Squeezing a big organization's history and tradition into a svelte new culture is tough. And, writing down the new inclusive, diversity-focused, and family-loving policies is actually the easy part. The hard part is getting from paper to practice.

Smart start-ups know this and begin with the end in mind. Businesses like Birchbox and Warby Parker have found creative, innovative, and engaging ways to survey satisfaction as well as really listen and anticipate their employee's needs. The results? Thriving companies that provide impressive results on both measures of revenue and employee engagement.

Financial success is huge and comes first, of course. After all, this is business. Interestingly, these places have tapped the truth that workforce stability fuels the bottom line. Employees stay and are able to bring their best selves to work every day because they feel included, supported, and see other people like themselves in leadership positions.

Consultant and entrepreneur, Julia Beck and I recently sat down to discuss the state of family leave policies in business. "We have this footrace going on with companies touting benefits for working parents but people aren't actually following through with them," Beck commented. For example, companies are using a combination of internal drive and external pressure to expand parental leave to dads, encourage a gradual reintroduction to work after having a baby, and create clean and comfortable lactation rooms among other changes.

Yet, what many working parents expect after reading the official company policy isn't what they're experiencing.

So how do companies "walk the walk" of their touted policies for flexibility?

  1. Ensure the CEO and other top leaders model the behavior and are vocal about it.
  2. Gamify the desired behavior. Introducing step or fitness competitions such as the GCC Challenge have a great track record for successfully engaging employees.
  3. Encourage managers to talk through creative solutions to their employee's schedule challenges. Many managers default to requiring the standard 9-to-5 expectation but there are really few roles that require that kind of rigid schedule every day.
  4. Create a system to match mentors to employees facing new phases in life--new parents, recent graduates, geographic moves, etc.

Building a family-friendly corporate culture may be easier when you're starting from scratch with a start-up. It also might be easier for firms that are more comfortable with technology. However, neither of these conditions are necessary. What is needed is the desire to make a positive change for employees, the follow through with a deliberate effort that builds gradually toward the culture you wish for.