A key focus for international public service provider Serco as part of its turnaround plan has been to improve the engagement of its employees.
Shaun Stacey, HR Director explains: "In the UK we are collaborating across business regions to achieve a more inclusive workplace where individuals are encouraged to achieve their potential regardless of their background and differences. Taking part in a new parent transition programme pilot is one measure Serco UK has recently taken to further engage our working parents".
He adds: "We felt that the opportunity to trial the KANGAROO Coaching programme could be a real positive differentiator around how our employees view Serco. Our employee survey response repeatedly advises us that our employees feel exceptionally proud to work for Serco, and we work hard to reinforce this. However, we know that working parents form a large proportion of our workforce, and having a baby is a critical retention point. We recognise the importance of getting it right for this group".
Focusing on Serco's Hook based hub, KANGAROO Coaching worked with employees who were either about to leave for parental breaks, about to return from parental breaks, or had recently returned from parental breaks between February and May 2017.
Each employee received one to one coaching. Their line managers attended specific managing through parental break learning sessions.
There was extremely positive feedback from the women who took part in the pilot of one to one coaching and from their line managers who attended the learning sessions.
The following case study focuses on the experiences of Kat Butler and her line manager Charlotte Southern.
Kat Butler was looking forward to returning to work in a challenging role as a sourcing specialist working at Serco. She was starting a new role with a new line manager. As well as excitement, she was nervous about getting to grips with her changed role whilst juggling her home and work commitments.
Taking part in the pilot gave Kat access to return to work coaching, and her line manager Charlotte Southern, attended a learning session around managing employees through a parental break return.
"The main benefit of being coached on my return was the opportunity to surface my concerns about coming back to work, and put steps in place to make the return really work for me and for Serco. Speaking to someone independent was important, it made me comfortable with the coaching" explained Kat.
For Charlotte, the key benefits were knowing that there is support available for the line managers, and reassurance that Kat was also provided with independent support.
Both Kat and Charlotte agreed that the initiative increased their sense of pride in working for Serco, and that introducing the pilot demonstrated an act of genuine care for new parents.
Charlotte's advice to other line managers who have expectant employees is not to panic. She asserts that communication and active listening are key in successfully managing an employee through pregnancy and parental leave and believes that getting it right is about getting the optimum balance.
Charlotte understands that it's important to give the employee the opportunity to talk about their new situation, whilst not assuming that everyone will want to do so.
She also recognises that it's important to be open to suggestions of options that the employee presents even if what they are suggesting hasn't been done before. Think 'why not?'
A great example of this was when Kat subsequently put in a request to work more flexibly. Whilst the request was within Serco's Flexible Working Policy, the change was new for both Kat and Charlotte.
The parental coaching programme gave both parties the confidence to ensure their needs were met. By keeping communication open, both Kat and Charlotte were able to express their needs and remain receptive to the other's perspective.
Coaching provided a solution that is working well for Kat and the business.
They are both delighted that the result has been a successful transition back to work, and both are looking forward to building on such a positive start back.
"The results of the pilot were very interesting" advised Sarah Ings, Senior HR Business Partner, UK and Europe. "We are always looking for ways to increase the engagement of our workforce, and a large proportion of our employees are working parents so we want to specifically address this group."
Our evaluation showed that each of the returning parents felt their engagement with work increased as a result of the coaching.
They all valued the experience, and fifty percent advised that participating in the pilot had increased their likelihood of remaining at work with Serco.
Additionally, the evaluation of the line manager learning sessions was also very positive, as each of the line managers gained useful information and tools, and every line manager would recommend the learning session to their colleagues.
We are exploring how we can utilise parental coaching tools across our UK region to benefit our working parents and line managers.
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