Having an engaged workforce is all about providing rewarding work in a positive environment, so that employees want to deliver their best for the business every day.
To be truly effective, employee engagement strategies must take into account the changing needs of employees as they enter new stages of their life; the biggest of which is parenthood. This personal milestone has far-reaching consequences that change people’s priorities and require them to balance their work and personal lives like never before.
With competition for talent hotting-up all the time, family-friendly working practices will be among the most compelling elements of an employers’ value proposition for people planning to have children. Offering such benefits will only have a positive impact on retention, while failing to do so will encourage employees to look elsewhere.
Preparing for the inevitable
Showing the potential benefits, one large financial services firm now sees 90% of women return to the company following the birth of a child, thanks to policies that include emergency childcare and the ability for employees to buy or sell annual leave. The company also provides coaching for pregnant employees, returning mothers and new fathers, with a training programme covering issues around maternity for line managers.
Companies that put processes in place to anticipate family-based career breaks will improve return rates
Of course, employees having families isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, so acceptance and preparation by employers should be the norm, particularly for women, whose career progression should not be compromised by taking time out to have children. Companies that put processes in place to anticipate family-based career breaks will improve return rates and close their gender pay gap.
While addressing the needs of women in this regard is clearly important, it’s worth noting how childcare has become much more of a shared responsibility, meaning a family-friendly business needs to cater to the needs of both mothers and fathers.
Nordic countries have taken the lead here – new fathers in Sweden are actively incentivised to take 90 days off after their child is born – and now other countries in Europe are catching up. The UK, for instance, introduced Shared Parental Leave in 2015, allowing couples to divide their leave entitlement as they see fit.
Some companies in the UK have even gone beyond the requirements of the legislation, including professional services company Accenture, which offers its UK-based parents up to 32 weeks of parental leave on full pay, regardless of whether they are the main child carer.
Family friendly working day-to-day
Providing a compelling Shared Parental Leave policy, or enhanced paternity leave, is one way in which a business can support employees as they become parents. But family-friendly policies need to continue beyond the very first stages of parenthood, as children get older and families grow.
Companies should help new parents through the emotionally and practically challenging process of returning to work. This includes enabling them to work on a part-time basis, with the understanding that they may need to leave their workplace at short notice if their child is ill, or there is an issue with childcare.
Family-friendly policies need to continue beyond the very first stages of parenthood
As children get older, paid benefits such as childcare vouchers help parents as they juggle the demands of parenthood and their responsibilities at work. Some companies (like Goldman Sachs) even provide on-site childcare, although this clearly isn’t an option for the majority of companies.
More generally, companies wanting to keep new parents on their workforce engaged should allow employees to drop children off or pick them up from nursery or school, or allow them the flexibility to work at home when needed.
It’s also important to encourage a family-friendly approach amongst management, as employees like to feel their line managers and colleagues are supportive and understand that the wellbeing of their child contributes to their own.
Proving the benefits
Senior management will want to ensure that family-friendly policies are having the desired effect. As the brokers between a company’s employees and leadership, HR leaders must help ensure that employees are having their expectations met and that the business sees positive returns as a result. This requires them to quantify the impact of family-friendly policies.
Staff surveys are the established way of measuring employee engagement. Oracle’s own research revealed 68% of businesses still rely on standard staff surveys to get insight on engagement levels. The issue with surveys is that they are largely qualitative, which make it difficult to link engagement initiatives to improvements in productivity and retention.
HR teams therefore need to use talent analytics tools to measure the impact of family-friendly policies on employee engagement metrics such as absentee rates, staff retention and line manager feedback. You can also cross reference and analyse sales figures with productivity rates, customer service data, and traditional HR data. By bringing this all together, you can demonstrate to senior leadership the impact family-friendly working is having and secure their buy-in.
HR leaders must help ensure that employees are having their expectations met and that the business sees positive returns
Only by taking steps to put family-friendly policies in place and then quantifying their impact will HR understand what is working and be able to make changes that are backed by the board. If they are successful in doing this, we will create a work environment that is good for employees and their families, bringing a lasting benefit to the business as a whole.