This employer gives female staff an overseas adventure that changes lives

An overseas adventure to challenge and inspire: How one employer gives it to female staff

Women Without Limits
Stryker is already known for being one of Australia’s Best Places to Work, but its Women Without Limits program is seriously unique in setting it apart from other employers.

The program’s start in 2017 saw all female employees invited to apply for the adventure challenge of a lifetime, with the three women selected later saying the mystery trip changed their professional and personal lives.

It was the idea of employee and Stryker product manager Lucy Millar, who is known in the medical tech company’s Australian offices for being active and doing some challenging things outside of work, like ice climbing, ocean diving, skydiving and various water-sports.

After Lucy was approached multiple times by different women asking how she has the ‘courage’ to do such things (she shares her trips through a beautiful Instagram account), she came up with an idea: if putting herself out of her comfort zone helped build her confidence, surely it could do the same thing for the women at her workplace?

She approached senior management with the suggestion they come up with an activity that encourages women to go beyond their perceived physical limits: a week long trip that would take them out of their comfort zones. Management quickly said yes.

The program ran through Stryker’s Women’s Network, which invited women to apply — with little idea what they were applying for. Senior HR business partner Nicki Luther tells Women’s Agenda just the application process was challenging enough, with women encouraged to be open and vulnerable about what they were looking to address in their lives.

“As a leadership team, we chose three very different women from across the business, who wanted to do the program for different reasons,” says Nicki. The three included one who was ready to move into leadership, another who was a new mother who had recently moved to Australia, and a third who really wanted to do something to change her life.

Stryker sent them to New Zealand with Lucy, where they did everything from white water rafting to bungee jumping, spending a night alone in an isolated cabin and taking on challenging hikes in the dark.

Wanaka 10 4 2017 Photo: Beau Pilgrim

A year later and all three say the program completely transformed their lives, and has given them more confidence to take professional and personal risks. Two of the participants have gone on to get promotions within the business, another has gone on to significantly change her health.

The program was so successful, it’s being run again this year with a new group selected for the 2018 adventure.

In an industry that’s still male-dominated, Stryker — a US$9 billion Fortune 500 company — is already doing comparatively well when it comes to the recruitment and retention of women. Its senior leadership team is 55% female — and the business boasts strong family friendly policies.

It introduced 12 weeks paid leave for primary caregivers five years ago, enabling employers to be eligible ten months into their role. They also offer new parents $1000 a month for the first three months on their return to work, to help with the financial burden of transitioning back and dealing with childcare and other costs. Nicki says most staff have some kind of flexible work arrangement,

With 600 employees in Australia, Stryker’s been featured in the top three spots on the Best Places to Work for the past three years, taking out the top spot in 2017.

Nicki says their success as an employer comes down to culture. “We’re focused on the individual, who they are, what makes them special and how we can help them develop,” she says.

When it comes to hiring staff, she says they care less about experience and qualifications and more about talent, especially when it comes to sales roles which make up a huge portion of the Australian employee base. “It’s on whether they can pick up that products expertise, and really build those relationships.”

Stryker is a finalist at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, in the category celebrating the Employer Initiative of the Year. Limited tickets still available for this week’s (Friday 5 2018) Leadership Luncheon.

Photos Above by: Beau Pilgrim 

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