Chris Parke, CEO of Talking Talent writes about how employers should back flexible working for dads, and reap the business benefits of doing so.
A truly inclusive and diverse culture goes to work in all directions. Organisations that are serious about achieving equality need to support dads as well as mums at work, and the benefits can extend much further than a successful diversity strategy.
Talking Talent’s latest research (Expecting More Than A Baby) shows how the transferable skills that parents naturally develop can make them even more valuable employees.
We asked Censuswide to talk to over 7,000 working parents about their experiences. The results show that we shouldn’t buy the tired myths about the theoretical loss of skills post-baby, or the supposed dangers of flexible working.
After becoming a dad, men reported that their abilities improved in a number of areas, such as managing personal wellbeing (47%), managing people (46%) and developing organisational skills (50%). A similar phenomenon was reported by new mums: 46% reported an increase in their organisational skills, for instance.
But over half (52%) of working parents, including 26% men and 30% women, think that their career has slowed down compared to their childless colleagues.
And the research also shows how working dads are finding it harder to secure support from their employers. 57% of all those surveyed wanted flexible working hours. While 21% of women have never had a request turned down, only 14% of men experienced the same.
So, the case for action is clear – this is a valuable pool of talent who are becoming more skilful and simultaneously finding less opportunity and enjoying less support.
Organisations need to go further than simply setting and sharing the right policy – they need working practices that really make it easier to share parental responsibilities between mum and dad.
More than half of working parents (53%) experienced a significant gap between what their workplace says it’s doing and what it’s actually doing.
Working hours and location flexibility are key ingredients. And shared parental leave (SPL) can play a more significant role – one in three parents surveyed struggled to even understand their company’s policy on parental leave.
Ultimately, these factors will only succeed if organisations ensure working dads don’t face exactly the same negative experiences which have stopped working mums progressing in the past.
Half of respondents (51%) thought that fathers who took SPL would experience a detrimental effect on their careers. 53% feared judgement if they chose SPL.
This is the crucial cultural bridge that organisations need to cross. How can they find the courage? Well the answer will be different in every case, but here are three key ingredients to consider:
We need more role models at senior levels who embrace and advocate their duties as dad, and those who are converts to the benefits of flexible working.
We need to enable leaders to see parental leave as an opportunity to increase engagement and a platform for sustained performance and energy at work.
And leaders must stamp out any suggestion that progressive and flexible working practices could be demonised or discouraged.
It is not a mirage… The benefits over the bridge are real and achievable!
Talking Talent is a niche, award winning global coaching consultancy leading the gender diversity agenda, and working with clients to unlock the potential within their business and make company-wide behaviour shifts that accelerate business performance.
The cited report (Expecting More Than A Baby: Closing the Employee Experience Gap for Working Parents) draws on the results from Talking Talent’s September 2018 survey of 7,087 working parents in the UK, the US, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and India, and it focuses primarily on the 1,023 respondents based in the UK.