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Gender-neutral parental leave? There’s a playbook for that.

Protocol | Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern tech office. Today: How companies can improve parental leave, recruiting younger workers and what you need to know about Gen Z.


—Amber Burton, Reporter (twitter | email)

Parental leave is a management opportunity

Do you offboard and onboard your employees on parental leave like new hires? Amy Beacom, EdD, says you should. Beacom, who recently wrote the book "The Parental Leave Playbook," with author Sue Campbell, recommends leadership treat parental leave like any other management opportunity: with clear policies and intention.

Beacom spoke with Protocol about how companies can more effectively support parents on parental leave and make the process more effective for all involved.

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What is the biggest growth opportunity for the tech industry when it comes to parental leave?

When they're thinking about the culture they're creating at their company, if they are not thinking about it as an equity issue, they're thinking about it wrong. What I prefer to say is [parental leave] is inclusive of all gender identifications. That it's gender neutral. That they create a policy and practice and a culture that is allowing for and expecting all genders to take equal amounts of leave.

What can HR do to prepare managers?

What has happened so far in our country is we have not talked about this, which by default means we have an entire country full of managers who are scared to bring up the topic because they're scared that they'll either say the wrong thing and hurt someone's feelings or they'll get sued, or they'll get their company sued. And so then nobody says anything and that is the worst thing that could happen.

So when you do manage your training, and do good manager training, you're skilling them up and giving them the resources to manage leave. And if you don't do that of course you're going to have problems. You haven't taught your workforce how to manage leave.

What's the thing that's most commonly skipped over by companies when managing their parental leave programs?

Usually they focus on the policy side and client side at the expense of the human side. What I mean by that is oftentimes the conversations are about where to submit what paperwork for insurance, or how to get your tech turned off while you're away, those kinds of things. My hope is that companies and managers and leaders will start to see this for what it is, which is one of our country's most overlooked leadership development and human growth opportunities. How a company interacts around parental leave sends a huge message internally and externally of what they value and who they are as a company.

So for example, when a new parent is returning to work, a lot of companies forget that they're even coming back that day. I have clients all the time who come in and [their team] forgot to tell her or him that they're on an offsite that day, and nobody's in the office. Or they didn't reinstate her safety passwords, and she can't get into the front door, let alone the computer. Or, this happens way more than I would like anyone to know, but people come back into their office and it's been used as a storage room while they're away.

All those little things send this message that we don't value you, you're out of sight, out of mind. Instead, if a company makes sure to meet them at the door with a latte, and a welcome back, there's a new live plant on the desk, a card, a lunch with the team, you know, whatever it is that acknowledges that return because that employee is having an inner experience that day, that is huge.

Recruiting Gen Z? There's an app for that.

Gen Z job seekers are bypassing LinkedIn to match with jobs. Many young applicants say traditional tools have done little to get them noticed by prospective employers. Now, they're taking control of their search with a number of new platforms targeting young job seekers with claims of tackling the access problem. Startups like HIVE Diversity and Handshake launched with the goal of leveling the playing field for graduating students seeking employment. Gone are the days when you were expected to show up at an in-person career fair (thanks, COVID). In fact, a majority of students feel they don't need to meet in-person to make meaningful professional connections, according to a report released by Handshake about how Gen Z navigates the digital job market.


Read the full story here

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Today's tips & tools

If you're returning to the office, you may find yourself surrounded with constant distraction. It's only natural; many of us haven't seen coworkers in months. There's so much catching up to do, and, at least here at Protocol, so many birth charts to analyze. It's easy to let socializing get in the way of the things you need to get done. Here are some tips to help you "get in the zone" in the office, so you can ensure you're done with all your work by the time you arrive home.

  • Try the Pomodoro technique, or work in timed chunks. This productivity strategy, developed by Italian businessman Francesco Cirillo, involves 25-minute work intervals and five minutes of rest. You choose a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, dedicate your full attention to the task for that time and then take a short break. For every four 25-minute sessions, take a longer break. The goal is to prevent procrastination through, for example, chatting up a coworker about their opinions on sour candy versus chocolates. While not for everyone, the technique may help you focus while surrounded by coworkers.
  • Block out office noise. Put in your headphones and blast music that allows you to pump out work. Maybe it's lo-fi beats, or jazz, or high energy rap. I'm currently listening to "Instrumental Study" on Spotify, which has always helped me tune out the noisy world. Your coworkers will take one look at you with your headphones in and say to each other, "Oh, she's wired in," like they're in The Social Network.
  • Tell them, kindly, to shut it. If it gets to be too much of a nuisance, confrontation might be the best answer. "Shut it" is possibly not the best phrasing. I'd try something like "I keep getting distracted by our riveting conversations. I love chatting with you, but I need to get my work done." I feel I must say, Protocol colleagues — I'm not @ing you, I promise. Please keep talking to me!

— Lizzy Lawrence, Reporter (twitter | email)

What's your "Plan Z?"

Yep, we're still talking about Gen Z. According to a new report released by Ernst & Young, companies have a lot more work to do to gain the confidence of their youngest employees. EY's 2021 Gen Z Segmentation Study found "60% of Gen Z say most people can't be trusted." Brutal, I know. The study measured the generation's thoughts on mental health, entrepreneurship and skepticism. Here are some of the most salient points for leadership to take into consideration.

  • Almost half (48%) of those surveyed said "most of the time people are just looking out for themselves." Despite the dismal sentiments, this is up from 2019 when 52% felt people were solely looking out for themselves — a small sign that trust is improving.
  • Mental health is a major focus among this generation. 67% said they are "moderately to extremely worried about their physical and mental health."
  • Many within Gen Z believe they will eventually work for themselves instead of a corporation. 45% said they are "very or extremely likely to start their own business one day."
  • COVID has played a major role in the way that Gen Z views even meeting their most basic needs. A majority of Gen Z (69%) has worried about running out of food since the beginning of the pandemic. 28% reported they "lost their job, or someone in their family lost a job in the same time period," according to the study.
  • Perhaps because of all of this and much more, 63% of Gen Z "feel it is very or extremely important to work for an employer that shares their values," and most reported that they want to prioritize enjoying what they do in their future careers over money.

Making moves

Bumble hired Stephanie Lilak as its chief people officer. Prior to joining Bumble, Lilak was chief human resources officer at Dunkin'. Women now account for over half of the company's executive leadership team.

Verizon Communications appointed Sam Hammock as executive vice president and chief human resources officer. Prior to Verizon, Hammock was head of Talent and Learning at American Express.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great week.

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