Like many other business owners, one of the biggest challenges over the last 12 months has been recruiting excellent talent in an unbelievably competitive hiring market. Seek ads, Linkedin approaches, referrals and poaching have taken up much more of my time over the last year than I care to admit, and I cringe when any of my team admit they’ve received a cheeky InMail from another agency looking to bring them across.
The truth is, it really is an employee’s market and as such, it’s never been more important to invest in the team that you have. Sure, it’s great to make yourself more attractive to potential recruits but rewarding and recognising those around you should be just as high on the to-do list.
As the owner and Managing Director of Brisbane-based PR agency MediaCast, the last few years have been filled with learnings for us as a business. We’ve experienced unprecedented growth and major changes to our business model, more than doubling the size of our team. As the team has grown, so too has my desire to develop an incentives program that not only rewards loyalty in our staff – but also recognises and supports our staff’s personal goals, outside of their role with us.
As such, it filled me with pride to roll out our new incentives program to my team, which includes five flexible days of IVF leave per year for those starting their journey to parenthood, and one week of paid leave for every pregnancy loss.
Changes to federal policy in 2021 require employers to allocate two days of paid compassionate leave to staff experiencing pregnancy loss. However, Australia is not a global leader in legal protections for bereaved workers, and in my opinion, two days is completely insubstantial to acknowledge such a huge event in someone’s life.
Miscarriage affects one in four pregnancies, and sadly everyone knows someone who has experienced a loss. We’ve worked with so many beautiful organisations that support bereaved parents and had countless conversations with clients and case studies about what more can be done to support parents experiencing a loss.
Too often we hear stories of people chewing through their sick leave, grieving alone because their partner can’t take time off or feeling immense pressure to return to work as quickly as possible. None of these scenarios sits well with me as a boss and doesn’t align with our core values of compassion, respect and integrity. I’ve introduced our pregnancy loss leave for both women and partners, to truly support our staff through the devastation of a pregnancy loss.
While losing a pregnancy is heartbreaking, struggling to fall pregnant is another challenge entirely. In December of 2021, Australian fertility rates hit a record low, so IVF has become a necessary but draining undertaking for thousands of Australians. Again, this can see Australians tapping into their leave due to the frequent medical appointments needed to facilitate the process.
My hope is that our paid IVF leave will help ease some of the pressure felt by staff undertaking IVF and also remove the secrecy around the process.
IVF is such a unique journey and I’d hate for anyone to ever feel like they had to use up their leave, or makeup excuses for medical appointments. There is still such a stigma around fertility challenges, and I hope that with the introduction of our flexible IVF leave, our staff feel encouraged to share their journey, should they feel comfortable to do so, and know that they will be fully supported.
As a leader, my goal is to champion my team and as such, their families. For years, I’ve worked with NFPs such as Miracle Babies and Gidget Foundation Australia to deliver campaigns about supporting Australians through the challenges of falling pregnant, pregnancy, early parenthood, premature birth and loss. It would feel disingenuous of me to promote the importance of supporting parents and their mental health and not do this for our wonderful team.
Our incentives rollout also includes a paid maternity leave scheme which will provide 4 – 16 weeks of additional leave to staff, on top of paid parental leave required by the Australian Government. Cash bonuses for two, three and five years of services, commission structures for bringing in new clients and birthday annual leave are just a few of the other incentives now available to the team.
I’m incredibly proud of the initiatives now in place to support my team and their families in all their stages, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, no one ever wants to experience fertility struggles or pregnancy loss, but I take comfort in the fact that my team know that if they ever should, I’ve got their back.
I’d love to connect with like-minded business owners and professionals on other ways to support our teams, above and beyond the norm so please feel free to connect with me and share what’s working for you! And of course, if you ever need PR services – I have an incredible team of over-achievers who would love to help you achieve your goals.
Fran Chalmers is the founder and Managing Director of MediaCast, the only PR agency in Australia specialising in broadcast media. UK born and raised, Fran worked in marketing and management before realising her passion for media and communications. Leveraging her knowledge of broadcast media and the power of radio, she took a leap of faith and moved halfway across the world to start her own business in Australia. Fran’s passion for purposeful storytelling is evident throughout all facets of the business and her life, and as such she has cultivated a team of talented, motivated PR professionals committed to achieving excellence.