Corporate leaders around Asia Pacific have set themselves the goal of trying to speed up the often painfully low levels of female leaders in C-level roles. Yet, before increasing their numbers in the boardroom, companies might first have to address some of the reasons that many prospective leaders opt out of otherwise promising roles.

At our recent Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) roundtable discussion held at Michael Page Singapore, we spoke with some of the region’s top minds in D&I planning and policy.

Smart ideas at the frontline

Having discussed work-life integration, the discussion shifted to ways that companies can support those returning to the workplace after a break. Indeed, the companies that took part in the discussion had a variety of dedicated policies and programmes for these employees, including: 

  • Regular breakfast sessions for new moms returning to work. This allows both sides to touch base, as well as change the mind set that mothers are out of touch when they return.
  • Focusing on paternity leave as much as maternity leave. Giving fathers the ability to take time off as well, as they also go through a life-changing event when their children are born.
  • Drafting a return plan ahead of time, and tackling how they will ramp up in the first weeks after coming back.
  • Pairing returning moms up with experienced moms in the workplace to help give a perspective.
  • Regular communication with the management team and career coaches for those returning.
  • Employee assistance programmes that offer counselling, education and coaching for those returning to the workforce from any phase of life. 

Although details of the policies varied, they all revolved around ensuring that those returning from a break, whether maternity or otherwise, feel connected to and supported by the company. 

Changing with the need

In many companies, what is written in handbooks don’t always play out as planned. As such, discussions during the event shifted to how companies can align policy with company culture, as well as what they can do when the two are clearly out of sync.

Michael Christian Vainio, General Manager of Consumer Business at Kimberly-Clarke in Singapore, explained that the important aspect was whether policies can live and breathe with the developing need. “For us, the policy usually lags behind practice,” he notes.

“In Singapore alone, we have three different offices with varying needs. [That is why] we write general policies, then we make them site specific after that. We rely a lot on mentoring and coaching to make changes at individual offices.” 

Vainio then went on to explain that sometimes, the key lies in making small adjustments a little bit at a time. For example, meeting invites can automatically include a Skype links, furthering the idea that it’s not necessary to be physically present, and that anyone can attend virtually if they need to.

Maintain communication throughout

Communication is often the key to ensure that policies and actual practice are aligned. Karan Grewal, Senior Regional Talent Development Manager, APAC at Foodpanda, explained how internal communications can often make a big difference.

“We use internal communications to ensure that everyone knows what’s happening in different country teams,” he says. “Through internal platforms, managers and senior leadership are very vocal about new policies.”

“When everyone in the organisation can see, other countries or regions try to emulate it as well. This is a great way of influencing organisational culture.”

This is part two of our Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) event coverage. The D&I roundtable discussion was held at the Michael Page Singapore office.

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