This is a guest post on the CAI blog by North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation Community Engagement Leader Lisa Finaldi, who will speak along with Family Forward NC Chief Strategist Emily Swartzlander at CAI’s HR Management Conference. Read the original blog post.
Ask a three-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up, and the answer is just as likely to be superhero or mermaid as it is veterinarian or engineer.
But inside that preschooler’s brain, a foundation is being built that will play a large role in determining her future school and career success. That’s because during a child’s earliest years, his or her experiences are built into the body, shaping the architecture of the brain and creating the foundation for future learning and health.
In other words, everything this three-year-old experiences from birth impacts her ability to fulfill her potential and be the superhero—or engineer—she wants to be.
In fact, the early years are so defining that by the time a child turns eight, his or her third-grade reading outcomes can predict future academic achievement and career success. Decades of research show that strong brains are built when three key factors fall into place: health and development are on track from birth; families and communities are supportive and supported; and children have access to high-quality birth-through-age eight learning environments with regular attendance.
One vital way employers can help support our current and future workforce is to offer family-friendly workplace policies such as flexible schedules, paid parental leave and support for breastfeeding mothers at work, which have a direct, positive impact on child health and well-being, especially during the critical early years.
Families aren’t the only winners when workplaces are family-friendly. Employers benefit by attracting and retaining more talent, improving productivity and boosting employee morale. Consider this:
- 73 percent of employees in North Carolina would be more committed to their employer if they offered more family-friendly practices.
- 94 percent of NC employees say that family-friendly policies help businesses attract and retain talent and keep companies strong.
- 86 percent of US millennials, which now make up the greatest percentage of the workforce, say they are less likely to leave an employer that offers paid parental leave.
Conversely, when working parents struggle, employers feel the effects:
- 75 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers have passed up work opportunities, switched jobs, or quit to care for their children.
- Nearly 40 percent of parents say they’ve left a job because it lacked flexibility.
- Half of North Carolina employers had difficulty hiring in 2018, up 10 percent from 2016. And a record-low 3.6 percent unemployment rate and an ongoing skills gap mean employers must work harder to attract and retain top talent.
These trends can also negatively affect career attainment of parents with young children, especially mothers.
Over the past year, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) has gathered input from more than 1,000 employers and employees throughout the state about what family-friendly workplace 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. Overwhelmingly, we’ve found that NC 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. They just need a little help figuring out how to get started to implement new policies in their own workplace.
That’s why we created the Guide to Family Forward Workplaces as part of Family Forward NC, an initiative to create more family-friendly workplaces across the state. The guide, informed by our research and an advisory council of prominent business leaders, community leaders and health experts, provides tools for employers of all sizes with practical tips for selecting and implementing 16 family-friendly workplace practices that have evidence to support positive business impact and a positive effect on child health and well-being. Check out the guide or attend our Family Forward NC Summit on April 1 for research and resources to evaluate your workplace benefits and begin or continue a conversation for how your workplace can be family friendly.
Family friendly benefits are an essential business strategy in the competition for talent, and employer supports for parents and their children are an essential component to the overall health and well-being of North Carolina’s children – our state’s future workforce. It’s a win-win.