Approaching Your Customers (or HR) with your Plan
We want to talk about approaching customers or human resources with your plan. Okay so you're gonna have command of the details that will let you have your leave period and talking about how to bring that up to your customers. Or if you work for a company that is open to talking about flexible leave plans, how to come up to HR and talk about a plan that will work for you. The overarching lesson is that people really respect someone with a plan, right, so we've done all the work of getting our plan together and now it's just sharing it with people. So for notifying your customer you have a timeline, you have an expected timeline of the time you want to take off, of the time that you're gonna dip your toe in and start getting back to work. You want to set your timeline and set your expectations when you're thinking about relating this information to your customers. You also want to determine the level of transparency that's right for you. It's completely possible to take leave without me...
ntioning why. Some of us run businesses that are very personally related and some of us don't, not every person has to know I'm taking two weeks off because I'm having a baby. Your customers actually don't follow you every minute of the day. In many cases if you've prepared ahead well it's possible to just sort of let it simmer down, put up an auto-reply saying I'm taking a break for a couple weeks and I will answer emails as soon as possible and let things roll without saying the exact reason. And I encourage you it's always best to under promise and over deliver. So one thing I did was shut down my physical shop and I did it for a longer amount of time than I needed to because really the phase around the welcoming home event you never know what's gonna happen and if there's a problem you're gonna take care of it. That's probably for most people their absolute top priority. So go ahead and give yourself an extra week off. You're customers are gonna be happy if you're back earlier than that. And it's better to under promise and over deliver then to say I'm pretty sure I will be back two hours after I have a baby. Because that may be an expectation that you're not able to meet. Okay, so everything we've said about making money could just be replaced with getting the job done. So for an employee of a company, employers are really beginning to embrace family-friendly practices, but it's still kinda oddly enough still kind of new so you may be the first one to broach this subject. So let's do a little bit of talking about how you, as an employee who is expecting, would talk to HR, human resources, about creating a more family-friendly policy. So Sara Holoubek says, "If your company really wants "to do it right, I recommend starting the boundaries "conversation as early as possible and then piloting your "leave by taking a week's vacation around "the beginning of your third semester." Trimester, not semester (laughs). So she advocates setting up the expectations. Can work email you? How long are you supposed to... How long is it supposed to be before you reply? Are you going to come in once a week? What are the boundaries, what are the rules, and then go ahead and test out what it's like if you're gone for a week. That way you'll be able to identify any bumps in the road to make the process smoother later on. Work is, streamlined work is wonderful whether it's your own work or whether it's work for a company. So Sara is one of the founders of The Human Company Playbook. So this is a great resource, I encourage you to go and have a look at the website humancompanyplaybook.com. It's a consortium of different CEOs and companies doing research into what makes, they call it human company design. What makes companies family-friendly. So especially if you're an employee and you're looking into how to talk with your employer about how to create a more family-friendly environment this is a really great resource to go look at. There's actually a lot of benefits to employers offering leave. If an employer offers leave it increaseS employee retention, it saves on hiring costs, it decreases training costs, they don't need to hire someone else, and it increases the female labor participation by 3% to 4%. So there are real reasons for an employer to want to work with you, and offer you leave that you can work with, and that works for you. So California's a state that recently introduced paid maternity leave. When they did that it reduced turnover and saved employers $89 million a year. So it's just not the case that offering leave oh it just costs companies money, it doesn't. If you're a valued member of the team then employers are gonna reap benefits by working with you in a way that's really flexible. So with that in mind, we're really lucky to have Megan who is the HR person at CreativeLive joining us and so we're gonna talk to her and ask her some questions about how you as an employee would go up and talk to your HR person, or your management, to make something that works for you. I'm super excited to have Megan Zengerle from CreativeLive here. So we've been talking a lot about entrepreneurs and how you can plan your own maternity leave but a lot of us are employees and you might be working for a company, maybe they have a great maternity leave system already in place, but maybe you're the first person who's bringing up the situation, and maybe you're gonna be the one who has to go up to HR and start to talk about a system that would work for both you and for the company. So she's gonna be chatting with us about how to bring your best plan forward, and I'm really excited about this part. Thanks for coming.
Yes thank you for having me.
So you ran your own business before you had your son. So do you want to tell us a little bit about how that process went?
Sure, so I had a consulting firm where I worked with companies setting up their business operations, and so it was interesting because I was everything, and then when I found out I was having my son you know there wasn't any resources for myself to hand off plus be a mom. And so that was really enlightening for me to figure out how to keep my business going, how to prioritize the clients and what they were expecting from me, but also take the time to be a new mom. And so, very big learning experience for me and probably brought about a lot of empathy as I've come into the role I'm in now.
Right, yeah, so tell us your official title.
So my title is Vice President of People and Business Operations, so I oversee both HR but then also accounting, finance, IT, legal. So I have quite a bit of
responsibility across the organization, and then also the best part of it is I get to interact with every single employee on super important business measures but also the personal side of stuff.
Yeah so I think everyone watching probably has a really deep understanding of what the problems are from a new mom's perspective, but can you also share some of the challenges from let's say the employers point of view about this traditional model where maybe someone takes just six weeks off, or three months off, or a year off, and then just comes back kinda out of nowhere, and what are the problems with that?
So I think first and foremost with every role is what is being left, you know what do we have to keep going from a business standpoint when this person is out, what do we need to support, what can we absorb, what needs a skillset that might not exist without this person. So those are all things that we look at. And then secondly is what's the, you know what's the timing. Like you said every plan is different for every mom. Some come back after six weeks, some want to take a much longer leave. So making sure that there's this seamless program in place that allows the business to continue to function is super important. For us there's a lot of roles where there's a single person dong the whole function. And so we've had occasions where there's been maternity leave with that person. And so figuring out the coverage plan, make sure that the mom feels like we're supporting her but also supporting the business is a delicate balance of figuring those things out.
And it sounds like communication from both sides is really crucial. So making sure that from the company's point of view what are the things that are super super crucial about the job, and then what are things that oh so-and-so could maybe take on that task.
Absolutely yep exactly, and you know that's my number one thing both from a company perspective, if you're an HR manager, director, manager that's not even HR related, and the employee. Open communication helps so much. Just being able to have an open dialogue about these are the thing that were... From the company's stand point these are the things that might be a struggle for us, and from the mom's stand point these are the things that I need or might be struggling with, and so often that dialogue solves so much of the gap.
Yeah and so what would you recommend, so maybe coming up with a bit of your plan in advance, being really upfront about what you need personally out of the situation?
Absolutely, so for one I think knowing you know having an intimate understanding of your role, and how it fits into the organization is really crucial, and then also knowing what you are gonna need, which is sometimes hard for new moms. But just having some key points of these are the things that really matter to me and how do we make it work. I've also found having the courage to present a plan that might not be fully accepted 100% at least gets the ball rolling. And knowing your non-negotiables, knowing the things that you just have to have as a parent are super helpful because everybody's different. We have a ton of parents at CreativeLive and I have to say every single one has a different work relationship with the way they parent.
Right so even coming out and saying oh it'd be a good dream if I could do part-time and maybe that isn't practical but putting it on the table or flex-time or things I guess... Yeah so what are some options just in the sphere of fantasy things?
You know, again it's so role specific. Some of the things that we find work the best particularly in the first year, because we actually have a lot of people come back after around the four month mark, so daycare is a whole new world or even just childcare, whoever's caring for your child. Figuring out that relationship. So we offer flexibility on when you come in, when you leave, depending on the role. There's sometimes where you just have to be in the office or in the studio, but figuring out what works for that. I think also the flexibility to work from home when you don't have to be in the office, particularly in the first year and you have a new baby and you don't have all your sleep under your belt (laughs) is a great opportunity. And then again just keeping an open dialogue. I think some of the things aren't considered is children get sick parents then catch the bug. So being able to factor in the things that you just simply cannot have this formal process for anymore is super important.
Exactly and also just I know a lot of people felt like oh it's my first day back I can't fess up that I'm sick but kids get bugs at daycare so it's super common that the second day back someone's home sick (laughs), that's super common.
Yes absolutely, and we see it so I mean I see it quite a bit when it's like the second week is like ugh. And also the emotions you know you've been with your baby your newborn and leaving it... You know again I think I have the empathy of being a mom myself but if you have a manager that might not be a parent, or, just be willing to say I just need some time. You know I think that there's always the human factor that sometimes gets removed from this whole process and sometimes you have to be the one that brings it back in.
Yeah, do you have any tips in terms of know... So we all live in different states, different countries, just knowing your right, I guess you would go to the government site to sort of read what the rules are?
It's pretty complicated but I always advocate know your rights. Sometimes there's programs out there that you don't even know you can benefit from. I think California has, where we are, has some really progressive laws. I think the United States as a whole is catching up, but I love that it's trending, it's a trending topic around the world in terms of what's working what's not working. But yes, I think educating yourself on what is available to you, what your rights are, what you need to work within. And conversely in the company level if you're running a team don't get scared by it, try and education yourself so that you can be an advocate for your team and the people who report to you. Again the more you can open up the dialogue across the landscape, the better.
And for a person you would go, like does this fall under the labor laws?
Yes, so I would check
Okay so you would just Google state labor laws.
Yeah exactly, and you know every state has a different board or department that manages that but typically if you look up parenting leave or family leave it typically falls under those two categories.
Yeah and I guess always the issue of keeping it flexible cuz I know one problem a lot of people have is newborn care is so hard to find, there can be wait lists. So maybe you want to come back at three months but you don't have a spot that opens up until four months. So even those small periods of time where you might need extra negotiation, telecommuting's a great way if your job can do it. You save two hours a day (laughs) or something. You're squeaking in some extra time there. So I think earlier you told me there's a woman who has to leave at 3:45pm cuz that's what time... And I assume she comes in early and does different kinds of tasks, it works out somehow. So just knowing those options.
To be frank, her baby was born last year 2016 so she's in the toddler phase now and it's just what works for her family. Here at CreativeLive people are our priority so we spend a lot of time thinking about what matters. I think she's done a really great job of saying this is the time I need with my son and I'm gonna make it work and I know that I'm accountable to my job. And so there's not that... I think we all feel the guilt of leaving before everybody else but she has a really good rapport with me which is key and then she gets her job done. Sometimes it's after hours after her baby's gone to sleep but yeah having that flexibility and really balancing.
And that's something we've talked about too is just identifying what your key tasks are and what you have to get done. Cuz there are these wiggle times, maybe it's nine o'clock at night, maybe it's whenever, but if you're getting your stuff done it's obviously gonna look really great (laughs). So I think you already spilled your number one tip opening a dialogue but any more tips?
Yeah, I think without communication that's kinda the gateway and then the thing that keeps it going. I think the other thing is don't be afraid to ask. I give this tip outside of parenting topics, but don't be afraid to ask. It's not always gonna be a yes but sometimes there's a solution that can be creative. Just by asking you can find a solution that kind of fits the mold, and that's something you might not have figured out. Not being afraid to ask. And then thirdly is just knowing that you are your own advocate. You are your child's advocate, and you have to figure out what works best for you. So it might take awhile, it might be painful, it might be emotional, but really stay the course. You're gonna eventually if you do that you're gonna find the right balance for yourself, and your family, and your profession, I promise for sure.
That's great advice. Well thank you so much for joining us. So super lucky to have this perspective here. That's all for this section but in the next section we're gonna just go back, talk about all these worksheets, all these things that we've worked so hard on, and putting them into your maternity plan, and creating a plan that works for your business and your lifestyle.
If the term “maternity leave” makes you nervous, you’re not alone.
The big challenge: stepping away from life for 3 months with the expectation of returning to work after maternity leave like nothing happened. Many working women already put in 12 hours a day, so how does one manage with fewer? This common practice is particularly detrimental to small business owners, who find their business slipping away during maternity leave, along with confused and disappointed customers, even when the business has returned to normal.
There’s a better way.
Instead of a traditional maternity leave, in How to Take Maternity Leave without your Putting Life on Hold, Stacey will show you how to put your business into maintenance mode for as long as you want: keeping your business functioning at a high level to keep your customers happy, but not requiring your full-time attention. It will make returning to work after maternity leave much more seamless.
Many business owners spend time on tasks that are not essential. By eliminating these excess activities, you can distill your business into a few hours a day of powerful productivity. Keep your business going while still spending the time with your family that only comes once in a lifetime. When you’re returning to work after maternity leave, you’ll find that your newly-discovered efficiency has transformed your business. You may even decide to limit work to a few hours a day, permanently!
You’ll Learn How To:
· Determine which tasks in your business are worth your time and attention
· Streamline your business down to the bare essentials, creating successful systems
· Calculate how much money you need to earn during your leave, and work the minimum number of hours to achieve it
· Take advantage of ‘down time’ in productive ways
· Decide when to hire out tasks, even if you’ve never considered hiring contractors before
· Find non-standard childcare options… there’s more than full-time daycare!
· Effortlessly shift your business back into ‘full-rev’ mode
During Stacey’s daughter’s first year, she earned 65% of what she earned the previous year, working during baby’s naps and in the evenings. She was able to do this by streamlining her business and working on only what brought in results, cutting work time down to a couple of hours a day. Her daughter entered traditional daycare when she was 20 months old, with a transition that was seamless to customers, because it appeared as if she had been working full-time all along.
Learn how you can apply Stacey’s techniques and strategies to your maternity leave plan. Even if you’re not a small business owner, you’ll find ways to assess and streamline your work, make time for this once-in-a-lifetime period, manage childcare, rev up and get back in the game.