How to Succeed in Supporting Your Company’s Working Families

Key indicators of organizational health—engagement, productivity, and retention—suffer when working moms, dads, and other caregivers don’t have a solid support system in place. When you can provide those solutions for your employees, it engenders loyalty and drives performance.

When a company introduces new work-life benefits, such as paid maternity leave or backup care, it’s critical the program is driven by more than a desire to check off boxes, make a “Best Places” list, or create a splashy headline. It has to make good business sense.

Key indicators of organizational health—engagement, productivity, and retention—suffer when working moms, dads, and other caregivers don’t have a solid support system in place. When you can provide those solutions for your employees, it engenders loyalty and drives performance. That’s why leading enterprises already are finding work-life benefits and programs to be a competitive advantage, not only in terms of recruiting and retaining top talent, but cutting absenteeism and improving performance, as well.

We surveyed Fortune 100, 250, 500, and 1000 employees late last year and found 90 percent of employees have left work, and 30 percent cut back by more than six hours per week due to family responsibilities. That’s time not spent working, and we know that this type of absenteeism costs businesses billions in lost productivity costs each year. The survey also found 41 percent of working parents admit the lack of work-family benefits and support has hurt their job performance, and 62 percent of all employees would leave their job for a comparable one with better work-life benefits. Turnover is another billion-dollar problem for American businesses.

Bottom line is: Competition for today’s best and brightest is stiff, and if you’re not thinking about your employees’ lives outside of work, you’re going to get left behind. But as you build your work-life benefits program, you also have to keep your business needs in mind.

Here are some tips that can help you establish a program that supports working families and helps your company win for the long-term:

  1. Get your employees involved. The first step to designing a work-life program that meets your workforce’s needs and makes good business sense is to collect input from your employees to see what kinds of supports they want and need. Use focus groups and surveys, and consult with any affinity or employee resource groups to collect your intel. Getting input from employee advocates early on in the process will give you promoters, champions and conduits as you roll out these employee supports.
  2. Do your homework, then design flexible, scalable solutions. After you’ve consulted with your employees, evaluate their requests and use data on your company’s size, budget and demographics to see where you can make the most impact and what makes the most sense for the business. Nine months of paid parental leave and on-site child care sounds wonderful in principle, but there are costs associated with these programs that simply are not affordable for many companies. For example, how many women can you expect to have babies in a given year, and what would it cost to provide paid maternity leave and cover the cost of replacement labor where it’s needed? As you further crunch the numbers, you might find that you can’t make a business case for on-site child care, but you can offer a resource and referral option that can scale as your company grows or workforce demographics change.
  3. Address all types of families. Working moms and dads are, rightly, getting a lot of attention. They make up a large, and incredibly important, workplace demographic. However, a successful program for supporting working families has to touch all types of families – from the new parents to pet parents to adults caring for aging parents. More than 65 million adults are providing care for someone who is ill, disabled or aged, and Pew Research has found nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s are “sandwiched,” providing care for both their children and aging relatives. Elder care can be the most disruptive for employees as these responsibilities arise suddenly, setting off a scramble for information and care. An employer-provided resource and referral program can be invaluable for working families thrust into this type of situation. When nearly 70 percent of caregivers are forced to make workplace adjustments, it’s critical to provide work-life support that applies to all types of working families. Additionally, a program designed to support all employees eliminates the sense of inequality that can crop up if certain populations feel underserved in comparison to, say, new moms who have access to paid parental leave and flexible schedules.
  4. Educate, communicate and communicate again. Newsflash: Employees don’t read their handbooks. A recent MetLife survey found less than half of employees say their company effectively educates employees about their benefits options. A lack of awareness and utilization will limit the effectiveness of even the best-designed work-life program, so it’s incumbent upon us to make sure employees understand their benefits and take advantage of the supports available to them. For example, a recent Care.com member survey found more than a third of working parents didn’t realize their FSAs could be applied toward care. If you’re struggling with low utilization, try freshening up employee communication efforts with some targeted life stage marketing or hosting on-site expert seminars.
  5. Train managers to implement your programs. A key component to any work-life or work-family program is management training. Organizations will often have broad policies governing flexible work arrangements and family leave transitions, but they’re executed. That’s why it’s so important for programs to be supported at every level of the organization, from the C-suite down to the call center. Managers should be educated in leave policies and “how to” trained in how to manage remote or flex workers. The better equipped your managers are to understand the challenges and help employees work through them, the stronger your team will be during times of transition.

Al Zink is senior vice president, HR, at Care.com. Since launching in 2007, Care.com has been committed to solving the complex care challenges that impact families, caregivers, employers, and care service companies. Today, Care.com is a global online destination for finding and managing family care, with 10.3 million families and 8.1 million caregivers across 16 countries, including the U.S., UK, Canada, and parts of Western Europe, and approximately 800,000 employees of corporate clients having access to its services. Spanning child care to senior care, pet care, housekeeping and more, Care.com provides an array of services for families and caregivers to find, manage, and pay for care or find employment. 

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