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When War and Baby Showers Collide

Employers accommodate their employees’ work & home responsibilities to win the War for Talent

Maybe you saw the story about Fifth Third announcing a concierge service for new moms.

It's either a genius move by a savvy company intent on hanging on to valuable employees or it’s another egregious example of coddling millennials.

Wait, millennials? Aren’t millennials, like, just graduating from college? Aren’t they unemployed and living in their parents’ basements. Aren't they, by far, the laziest generation??

How can we be talking about employers trying to hang on to millennials?

As a matter of fact, Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation, and the oldest of them (born between 1981 – 1997) is 36-years-old today. Contrary to the popular stereotype, millennials are no more or less lazy than the generations that preceded them. While we hear sensational stories of young people who struggle with adulting, many more of this generation hold professional jobs, buy homes in the suburbs, pay taxes, and have families. Indeed, most babies born today are born to millennial women.

And that, my friends, is why providing a “concierge service” for new mothers is a genius tactic, especially as the War for Talent wages on. There are three critical factors impacting the employment landscape for the foreseeable future. These critical factors are putting pressure on businesses to step up their employment retention game.

The first is low unemployment. Obviously, when more people are working there are fewer people available to take open jobs. This means employers must work harder to find candidates, often attracting them away from current employment, which can be costly.

The second critical factor is related to the 10,000 people every day who turn 65. Some have called the inevitable retirement of baby boomers “the country’s biggest and most predictable train wreck,” and its impact on the economic and employment landscape is expected to be profound. Of course, not everybody automatically retires at 65 like they used to. Many retirement-age people are motivated to stay engaged in work and are physically and intellectually strong enough to do the job. Others find themselves in an economic situation where they can’t afford to retire. Even with these exceptions, a sizeable portion of the 10,000 are taking advantage of the opportunity to exit the workforce entirely.

The third critical factor setting up for a tight labor market is that, while men are increasing their share of the burden, women continue to have primary responsibility for managing family obligations. When almost 47% of U.S. workers are women, that means something for employers scrambling to keep jobs filled. For women, when the cost-benefit of staying in the workforce is too costly (regardless of whether the calculation is based on money, time or hassle), they exit the workforce. This is true for professional women and women in low-wage, low-skill work—though usually employers are less accommodating and forgiving of hourly employees who have family responsibilities.

(Missing work for family responsibilities means lost wages and punishment up to termination for women whose jobs don’t offer paid leave. But that's a story for another day...)

Since it is easier and cheaper to retain existing workers than to attract new ones, businesses find it in their best interest to hold onto the women they employ. That means changing and innovating their policies and practices, especially to ensure their workforce can accommodate work and home responsibilities. While helping new mothers identify childcare or assisting expectant mothers with organizing baby showers might seem frivolous, it’s actually a genius move that goes a long way to retaining them.

The overall cost to the employer is minimal compared to the benefit realized by each individual woman. This small gesture goes a long way to making these women feel valued, and indispensable, by their employers, not to mention the stress-relief by ensuring that everything that needs to get done does get done.

How does this apply to you? Don’t make it easier for your employees to decide to leave your company. Strive to make it hard for them to quit. For new mothers, who already have significant incentive to stay home, don't make it easy for them because you have stupid, outdated policies which make it impossible for them to accommodate both their work and home responsibilities. Make it an agonizing decision. That way, you at least have a fighting chance.

When you have the policies and practices that make it easier for her to stay working for you—and where she feels valued and respected while doing that work—you are that much closer to staying on the winning side in the war for talent.

Andrea J. Applegate is a talent strategist who consults with clients on transforming their workforce into their competitive advantage. Applegate has nearly 20 years of experience in workforce and talent in the Columbus region and has expertise working with both businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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