Get creative, says Microsoft HR head

The HR head of Microsoft New Zealand has encouraged organisations to get creative with their company benefits – particularly if they’re limited in resources.

“Not every organisation is like Microsoft in terms of size and scope so that’s why they sometimes need to be a bit more creative in how they look at it,” says Ebeny Kurz-Firth.

Kurz-Firth’s comments come after the company announced significant changes to its own family leave benefits – including up to four paid weeks off to care for a sick relative and up to 20 weeks paid time off for a primary caregiver.

“I thought most of the focus would be around the parental leave changes but the one that has seen the biggest response is the benefit around caring for your sick family members,” reveals Kurz-Firth.

“A lot of personal stories have come out around that and from my own experience of seeing what employees go through, there is a lot of guilt in taking time off and people keep quiet and they try to juggle work with whatever significant life event is going on.”

Kurz-Firth says even companies that can’t afford to give employees such extensive time off can do their best to create a culture where staff can be open and don’t feel guilty about taking time out.

“Organisations need to think more creatively about how they can create that culture,” she tells HRM. “It really comes down to what culture the company wants to drive.”

Even before the official policy came into place, Kurz-Firth says Microsoft NZ would have given staff time off had they asked for it but she admits many might not have felt comfortable doing so.

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“It’s about giving people the permission to ask and making it okay,” she says. “It’s an outward statement that they don’t have to juggle everything.”

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