Retaining experienced staff in engineering: Karen's story


Karen Batt works part time as Manager – International Development for Standards Australia. She has been working for the organisation for 12 years, and holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Environmental Engineering and a Masters in International Relations. Standards Australia supported Karen’s studies, paying half the cost when she completed her Masters. “I really enjoyed the course, which I did part-time over two years.”

Flexible working hours while raising children

At the moment, Karen does most of her work at home, with flexible hours when she needs them. On returning from maternity leave she was able to slowly increase the number of hours she worked, and now does two days per week. “My boss trusts me to get the work done and is very supportive. In return, I work hard and am very loyal.” Karen notes that there are good and not-so good aspects about working from home, “I miss the social interaction in the office”.

Keeping valuable skills and knowledge within the organisation

Adrian O’Connell, Deputy CEO Standards Australia, explains why the organisation has supported Karen to work flexible hours. “Karen is an experienced and capable staff member with a track record of high performance and good results. Standards Australia values her skills and knowledge, and we were able to establish working arrangements that worked for both Karen and us.”

Providing flexible or part-time working arrangements isn’t a given. The applicant must have already had some time working for Standards Australia, and also be employed in a position which is suitable for somebody working part-time or off-site.

Karen’s role

Karen’s role involves encouraging people to use and develop international standards. “Sharing one standard gives a world-wide level playing field. If you’re buying materials anywhere in the world, you’re guaranteed the same dimension, strength and ductility.” Adrian points out that advances in information technology mean that having Karen and other staff working from home is relatively seamless, “Although it is important for Karen to attend meetings at the office every couple of months for face-to-face discussions.”

Developing and progressing an engineering career

“I’m passionate about the environment and wanted to make a difference”, says Karen. “I wanted  to come out of university with a vocation and the prospect of a job. I love what I do – there’s lots of variety and interesting challenges.”

Karen also enjoys the contact with people which her job involves, and says that she’s stayed interested because her role has changed over the years. “I have a great work-life balance, and would like this to continue.” Karen is currently taking a career development course funded by Standards Australia which, she says, will help her with decisions about the future.

It’s worth doing

For other employers considering whether to allow variations in working hours or location, Aidan advises that it’s worth doing. “If you have a valuable staff member who, due to their personal circumstances, requires flexibility, it is in your interest to make the arrangements work for you and the employee.”

Big thanks to Karen for her time and advice. If you have any questions get in touch

March 2015