You can’t scroll through LinkedIn or flip through business magazines for long without seeing some mention of “work/life balance.” Achieving harmony between your work responsibilities and living your life the way you want is important for anyone, but for working parents, it’s undeniably critical. If a working parent feels like the work/life balance is out of whack and there’s no hope of righting it, chances are he or she will begin looking for another job.
The people around me would probably tell you they’ve heard me say there’s no such thing as true work/life balance — it’s always changing priorities and shifting time. But there is such a thing as a family-friendly workplace, and I consider my company, KAR Global, to be one of those. After all, KAR hired me in 2005 when I was eight months pregnant with my first child — and no, I was not the only applicant! Nearly 15 years later, as EVP of HR for KAR, I feel that we do our best to support working parents. Our PTO policy includes sick days and personal days (in addition to vacation days) to cover some of the unexpected kid scenarios.
I’m also thrilled to announce that KAR is providing a new paid parental leave program in 2020. All full-time, benefits-eligible employees will receive four weeks of paid leave for qualifying circumstances, including the birth, adoption, surrogacy and/or foster placement of a child. Full details will be available by the end of 2019.
This new program will provide a key benefit to new parents, and it won’t curtail the family-friendly practices our employees have enjoyed for some time. We will continue to flex hours when we can, and support working from home for positions where the work can be done remotely. The fact is, we do not want a working parent — male or female — to face an adverse action or risk at work for legitimate family circumstances.
I know from my own experience it takes hard work to fit it all in a day — and some days are better than others. I love my morning routines and my direct time with my boys as I get them off to school, so I’m not always in the office by 8 a.m. But once I’m there, I’m all in. I rarely leave for lunch, trying to get as much as I can done each day, and the on-site KAR Kafé at KAR Global means I don’t have to skip lunch or pack my own.
Two days a week, I carve out time for myself, leaving by 5:15 to catch an exercise class or hit the gym. The other three days are a mix of attending my kids’ sports activities or working at my desk a little longer to catch up on things I didn’t get done earlier in the day due to meetings. It’s all about flexibility. If I don’t stay late at the office, I often log back in at night after the kids are asleep to tie up loose ends or sort emails — but I can do it at a time that works with my schedule.
I feel like I have the flexibility I need to adapt to all the things family life can bring: doctor’s appointments, medical procedures, teacher conferences, activities, illness, etc. I can flex my work hours — come in early or later, work from home (attending meetings by video conference), catch up on the weekend. Our goal is to be accommodating as much as we can, depending on the type of role someone is in, to let our employees get their work done without being hemmed in by a strict policy of being in your seat at the office during specific hours.
I’m encouraged when I hear similar stories from the field. One of our HR field reps, Sara Bradberry at ADESA Cincinnati-Dayton, returned to work from maternity leave earlier this year.
“HR leadership has accommodated my need of work/life balance with a flexible work schedule,” said Sara. “This has made all the difference in my transition back to work. Workplace culture comes from leadership in the organization and trickles down to all employees. KAR’s culture is reflected in the support provided to its employees. I haven’t worked for any other company that cared for its employees like KAR does.”
I often refer to the HR team as our “work family,” and I am mindful that we’re all facing something every day. Our intense focus on people includes each other, and we’re ready to stand in and cover for any teammate as needed. Denice Sanchez, sales manager at ADESA San Diego, says she feels that same support despite being far from our corporate office and outside the HR funnel.
“Our general manager [Jeff Hyde] — and everyone else at the auction — is very family-oriented,” said Denice. “Everyone understands the needs and duties of a working parent. We are a TEAM, and when one is down, the others are always there to help. This is a very understanding company, and always oriented to helping family. I have been able to grow in my career at the same time.”
I, too, have been fortunate to advance within the company even as I grew my family. I’ve had amazing support as a working parent at KAR. It’s important to me that others in the company have the same opportunities, trust and support that I have had.
Our culture supports individual growth and opportunities, but no single person makes up the success of the team. I’m confident that as a company, KAR Global is building that culture from the top down and the ground up.