Giving men space to be dads can drive innovation at work

Huge global survey finds supporting fathers is a key part of achieving equality in the workplace

caregiving fathers flexible work


Clear policies for dads and encouraging men to take parental leave are key to a thriving company according to a huge international study.

A new report by global strategy and consultancy firm Accenture claims equality drives innovation and growth in business. And a significant part of creating an equal culture is providing support to fathers including clear and adequate paternity policies and implementing flexible working.

Accenture surveyed over 18,000 workers in 27 countries making the project one of the largest of its kind.

They found that companies that were regarded as more equal were also likely to be the most innovative. And the most innovative were also the most successful.

The firm makes the eye-catching claim that driving up innovation by 10% could boost the global economy by $8 billion.

The research showed that while over three quarters of bosses think they encourage innovation only around 40% of employees agree. While many bosses saw financial rewards as key to driving innovation employees were more interested in purpose with work-life balance coming into the equation.

Workplace culture

Crucially the research focussed on changing workplace culture to enhance and support equality. That means getting more women into senior positions and closing the gender pay gap but also normalising men working flexibly and taking parental leave.

Many firms put in place comprehensive policies around parental pay and leave but unless they are backed up by a sympathetic culture the measures are unlikely to be used.

The report’s authors urge companies to “fiercely promote flexible working”.

Key drivers to a better working environment also include better training as long as it is provided flexibly and the ability to work remotely. Firms that look favourably on flexible working requests – from men and women, currently a woman’s wish to alter her hours is more likely to be granted than the same ask from a man – tend to get ahead too.

Other factors that help include a leadership team that sets a good example on work-life balance and understanding that employees need to balance work with other commitments whether that be family or just other interests away from work.

The report includes a long list of actions to improve workplace culture including encouraging men to take parental leave and having women’s networks that are open to men and women. Though the authors also say there should be women’s networks just for women.

Employees should not be penalised for refusing to work late or attend breakfast meetings and networking events should take place during office hours so parents do not have to choose between putting their children to bed and progressing their careers.

Ellen Shook, one of the reports authors and chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, writes of the report’s findings, “Equality is not just an ethical imperative, but a business priority. If organisations want to thrive, they have to “get to equal.”

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