What is your company's obligation to your employees' family life? And are the costs of top-shelf benefits and policies such as extended parental leave and flexibility really worthwhile in the long run? These questions should be on the mind of every senior manager in Corporate America.
For many companies in the U.S., these questions are still hypothetical exercises. And yet, recently, I was blown away to learn about one company that has gone past the theorizing and is leading the way in terms of action: TD Bank.
TD Bank came to my attention this week because of its recent announcement that it is providing 16 weeks paid parental leave to all new parents - birth and adoptive. This policy applies to all employees of the bank, whether they are women or men, corporate or retail, so long as they have been employed with TD at least one year and work a minimum of 20 hours for week.
For anyone who is not knee-deep in the maternity leave conversation, it's critical for you to understand what makes TD's policy best in class. Many American women who even qualify for parental leave (meaning job protection) receive just 6 weeks unpaid leave; some luckier group are able to benefit from short-term disability through their company that gives them some amount of paid leave depending upon length of service. Most American men receive no time off at all after the birth of a child, paid or unpaid. Why? Because on the surface, paid leave is just really expensive.
Many observers have become inurned to these standards, which is why it was so refreshing to get to talk to Beth Webster, Executive Vice President of Human Resources at TD Bank. Webster spearheaded the implementation of TD's new industry-leading policy, and observes that "connectivity to your child matters" -- especially for someone who our society has traditionally viewed as the "secondary" caregiver (read: the man).
Webster says TD Bank is on a quest to "make it easier for employees to have equal access to a great career and a wonderful family life."
How did TD Bank justify an expensive investment in this new parental leave program - even on top of an already rich employee benefits package and recent improvements to their minimum wage?
"That is the culture of TD Bank. The value proposition of the "Human Bank" [TD's motto] means we care a great deal," Webster told me. "Employee engagement and satisfaction drives customer satisfaction," a poignant insight for those who question the benefit of value of expensive employee benefits programs.
I think it's essential and woefully unusual to see how TD Bank links customer satisfaction and other key performance metrics to employee satisfaction -- which the bank links to an employees' ability to fulfill their duties to their families. This is the link that is too often forgotten when companies are planning strategy at the highest level.
What can you take away from TD Bank's bold step toward a leading parental leave policy? Next time you're thinking about your talent strategy, or your customer strategy, or even your top-line business strategy, consider these questions:
1. What level of job satisfaction do my employees have, and how is it impacting my performance?
It's time to take out the mirror and do some honest assessing. A Net Promoter Score among employees can be very useful in that regard.
Ultimately, as Webster has identified, there is a strong connection between your employees' opinion of you and your customers'. So your investment in employee satisfaction can and will be measured by an uptick in customer opinion.
2. How badly is churn hurting your business?
I have felt strongly first-hand in my corporate experience how churn can negatively impact performance. I'm a big believer that churn is sorely underestimated in terms of how it detracts from key metrics like revenue, efficiency, customer satisfaction and even innovation. How can employees be innovative when they are busy plugging holes left by vacant positions, recruiting and training new staff?
"The cost of not doing it is much greater. If turnover numbers are going up, it's a huge cost to the company -- not just in administration, but in customer satisfaction," Webster told me.
If you think employee benefits are expensive, do some modeling on the opportunity cost that churn is costing your business.
3. How will you win the war for talent in 10 years?
The most moving part for me about talking to Beth Webster was hearing about the feedback she received after the announcement: "In my whole career," Webster said, "I have never received so many messages from employees about anything I have ever done that could come close to this. People are telling me, 'I am so proud that TD Bank has done this. This matters.'"
She said that the pride was evident, and felt equally among employees who would not benefit from this policy because they had already had their children.
And please never forget that your company will only ever be as good as your talent.
So as you think about building your business, ask yourself, "What is the value of making mine a company that my employees are proud to work for? What benefit will that yield me?" And then, let the answer to that question guide you in how much you really should spend.