Sarah Bilston has been with Cummins for 25 years now. She jokes she’s been married to Cummins longer than she’s been with her husband. Like any long-term relationship, flexibility and support have proven to be essential contributors to a strong and successful career.
We’ve seen ‘flexible working’ go from an HR buzzword to a completely new way of doing business over the last eighteen months, but workplaces like Cummins have been supporting employees like Sarah far longer than this.
Here are four examples of ways Cummins has supported Sarah with flexible working over the last 25 years.
1. Flexible location
After joining Cummins in 1995 as an Assistant Accountant at an Adelaide power generation plant, Sarah was given the opportunity to relocate to Melbourne three years later when a new opportunity in their Finance team opened. After 10 years in Melbourne, it was her husband’s turn for a new promising job opportunity, this time in Sydney.
“I had a discussion with the leadership of Cummins. I said we really want to take this opportunity. My role was head office based, and I asked if I would have to resign. They said, ‘absolutely not!’”
Sarah was allowed to continue her role working from home in Sydney, and even now, as Major Accounts Leader for Mining (APAC), she still mostly works from home.
2. Flexible work schedules
Sarah has had two sons and was supported with generous parental leave and part-time hours as she returned to work. For her first pregnancy she happened to be the first woman manager in the South Pacific region to go on maternity leave and helped adapt the global policies on a regional level.
“I had my second son a year after I returned, and this time I took 12-months leave, and came back to work just three days a week after that. This progressive balance was great. I was able to move up from three to four to eventually back to five days a week. I discussed and agreed it all with my manager to make it work with the job I was doing at the time.”
Sarah was an active member of (and continues to support) the Women’s Employee Resource Group, which helped launch the original flexible work policy back in early 2000. Together they worked through all the wording and influences of Cummins policies and procedures to help improve on the inclusive culture of the company.
3. Flexible learning options
Sarah applauds how all employees are supported to learn and grow with Cummins. Saying, “Investment in education has been there from the very first day I started.”
Cummins not only assisted with Sarah’s fees to be a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) when she first started, they also offered her a fully paid MBA opportunity through Indiana University in the United States. She was one of just 30 Cummins employees selected that year from the entire global organization to be offered this amazing opportunity.
“As long as education has been in line with what I’m doing I’ve been given opportunities to educate. For example, 6 Sigma training facilitator was part of one of my job roles, so I discussed with my manager whether it was possible to develop my skills further in public speaking. And again, Cummins was willing to support this.”
4. Flexible career pathways
One of the biggest things Sarah says sets Cummins apart from other employers is their ability to really listen to where she wanted to go with her career and provide pathways and opportunities to gain experience to fulfill her potential.
Sarah’s 25-year career has seen her move from finance to continuous improvement projects (6 Sigma) to management and most recently into a customer-facing role looking after two of their largest clients.
“My flexible working arrangements have allowed me to explore different career opportunities. It is a two-way street. Sometimes, when I’ve taken on new tasks or jobs, I’ve felt out of my depth, but these are also the times I learnt the most about myself. It’s taught me to reach out to others for support, to gain as much knowledge. And the support network at Cummins has always been there for me through these times.”
Tips for approaching flexible working conversations
For those looking to find similar success with flexible arrangements at work, whether they be your location or hours, or within your career pathway and learning options, Sarah offers the following advice:
“Frame it around a business case. Point out the benefits you bring, how the arrangements would work with your current job role and give confidence to management that your job won’t be compromised. It’s important to bring your best attributes to the discussion as well as present your manager with a good plan to ensure it’s a success for both yourself and the company.”
Cummins is a global brand providing power solutions for its customers. But they’ve also been providing flexibility solutions for their employees that have certainly supported Sarah’s career and have helped make her life better.
“I have been incredibly lucky. I am working with and for a great bunch of people.”