Organisations of all sizes and types struggle with the “working parent problem”: how to retain, and foster best performance amongst the significant percentage of their employees who are raising young children. At the same time, working fathers and mothers themselves are provided little practical, realistic guidance on how to meet the simultaneous demands of office and home. For companies that do want to “win through talent”, the key to success lies not in defining the problem – but in pointing parents, particularly new and expectant ones, to the specific behaviours that will help them manage it.
Succeeding on the job while raising and truly being present for your children? It’s all about work-life balance: about giving the two parts of your life equal weight. But hang on a moment: what if the two spheres of your life aren’t perfectly equal? Better to say work/life integration instead, which has a positive ring…but implies that we should always be working, conjuring up an image of at-home employees shackled to their smart phones, of mums returning client emails during bottle feeds. Maybe working parent equation is better – until, of course, we have to solve that multi-variable problem. Perhaps we leave it more ambiguous and open-ended, and simply call it “balance”?
Over the past ten years, as always-on technological environment and increasing competitive pressures have made it ever-harder to be a working parent, the corporate discussion on how to help employees succeed and be satisfied on both professional and personal fronts has reached a fever pitch. At the same time, the numbers of working parents have risen: in the U.K. alone, there are one million more working mothers than there were twenty years ago. If only we can describe the problem correctly for all these people, then surely we will all more likely conquer it – or so the thinking and drawn-out conference-room discussions go. But in our well-intentioned efforts to be precise and semantically correct in addressing the issue, most organisational leaders – we as executives, managers and human capital directors all with real influence on employee experience – have reduced our time and focus on what really matters: helping employees, including ourselves, take action.
Like diet and fitness, working parenthood is a complex, nuanced, and long-term challenge with no silver bullet. Sadly, no single green salad or workout session will ensure good health and a slim figure, and no one corporate policy, program or phrase will solve working-parent issues, either. But stacked together and performed consistently, there are behaviours that can have meaningful impact – both immediate and long-term: things that every working mum and dad can do, regardless of role, function, or family composition, that make it easier to perform, and happily so, at home and at work.
Whether you are currently a working parent, a manager with an expectant parent on your team, or a senior leader who wants to drive results across an organisation with diverse talent: here are seven key actions to implement, teach and advise.
About the Author
Daisy Wademan Dowling is the Founder & CEO of Workparent, a boutique consultancy that helps organisations drive business results through their working-parent employees and customers. She previously served as Managing Director and Global Head of Talent Development for Blackstone, the leading asset management firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org