At Hill+Knowlton Strategies, we care deeply that our staff has a healthy work–life blend. We’ve worked hard over the past year to implement policies that support that.
Many of these policies directly impact our women, like our H+K HER women’s network that celebrated its first anniversary last month, and our industry-leading paid parental leave program.
Being surrounded by my wife, three daughters, and now a granddaughter, I’m reminded every day of how smart and powerful women are, but it is my CEO title and focus on the bottom line that’s guiding my decision to implement these programs. My job is to make sure the company flourishes, and many studies have shown that women, especially in leadership roles, are good for business.
Women in leadership boost performance
Recent research from the Peterson Institute for International Economics shows that companies with a higher percentage of women leaders achieve better results, and a recent McKinsey study revealed that companies with mixed-gender boards outperform those with all-male boards.
At H+K, we’re proud that women lead more than half of our Americas regions (Beth Balsam as president and CEO in the U.S. and Claudia Gioia as president and CEO in Latin America), more than half of our U.S. regions and offices, and many of our critical client accounts, and we benefit from that diversity every day.
Work-life blend drives down turnover
Losing smart and valuable staff destabilizes clients and hurts a company’s bottom line. That’s why we moved forward in 2014 with what we call H+K Inside and H+K Outside — a set of policy commitments to our people to support them inside our walls and give them time for what’s important outside those walls.
Our Inside policies focus on training, mentoring, growth opportunities, and recognizing strong performance. Our Outside policies offer fitness reimbursements, an expanded holiday calendar, flexible work schedules, and the ability to work remotely one day a week. One year later, our employee turnover rate dropped an incredible five percentage points, making the business more stable.
Parental leave policy isn’t just for women
One element of our Outside policy is an industry-leading parental leave policy that gives 16 fully paid weeks of leave for birth moms and 10 for all parents, with none of it coming from sick leave or vacation time.
Too often in business parental leave is just for mothers, but the inclusive nature of our policy is highly important to us. Men also need time off for such an important life event. In fact, our data shows that our women and men are taking their parental leave at a nearly identical rate.
Mentoring program tackles challenges
Our formal mentoring program for women mentoring other women, mentorHER, has made 171 mentee matches during its first year, and 98% of participants say they would recommend the program to a colleague.
Participants said that having an outlet to work through challenges and share best practices was a top benefit of the program. These collaborations directly benefit client relationships, promote professional growth, and boost morale.
Strategic networking unlocks entrepreneurism
In addition to mentorHER, we launched a strategic networking pilot program last month for some of our top-performing women in partnership with the tech startup NQuotient. Through this training and networking opportunity, we’re on a path to help our women most effectively leverage their networks for business benefit, which in turn benefits all of us.
To continue to grow, we will update and expand these commitments to staff, and tell the stories of their impact alongside the traditional markers of business achievement. Stay tuned.
We don’t implement these programs for show. We do them because they lead to measured business success. Investing in our women benefits their personal and professional lives, which benefits our bottom line.
Given our own success with these programs, we look forward to continuing them for years to come.
Mike Coates is President and CEO of Hill & Knowlton Strategies.