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Ideas for making your HR policies more progressive

From building upon national leave standards to paying employees thousands of dollars to quit. These companies are doing HR policies differently.

When was the last time your organisation spruced up its policies? Check your HR policies against some of the most progressive businesses and bring your people management into 2018 with these changes, both small and large.

Carve out time for creativity

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of “I’m a musician trapped in a lawyer’s body?” Pursuing your passions while also paying your bills; it’s a common struggle.

Companies that embed creativity within their culture and carve out time for employees to work on passion projects can have a better chance of retaining inventive employees.

A positive case study comes from 3M, a manufacturing company, which allocated 15 per cent of their employees paid time to work on their own innovative ideas. This policy birthed one of the most well known stationary items to date, likely lining your desktop as you read this, the post-it note.

Funnily enough, this entrepreneurial policy is not new-age. According to a Fast Company article,  3M cooked up this policy 70 years ago. It’s thought that Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter, Slack, and Groupon all started as side projects under similar policies. Just think what your company could achieve, if only you had the time.

If you do add this policy to your organisation’s agenda, encourage participation by getting emotional buy-in from all managers and facilitate check-ins to see how employee’s projects are tracking. 3M do this with an annual “science fair” like event, where employees showcase their ideas and collaborate with others.

A bite size approach

While it may encourage innovative ideas, not many companies can shoulder the financial burden of a full-fledged creative policy. That doesn’t mean you can’t utilise the thinking around it. Why not choose an afternoon, perhaps one day a month, to encourage your people to let their creative juices flow?

“You don’t have to have Google’s resources to implement side projects. In January of this year we devoted about eight company hours to side projects, and we’ve already seen the benefits of the solutions and camaraderie that came out of it,” says Adam Robinson co-founder and CEO, Hireology.

Look after working parents

The Australian government’s paid parental leave scheme allocates up to 18 weeks of leave (on the minimum wage) for primary caregivers following the birth or adoption of a baby with secondary carers offered two weeks.

To win the war for talent, many companies offer more than the national standard to attract future working parents, but who’s doing it best?

According to a report released by Work 180, there are four organisations in Australia that stand above the pack.

Taking the top spots for primary carer parental leave policies are: Adobe, Buildkite, Laing O’Rourke and the University of Adelaide. All of them offer over 26 weeks of parental leave. They are closely followed by Edith Cowan University, Atlassian, Code Barrel and Microsoft, which all offer between 20-25 weeks. The best employer for secondary care givers is Buildkite, offering between 10-15 weeks.

“Putting these policies in place has not only helped to protect new parents’ creativity, motivation and career, but helped to foster a company-wide culture of equality, empathy and support,” says Tim Lucas, CEO & co-founder, Buildkite.


An international look into parental leave from the Work 180 report.


When you first join a company, you can’t usually access all its policies from the beginning. This is due to minimum tenure policies and while they will vary from place to place, the average wait time is 12 months. In some circumstances this can be quite challenging, such as when an employee falls pregnant within their first months on the job.

To overcome this barrier, some organisations are reducing (or abolishing) minimum tenure, allowing working parents to access this leave from day dot. According to the report, the best employers in this category are: Buildkite, Quinetiq, AustrailanSuper, Abode and Microsoft.

A bite size approach

While many organisations don’t have the resources to increase their leave policies, there are smaller changes they can make to keep up with those setting the pace. The Work 180 report suggests: child care assistance, breastfeeding rooms, ‘keep in touch’ programs, information on returning to work, stillbirth policies and opportunities to self-manage schedules.

“Unicorn policies”

There are some rare HR policies that, for those of us not working for a Silicon Valley tech-giant, often feel out of reach. Let’s call them “unicorn policies”.

Corporate egg freezing is an example of one such policy, trialed by tech behemoths such as Facebook, Google and Apple. We’ve previously discussed the potential red flags of this policy, so proceed with caution, but it’s this kind of out of the box thinking that has earned these companies the right to wear ‘The Ultimate Employee Experience’ badge.

Amazon, who are the innovators of many unicorn policies, offer their staff thousands of dollars to, wait for it…. quit their jobs. It’s called “Pay to Quit”, giving unhappy workers an easy out.

This idea was born from Zappos’ “graceful leave policy” (Amazon acquired Zappo in 2009), which apparently offers new staff a month’s salary to leave within three months of their start date if they’re not the right fit. This is an interesting way to make up for wasting someone’s time.

Amazon’s approach is different. According to an article from Business Insider, Amazon offers up to $5,000 for staff working in their warehouses to leave the organisation, with a memo titled “Please don’t take this offer”.

According to CEO Jeff Bezos, the purpose of this policy is “to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

You might be surprised to know that Amazon claim that only a “small percentage” of staff have taken up this pay to quit offer, considering the previous hot water they’ve been in regarding their treatment of workers, namely those in the warehouse centres. With this in mind, you’d think they’d take the money and run.

A bite size approach

What could you offer your people that’s out of the norm but not out of your budget? Employee preferences will vary from business to business, so it makes sense to identify the sore points of the majority of your workforce and help to alleviate them. You don’t have to cut down on hours or provide unlimited leave to be progressive, you just have to listen to what your employees want and work within your means.

What kind of progressive policies does your organisation have in place? Share them in the comments below.

Get the skills and understanding to develop and implement HR policies that are relevant, clear and effective in your organisation, with the AHRI short course ‘Develop and implement HR policies’.

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So progressive means “creativity’” and “parental leave” with everything in between for employees from freezing eggs to breast feeding rooms! Where is the inclusinon of mature age, race, disability? In case you need a reminder here is the meaning of progressive “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are.” Your article says “same ol same ol.”

Linda Norman
Linda Norman

I use the term ‘Quit and Stay’ to describe employees who want to leave but remain. I am pleased to hear that some employers are trying to address this by offering a financial incentive. Of course, an organisation offering this kind of payout would regularly need to evaluate whether the purpose of the payment was achieving the objective of encouraging those who have checked out, to move on.

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