“The CEO asked me why all the senior women kept leaving”

by Ksenia Stepanova14 Aug 2019

If you are a major organisation in the banking or financial advice sector, you’ve likely tried to adopt some flexible working practices into your model at some stage.

The traditional 9-5 model is increasingly being set aside in favour of flexibility, and although this was initially geared exclusively towards those with childcare responsibilities, it is becoming an increasingly vital part of recognising that employees have a life outside of work. The issue has become so central to retaining staff that some major banks have created roles specifically focused on people – how to retain them, and how the work cycle can be adapted to suit their needs.

Cath Lomax, GM of people at BNZ recently spoke at Auckland’s Women in Insurance Summit, where she noted that she had always been in the sales and commercial side of the business before being asked to take over the bank’s inclusion strategy.

“The CEO came and asked my why all the senior women kept leaving, and how we could retain them,” Lomax said. “So I ended up doing three weeks of qualitative and quantitative research on agile ways of working, and looking at why this was happening.”

“We found was that it was primarily all about leadership,” she explained.

“It’s about who the leader is, how they inspire their team, and how they model flexibility – all of those are really important. Everyone knows the benefits of flexible working, and we know that the traditional 9-5 business model is changing. But what’s also been interesting is that when you’re taking on extremely agile ways of working, it can also somewhat inhibit flexibility.”

Lomax says organisations need to watch out for unnecessary rigidity in how they conduct their work – daily early morning meetings, for example – and consider how this impacts on their team. She says technology is ripe for utilisation in this space, and smart use of new tech is the best tool for an organisation that wants to successfully promote flexible working.

“We have a staff member who is a learning trainer, and she’s lived in Te Anau for ten years,” Lomax said. “I had an unconscious bias when I first found that out, thinking “How the hell do you do that?” But she manages it really well, and it’s all through using really good technology.”

“You need to set up your team to understand each other’s strengths and what they bring,” she concluded.

“Leaders need to remember that your team is made up of individuals with different needs, preferences and working arrangements. They need to work out how they can make that happen.”

Most Read

NZ Adviser TV