We spoke to Catalina Schveninger so that she could share her experience of being a working parent and a Chief of People at FutureLearn during the pandemic. The world has changed so much over the last year. In the context of work, the lives of employees with family responsibilities (and of their managers!) have been particularly challenging.
"At FutureLearn we had a baby boom! We have a very young population (45% of our staff is in the 25-35 age group) but we had 12 new babies (out of a population of 250). Our timing was impeccable as we enhanced the maternity and paternity leave right before the pandemic. As of the first lockdown, we offered lots of flexibility to parents to organize their schedule around child care and not having to stick to the typical 9-5. The teams did a fabulous job in stepping in and covering for the parents. It did take a village!"
"We’ve learned that flexibility makes a huge difference and that managing output vs presenteeism helps increase productivity & also engagement. As we are planning for the ‘new normal’, flexibility will be here to stay. Another enabler is educating line managers and ensuring they get the support they need to support the parents in their teams."
Working parents need to be listened to - "at FutureLearn, we have a community of parents who get together virtually, sharing ideas and tips and raising different issues and feedback to the leadership team in a very constructive way."
"My top tip for employers and managers of working parents is: dial up on listening and don’t take for granted the fact that parents ‘cope’. Ensure that your line managers lead with empathy and ask not just ‘how are you doing’ but ‘how can I help."
‘Hybrid working model’ is the name of the game these days. "At FutureLearn that means we have created a framework, a ‘FutureWorking manifesto’ that details how we are going to approach the ‘return to the office’ in a way that it will build on the learnings from when we worked fully remotely but brings back the normality and togetherness that we have missed in the last year. Hybrid is an overused term, we will use ‘flexible’ which means that the focus will be on empowering our people to do their best work wherever it suits them - with some ground rules around meeting the needs of teams to collaborate and build meaningful connections."
And for Catalina personally? "The catering was the big challenge during the pandemic! I consider myself lucky to be a mother of two teenagers who are pretty self-sufficient and who coped with homeschooling quite well. The most challenging part was to ensure that there were endless supplies of food and (not always) healthy snacks in the house and that the kids contributed to the household chores (I found this to be quite challenging!). I am worried however that the quality of education was patchy and they will have a difficult time with the upcoming GSCE’s and I have not been able to contribute much - can’t believe I studied all that and don’t remember a thing! I think that the pandemic accelerated their development as young adults and hope that they will appreciate the work that parents put into maintaining a household more than they did before."
Since 2013 FutureLearn has revolutionized the education system. With online platforms, they tailor learning to suit your needs: Future Learn is a collaborative institution that promotes sharing ideas through digitised learning.
Catalina began her HR career at T-Mobile, followed by Vodafone, where she was Global Head of Learning. At FutureLearn, she is promoting modern digitised education as Chief People Officer.