Engaging employees is on top of the priority list for all organizations. And with that comes catering to the needs of different employee demographics – millennials, women leaders, star performers, etc. One such group is that of the working parents. To keep them focused and happy, companies have implemented a wide range of ideas – flexi-timings, offering school pick-ups, allowing family to join on business trips, food vouchers, and coaches for new mothers.

But what if your company cannot afford such solutions? Experts believe that the most powerful solutions are low investment, and low intervention! Here are some ideas on how to find solutions that suit your needs, as well as those of your working parent employees.

  • Understand the demographic better. Many initiatives are focused on new parents – maternity/ paternity leaves, lactation rooms, play pens, etc. But what organizations forget is that parenting is at least an 18-year job! And that both men as well as women fulfil this role. There are new family structures emerging too – think single parents, gay/ lesbian parents, and adoptive parents. We ideally want to have all-inclusive policies. Thus, instead of just focusing on new mothers, design initiatives for all. For example, have extra leaves for a family day, or leave for child’s sickness, and so on.
  • Acknowledge the challenge of parenting. The myth goes that one can’t have both. You choose between being a parent and a star employee. But organizations are breaking that stereotype, to accommodate parenthood into the work environment. Goldman Sachs’s ‘Help at Home’ intranet bulletin board allows employees to trade tips on child care. People can also pass hand-me-down baby and child products to their colleagues. No intranet? An old school notice board works too! The result: a more collaborative culture, and employees who spend less time worrying about parenting problems.
  • Make transitions easier. Parenthood brings transitions like paternity/ maternity leaves, accepting change in roles to accommodate change in family needs, etc. Employees consistently need to hand-off work to others, and take over too. These instances need much ease, as they tend to derail even the most competent people. A powerful example of managing this well is Johnson & Johnson – they permit mothers and fathers to use their parental leave on a phase-back basis, ensuring not only time out of office but also a gentler return transition. Other organizations have specialized counselors on call for support.
  • Study company data to assess pain points. Sometimes, organizations have unique initiatives, but fail to implement them at the right time. An antidote to that: gather organizational data. What attrition patterns do you see? What do annual performance reviews say? A Fortune 500 company examined its new-parent retention rates. It didn’t find attrition immediately after maternity leave, but found an unseen pattern of departures 12–18 months afterward. The firm’s strategy: hold manager checkpoints 9 to 12 months after employees come back, using the time to discuss work-life issues and career path.

Parenting impacts all aspects of our lives. The sooner we acknowledge that in organizations, the better chances we have at building a work culture that is inclusive, and celebrates loyal, engaged employees.

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