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HR expert Caroline Waters gave the keynote speech at this year’s workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Awards, focusing on the life cycle approach to work.
Employers need to plan ahead for the changing needs of their workforce and appreciate that every life experience that employees go through is an asset to the business, workingmums.co.uk’s 10th anniversary Top Employer Awards heard this week.
The focus of the Awards was a life cycle approach to work, linked to the launch of workingwise.co.uk.
Gillian Nissim, founder of workingmums.co.uk, said: “For us it is about the whole work life cycle, about joining the dots and highlighting best practice in the kind of work that we need to ensure jobs work for everyone.”
Keynote speaker was Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Vice President of Carers UK and Founder and CEO of CW Consulting Box.
She spoke about how BT – where she was previously director of people and policy – had pioneered a life cycle approach 20 years ago, driven in part by the increased need to support a more diverse, multigenerational workforce and by demographic and other social changes. She said there was no point having the best talent in your organisation if people were not connecting with each other. “That’s when the magic happens,” she said, “when people connect and share experiences.”
Sharing common life experiences and stories are what unite us, she said. Employers should not hide from the realities of human life, said Waters, adding that every life experience made people more of an asset to their organisation. “Life experiences give you a different perspective. We need to be able to give people the choice to continue to work, whatever life throws at them,” she stated.
Waters added that if employers commit to diversity they need to allow themselves to be challenged and enable change. They have to listen to people, rather than make assumptions about what they need, and be flexible “in the broadest sense” to help people of all ages progress. That brings better engagement and better collaboration, she said.
Waters mentioned carers in particular, who may be old or young. Employers could help by preparing people for caring and helping managers have the tools necessary to support people when they needed it, she said. That included help with bereavement as the outcome of caring for elderly relatives was often death and employees would then need help picking up their life after caring.
She spoke about the need for employers to demonstrate “the courage and determination to do the right thing for people who choose to do the right thing for their loved ones”. The result was increased loyalty and high retention rates. “If you stick with people through difficult times they will do the same for you,” said Waters.
Life is unpredictable, she added and employers needed to plan ahead, anticipate the changing needs of their workforce and allow people to come up with their own solutions. Little things mattered, such as the tone of voice you used if people needed time off for family issues.
There were multiple business benefits to a life cycle approach, said Waters, but it was about more than business; it was about business’ wider social role; it was about doing good by doing business, about doing the right thing by people. “Raising children and caring for people is essential for the future of our society and economy,” she concluded.