Alison Hernandez, Randstad RiseSmart Managing Director APAC is an agenda setter and an insightful advocate in the Diversity & Inclusion space. Driving family friendly workplace practices started when both Alison and Catriona Byrne co-founded what became RiseSmart over 15 years ago – then Sageco, a niche consultancy in the ageing workforce and mature-age transition. Working out of a small serviced apartment and from home in the early years of a start-up, and adding a total of 3 children under 3 to the mix required family and work management skills, a crucial key to their success.
Since becoming part of the Randstad Group under Alison’s leadership, RiseSmart has become an accredited Mental Health First Aid gold skilled workplace and a Flex Able certified employer, always having inclusion and belonging at the heart of its employee value proposition. Our approach to our stakeholders – team members, participants, clients, community – and every decision we make is guided by this active commitment to inclusion and diversity. We want to create a safe, healthy, and productive workplace for our employees and associates, where everyone feels comfortable to be their whole selves.
More recently, the Covid pandemic turned the spotlight on productive work/family integration and its mental health challenges – which impacted 100% of employees one way or another. Team members with health issues and/or caring responsibilities (be it young children, vulnerable elderly parents or other dependent family members) were highly impacted by the lockdown restrictions having to manage high work demands (driven by the industry) with extraordinary family challenges. Although our organisation was set up for virtual delivery and transitioned to working from home within 48 hours, the accelerated demand for career transition for job loss support created urgency on the work front. Creating a supportive environment and maintaining a positive mindset in those circumstances reinforced our inherent motivation to improve work & family outcomes in the workplace.
We pride ourselves of having employees’ health & wellbeing built in our DNA as a business priority.
As part of the Randstad group, RiseSmart employees have access to generous policies around flexible work, parental leave, carer’s leave, and domestic violence.
One of our key differentiators (the ‘R factor’) in our strategic plan on a page is our commitment to diversity and inclusion. It takes more than a programmatic approach to create and nurture a family friendly environment at work. Our focus is on a strategic approach that includes coordinated actions within an inclusive culture and supported by solid policies. This is driven by a range of commitments regularly shared internally (team meetings, company-wide interactive zoom meetings, celebrations) and externally (social media posts, website updates, speaking engagements). Our Managing Director and the Leadership Team role model family inclusive practices in their day-to-day working life and demonstrate high empathy during crisis situations.
Together, we aim to drive societal changes.
Our flexible work practices are sustainable because we focus on the outcomes of people’s work, not where or when they work. We promote and embrace different ways of working and support employees who wish to engage in part-time, gig or contract work.
Participants have flexible options and can press ‘pause’ on their program at any time – to attend to personal matters, engage in training, take a secondment or gig – and reconnect and continue their program when ready.
RiseSmart is proud to be a certified Flex Able employer and role models this approach through the way we work and the way we coach and support our participants.
We provide parental leave transition support to employees and participants before, during and after parental leave. Our webinars and coaching sessions address the competing demands of family, career, and wellbeing. With a Parents @ Randstad network and social group, we provide workshops, share resources and give tips to keep in touch with team members on parental leave.
Employees have a range of family care support such as combining leave (annual leave, carer’s leave, unpaid leave) with the option to work from another country to care for their family members.
We are committed to promoting a family friendly environment and instil this commitment in our policies and processes. Employees are empowered to have conversations on any family and/or workplace issue – our ‘Great Conversations’ includes topics such as flexible work.
We have sponsored over 70% of our team to become Mental Health First Aiders to support participant and colleagues developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
With a legacy of programs supporting employees in late career, our people leaders are extremely well equipped to have meaningful and productive family wellbeing conversations.
We are pleased to see our current employee engagement and consultation score at 84% and an employee attrition rate of under 13.5% for the past 10 years despite several mergers. In addition, absenteeism remains consistently low with personal leave accounting for just 1.1% of total pay (cumulative figure 2014-2018).
A testament to our inclusive and flexible culture is the fact that we have welcome back ‘boomerang’ employees on numerous occasions in the last few years and we often ‘exchange’ employees with our parent company Randstad.
Our internal practices for flexible work allow us to share success stories and be advocates for flexible work conversations beyond our workplace – within the organisations we partner with. Through our client programs we have seen the following results:
• Navigate impact data – following a Navigate your Ageing Workforce program, 91% of people leaders felt better equipped to have a conversation with team members about their future plans.
• Envisage impact data – following an Envisage workshop, 36% of participants developed a flexible work proposal and discussed with their manager.
As the business went from a boutique consultancy to a global leading organisation, the team has grown from a handful of employees to hundreds of team members and associates. With each addition to the team, we have seen new life circumstances and family scenarios; not one policy fits all. Our Creative Director Catriona Byrne famously said: “Most problems are just a conversation that hasn’t taken place yet”. The secret is in the authentic conversations people leaders have with their team members.
Alison Hernandez once received the following feedback from an industry sage: “You are early in an immature market [pause]… which is a great place to be”. It has been a business blessing ever since. As part of the global leadership team, Alison has been driving conversations on family friendly practices and parental transition services with the global RiseSmart team and our dedicated Randstad Executive Board Member since day one.
Our solid employee value proposition allows team members to manage personal commitments, other businesses, volunteering, and family responsibilities, manage mental health while maximising productivity and having a sense of choice and freedom.
Cristina – Customer Success Manager APAC
RiseSmart provided Cristina with access to parental transition coaching pre, during and post her first parental leave, with our expert transition coach Sarah Cleasby. She was able to access this face or face or virtually and at times that suited her to craft plans and seek advice and guidance as required. Randstad’s parental leave policy (since updated) applied at the time, providing a booster payment of $2500 to Cristina on return.
During her parental leave Cristina had the option of up to 12 additional paid days of work to cover attendance at team days, business unit meetings, to attend training or to support projects virtually as required from time to time. This was accessed during her parental leave several times and Cristina felt connected to the business and allowed her re-assimilation post-parental leave to be seamless. It also ensured she had continuity of some income for the entire period.
Prior to Cristina’s return date, Cristina met with the (then) National Director over lunch with her son to discuss her career plans and aspirations. She decided to move from her full-time Strategic Relationship Manager role in the Sales Team to a flexible role in the Transition Services team. She came back initially on a 3-day/week basis, progressively moving to 4 days a week. Over time, Cristina has transitioned into a new role that expands on her skills and strengths – and yet still allows for flexibility. In the newly created Customer Success Manager role, Cristina continued to work 4 days a week.
Welcoming Marcos’ brother
Cristina is now expecting her second child – a baby brother for Marcos. With RiseSmart current extension in Asia Pacific, she has been promoted to a regional Customer Success Manager APAC role managing one direct report all while expecting her second child. As she is preparing to handover her role and embark on her second parental leave, Cristina attended the ‘Supporting Randstad Parents’ webinar with other expecting parents and future carers. We wish Cristina all the best with the addition to her family.