Family-friendly workplaces are good for business
They promote employee loyalty, productivity and morale
Family-friendly workplaces have a lot going for them, including basic decency and fairness, advancing the rights of women and promoting the health and well-being of children, just to name a few major benefits. But they also offer measurable advantages when it comes to advancing businesses themselves and the business sector as a whole.
Although family-friendly workplaces by definition are more accommodating to parents, they are particularly important for women who too often are confronted with a stark choice between caring for their children, supporting their family economically and advancing their careers.
The most basic thing that family-friendly workplaces do for any business is to put that business in a better position to attract women employees, to retain them, to support them and to advance them — and in particular to advance them into the upper echelons of management. And when companies do that, when they build gender-diverse management teams and gender-diverse boards, something very interesting happens – the companies actually perform better.
The research on the benefits of gender-diverse leadership is beyond compelling — it is overwhelming. When women are advanced in business — and particularly when women are represented in greater numbers on corporate boards and in senior management — companies benefit.
Advancing women and promoting gender diversity and equality in the workplace isn’t simply a matter of more women in senior management, or more women on the board. It is also a question of the right policies, the right benefits, the best way to treat human beings and to nurture human capital. And here, gender-diverse leadership delivers results once again because where women are better represented in senior leadership, companies are more likely to adopt family-friendly work policies in the first place.
Simply put, family-friendly policies work.
At Pax World, we offer a family and medical leave policy that includes 12 weeks paid leave for new parents, which applies to maternity, paternity, adoption and foster care placement. The leave may be taken any time during the child’s first year of life (or adoption, or foster placement) and may be taken intermittently so that our employee, and their spouse, can organize their time off in a way that maximizes their time with their child.
We are a small company (49 employees) with roughly equal numbers of male and female employees and over the past several years, 22 employees have used our parental leave policy upon the birth or adoption of a child — 17 men and five women. This is significant because some research suggests that a stigma attaches to a man using parental leave, thereby disincentivizing men from using family leave, and this in turn has a chilling effect that disincentivizes women from using parental leave. It is critically important that fathers as well as mothers avail themselves of this leave. And I am very pleased to report that this has been the case at our company.
About a year ago, I gathered together employees who had used our parental and medical leave, to ask about their experiences, and whether there was anything we could do to improve the program or the experience. It makes us more loyal, they said. It makes us more productive. It makes us a better team. It makes for stronger morale. It’s why we love working here. We know it requires support at the top and we appreciate how much the company cares about our families. I was blown away by their feedback. It literally gives me goose bumps to recall that meeting.
I can tell you from the data and the research we look at every day in order to identify companies for our investment portfolios, and I can tell you from what we have learned ourselves in managing our own company, and trying to practice what we preach, that being a good corporate citizen and a profitable, successful business are inextricably linked.
Being a good corporate citizen, of course, isn’t the only key to business success. But if you offer a good product or service in a healthy, growing industry, where you are competitive, you will eventually fall behind your peers if you do not understand the central role of human capital. Conversely, you will gain a competitive advantage if everyone in your business is treated with dignity, if you make accommodations for employees and their families, if you attract and promote and advance women so that your company derives the business advantages that drive from diverse leadership.
The research is clear, and my company’s experience is clear: A family friendly business is a healthy business, pure and simple.
Joe Keefe is president and CEO of Portsmouth-based Pax World. This article is derived from a speech he delivered in September at “The Winning Workplaces: Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance Summit” in Manchester.