‘The Leadenhall Lunch’ – Insights from Around the Table: Family Matters
The end of August saw the first of our Leadenhall Lunch series. Looking to explore and discuss the latest people and leadership hot topics, our first event held at M – Restaurant in Threadneedle Street, proved a great success.
Intriguingly titled – Family Matters, the discussion looked to explore how the recent pandemic had impacted our family lives and what possible outcomes could emerge from the new working practices.
Our highly esteemed guests, did not disappoint, with themes, insights and topics hotly discussed around the table over some exquisite Sea Bass.
- Daniel Fisher – Group Head of HR, Communications and Culture – Hamilton Insurance Group
- Laura Wright – Head of Learning and Development – Lockton Companies LLP
- Felicity Mehta – Co-Head of Learning and Development – Rothschild & Co
- Karen Davis – Head of Human Resources – Waverton Investment Management
The discussion began with some recent experiences and observations on the topic of parental leave – namely some recent anecdotes in respect of paternity leave and also male take up of parental leave during lockdown. Companies have looked to increase the provision and scope of paternal leave but the take up has not been expected:
Felicity (Rothschild): I think as a consequence of the lockdown there seems to be less take up and less need for paternity leave as fathers can take part in bath and bed times and see more of their children whilst working from home. So there maybe a shift to fathers taking less paternity leave under pressure from possible job insecurity and impact on family finances of becoming parents. This is not a good thing but an unintended consequence of the pandemic.
Laura (Lockton): We have definitely seen a more sympathetic attitude towards paternity leave amongst our leaders, however from our experience we are still seeing traditional male/female parenting patterns and not much evidence of fathers taking a more domestic role either by taking full parental leave, moving to part time or taking a career break. It is still women who are doing this.
Chris – Do you think we will see any change in the demographic make up of the workforce due to the pandemic – perhaps a levelling of the gender pay gap and team and board gender make up?
Karen (Waverton): Hopefully the growth in more flexible, and dare I say it, more family friendly ways of working will see an increase in women applying for the roles we have tradiontionally seen as male. This flexibility could certainly be a boost to a more even field of applicants.
Laura: An interesting side affect which we have seen at Lockton, which could perhaps lead to some challenging outcome,; is that working from home and the more flexible conditions, has led to some of our older senior employees postponing retirement plans. The freedom from commuting and the 9-5 is attractive to some people at that stage of their career. This is great on one level because we are keeping their experience. It is our challenge to see how we can harness their experience and expertise without creating a glass ceiling for our emerging leaders and talent.
Chris – We understand that there have been various issues with getting employees back into the office, have you encounted any push back or particular concerns? How are your polices for adopting flexible working practices?
Daniel – We’ve adopted a flexible working approach although we’ve made it clear that we are an ‘office first’ company, meaning that an office environment offers many benefits such as greater interpersonal connectivity, better collaboration and innovation and opportunities for side by side learning. We also recognise the experience our employees had through the pandemic and the desire for flexible working arrangements. As every role is different, we decided not to go for a one-size fits all approach to flexible working so our employees can agree on their individual working arrangements with their managers so it that it works for them, the team and our company.
Felicity: One unexpected issue that has occurred is that we are finding that mothers who had babies at the beginning of lock down are finding it very difficult to return to work both logistically (child care, schooling etc) and emotionally.
Laura: As a business that depends on a high percentage of client interaction we have had to make sure that we always have team members in the office available to clients. This has meant putting rules in place to ensure that employees are available during traditional office hours. So this has taken away a degree of flexibility that other businesses may adopt – so even employees working from home must adopt office hours.
Karen: I understand that some employees have made the choice to move larger distances away from London so that it is impossible to return to the office in a flexible way. We have seen the return to the traditional pattern of coming up to London late on Monday night and leaving on Thursday night so there is no way these employees can be in the office on a Monday or Friday. In some cases this may not be feasible, although our focus is on trying to be as flexible as possible to reach a balance between the needs of the business and our employees.
Chris – How about the growth of recruiting from abroad or employees moving abroad and working remotely?
Laura: There has been some allowance for existing employees moving overseas as long as they are available to clients, as a global company we can accommodate this anyway.
The panel had not seen the development of the recruitment pool working remotely overseas, as experienced by tech firms, as none of the businesses could see this being ideal for them.
Dan – How have your learning and development programmes been affected by the lockdown?
ALL: The panel agreed that the delivery of virtual training had meant that HR departments could offer a more regular and wider range of learning and personal development opportunities. It has also brought the cost down significantly. However, they had all experienced occasions when there was a reduced take-up as employees WFH sometimes get caught up in day to day priorities and don’t join. Also people are tempted to do other work while sitting at their computers attending training online. There is also evidence that some types of training and development were not suitable for virtual learning and people were not actually absorbing the content.
Felicity – We are planning to review some of the workshops and programs that were delivered during lockdown virtually, over a few intensive sessions to ensure that topics are thoroughly learned and grasped – including some really important technical areas.
Laura – We have discovered and have now labelled a huge issue with the total lack of what we call ‘Osmosis Learning’ . We have realised that a huge amount of learning, personal and career development is done by working in the presence of other employees and clients, and by just being in the office. This is equally relevant to technical skills and personal, interpersonal and social skills.The important part for this to work is the presence in the office of both senior and junior personnel.
Chris – Do you think in two years that we will return back to working in the same way as pre-lockdown.
Daniel – think there will be some familiar elements from the pre-pandemic era, and I hope we will return to a more open and diverse working environment and culture, see continued growth in the use of technology for practical and efficiency reasons and flexibility becoming the norm..
Chris Woodman CEO – Leadenhall
Dan Harris – Associate Director – Leadenhall
Look out for the next ‘Leadenhall Lunch’ – you never know it could be you!