The Standard Life Aberdeen HR Employment Policy and Employee Relations Team delivered a set of ambitious progressive HR policies providing life changing opportunities for our multi-generational workforce. Their new Parent Leave, Special Leave and Smarter Working policies transform how they support our diverse and multi-generational work force and encourage greater gender diversity.
HR Employment Policy and Employee Relations Team
HR Employment Policy and Employee Relations Team
Standard Life Aberdeen

They worked as a cross-organisational team challenging themselves from the outset to think differently and creatively about how they could properly support colleagues in different life situations. The team engaged senior leader and influencers to support and champion new policies which was vital for success.

The team has been shortlisted for the WIBF Team Diversity Award. We spoke to Kathryn O’Sullivan, Head of Employment Policy & Employee Relations to find out more.

How does it feel to be shortlisted for this award?

We are delighted to have been shortlisted for this award and, in particular, for being recognised as an inclusive organisation where gender equality really matters. We very much enjoyed the opportunity to work together as one virtual team with colleagues from across Standard Life Aberdeen on this project.

What team achievement are you most proud of?

To have developed a truly market leading progressive Parent Leave Policy in the UK, which leads the way in our industry and has such a huge impact for our people now and in the future – makes us really proud.

We want to be leaders in this field, not followers and we think that we’ve achieved this. We hear many stories from colleagues which bring to life how much our new Parent Leave policy has changed their lives. It makes us very proud that we have been able to do this.

What advice would you give to a HR leader who is looking to develop a more inclusive parent leave policy?

I would advise an HR leader who is looking to develop a more inclusive Parental Leave policy to start by developing a compelling business case for change. I think it’s is important that from the start of the project we can articulate the tangible business benefits for all stakeholders. It’s important to take time to engage stakeholders across the business as you develop a new inclusive policy as not everyone will understand how important this is and why it matters both now and for the future. It’s important to fully understand the commercials - i.e. the cost of implementing the new policy and weighing these against the business case for change. While this was a really important consideration for us, it was the broader agenda of gender equality and engagement which was our primary driver.

What particular challenges have you faced and how were they overcome?

We developed our new HR policy agenda during 2019 as part of an ambitious HR transformation programme. The new HR policy agenda was only one part of this. As a small team we had to juggle many priorities and engage many stakeholders across our organisation in a very short time period. We achieved this by working well as an extended virtual team by having a very clear common goal. We prioritised those areas which would have the greatest impact for colleagues and the business. One of the specific challenges for us as we developed the new Parent Leave policy was balancing our ambition to have a gender equal policy and simple operating practice with the statutory regime which is organised around gender and shared leave. We had to find a way to balance these to ensure that we could meet both requirements as we progressed our policy and operating approach.

What have you learned as a team during this current working from home period?

Working from home since March 2020 as a result of COVID 19 has been a big change for many of us. We have had to adapt quickly and be resilient. As part of our policy agenda in 2019, we had developed a Smarter Working policy to encourage greater flexibility in how, where and when people worked. This has helped in approaching the challenges of working from home and managing people on outcomes, not how much time they spend at their desk. We have learnt how important it is to communicate well and often, to reset the expectations we have of ourselves and others about what is important and achievable and to be kind and supportive to one another.

What are you personally looking forward to in 2021?

Working from home was a necessity in response to a crisis. I am looking forward to us building on some of the positives experiences we have had and to use these to establish a new more inclusive way of working for 2021 and beyond.

The Standard Life Aberdeen HR Employment Policy and Employee Relations Team delivered a set of ambitious progressive HR policies providing life changing opportunities for our multi-generational workforce. Their new Parent Leave, Special Leave and Smarter Working policies transform how they support our diverse and multi-generational work force and encourage greater gender diversity. They worked as a cross-organisational team challenging themselves from the outset to think differently and creatively about how they could properly support colleagues in different life situations. The team engaged senior leader and influencers to support and champion new policies which was vital for success.