Free lunches, gym benefits, 401K matching... You're doing everything possible to attract and retain the best talent. But people keep leaving. Are you missing something major?

US workplaces are notoriously un-family-friendly. There are exceptions of course, and if you're looking at a roomful of 20-somethings, family-friendliness may not be high on your list of concerns. But just wait. Soon you'll notice a new kind of attrition - parents failing to return from maternity or paternity leave - or even leaving before they have a child on the way in anticipation of a too-tough work-life balance.

Replacing people is expensive. This is especially true for specialized, skilled work. ‘The number that tends to get thrown around is 150% of an individual’s salary,’ says the executive director for diversity and inclusion at KPMG. If a company has gone to the trouble of hiring and training someone, avoiding voluntary turnover boosts the bottom line.
— Fast Company

Why you should care

Why spend big on other benefits to retain the best only to have them run from your policies?

Investing years of training and experience in a team member only to have them move on prematurely can feel like a personal insult - and perhaps more so when the reasons for their departure were entirely preventable.

If you're building a team to last, make sure you're covering all your bases. As much as possible, businesses must do the right thing by all employees - whether they're happily childless, thinking about starting a family, or newly with child. 

 

What you can do

1. Provide competitive family leave for all employees. This is a no brainer, but it's hard to do. All employees, male and female? Yes, women tend to do the childbearing, but aside from breastfeeding there's nothing about rearing a child a man can't do or learn. And in covering everyone, you're removing a layer of discrimination in hiring. And think about it: would you rather hire someone who takes on an even burden of housework and childrearing at home or someone who disproportionately works all the "second shift" hours and comes in tired every day? Redress the balance. Show your team that you lead like it's 2017.

 

2. Destigmatize the family.

When it comes to family policies, “if it isn’t role-modeled by people in positions of influence, it won’t be used,” says IBM’s Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Chief Diversity Officer. She's right. Think about it: if your boss shuns parental leave, it's harder for you to take it without others drawing unfavorable comparisons.

Own your company culture. Is there a stigma attached to male employees' taking on childcare responsibilities? Did a senior leader fail to take advantage of his or her leave? Being without a strong employee for a few weeks or months is nothing compared to losing them forever. And if you give them the leave they need, they'll keep returning. Set the tone.

It's not just about leave. If you hear an off-color comment about a pregnant employee or parent (or anyone really), don't wait for someone else to say something. You set the tone. You don't have to call in HR (unless it's a truly serious incident), a simple comment can do a lot.

 

3. Simple policy changes.

Would it really kill productivity if you suggested no one schedule meetings before 10am or after 3:30pm? Probably not. And any parent will tell you that this is the type of simple change that makes their day-to-day a little easier.

You know your company and culture better than I do. And your team knows it better still. What can you change? What would people want to change? Ask your team what would make the biggest difference. 

 

4. Talk to employees. 

Encourage managers to ask employees what's working and what's not. Maybe a simple meeting audit will give people some time back and raise morale. Perhaps a later start time for one employee will make the difference between being present for the morning school run (and therefore fully engaged in work when they do arrive) versus being on time and kind of annoyed about it (and with an annoyed spouse at home trying to do everything).

This is just one example. Keep the conversation going - in your one-on-one reviews, take a moment to ask what's working for them in terms of balancing life and work, and what isn't. It's all well and good to hire smarter, but what are you doing to retain smarts?

 

5. Flex-time, job-sharing, part-time, work from home, childcare

Can you offer any of the above? Great - try it.

If not - why not? Piloting a flex-time program could help you reap benefits in terms of loyalty and retention. It doesn't have to be drastic - arriving an hour early and leaving one hour late won't upend your business. But it might just help you keep your star employee around.

 

What are you doing to retain staff and raise morale? Talk to us.