The common perception is that when people have kids they become less dedicated to their jobs and more dedicated to their families. I get that - don't you? I admit that, given the choice to hire a single person or someone who's buried under the demands of a busy family life I would be tempted to lean towards the person who would devote the most time as possible to my company. I wouldn't want my clients to have to compete with Junior's swim lessons, right?
Well, as usual, it turns out I'm wrong.
According to a recent Best Workplaces for Parents study by Fortune Magazine, which surveyed 400,000 employees at hundreds of organizations, it seems that parents of children happen to also be great employees with better long term prospects for a company - in many cases even better than those who don't have kids.
The study found that nine out of ten moms planned a long-term future at their current company, a much greater share than members with no children at all. At most employers, 88 percent of mothers and 87 percent of fathers said that their jobs were more than just a job.
When you think about it, this data shouldn’t be that surprising. If you’re a parent, just think about it. Given the chance to be in a professional environment with nice people and a challenging project does seem to have its advantages over being stuck at home and screaming at your bickering children while resisting the urge to jump out the nearest window the next time an episode of Bunsen is a Beast comes on, right? So yeah, it’s all starting to make a little more sense.
But there's more to it. For most, a career is an important part of an employee's self-worth, regardless of a change in family situation. If anything, the study found, parents are "even more committed to their work when providing for their families” because it “adds additional meaning to their labor." People take pride in where they work and the contributions they make to the world beyond just raising their kids - particularly if their kids can be as annoying as my kids. When employers embrace this idea, they find that their employees are up to 15 times more likely to want to work for them for a long time.
But changing a corporate culture to better accommodate working parents takes effort. Smart employers also understand the scheduling challenges that many parents face. They don't expect less from an employee just because there's a new baby around. Instead, they work to help provide a more flexible environment and offer ways to be productive around a parent's busy calendar. According to the study, 86 percent of the best workplaces offered choices for flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities.
But that’s not all. Companies must make the effort to pay special attention to equal pay, minimize office politics where possible (yeah, good luck with that one), use technology to allow busy parents access to meetings even when not in the office and include parents in company activities, accomplishments and goals. These actions make the difference between a long term employee and someone who gets frustrated and leaves. Again, people want to be part of something and not feel like they’re now an outsider just because they have family commitments.
Companies are also realizing that designing compensation strategies that include families resonates with many of their employees. For example, awarding family vacations for salespeople who hit their targets or offering scholarships or internships to employees' children go a long way with employees who have kids and contributes greatly to recruitment and retainage. Just be careful your benefit packages do not discriminate against those who don’t have kids - sometimes it’s not their choice.
The takeaway is that if you’re an employer looking for good people, then don’t avoid those with children and create incentives to attract them to your company. Turns out they could very well be much better employees in the long term.