EngagementThe challenge of engaging across parental leave

The challenge of engaging across parental leave

Do you find connecting with colleagues whilst they’re on parental leave a challenge? Cecilia Crossley, founder of Social Enterprise From Babies with Love, explains a new, purpose-driven solution.

What do HR leaders tell you about the issue they face?

HR leaders often explain that engaging colleagues when they’re on parental leave can be hard, because everyone is different. They don’t want to communicate too much whilst colleagues are with their families at such a special time, but also not too little – they don’t want a colleague to feel forgotten or unappreciated. HRDs want to find a meaningful way to keep in touch that’s not about administration or day-to-day work, but is still with work.

HR leaders are prioritising solving this challenge, indeed reviewing their overall approach to working parents, because retaining this talent group has a strong financial business case and has significant impact on achieving gender balance at senior levels.

From Babies with Love has innovated a new service – how did you come up with idea?

From Babies with Love donates 100% of its profit to orphaned and abandoned children around the world. A Social Enterprise, our beautiful gift sets create poignant engagement, because of the social impact story.

I started out at a large corporate, and remember being on programmes designed to retain women. With this background in mind, I noticed that culturally, across all sectors, the practice of parental leave gifting was inconsistent, often uninspiring, and therefore ineffective.

An EA orders a gift from the high street in one department, a team member orders flowers in another, and somewhere else a colleague on parental leave doesn’t get a gift. I saw the opportunity to transform this ad hoc approach in to a strategically considered initiative, adding value to people objectives in a meaningful way. Many HRDs have said that it’s often the smallest gestures that have the biggest impact. From Babies with Love holds the perfect solution to this opportunity, to transform gifting in to powerful communication of appreciation and values.

Every time a colleague uses their gift they enjoy knowing that their employer is also helping a vulnerable child. Highly memorable and heartfelt communication points that repeatedly, every time they use the baby clothes across their parental leave, remind working parents that they are appreciated, and at the same time reinforce purpose and values.

What feedback have HR Directors shared on the impact for their people strategies?

I couldn’t have hoped for more positive feedback, from both HRDs and the employees that receive the gifts. Sometimes HRDs executive assistants anonymise and send me employee feedback they’ve collated – which makes my heart sing because it shows how our service is delivering for employee engagement, human connection, and the power of business as a force for change. The true simplicity of it is it makes us all happy.

This 3 minute video featuring HR Leaders at some of our clients, Deloitte, Linklaters and Virgin Money, shares the results:

Do you find HR Directors are motivated by the impact for corporate responsibility too?

HRDs need to be leaders in Responsible Business to attract, engage and retain talent. From Babies with Love connects people strategy with corporate responsibility in such a simple and relevant way. This is core to its value proposition, and HR Directors are definitely drawn to this.

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HRDs also ask me about our environmental standards, which are high in our market, for example we exclusively use certified organic cotton. We’re not perfect though – for example I’d like our production model to be circular – but we haven’t yet figured out how we can source materials whilst ensure compliance with some of the product regulations that govern us.

What wider trends do you see increasing in significance for HR Leaders?

I love that large companies are increasingly considering and communicating their purpose, and seeing the positive social and environmental change this is leading to. One of our clients has recently changed their C-suite People role title to People & Purpose – it’s the first time I’ve seen this – a brilliant move. It wouldn’t surprise me if the next ‘usual’ role on executive committees is the Chief Purpose Officer. And purpose is very much driven by people.

Business leaders are also developing supplier relationships with the growing number of Social Enterprises; they’re creating social change through procurement of many types of products and services. I think this trend will continue, helping businesses solve commercial problems and at the same time address social and environmental issues

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