Companies must make a choice: flex or fail

Rob Bravo, coaching director and head of wellbeing at Talking Talent, writes about the stark choice facing firms who want to thrive

Working part time


Organisations are about to be hit with a problem that could impact their very survival. Millennials, a generation leading the charge for a fairer society, have high expectations of their employers. Soon to make up 35% of the global workforce, they have grown up during the recession and choose value over loyalty, which has filtered down to their work habits. They constantly get approached for – and change – jobs, in a bid for more money and a better work/life balance. Many are now in mid-senior level management positions and nearly half plan to leave a job within two years – rightly believing that business’ priorities should include enhancing employees’ lives and careers.

The next challenge for this generation is starting a family. They want to be supported by their employers during the transition to becoming working parents, but organisations are currently ill-equipped to deal with their parental leave, or to keep them engaged throughout it. They are also digitally native, having grown up surrounded by technology, and are unafraid to buck traditional corporate expectations in favour of work-life balance, flexibility, convenience and personal fulfilment.

In a world of relentless change, companies failing to react to and meet the expectations of this workforce – as well as parents of all ages – risk disaster. It’s the people that work within an organisation that will ultimately determine its success or failure, so businesses must do more to retain them.

Getting ready for change

Organisations must ensure that both their formal and informal employee support schemes help keep employees engaged, happy, and fulfilled, during the most challenging time in their lives.

Younger parents, particularly millennials, are no longer willing to forego their professional ambitions to raise a family but simultaneously don’t want to sacrifice their family time, no longer adhering to the rigid rules that organisations have held onto historically. Just over 41% of those aged 25-34 strongly agree that work pressures often negatively impact their ability to be the parent they’d like to be, whilst 16% of 45-54-year olds also feel the same way.

There are three crucial stages to parental leave that working parents need help navigating: preparing for leave, preparing for return, and recently returned. Organisations must support parents through this crucial transition to establish and maintain a sustainable and rewarding work-life balance. By giving them the support they need, they will help keep working parents engaged, and progressing in their careers – which ultimately helps boost employee retention.

Traditionally, this kind of support has only been achievable through costly one-to-one coaching, usually only given to very senior-level employees. However, a digital approach can make working parent coaching economical and accessible in a way that suits millennial’s lifestyles and business budgets.

Increasing parental needs

The need for millennials to receive support during the transition to parental leave is backed up by the demands of parents of this age range, particularly when compared to other generations. Research has found that more than one in five (21%) parents aged 25-34 want the ability to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL), compared to only 13% of parents aged 35-44. Younger parents also think that making SPL more attractive to fathers is key for mothers to progress in their careers: one-in-three people under 35 believe this, compared to less than one-in-five over-35s.

They are also a generation welcoming professional help. Three-fifths (63%) of 25-34-year olds, compared to a quarter (25%) of those aged 45–54, would value receiving specialist coaching on managing the transition to becoming a working parent. That’s because they worry that juggling work and kids will hold back their career – a feeling becoming more pronounced with each successive generation. However, whilst digital coaching – as part of a blended approach – would be particularly beneficial for millennial parents, this form of support should be available, and offered, to parents of all ages.

The business case for digital coaching

Family-friendly equates to financial success for organisations that adopt a supportive approach towards working parents. For example, having working patterns that fit around working parents’ lives positively impacts their productivity at work and dedication to their employer.

For those who do work flexibly, three quarters (77%) agree it helps them work more productively. These workers are also more likely to be engaged, and yield significant advantages for employers – potentially generating 43% more revenue and improving performance by 20%, compared to disengaged employees. It’s hard to ignore the stats that a happy employee is 12% more productive than the ‘average’ employee. So, it’s a total win-win – a win for the working parent who is happier and more engaged and a win for the business and the inevitable impact this has on your bottom line.

As a new parent, the need for work-life balance is crucial: nobody should have to choose between being good at their job and being a good parent. Organisations should give all working parent employees, no matter their age, equal access to support, to ensure they are supported during all stages of parental leave – and younger parents’ needs must be particularly taken into consideration, The march of influence that millennials are having on the workplace and the futures of the organisations they work for is only going to get stronger, whilst the proportion of the workforce they make up is growing every day. Forward-thinking business leaders who provide digital coaching options that support these parents-to-be will have a strong, productive and happy workforce as a result.

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