NC Employers See Benefit in Being Family Friendly – for Attraction and Retention Now and for Workforce Needs in the Future

North Carolina

North Carolina employers care about workforce development and attracting and retaining top talent, and they recognize that family-friendly benefits can help meet workforce needs now and in the future.

Participants of the Asheville roundtable discussion.

These are the findings from a series of Family Forward NC roundtable discussions with more than 200 employees and employers from across North Carolina. From January through September 2018, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) led conversations with employers and employees from a diverse set of industries in Asheville, Wilmington, Lumberton, Greensboro, High Point, and Catawba, Nash, and Edgecombe counties. The goal of the business roundtables was to learn more what family-friendly policies are currently offered to North Carolinians; what employees want from family-friendly benefits; what employers would like to offer; and what the challenges are to doing so.

Data gathered during these discussions helped inform the Guide to Family Forward Workplaces, to be published later this month. The guide is a toolkit for employers of all sizes with practical tips for implementing family-friendly workplace practices such as paid parental leave, flexible scheduling and accommodations for pregnant workers. Research shows these policies improve child health and well-being and keep businesses competitive.

“Family friendly workplaces attract top talent, are more productive and have a more loyal workforce,” said NCECF Executive Director Tracy Zimmerman. “But perhaps more importantly, family friendly benefits have a positive short- and long-term effect on children – our state’s future workforce – during a critical time in their development. During the first years of life, babies’ experiences are built into their bodies, shaping brain development and building the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. That means family-friendly workplace policies provide benefit for employers and families now and long into the future.”

Participants of the Wilmington business roundtable discussion.

In addition to the business roundtables, Raleigh-based NCECF is gathering input for the guide from research it co-commissioned with founding sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina of employers and employees across the state; the Family Forward NC Advisory Council, comprised of prominent North Carolina business leaders, community leaders and health experts; and surveys of employers and employees throughout the state.

“The diverse group of employers we’ve engaged – from manufacturers to healthcare companies to convenience stores – has allowed us to get a better sense of what’s happening across and North Carolina right now and what opportunities are possible with regard to creating more family-friendly workplaces across the state,” Zimmerman said.

Below are three key takeaways from our business roundtable discussions. 

Employers care about workforce development and attracting and retaining top talent, and they recognize that family-friendly benefits can help meet workforce needs now and in the future. 

“We have an opportunity to think short term in terms of meeting our needs right now but to also think long term about what we’re doing to impact the workforce of the future,” said Kit Cramer, a Family Forward NC Advisory Council member and president of the Asheville Chamber, at the Asheville meeting.

N2 Publishing recruiter Katie Fornes agrees. For the Wilmington-based magazine publisher, which has 262 employees, putting people first is part of the company’s business strategy.

“For us it’s about our people first over our bottom line. Without our people our bottom line doesn’t matter,” she said at the Wilmington roundtable discussion. At N2, leadership is constantly checking in with employees to make sure policies align with what’s important to employees. “We realize that this is how we keep our retention rates high and our turnover rates low,” Fornes said. 

Different employers (and different employees) have different needs. 

Accounting for the needs of different types of employees, such as shift or hourly workers, and ensuring that employees have the benefits they need are two important steps employers can take, according to attendees of the business roundtable with employers in Nash and Edgecombe counties.

Additionally, employers should consider all types of family structures when creating new policies. For instance, grandparents may need paid leave to attend a school event if they are primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

Different employers also have different needs, said attendees in Lumberton and Wilmington. While some employers may be able to offer flexible work schedules, for instance, employers who have manufacturing facilities often can’t. Those employers may need to employ other family-friendly policies, such as schedule predictability, where employees know their schedule at least two weeks in advance and can plan accordingly for child care.

Getting leaders on board is key.

To successfully implement change, employers must ensure leaders within their organization are on board with creating a culture that is family friendly, roundtable attendees in Lumberton said.

Additionally, large employers, who employ significant numbers of people in each city or region, can lead by creating model policies for their own workforce and by funding initiatives that provide family supports such as high-quality child care, said Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides at the Asheville roundtable discussion.

“Large employers need to lead by setting an example, and potentially with dollars,” Whitesides said.

Thank you to our many partners who helped make the Family Forward NC business roundtable discussions possible:

  • Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Catawba County Partnership for Children
  • Pembroke Area Chamber of Commerce
  • UNC Pembroke
  • Smart Start of Buncombe County
  • Smart Start of New Hanover County
  • Smart Start of Robeson County
  • Strategic Twin Counties Education Partnership
  • The Cemala Foundation
  • The Down East Partnership for Children
  • Wilmington Area Chamber of Commerce