Over the years, I have seen people I admire leave good jobs at good companies due to a lack of flexibility. I left a good job at a large company when my children were young because I needed more control over my life. I started The Northridge Group with a partner and we planned to job-share. We quickly realized that our early success warranted a full-time commitment, but we always allowed ourselves the flexibility to be there for our families and attend our children’s school and extra-curricular functions. I want my employees to have similar opportunities to achieve work/life balance.
I remember the days when maternity leaves were strictly limited to six weeks and there were no paternity leaves. After adopting my daughter, I learned first-hand the difficult reality that a five-day leave was all adoptive moms could expect at the time. Times have changed, but this experience prompted me to make sure we developed a fair parental leave policy for both moms and dads at Northridge. We researched what other market-leading` firms offered and made sure our policy was competitive.
I don’t have to do the math to know that if I compare the cost of parental leave for a key contributor to the cost of recruiting and onboarding a suitable replacement, the parental leave will pay for itself. If a new parent comes back to work too early, he or she won’t be able to focus and may leave. If you are generous with parental time off and flexible on schedule, employees will repay you with their loyalty and will be motivated to demonstrate stellar job performance when they return.
Health and Family Matters
The ability to work virtually has brought increased flexibility to the workplace. Over the years, the emphasis has shifted from hours worked to results. If my employees deliver the results I expect, I’ll happily give them the flexibility to meet family needs.
I have allowed employees with ill family members to work virtually. Employees in situations like this truly appreciate the consideration they’re given and are motivated to make the arrangement work. I have also been flexible with employees who became ill, themselves. At times this has required putting someone else in an acting role, which can be difficult for the person filling in. I believe in being accommodating when an employee is in a tough situation. It’s important to consider individual circumstances and be flexible within limits. Sometimes you’ve got to be creative, but the consideration you show the employee in need won’t be forgotten.
While millennials are known for expecting flexibility at work, I think the generation before millennials broke the glass. Many managers and CEOs recognize the need to allow employees to achieve work/life balance. However, balancing customer needs with employee needs can be a challenge. Moving a client deadline due to an employee’s absence is seldom the right answer for us. If a client was promised a deliverable on a certain date, the answer for us is usually for the rest of our team to pitch in. Competent team members complete the project and seamlessly deliver it to the client on time during the employee’s absence.
With the demand (and necessity) of flexibility at an all-time high, it’s important to have policies in place that promote work/life balance and a company culture that respects an employee’s unique situation. When an employee comes to me with a request for flexibility, I try to work with them. While I am motivated by the opportunity to earn an employee’s loyalty by providing policies that provide work/life balance, I am more driven to provide it because it is simply the right thing to do. And what I have found time and again, is that the benefits to the company, such as loyalty and retention, usually outweigh the costs.