.14

Women’s Agenda, Parental leave could become the Liberal’s Mining Tax, viewed 2.5.14

Women’s Agenda, We need to talk about paid parental leave in detail, viewed 2.5.14

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