Employees going on maternity (or paternity) leave is an organisational reality and business leaders shouldn’t stick their heads in the sand and think the process will manage itself – it won’t.
According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average length of maternity leave taken by Australian women is eight months.
As you might imagine, an employee taking leave for eight months can potentially have a detrimental effect on an organisation. Even if the employee going on maternity leave has a replacement, the loss of knowledge and skill plus the subsequent time and resources required to train a replacement can have significant impacts on costs and productivity.
Careful planning is required to ensure any undocumented processes or knowledge is captured so that replacements or other team members can ensure tasks and processes are managed successfully.
It’s not enough to have the person going on leave to prepare hand over notes. Some roles can be quite detailed and complex when you break them down and if this isn’t captured and organised so it’s easily understandable, it can cause many problems. Having this knowledge captured and well documented will also help ensure a smooth transition back into the organisation when an employee returns from maternity leave.
Here are five steps you can implement to help your organisation better manage when team members go on maternity leave.
1. Consider their role in the organisation
When a team member goes on maternity or extended leave it can create a gaping hole in an organisation in terms of teams, projects they may have been involved in and roles they may have fulfilled that impact other departments.
You need to have a clear idea of how a person’s role impacts the organisation. Start asking the following questions:
- Where do they sit in the organisation?
- What roles and tasks do they perform?
- What specific knowledge do they have and what would be the consequences of losing this knowledge?
- How do they relate to other employees and departments?
2. Analyse your processes
When team members go on extended leave, resign or even when you induct new staff it can highlight how well (or inadequately) your internal processes and knowledge management systems perform.
So when an employee announces they will be going on maternity leave, it’s a good prompt to analyse how your organisation is placed.
Start by asking the following questions:
- What processes, procedures, instructions and training manuals already exist?
- Where and how are they stored? Are processes, operating procedures and compliance obligations stored in a single location where the current version can be easily identified and where they can be viewed in various ways?
- Are they used as part of day-to-day work? Or, are they updated and used infrequently?
- How efficient is the organisation’s knowledge management system?
- What induction programs are in place for replacements?
3. Involve those going on maternity leave
Involving team members going on maternity or extended leave in your efforts to capture organisational knowledge and document processes will help to create cohesion and support around the activity.
It will also demonstrate the value, in the eye of the organisation, of the person going on leave. For women going on maternity leave, knowing they are valued may also help encourage them to return to the organisation.
Such an approach can also benefit the organisation more broadly. For instance, capture the organisational knowledge and documenting procedures for all employees to utilise and provide a platform for continuous improvement as well as lower the impact of employees going on extended leave or retiring.
4. Capture knowledge
Capturing your organisation’s knowledge can be as simple as writing procedures and training modules that relate to specific tasks or generic company induction. Employees going on maternity or extended leave should be interviewed to help identify the exact knowledge and skills required to perform their duties and the information that needs to be passed on to a replacement or other team members. In addition to capturing process steps, their relationships to other roles, processes and regulations should also be recorded.
5. Use a good knowledge management system
A knowledge management system can help to quickly train replacements to a new role or help other team members to take on the responsibilities of those going on leave. Traditional silo approaches like document repositories or portals can store and present information, but they can’t manage it. This results in highly redundant, out-of-date, expensive-to-maintain information. Systems that allow processes and relationships to be modelled, recorded and published are better suited to capturing such information in a useful way.
Replacements, other team members and returning employees need to be able to easily access the relevant, current and complete knowledge of a role. Plus, it should be in a form that is intuitive, timely and in the context of their responsibilities. This information should also be stored in a single location where it can be re-used, managed centrally and disseminated in role-specific formats (from line workers to the CEO).
After an absence from work, processes, procedures and regulations may have changed. An accurate and up-to-date knowledge management system provides an easy reference to allow people to get up-to-speed very quickly, whether as a refresher or to update them on the changes that have been implemented in their absence.
When employees go on maternity leave it doesn’t need to be viewed as an inconvenience. If your organisation, its processes and knowledge management system is prepared and functioning well, it can be an experience that is smooth and free of drama and stress for all parties involved.
Holocentric provides business management systems that help organisations capture, understand, change and optimise every detail of their business – from people, strategy and processes to compliance obligations. They make information accessible, easily understood and personalised to suit the needs of each user.
Holocentric’s model-based solutions Modeler and Modelpedia help large organisations store, retain and use the organic knowledge of each person and department in a single central location, making it easy to distribute to all employees.
For more information visit the website: www.holocentric.com