Women in Business in Transition – It’s time for change!
As you are all no doubt aware International Women’s Day is a time to reflect, call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by women. Now, it does officially say it’s for women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities, but I believe it is a day of celebration for all women, because some women go unrecognised for their everyday acts of courage and contributions.
So, with my thoughts about courage and recognition I believe it important we continue in our quest to gain a better understanding of the impact of the perimenopause and menopause on women in the workplace.
Over the last few months I have been a prolific networker and have been out and about attending seminars and workshops to enable me to stay at the top of my game, sense check my professional knowledge and ensure we have the best working practices for New Directions Group of Companies. Whilst out and about, I have had the privilege of talking to many professional females and, we happened to touch on the subject of the menopause and I have to say, I have been quite shocked to hear some of their stories.
Yes, it remains firmly a rather taboo subject, with very little change in attitude since the government reported on it back in 2015 (Dr Ros Altmann CBE) and the more recent University of Leicester Report for the Department of Education in 2017. These two reports draw attention to the subject again, but there is little evidence to suggest UK workplaces have made positive changes in support of it’s ever growing female workforce through their transition.
Here is a snap shot of the experiences had by colleagues, friends and family: women have been given lesser projects because their behaviour has changed and they lack concentration and their once second to none organisational skills have all but disappeared, daily struggles with deadlines, in one extreme case someone was performance managed out of their role, others voluntary left their positions because of lack of support and understanding by their managers, others continue to fear their bosses reaction should they dare to broach the subject, they remain isolated and cannot talk about the way they are feeling because it may be misunderstood, some lost their confidence and doubted their abilities which resulted in them taking on lesser roles with reduced hours and pay.
Another finding that also concerned me was the lack of knowledge of the perimenopause by GPs – basically if you didn’t know already, this is the hidden gem that can strike up to 10 years before the menopause starts! Great!! Oh, don’t you just love being a women, mother nature blesses us with periods, pregnancy, perimenopause and then full blown menopause!
UK businesses need to wake up and realise that we can expect up to 47% of the UK workforce – i.e., all female workers – will experience menopause transition during their working lives.
I am writing this to encourage UK businesses to at least recognise that the transition for women through the menopause is not straight-forward and if you want to ensure you retain these talented women, you need to put support in place.
New Directions, have a predominately female workforce, with many of our females at management level, so we really are not taking this for granted and have already started providing support to make sure we retain these talented, strong, passionate women through the early stages (perimenopause) and latter stages of the menopause. We are determined not to lose these inspiring females of the future.
We are talking Wellbeing at work, recognising the signs, having a focused Wellbeing Champion as part of a comprehensive Wellbeing Strategy, supporting these women, give advice, talk about the taboo subject and put support measures in place. It can be tough dealing with irrational thoughts, emotional outbursts, insomnia, weight gain, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, self-doubt, these are just a few symptoms through the transition stage. Therefore, it is important to provide support, guidance and open dialogue, we must not write these women off, nor performance manage them, apply extra pressure, and allow negative comments from colleagues, this must stop! Women need to be able to talk about this without bias and fear for their positions, status etc.
Of course, we do respect that some women don’t want to be treated differently to men and potentially like to deal with the transition privately. If this is the case, go for it, we admire their strength, but should they need support, at least it will be available.
So, some tips to support are relatively simple, make sure someone is available to talk about the menopause, sometimes listening is all that is required, flexibility for medical appointments, sometimes it takes a while to diagnose a hormone imbalance or the menopause, provide literature about the menopause and sign post them in the right direction for answers, allow flexibility on work dress, flexible working hours, provide well ventilated areas to work if possible, allow regular breaks in meetings if you spot a colleague becoming too warm and uncomfortable, training for managers to spot the signs of changes in behaviour and the confidence to hold discussions about the menopause.
Interestingly, women are working in greater numbers than ever before. In the UK, between January and March 2017, just over 70% of women were in paid employment (Office for National Statistics/ ONS 2017). Women make up 47% of the UK workforce (Griffiths, Cox, Griffiths and Wong 2006; Kopenhager and Guidozzi 2015). If UK businesses don’t start to recognise this and support women, then they will lose some seriously talented professionals with high emotional intelligence and excellent business acumen. The perfect ingredients required around the top table, but research on the impact on women leaving before reaching those dizzy heights is yet to be produced!
On balance then, we can expect that up to 47% of the UK workforce – i.e. all female workers – will experience menopause transition during their working lives.
It’s time for the business community to #pressforprogress on this unspoken development within the female life cycle.
Mr X Appeal Drives Charitable Ambitions
New Directions have been involved in the Mr X Appeal for a number of years. The Mr X appeal is a Swansea based charity asks businesses, individuals and groups of people to offer a Christmas present donation for young people living in poverty or care.
The appeal has grown into a tradition at New Directions and has grown considerably over the last few years. In 2014 we donated around 100 gifts; this has now tripled with nearly 300 gifts donated.
New Directions Pharmacy employee, Andrew Harris has helped contribute to the success of this appeal by getting 126 members involved from outside New Directions.
“On behalf of the members a big thank you to Andrew for managing this Mr X Appeal for us. Andrew is a popular member and 126 members bought presents to contribute to the appeal. We are blown away by the generosity of people. This is the second year we’ve got involved in this appeal with New Directions and it’s growing every year.”
We even had to call in help from our supplier, CBOF. The business support our venture every year and without their generous loan of a van and accompanying muscle we would have a fleet of a 100 cars travelling down the M4.
The team delivered all the presents from Santa on Friday 1st December.
Welsh Business in Awards Shortlisting
A leading Welsh recruitment and training organisation has been shortlisted for their eighth award nomination of 2017.
New Directions have been announced as finalists in the 2017 CIPD Wales Awards. This heralds a third successive shortlisting for the HR Team as ‘In House Team of the Year’.
Sophie Cecil, Group HR Director – who was named ‘Best HR Professional in the financial / professional service sector’ at this year’s inaugural Welsh HR Awards said of the shortlisting – ‘we are overwhelmed yet again to be shortlisted for such a prestigious set of awards. This is all credit to the operational staff in the office who work to support over 180 employees across our business. We have only been in existence as a department for little over six years, the journey we have embarked upon has been an interesting one. We are so very proud of all that New Directions offers to their community, and we look forward to celebrating this success with our peers across the sector in October’.
New Directions was founded in 1993, initially the organisation had existed as a recruitment partner to the creative industries in London – PR, communications and design.
Today the business looks very different. The mainstay of their business is within the provision of staff to the education sector across Wales as the ‘managed service provider’ appointed by the National Procurement Service. However, the business also has strong operations in the care, pharmaceutical and commercial sectors, as well as a training division.
Jeff Tune, CEO for New Directions added to Sophie’s comments ‘in recent years our organisation has gone from strength-to-strength. We have a strong reputation as an excellent service provider – and this is reflected with a serious number of awards and accolades won. From our Compliance Team being named Team of the Year to our entire organisation being celebrated as ‘Employer of the Year’ at our industry awards in December last year. The CIPD shortlisting is testament to the strides in progress Sophie and her team have made for the business over the past few years’.
In 2016 New Directions was awarded Investors in People (IiP) Gold status – the first recruitment agency in Wales to receive this status.
New Directions Chairman Highly Commended at Cardiff Business Awards
On Friday 23rd June 2017, New Directions Chairman Jeff Tune was highly commended at an awards ceremony held in Cardiff.
The Cardiff Business Awards recognise outstanding achievement in business and celebrate talent, ambition and innovation from across Wales’ capital city. This is the third year the awards have celebrated the best of Cardiff business.
The event held at City Hall in the capital celebrated 19 awards in total and was attended by over 400 guests who enjoyed a three course meal and entertainment from former X Factor contestant Lucie Jones. The evening was hosted by television personality Jamie Owen.
This award comes amid a flurry of awards for the business in 2017. The SME has been honoured at the Welsh HR Awards and Business Excellence Awards amongst others so far this year. Speaking about the organisations award success – Ruth Dalton, Group Head of Communications and Marketing for the business said ‘our business is strengthened year on year – from new staff to innovation in what we deliver. It is important that we ensure this strength and growth is recognised. Business awards in any capacity are a wonderful thing, we dedicate application for them because they let our respective communities know we are getting it right and we never compromise on quality of service’.
In 2016 New Directions became the first recruiter in Wales to receive the Investors in People Gold Status accolade. This acknowledges the commitment of the business to all of their stakeholders.
Making Bold Brave Decisions to Future-Proof the Team…a Blog by Leah Seltzer
A little under a week ago, my brilliant ‘second-in-command’ colleague set off on the next big bold adventure of her life. It prompted me to make some bold decisions too that would mean our paths would meet again.
Kate, who has been by my side now for around four years (and very highly thought of within our business), has gone off on maternity leave until 2018…when I write that in actual numeric facts – it makes me shudder. I am assured by most parents who have had maternity or paternity leave that the time they are out of their business role and learning to handle their new life is fast. I wish Kate a wonderful time meeting her new little one, but I look forward to welcoming her back too…
So, faced with the prospect of future-proofing my team, our future and indeed her future, I promoted Kate to Compliance Manager two days before she embarked upon her maternity leave. I wanted to assure her that she was valued, respected and needed back here when she was ready to return.
I read a lot of blogs – it’s hard not to in this forever easy-to-access digital work of ours. I also keep as up-to-date as I can with legislation relating to employment law, and I am stunned to still read about parents (let’s be honest mostly mothers) still facing a hard time in the workplace upon return from maternity.
New Directions has been on quite the journey in accommodating flexible working, phased returns, return-to-work days and even an IVF policy. We have stumbled at times, but we were awarded IiP Gold Status last year and I think that is linked to how well we look after our staff.
So…back to Kate. I took the decision to invest in talent, to be bold and to give a promotion to someone who was about to take time out of the business. For the next nine months or so she will be a mother first (and forever), but she is also our new Compliance Manager. I figure there probably is no harder gig than parenting…so the new role will be a welcome change in structure for her come 2018. As Head of Compliance and Quality for our business I have a responsibility to deliver a service second-to-none. Kate is the person to assist me in this.
For the foreseeable I have a great team around me…no less an award-winning team and we will work to plug the gaps left by Kate. However, I look forward to a return from an ambitious Compliance Manager and Mother. Until our professional paths meet again, our entire team wish her the best of luck on her journey.
Recruitment Leader Wins National Award
A Recruitment HR Director has been named ‘HR Professional of the Year (Business / Finance Services)’ at a national awards ceremony held in Cardiff.
Sophie Cecil, Group HR Director for leading recruitment and training specialist New Directions was announced as winner at the Wales HR Awards on Thursday 23rd March 2017 at an evening hosted by television presenter Sian Lloyd at the prestigious SSE SWALEC Stadium in the Welsh capital.
The award comes just months after Sophie and her team collected the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP) ‘Best Company to Work For (under 250 employees)’ and the business was awarded ‘Gold Status’ in their Investors in People (IiP) accreditation.
Speaking about her win Sophie commented ‘Firstly, I would like say it is an absolute honour to receive such a prestigious award! I would not have achieved this award without New Directions employees believing in a vision and mission to change a culture. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one that works in our organisation.
Melissa Hale, originally from Blakeney in Gloucestershire was also shortlisted in ‘HR Assistant of the Year’. Sophie adds ‘we must also give congratulations to Melissa Hale, an amazing HR Assistant and award finalist. She is a winner in our eyes!’
Guests at the event were entertained by male voice choir Only Boys Aloud and the Welsh National Opera before an entertaining pre dinner speech from Lord Price, Minister of State for the Department for International Trade.
The awards were sponsored by Acorn Recruitment and Darwin Gray Solicitors.
New Directions Group HR Director and Group HR Assistant named among top HR professionals shortlisted for national awards
Sophie Cecil, Group HR Director and Melissa Hale, Group HR Assistant have both been announced as finalists in the first ever Wales HR Awards, which will recognise and celebrate the achievements of HR professionals in a black-tie ceremony taking place at The SSE SWALEC, Cardiff, on 23 March.
The Awards have been created by the Wales HR Network, a leading networking platform for HR professionals, partnered by Cardiff-based commercial law firm Darwin Gray, and Acorn Recruitment Services.
Sophie has been nominated in the HR Professional of the Year (Professional Services) category and additionally Melissa in the HR Apprentice / Administrator of the Year category.
The event, which will be hosted by BBC television presenter Sian Lloyd, is the first of its kind in Wales and has been welcomed by leading businesses throughout the country.
The Awards ceremony will include performances from Only Boys Aloud and Welsh National Opera as well as an address from guest speaker Lord Price, the Minister of State at the Department for International Trade and former Managing Director of Waitrose.
Fflur Jones, Head of Darwin Gray’s Employment Law and HR department, said: “Despite being at the core of every successful company, HR is very often an under-acknowledged profession. That’s why I think this event has generated such a positive response; it seems to have really struck a chord.”
Ruth Dalton, Group Head of Communications and Marketing for New Directions commented on the dual shortlisting “Our team here in Cardiff have been overwhelmed to receive the news that two of our applicants for these awards have been shortlisted. A focus on the support services delivery of an organisation is absolutely welcomed by our organisation. A big thank you to Acorn Recruitment, Darwin Gray and Calland Wright Consulting who I am sure will face a tough task in selecting winners.”
Each category will be judged independently by Acorn’s Head of HR, Genevieve Ryan, Darwin Gray’s HR Consultant, Fiona Sinclair and Director of Calland Wright Consulting, Alison Wright.
Winners will be announced at the black-tie award ceremony, held on 23 March at The SSE SWALEC, Cardiff.
Tickets cost £60 and are available to buy at: http://www.waleshrnetwork.cymru/awards.html
New Directions crowned: Best in Education & Domiciliary Recruitment – UK
New Directions are delighted to be awarded ‘Best in Education & Domiciliary Recruitment – UK’ in the 2017 Business Excellence Awards, the first award of 2017.
This comes after already being shortlisted for a number of awards this year, including being announced as a Cardiff Life Finalist for a second year for Best Company. Industry awards enhance our reputation as a brand and we are always delighted when we are recognised as specialists within our industry.
Jeff Tune, Chairman for New Directions comments, “We have had a number of awards for our Education recruitment, however to be recognised for our Care & Support division which is an area we have recently expanded, with the opening of our West Wales office towards the end of 2016, which was a direct response from the local community is a fantastic achievement.”
New Directions ended 2016 on a high being the first Welsh recruitment agency to be accredited with the Gold Standard for Investor in People. This accolade underpins the company’s performance through good people management, which as a result is filtered down to the service we provide to our clients and candidates. A great start to the 2017 award season.
New Directions Announced as Cardiff Life Finalist for a Second Year
Leading business services organisation New Directions have been announced as ‘finalists’ in the ‘Best Company’ category at the Cardiff Life Awards.
This is a second successive year of shortlisting for the organisation who had a 2016 in which they won a flurry of awards and became Wales’ first supply agency to be announced ‘Gold Status – Investors in People’ status.
Speaking about the shortlisting, Group Head of Communications and Marketing – Ruth Dalton said ‘I have worked as part of this team now for over five years. I have watched the growth and change within the business. The awards we have won over the last few years are testament to this evolution as a business. We don’t stand still, we don’t compromise and don’t take short cuts – we go the extra mile to make sure we always keep standards high. More impressively, as big as the business gets – it is our family-centric culture that keeps us grounded’.
New Directions was established in 1993 and is one of the largest supply agencies in Wales. The group now offers recruitment services for the education, social care, pharmaceutical, domiciliary care and commercial sectors. Additionally the business also boasts a training team and an innovative online criminal records checking service.
High Heel Hitches in the Work Place…a Blog by Sophie Cecil
The news channels we are tuned into this month are all discussing a really hot topic that has been central to women working since the time when…well women started working. What to wear in the office, what size heel, colour lipstick, hairstyle and beyond.
Following the government report ‘High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes’ by the parliamentary committees for Petition and for Women and Equalities, our leading sector publication – Recruiter released a very interesting statement warning recruiters to review their dress code policy wording so neither gender are discriminated against.
I read this with interest, and then pondered our own policies relating to dress code. I took a cursory glance over our document that we use as guidance for all new employees and at points; I have to admit I giggled. The main message is about dressing appropriately for your role, I think that most staff, management and sensible human being would agree that this was more than acceptable as a point of direction.
Scanning the policy further we also offer a list of items of clothing that potentially wouldn’t be agreeable for an office environment – beach wear, hot pants and cut off shorts. We are based predominantly in South Wales, the weather has not permitted any of these items for the five brilliant years I have been employed here…nor do I suspect has the general demeanour and respect for their roles our staff have.
Our policy is brief – one page, quite succinct and definitely not discriminating against any gender. As one of the few female HR Directors that sits on the senior management teams of leading Welsh businesses it is refreshing and career affirming to know that we set out our parameters in terms of dress code sensibly and on the whole without major restriction.
We work with some brilliant communities that appreciate all sorts of attire from our staff. From our corporate commercial team, who are always suited and booted and ready for action to our ever-so-creative Communications and Marketing Team who sometimes change their hair colour more often than I eat hot dinners, I am proud to survey our teams and declare them fit-for-purpose for the roles they perform.
We win awards, we raise our profit margins annually and our staff retention and satisfaction rates grow year on year. From a New Directions point of view, I am proud to work with a diverse set of employees who express their personalities not only in the high quality of work they produce, but in how they carry themselves in our office environment and beyond.
That we are watching reports like this in 2017 shocks me, I have never judged a book by its cover; I take time to turn the pages, understand the content and try to get the very best from it.
Long may New Directions lead the way in being a progressive employer within the recruitment sector!
*now where did I put my gold lamé jumpsuit*