Mo: Hello, hello, hello and welcome to this week’s everyday inclusion and belonging where we talk about everything, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging under the sun. We have such a timely topic to talk about today and I’m excited to have Jen Henderson, the founder of Tilt joining us.

Jenn, I’m going to let you introduce yourself. I never do folks justice and I’m excited to jump in because there’s just data that came out and continues to come out, about the impact of Covid on women in the workplace that could put us decades behind.

Having your insights and expertise around not just parental leave and maternity leave, but the whole overarching experience of women in the workplace right now is going to be invaluable.

Jenn: It is definitely an interesting time. Thank you, thank you so much. My Oh my gosh, I love chatting with you. I can talk to you every day. So intro, that’s helpful?

Mo: Yeah

Work Leave Revolutionized

Jenn: Jenn Henderson, founder and CEO of Tilt. We are revolutionizing leave in the workplace. We really perceive the current state of leave management, leave administration’s very archaic really cold and transactional. Check a box and kind of click a button move on. So, our approach at Tilt is to bring the human back to leave.

We partner with amazing progressive organizations that get that and really want to do right by their employees that are taking a Covid-19 leave, a parental leave, a caregiver leave. We have a SAS solution of technology that really gives the guardrails of a leave. Who should do what and when and breaks down really heavy legally confusing and cumbersome processes.

It makes it easy to understand digestible and approachable, and then clarifies people’s roles. So, what should an employee do? What should a manager do? What’s HR’s role? And that’s what we’re up to itself.

Mo: Which is which is so amazing. I’m going to tell a personal story just for a second here. I quit a job that I loved. A job that I loved, company that I loved. I had best friends at work. All of the data right? That said that I should have stayed because my maternity leave was mismanaged. Yeah, and I know that right. I didn’t see a path forward. I didn’t see how it was going to work. Nobody was talking to me about things. It was literally like fill out this paperwork. Then we’ll see it, you know, be ready back at your desk.

Like literally, and I have this tiny human being and all the things, an so I quit. And what a loss. I loved that company. I was on the you know, I was working my way up the food chain and we can do better.

Yeah, that’s what I love about what you all are doing because why do we continue to be surprised that people need leave from work? Let’s stop being surprised and let’s start being proactive.

So, let’s jump in and just talk about the landscape first. Sort of what’s happening right now?

Jenn: Man, how much time do we have?

It’s a much different answer today than it was last time we spoke. So, the landscape right now is multifaceted. One, we’re partnering with HR generalist who are managing leaves and states they’ve never done business in before, and that’s really problematic and here’s why.

You have California based companies that right now have employees dispersed around the US, some around the world during this time. They know they don’t need to be back in the office until Q3 of next year at the very earliest kind of you name it. So, when these employees are moving to States and there’s eight states in the union that is past paid leave legislation, they’re having to comply with that paid leave process.

And of course, each one of those eight states is different. So, managing a paid leave in California very, very different than Washington and New York. So, HR Generalists are just flailing because that’s not in their wheelhouse. They don’t have experience there, so that’s one of the current states that work that we’re happily able to really help solve because we live, breathe and work leave every day. And we know that.

Mo: I hadn’t thought about. I had not thought about the impact on work from home, just from the policy and legislation piece. Which these HR generalists are flailing because they haven’t either.

Jenn: It’s a nightmare. And the risks of getting it wrong are very high, but compliance and financially they can really get companies in a bad spot.

The other current state in the space of leave that we’re coming up against is, back in March when COVID-19 in the US really hit kind of over drive there was a legislation pass, called FFCRA. The Families First Coronavirus Act. And that overnight made companies under 500 employee count have to offer leave. Paid leave.

Very much like FMLA. For employees who are dealing with COVID-19, caretaking for COVID-19, and child care that essentially evaporated overnight. And that again, came overnight. HR generalist having to say what? How am I supposed to do this and who qualifies? And what are the nuances?

And the legislation was literally being written kind of in the moment and so that’s currently still in effect. It’s planned to sunset the end of the year. Our COO is a labor and employment attorney and she doesn’t think it will necessarily get past extend into next year. But it’s very much still alive right now.

Here’s the rub with FFCRA. It is incredibly fear inducing for an employee. I’ll use myself! I have two kiddos, one in school, one in daycare. Virtual school, daycare evaporated, I can’t rely on my extended family, because they’re elderly.

And for someone in my space to ask to take an FFCRA leave, with a company potentially that could be going through layoffs, or potentially they don’t trust their manager or kind of you name it. I’m not going to stick my hand up and say, hey I want this leave.

Mo: Right.

Women Out Of The Workplace

Jenn: So, it’s a problem for sure, for sure. And I’m sure some of the data that you started off the call with show that women are falling out of the workforce in droves. It’s absolutely terrifying.

Mo: It is, it is chilling. So, it’s already happened right? And the impact and how many women have already left. Yep, men are being promoted at three times the rate, right? So, we already had a gap.

And now the latest research yesterday that just came out from McKinsey one in four women is considering leaving. Women, we still bear most of the burden. And of course, it’s even more skewed when we talk about women of color, right? And women with disabilities, and when, right so to layer intersectionality on that so.

This is set up to be a perfect storm of both diversity and inclusion and equity. Disaster.

So, let’s talk about what companies can do. How can we help employees navigate this, and how can we help leaders navigate through this?

Jenn: I would really like to move to that progressive, optimistic view because there are a lot of great silver linings coming out of Covid. And I don’t like to sit and let’s describe the water we’re drowning in. Like, what can we do to your point exactly? One of the silver linings that really has come to light with regards to Covid is caregiving has come out of the closet. And it’s not going back in right?

We have kids on zoom calls. We have elderly parents in our homes and it’s the ultimate equalizer.

Yeah, we have a life outside of work? Who knew?

Mo: Here’s an interest again, a little anecdote. There’s a woman that I know that she’s a senior leader in a tech company and for years, she did not let anybody know that she even had children. She didn’t have pictures, have photos at work, she didn’t tell the stories. She was so worried about what it would do to her leadership potential, right. And that the maternal bias that is so real.

Jenn: Yes, and very, very understandable why she did that.

Mo: And now here we are, talking about the great equalizer.

And having um, men understand, right? because they’re at home and their kiddos are there so they might be in leadership roles. So, there’s an empathy and an understanding that’s been created that wasn’t there before.

Jenn: If we flip the script on this exodus and, it’s interesting we’re seeing a lot of the same trends that we saw pre COVID-19 from an employer standpoint, show up again. And one most pointing I would say is short timers disease. So, a lot of this exodus if we unpack it and roll it back, is that there’s just not the conversation being had that I often say, let’s think outside of the box here.

So, if we go down to one persona, one use case of why a woman potentially left the workplace. It could be FFCRA wasn’t offered or similar companies over 500 employees, there’s FMLA compliance. It could be hey, maybe they just need a reduced schedule for a period of time.

Maybe they need flexibility, maybe they need a coworking opportunity. Maybe they can job share with someone. There’s so many of these hu, never thought about that. Considerations that employers are just not taking their blinders off now is the time we need them to say. Let’s throw some shit against the wall and see if it works.

Because this loss of talent, this cost of attrition, this cost of institutional knowledge and then the loss of the female talent pipeline. I mean, I just have goosebumps talking about it. The impact, the financial impact, the societal impact is mind numbing.

Mo: It is, and I love that idea. Now is the time. I’ve been talking so much with leaders saying, when everything is up in the air, everything is possible. We’re all in this constant like shift and shuffle and you can get people through a change cycle a lot faster.

You know, we’ve always done things this way and again, there’s this greater empathy and understanding than there’s ever been. One of the things that I want to point out, and you and I have talked about this multiple times.

Not only is there maternal bias, right? We also see men not wanting to take paternity leave, anybody to take caregiving leave. Because then there’s a stigma around that as well.

And I’m so hopeful that this blows that up too.

Jenn: We always used to say, and who knows if this holds true, but the fastest way to accelerate the gender parity in the workplace was paternity leave. Very surprising, but that was what the research showed. The utilization and normalization of paternity leave in the same occurrence, quantity, and time frame as maternity leave was to erode that 250 something years that we would work on for gender parity. Again, whether that holds true in the new normal, we’ll see.

You’re absolutely right that place a man plays in caregiving, in paternity, and in the newborn is critical to the women. It’s critical to the women. And with all of us, not all, a large majority working from home, equalizing more of the lion share of the caregiving needs. We do have that opportunity. What do employers need to do to sustain that?

Well, it goes back to some of the fundamentals, right? Role modeling. Certainly, at a senior level. Talking about it, sharing what leaders can do.

Work Leave Role Modeling

Mo: Let’s just talk about role modeling. And I know that there’s a company I wish I could remember. The name where both of the founders went out on paternity leave at the same time? Uh, huh, that’s great role modeling.

Jenn: Yeah, yeah.

Prime Minister of New Zealand, right? I mean, it’s it can be done. And the more that we see that, right you can’t be which you can’t see, all those things more. We see it and understand it and can look up to that. The more normal that that can become.

And then you talk about the policies. And this is where again, we see a lot of the same patterns that were pre Covid-19, which is oh, if I just extend my lead to 20 weeks were good. Like check the box, were in it, were leaders in the space. That’s just not the case. Time does not equal efficacy when we’re talking about leave.

Mo: Hold, hold, say it again girlfriend.

Jenn: The time of a leave does not equal the efficacy.

It’s critical that employers understand this. It’s such a situational life event. It is such a nuanced experience, it is not a peanut butter spread. It is not a one size fits all. We have parents that we’re working with who want to be out for eight weeks. That is their choice. That is their motivation.

That should be their ability to do that, and they shouldn’t be shamed for that. That’s their walk. Then we have others where they want six months, and they’re OK taking no pay for four of those months, whatever that might be. So, the situational leadership of leave is where the efficacy shows up.

That’s where, fundamentally we believe, what we’re doing is give guardrails right. You can we can drive your car between this side or this side but we’re humans and we’re all different and we need different things when life happens. When we lose someone, we have a miscarriage, when we have a baby, like all of those things.

Mo: All of those situations you’re giving. Or in your case, right? You’ve got a spouse that’s an essential worker, right? So, what does that look like for, you know, if you were working for somebody, what does that look like for schedule?

You know, when I look at my own situation, and I left that company. I didn’t leave the workforce, I went to an organization that I could have flextime, they didn’t care if I was sitting in a chair somewhere it was all about my deliverables, right?

So, one organization lost me because they didn’t see the human factor, and another got me. So that’s it, is also thinking about this as fingerprints. Or if I’m using your guardrails example, you have some people that might need a motorcycle. You have some that you know might need the big old, you know, mobile home that they’re driving down there.

Who knows what that looks like? Now let’s talk about, so much of this happened so fast, so I want to sort of talk about the Covid reality and then post Covid and what work might look like.

When should these conversations start? How does the planning start? What’s the role of an employee and what’s the role of a leader and what’s the role of HR? Because I think that those are sort of the key players.

Jenn: Yes, the three-legged stool, absolutely. Those are the key players and most often managers are left out of that conversation entirely, which is so completely wrong. It’s just so wrong.  They are too critical.

The short answer is, as soon as physically possible. So, ensuring that employees have the ability to understand and ingest information from their company anonymously and intelligently. Like you’ve got to be able to understand your company policies.

We pull in company handbooks every single day, and it blows me away. How these handbooks are so heavy handed and legally, legalese heavy? And I mean it’s Greek. It’s totally Greek. So, if I’m an employee, it’s my first time ever into exploring a leave, and I’m going to read that policy, forget it. Like I have no idea what that means.

So that’s first and foremost because employees are very hesitant to raise their hand and say, can somebody tell me what this means? Because then they’ve got a scarlet letter, right?

Oh, they’re going to leave, they’re going with the baby whatever. Then you have the role clarity when a leave is actually disclosed, or the need for a leave, or a qualifying event.

And I’ve learned so much from my attorney COO. There is an onus on the employer. If there’s any sort of a conversation via casual or official that waves a flag that somebody may have a leave qualifying event, there’s a ticking timeline that the employer actually has to give that employee documented opportunity to apply for that leave.

So, there’s a whole legal landscape, of kind of a minefield that I quite honestly feel very bad for HR generalist because they have to be, you know, an inch deep in a mile wide in so much, and this one has such big implications to get done wrong.

Totally biased, but I think they should absolutely outsource this.

And then you have the employee and the manager. So, role clarity 99.9% of the time completely void of these conversations and critical. Employee needs to understand, how will my role get done while I’m out? Who needs what and when? How can I best support my team and my peers? We call all those the ripple effects. Very often left out of the conversation.

And how do I want to come back in right? So, your example is so poignant and so telling in regard to check a box, go have a baby, for instance. Come back and do the job exactly the same way as you did it before.

It’s batshit crazy. You can’t do that. You can’t do that, no.

Mo: Or it can be done but my god, why do it that horrible?

Like that you know, so the attrition part of it, all of it, and then this can be so much better.

Jenn: So much better. And the more preplanning, the more they open the communication. Same school of thought for the manager, right? What are the ripple effects? What needs to be done ahead of time for the job to get done well?

The employees out on leave. How do we want to anticipate them coming back today? Where do we build in the checkpoints to say what needs to change and how? And keeping those lines of communication open. Because truly building a plane blindfolded you don’t know. You don’t know if it’s going to be a C-section. You don’t know if it’s going to be a pre term you don’t know any. There are so many things that you’ve got to build in the flexibility to say, we got you.

Whatever happens, we’re here we’ll figure it out together. Instead it’s so black and white and it’s, you’ll be back at three months, and you’re going to have six weeks, but it’s just gross.

Mo: I’m like why are we surprised by this? Why are we surprised? we’re not going to stop having babies. We’re not going to stop needing medical leave. We’re not going to stop like any of it.

It’s so painful to find somebody new, get them up to speed, get them to be, uh, you know really good strong member of your team. Instead of, we’re just going to see somebody through this. And actually, maybe that person, right? Maybe they’re the eight-week person. Maybe they’re the six-month person. Maybe they’re never going to come back in the same capacity.

But that could actually be better. I talked to some women at Moss Adams. They’ve had a flexible leave policy for a long time. I talked to women and they were like, I have to navigate with my partner. I have to navigate with my team, with my clients, with HR, and with my leader. It’s a lot, and I’ll die at my desk here because they saw me through this, and it hasn’t stopped my leadership track either.

Jenn: Yes, yeah, oh my gosh, I wish everybody could hear what you just said because what you just described has been proven by researchers. There is a 10X amplification on what a company does to an employee, good, bad, or indifferent during a life event like that. 10X It’s crazy.

I’ll never forget at the beginning and the inception of this this crazy world of tilt. This ride that we’re on. I remember statistic that’s burned in my brain.

Less than 4% of women will go back to an employer they worked at previously, to going out exiting the workforce because of having a child. So, you have a mom who’s had a baby and has decided, you know, I I really do want to stay home. I want to be a stay at home mom. That’s my choice. Awesome. hardest job in the world. More power to you.

Less than 4% of those women, when they decide to go back into the workforce are going back to that company they left. You peel back the layers of that onion, you know, it’s crazy that employer broke that relationship so badly. Whereas, if you go to the positive side of that coin and say, oh my God, who would want a warm talent pipeline of people who’ve been you put all this money and time and investment to when they’re ready come back to you? That’s crazy talk, crazy.

Mo: Right, so what are we even doing? Somebody does make that choice. What are you doing to nurture that relationship through the years?

Work Leave/ Employee Connection

Jenn: Right, and it’s not hard. It’s not something that every company can’t do right. It’s little things. It’s keeping in touch, it’s sharing the company newsletter. It’s random lunches. It’s cups of coffee. It’s hey, it’s your birthday. We’re still here.

Like come back to the office, we’re having an event, whatever. I mean it’s such low hanging fruit. It’s crazy to me that companies are not that long-term thinking.

Mo: And then during leave, right? So that’s something that you’ve talked about and that you’ve got built into the software that I can, I can let you know.

If I want right you to be reaching out to me to be, you know, having those touch points instead of again, my own leave, I left after working 12-hour days literally till the day before I had my daughter. And then I entered this twilight zone.

No communication. I can’t go back to 12-hour days, right? Instead, if there’d been this ongoing conversation… Yeah, yeah.

So, tell us, we’ve got just a couple of minutes, tells a little bit about Tilt. You are looking at a female founder who has raised money. So, whoop, whoop to you! Jenn, right, like you have to be 3 times as good to have gotten the money.

So, I know that what you’re up to it Tilt is fantastic. So just share a little bit and then how folks can reach out to you because you just have such a great resource.

Jenn: Thank you yeah, yes, we just closed around in a pandemic, which we feel really good about. It has opened up a lot of doors for where we want to continue to build Tilt. So, we were just growing like crazy. I gotta tell you we are in this beautiful place where our current clients are referring. And in the world of HR tech, that’s gold.

Because HR buyers are inundated with solutions, you know as well as I do, so that referral within our network for me as a founder is one of the most affirming things that I can see happening. It’s working. It’s making an impact. It’s making people’s lives easier and ultimately for our employees, we’ve had 100% retention of every single person that’s gone through Tilt. Like, come on, it’s amazing.

Mo: Yeah, the ROI of that on so many levels is phenomenal. Think about the impact in the world and in communities and in families, right. Not just like I think, sometimes we turn the lens to the organizational only and like think about all these families that you’ve seen through these leaves that are staying employed and productive and you know, happy at home. Yeah, fantastic.

Jenn: I used to say eating around dog food, but somebody gave me a much better way to say that, we’re drinking our own champagne. We have two of our key employees are, one just had a baby. And the other is due in December, so we’re in this really cool experience as well. Where we’re going through Tilt as a team. I’m going through Tilt as a leader and we’re able to see first-hand a small team.

We’re not a Fortune 500 company yet. How it can still work, right. So, this is, it’s just a beautiful synergy and my team takes obviously what we’re doing so literally, there’s such giving people. It’s a really awesome use case. It’s a great testimonial.

It’s great case study to be able to say you know what, we don’t have billions of dollars in the bank, and we can still let our people take a leave on their own terms in their own way.

And I just want to double click on something you said a few steps back, which was one of my key players she’s a VP of sales on leave right now. Is very clear in her only communication plan. These are the three things she wanted to stay up to date on every week. I update her on those three things and she’s so appreciative. She’s got four-week-old baby in her hand. She knows what she wanted to know on these top critical items and everything else is off her plate.

But that’s what she wanted. That’s what she wanted so, I love it. I love that it fits for her. It fits for us. She’s doing great. Yeah. So how people can get in touch with us,, Jenn at our tilt love to share what we’re doing.

Mo: Jenn, you post a lot of great stuff on LinkedIn, a lot of resources, a lot of articles, so if you’re not connected to Jenn, get connected and alright, we’re wrapping up. I want you to throw us one last truth bomb.

Jenn: My daughter is 3 and I have 15 years to fix this, so she never experiences what you or I experienced as a woman in the workplace, so I’ve got my clock. I know what time I’ve got, and yeah, we’re going make it happen.

Mo: Awesome, awesome, awesome. Thank you. Y’all we can do this better. Jenn and her team have so many resources and solutions, I hope you reach out to her.

Let’s do better. Let’s do better and see people through these life events. An everything that does from an equity standpoint and from an inclusion standpoint is well worth it. So, everybody get out there, do the next right thing and I will see you next week. Thanks Jen.

Jenn: Thanks!


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