When Netflix announced its parental leave policy this summer, the media company made waves across the corporate world. Under the new scheme, eligible employees can take up to a year of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child, which is unprecedented among U.S. businesses.
The policy itself is both revolutionary and shrewd — Netflix wants to attract and retain top talent. A competitive parental leave option makes them a more attractive place to work.
More importantly, however, the move signals a philosophical shift toward embracing families and empowering women to set the work-life balance on their own terms.
The Costs of Undervaluing Women and Families
The traditional corporate mentality focuses on short-term goals and benchmarks, which are why many corporations have been reluctant to close the wage gap or create generous family leave policies. They’re so concerned with minimizing near-term losses in revenue and productivity that they’re missing the bigger picture.
Netflix, Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies that offer liberal family benefits understand that employee loyalty and long-term development are more valuable than short-term savings. Comprehensive family leave policies aren’t acts of charity — they’re investments in the organization.
By accommodating families and women, you save on retraining, recruitment, and other turnover fees, not to mention countless hours in lost productivity.
Employee Satisfaction Impacts Your Bottom Line
Research shows that happy employees are more productive than unhappy ones. Companies have started to catch on to this, which is why we’re seeing more robust family leave plans at places like Netflix and Facebook. But it will take more than that to raise employees’ happiness quotients, especially among a demographic that’s long been shut out of leadership opportunities and forced to choose between family and career.
Not all organizations can afford to follow Netflix’s lead. Small startups are less equipped to offer extensive leave policies than big corporations, so they need to find other ways to accommodate working parents. But there are some steps every organization can take to ensure women feel welcomed and supported:
- Prioritize results over tradition. There was a time when people showed up to work every day in suits and ties or dresses and heels. They might have been uncomfortable and distracted in their starchy button-downs and too-tight pumps, but that’s how things were done. Now, employees arrive at some of the most successful companies in the world wearing jeans and T-shirts. They may not fit the corporate image of pinstripes and wing tips, but holy cow, do they have great output.
The same holds true for flexible work policies. Does it really matter whether someone is in the office every day if she’s delivering excellent reports, engaging customers, and driving record sales? Work with women to accommodate their needs, and you’ll retain valuable members of your team. Every woman who leaves your organization because of inflexible policies represents a brain trust you’ll never get back.
- Embrace gender differences. Equality is important, especially when it comes to pay rates and advancement opportunities. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the differences between how men and women think and work.
Take advantage of these differences by encouraging women to offer their unique perspectives or approaches to projects. Start dialogues that foster creative thinking from everyone on the team. Differentiation leads to the best solutions.
- Mentor women for leadership positions. Company heads often complain that there aren’t enough qualified women in the organization to promote them to C-suites. But these are the same organizations that haven’t created mentoring programs or advancement paths for women the way they have for men. Build mentorship opportunities that accommodate women’s needs for family leave or remote work without forcing them to sacrifice their career momentum.
Women are powerful brain trusts who have, until recently, gone underappreciated in the corporate world. Expanding family leave and flexible work policies creates short-term disruption. But companies that create supportive, motivating environments for women stand to gain exponentially in terms of creative input, decision-making prowess, and financial returns.
Investing in women and families is a no-brainer. What are you waiting for?
By Vincent Molinari is the co-founder and CEO of GATE Global Impact.
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