“Every child excels at every meeting” – Human Resource Management

HR: Ms. Riddell, during your third pregnancy you were promoted to partner. This is not entirely common in a free economy and is considered risky because one can assume that the child is the priority and not the job. Why did the employer still decide to take this step?
Sophie Riddell: In our company, family is part of working life. Kids sometimes sit in management meetings too, and many CEOs have to leave work at 2 p.m. to pick up their kids from kindergarten. We also offer many benefits that make our company culture family friendly.

who are they?
For example, employees receive 600 euros for the birth of a child and we pay a subsidy for the day care center fee. We also have two parents’ rooms with nursing corners and slides so the kids can come to work with us. If it’s free, it can also be used differently, but: every kid beats every meeting. If someone comes with a child, these rooms should be cleaned immediately. Family always comes first. Based on these values, the question that my pregnancy could be a functional obstacle was not raised.

Pregnancy is also associated with job loss and the potential for reduced working hours after parental leave. How do you solve potential staff shortages due to temporary loss of workforce?
Once the pregnancy is known, I am looking to see how we can ensure that a pregnant woman can leave work immediately if she wants to. To do this, you must, of course, enter into discussions with the person concerned. What are your expectations? How long would you like to take maternity leave? Or how long the father wants to work part-time – of course it is also important to talk to the guys here. With all this said, I always factor in distractions in order to be able to handle the break and comeback as flexibly as possible.

How exactly does this work?
For me, the questions are basic at the beginning: What projects does the person participate in? And how can I replace their work without burdening other colleagues? One solution could be hiring a new full-time or part-time employee, or giving someone a chance internally to try out a new job. Another not to do a client project in the near future.

Sophie Riddell is a partner at IT consulting firm Zoi and explains why pregnancy is not seen as an obstacle in her career. (Photo: Zoi)

But isn’t too much kid-friendliness bad for the end result?
No, because we initially assume that children are a source of enrichment for our employees. And thus indirectly for us as well. Because when employees are happier with their lives in general, they do a better job for us, too. Also, children’s friendship has little impact on our profitability if we think in a solution-oriented way.

Is it really easy to implement the flexibility you mentioned in terms of bureaucracy and organization?
Contracts can be amended very quickly by our HR department. If someone wants to get back from parental leave faster, we report this to the team immediately and ask who needs support. If someone wants to stay longer on parental leave, we postpone projects or find a replacement for the person. Of course, you must have quick decision paths and short processes. For us, it’s all about the question: Where do we have to make adjustments within the company for it to work for the person?

This speaks to a culture where the focus is on employees, not profit. How does this affect your business?
We are in a privileged position to have enough projects and not have to accept them all. This makes it easier to respond to the needs of employees. We also believe that motivation is more important than anything else. And it increases the more you focus on employees, allowing them to work more efficiently. This often applies to part-time workers who can leave and attend as required by the family situation.

Those who are up front and get something from the company also give back more. This has a positive effect on our economy.

Can a profession be done part time? How do you know the job?
The job has nothing to do with working hours, but rather with motivation. If you do tasks that are self-fulfilling and help you advance on your own, you can also get a job without working 80 hours a week. For us as managers, it’s a lot more about offering employees a meadow from which they can unwind. Parents who work part-time can do the same.

However, the day has only 24 hours. Does the partner have to provide support if the father or mother wants to pursue a career?
It is not necessary for one partner to work full time and the other to put it aside. Both can work as many hours as they like. To do so, however, the employer must enable them to work flexibly. However, you need to support each other in the partnership and plan your daily life more.

What exactly do you mean by flexibility in this context?
Flexibility relates to both working hours and the workplace. Example: If the daycare is closed due to a corona case, I block my entire calendar for that day and tell the team I can’t do it today and have to take care of the kids. That’s why I work in the evening when something is urgent. But I don’t do it because I have to, but because I want to. And for me this is the main difference. Because it’s up to me when I’m working on tasks. As mentioned earlier, flexibility also refers to returning after paternity leave.

Can all tasks really be completed in reduced working hours?
No. But that doesn’t matter. The mother or father must decide what he is willing to give and what he can give. Then he has to prioritize and figure out: What can I do in the time I can deliver? How do I use my time logically and can I benefit from it more than others? The two questions “What do I want?” must also be answered. And where I want to go?”. When answers are found, the employees involved should share them with the employer and the team. Communication and solution-oriented thinking is everything and its end so that family life and professional achievement can be reconciled.

He is the human resources editor. Her main focus is on the themes of diversity, equality, and work-life balance.

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