Family Forward NC is Listening and Learning for our Guide to Family-Friendly Workplaces

North Carolina

 As part of the Family Forward NC initiative, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) is traveling across the state to listen, learn and engage employers and employees about family-friendly workplace policies to find out what is currently offered, what employees want from family-friendly benefits, what employers would like to offer and what the challenges are to doing so.

These discussions will help inform a guide to family-friendly workplaces that NCECF will publish later this year. The guide will be 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.

NCECF, a Raleigh-based nonprofit, is gathering input for the guide in three ways:

  • 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 business leaders, community leaders and health experts from throughout North Carolina;
  • and a series of roundtable discussions in partnership with chambers and associations across NC.

“We want this guide to be a useful, actionable, dynamic tool, which means listening to and learning from employers and employees about what they see as opportunities and challenges to creating a state where all workers have access to the support they need to work and raise a family,” said NCECF Executive Director Tracy Zimmerman. “Our goal is to understand the current landscape in NC and engage employers about the range of possibilities in supporting their employees as parents.”

Advisory Council Brings Leadership, Expertise

The Family Forward NC Advisory Council met last week to begin sharing expertise and recommendations for the guide. Advisory Council members are: 

  • Kit Cramer, President and CEO, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Andrew Herdman, Vice-President of Human Resources for US Operations, Mayne Pharma
  • Velva Jenkins, Vice-President, Continuing Education, Economic & Workforce Development, Brunswick Community College
  • Briles JohnsonExecutive Director of the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina
  • Jessica Lowery Clark, Executive Director, Robeson County Partnership for Children
  • Fara Palumbo, Chief People Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
  • Luis Pastor, President and CEO, Cooperativa Latino Credit Union
  • Alison Stuebe, Associate Professor, UNC – Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Associate Professor, UNC – Department of Maternal and Child Health; Distinguished Scholar in Infant and Young Child Feeding
  • Sheilah Sutton, City Commissioner, Town of Rolesville
  • Lucy Talley, Regional Vice-President, South Atlantic Publishing Group, GateHouse Media
  • Gregor Teusch, Vice President for Reward and Experience at Lowe’s
  • Betsey Tilson, State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer, NC Department of Health and Human Resources

Roundtable Discussions Provide Feedback from Diverse Industries

Participants at the Asheville roundtable discussion.

In June, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a Family Forward NC roundtable with employers from western North Carolina, and in August,  the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce hosted a roundtable for employers in eastern North Carolina.

“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.

Next up, NCECF will partner with UNC Pembroke and the Pembroke Area Chamber of Commerce for an event at UNCP’s Office for Regional Initiatives at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11. To RSVP for the free Pembroke event, email To receive information about future roundtable events, sign up to receive the Family Forward NC e-newsletter.

Research Rounds out Big Picture Statewide  

In addition to data gathered from roundtable discussions and the Advisory Council, NCECF will incorporate learnings from statewide research  conducted in late 2017. Researchers interviewed 300 employers and surveyed 300 employees from across the state on current business practices and employer outlooks, along with NC employee opinions and needs when it comes to family-friendly benefits. Highlights from the research include:

  • 71 percent of North Carolina employers think that family-friendly policies have a positive impact on their organization.
  • Almost half of North Carolina employers plan on offering more family-friendly benefits this year.
  • 73 percent of NC employees would be more committed to their employer if they offered more family-friendly practices.
  • Over 90 percent of employees agree that family-friendly practices give companies a competitive advantage.
  • 94 percent of employees say that family-friendly policies help business attract and retain talent – and keep companies strong.
  • Younger employees with children are attracted to flexible schedules, paid maternity and paternity leave, breastfeeding accommodations and help affording child care.