Having a well-established Diversity and Inclusion policy means supporting our employees through every stage of their lives. We do that by recognising that everyone is different and by recognizing that consequently, everyone needs different forms of support throughout their career.
At SThree we constantly strive to create the right environment for our employees to succeed. We launched our Maternity Buddy Scheme in 2013 with the aim of fully supporting our employees and their families.
When announcing her pregnancy, Caroline Wilson, Senior Business Manager at SThree specialist brand Computer Futures, was immediately contacted by the Human Resources department and told about the Maternity Buddy Scheme. This was her first pregnancy, so Caroline had no prior experience of the Scheme, but found it to be invaluable. Caroline explains:
“One of the key things for me was that being able to talk to a buddy, someone who had already gone through the process of having a baby and returning to work, removed the fear of what impact the pregnancy and my maternity leave would have on the business and on my career. I was nervous handing over my role, I didn’t know how I would feel being away, but knowing that I had a point of contact was very reassuring. They kept me informed on any changes in the office during my maternity leave. Having that support was really motivating; to know that you can be a mum and have a great job – it’s inspirational.”
There are practical aspects to the scheme, such as finding out about maternity pay, other benefits and general guidance, but more than that, it’s a point of support for any aspect of the pregnancy – from coping with morning sickness to choosing the right childcare, and from how to speak to your line manager about issues which arise from the pregnancy, to how to manage your return back to work.
“It was also about having someone to guide me through the tough times as well,” adds Caroline. “I could pick up the phone and utilise support outside of HR. It’s a real life example; living proof that you can go away and start a family and return to the business and make a true success of it.”
The Maternity Buddy Scheme provides support to employees expecting a baby for the duration of the pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work. Since the launch of the scheme, 84% of female SThree employees taking maternity leave have returned to work and that runs across the junior, mid-level as well as senior roles.
It’s a global programme, and one that Claire Mear, Human Resources Business Partner, is in charge of rolling out in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.
“Different people want and need different forms of support,” says Claire, “and this is why the scheme can and will be successful in forward thinking, progressive organisations. It’s there if you want it; you can have a buddy allocated formally and set times when you speak, or you can have a much more informal arrangement – the point is that it’s led by the employee.
“I’d say it’s particularly useful for first time mums, especially here in Asia and the Middle East where we have a mix of local and expatriate first-time mums. Some employees don’t have family or close friend support networks around them.
“Becoming pregnant is an exciting part of someone’s life and for us to be able to share their journey is an absolute privilege. As a buddy you feel that you’re on this journey together, but at the same time it is a very personal journey, so if someone doesn’t want to share the personal details of their pregnancy they don’t have to, but they know support is there if they need it. It’s unique to the individual and what they need.”
A career with no limits
“The scheme is a big focus of ours this year. Having looked at the key people in the business that have taken advantage of the scheme, one thing is clear: there are no boundaries to a successful career, and that includes falling pregnant,” concludes Claire. “SThree is all about creating an inclusive environment where everyone is supported to succeed.
“Our priority is to expand the programme. Whenever someone joins the programme we will talk to them about whether they would be interested in becoming a buddy themselves, and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Our aim is to create a very big network of buddies so that you can have someone who is not in your office as your buddy if you want to“, says Claire.
When she was seven months pregnant, Caroline interviewed for a promotion - and got it. Caroline’s baby is now nearly two years old. “I could ring my buddy every week or every month, it was as easy as picking up the phone but so helpful. I came back after twelve months, with my promotion announced while I was away. Coming back was a natural step and I continued to receive support when I needed it. If I was asked to be a buddy now I wouldn’t hesitate.”
If you want to find out more about this programme and the things SThree is doing to create an inclusive work environment, visit the diversity section on our website.