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6 steps to shedding the stigma of paternity leave

Employers can retain high quality employees and boost productivity with a modernized family leave program.

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duschene on paternity leave

duschene on paternity leave

Paternity leave at your company

Paternity leave is not a new concept, but one that is just now gaining traction in recognition of the importance of fatherhood and the role a father plays in a child’s life. The only problem is that many companies, particularly small businesses, continue to offer maternity leave with no offer of paternity leave for the male counterpart.

Some business leaders don’t consider paternity leave to be important, and others simply don’t want to pay for it (and truthfully, many cannot afford it). There are a growing number that do, however, offer paternity leave and it is actually a positive business decision, not just for ethical reasons, but to the bottom line.

Chris Duchesne, VP of Care.com’s Employer Program, Global Workplace Solutions, says that “Study after study has shown that companies that adopt paternity leave policies have higher employee engagement and retention, higher employee productivity, and lower rates of absenteeism.”

“Dual working families make up 70 percent of the labor force in the U.S. today,” Duchesne added, “and this new generation of workers (both men and women) have different expectations of fathers. This includes taking paternity leave and sharing childcare responsibilities.”

Duchesne is a father of three small children, and a well known HR veteran who oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. Clients include Yahoo!, Clif Bar & Company, Facebook, Honest Tea, iRobot, Jamba Juice, Northwestern University, eBay and LinkedIn.

Changing expectations in the workplace

As Duchesne notes, the workplace and workforce are evolving, and as our culture softens their views on gender roles, fatherhood is finally being acknowledged as critical.

So how do employers help shed the stigma when implementing modern family leave policies? Duchesne shares six important steps in his own words below:

1. Create a Culture of Permission

Employees should not fear peer or career retribution for taking paternity leave. Some companies offer great programs but don’t support them with a company culture that actually encourages employees to take the time off. If senior management doesn’t set an example by partaking in benefits programs, there is a perceived standard set that while the benefit is available, it’s not really acceptable for employees to utilize it.

If management and HR want to encourage employees to take advantage of work-life policies and benefits, like paternity leave, they must first make sure they are sending out an unambiguous, positive message to that effect. Employees recognize when what the organization says and what the organization does is different. They react to those cues of what’s really encouraged and what’s really accepted.

iRobot, a Care.com Workplace Solutions client, practices what they preach. Their senior leadership team makes it a point to adhere to Summer Fridays (a practice from Memorial Day to Labor Day where their office closes at noon on Fridays) so that the employees feel comfortable taking the time off too.

2. Know Your Employees

Stay in touch with your employees and know what life phase they are in. This will help determine what type of paternity leave program is appropriate for your organization. It’s also a good idea to survey employees on their interest in paternity leave to find out what type of a program would be beneficial to them.

For example, millennials (who will make up 36 percent of the workforce in 2014) place great value on companies that acknowledge the whole employee, not just the worker. When these employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to accept a new job, stay with a current job, report increased job satisfaction and miss less work once their leave is over.

3. Foster Flexibility

A cookie cutter paternity leave plan is not likely to work for all employees. Leading companies are flexible on when fathers can use their leave – it doesn’t have to be all at once and doesn’t have to be right when the child is born. Ernst & Young offers two weeks and extends the benefit to up to six weeks for fathers that are the primary caregiver. That flexibility allows families to use the leave in the way that’s most valuable and meaningful to them.

4. Know Your Industry

Paternity leave practices can vary greatly by industry. For example, companies in the tech industry, like Yahoo, are known for being on the forefront when it comes to offering generous family leave programs. In order to attract and retain top talent, it’s important to know what your competitors are offering.

5. Implement a Buddy Program

When employees take paternity leave, implement a buddy program where one of their co-workers will keep them updated on developments with the company and with clients while they are out. This will make the employee’s transition back into the workplace much smoother.

6. Take it a Step Further

Allowing employees time off at the birth or adoption of a new baby is something all employers should be doing. Leading companies are taking it a step further and offering paid time off, as many parents simply can’t take leave because they can’t afford to go weeks without pay. Some companies, like Yahoo, are going even further and offering an additional stipend to new parents to offset expenses on top of paid time off. Perhaps your company’s budget will not allow for that, so get creative and figure out a way to make your family leave programs actually work for your employees.

The takeaway

Times are changing, and with Duchesne’s advice outlined above, any sized company can modernize family leave policies and do a better job of retaining devoted, productive employees.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Entrepreneur

How to spot when it’s time to go full freelance

(ENTREPRENEUR) There may come a point when traditional work becomes burdensome. Know how to spot when it is time to go full freelance.

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freelance productivity

Freelancing is often thought of as a mythical concept, something that is almost too good to be true. While it isn’t all about hanging out at home in your pajamas all day, being a freelance is something that is completely possible to be successful – assuming you do your homework.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a licensed esthetician was no longer happy with her position at the salon and spa she worked for. The set hours were becoming a burden, as was having to divvy up appointments between another esthetician within the salon.

She noticed an increasing number of people asking her if she could perform services (eyebrow and lip waxing) from her home, as they preferred not to go into the hectic salon. My friend also found an increase in requests for her to travel to bridal parties for their makeup, rather than the parties coming into the salon.

It was around this time that my friend began to seriously consider becoming a freelance esthetician, rather than a salon employee. After about six months of research and consideration, she decided that this was the best route for her.

Below are the reasons she felt ready to pursue this option, and if they resonate with you, you may be ready for a full time freelance career.

1. She had a number of built-in clients and a list of people she could contact to announce her at-home services. Doing this at the start of one’s career would be very difficult without a contact list and word-of-mouth references, so it’s important to have…

2. …experience! My friend had worked for a number of salons over the years, and had the experience of working with all different types of clients. She also learned what she liked and didn’t like about each salon, which were pieces that factored into her own work-from-home space.

3. Since she had years of experience and had done all of the necessary aforementioned research, she knew what was expected of her and knew that getting a freelance career off the ground wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Operating a freelance career is completely on you, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to making it work – it won’t just happen for you.

4. Once she began thinking about this idea nonstop and became more excited, she knew it was time to move forward. At first, the “what ifs” were daunting, but became more positive as time went on. If the idea of being a freelancer elicits more smiles than frowns, definitely take the time to consider this option.

5. In addition to the clients she already had, she also had an amazing support system who helped her develop her freelance brand and get her at-home business up and running. Having a solid group of people in your life that will help you is crucial, and any offer for help should be appreciated.

Other things to consider are: do you have enough money saved in case the freelance venture takes longer than planned to take off? If not, maybe stick with the day job until you feel more financially secure.

Jumping into something too quickly can cause you to become overwhelmed and drown in the stress. Make sure you’ve covered every single base before making this leap. Good luck, freelancers!

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Business Entrepreneur

Hobby to profession: The new-age entrepreneurs

(ENTREPRENEURS) Turning your hobby into a career is harder said than done but a few knitters are putting on a clinic on how to do it.

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knitting entrepreneurs

I’ve often heard the advice that you should follow your passion, and eventually, someone will pay you to do it. But the truth is, turning your hobby into a career is easier said than done. The process by which a person turns a hobby into a business is poorly understood by experts – at least partially because it’s so difficult to collect data on this topic. In order to separate the lifelong hobbyists from the entrepreneurs, you’d have to trace the activities of many hobbyists over many years to understand how their paths diverged.

An MIT Ph.D. candidate has hit upon a novel way to research the transition from hobby to entrepreneurship by following Ravelry.com, a social media and pattern-sharing platform for knitters and crocheters, often known as the “Facebook of knitting.” The site encourages crafters to keep track of and share their projects, tools, techniques, and patterns.

The Washington Post reports that by analyzing over 400,000 profiles on Ravelry.com and interviewing 100 knitters, found through an additional newsletter and three blogs, Ph.D. candidate Hyejun Kim was able to draw some interesting conclusions about what can “cause someone to flip the switch from ‘fun’ to ‘profit.’” Only 1.5 percent of Ravelry users become entrepreneurs who sell their own patterns, knitted items, or yarns. What sets this small number of knitters apart?

Although the internet provided the crucial data Kim needed for the study, it was, in fact, real-world connections and encouragement that turned out to be the tipping point into entrepreneurship for most knitters-turned-business-owners. When asked why they decided to start their own businesses, most reported that they were encouraged by their friends and spouses.

Most of the crafters who became entrepreneurs were already very skilled knitters, to begin with. Kim was able to isolate a number of knitters who joined in-person knitting groups like Stich ‘n’ Bitch. Those who joined a group were 25 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than those who didn’t. That’s because their crocheting comrades would compliment their creations, boosting their confidence and inspiring them to take it to the next level.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that 96 percent of Ravelry users are women. The forces of sexism in the world of startups and the undervaluation and domestication of women’s handicrafts likely combine to give women the impression that their skills and talents are just for fun and shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to make money. Kim’s research shows that when it comes to entrepreneurship, sometimes talented women just need a nudge in the right direction.

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Business Entrepreneur

Teach kids music and they’ll learn entrepreneurship

(ENTREPRENEUR) Sowing the seed of music education and appreciation in your child when they’re young is a great way to produce the fruit of entrepreneurship when they’re older.

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entrepreneurship

With all the focus sports gets as the petri dish for producing driven adults, I’d like to offer up a different extracurricular activity for your consideration: music. Supporting your child as they learn how to harmonize with others will help set them up for success later in life, as music cultivates many of the characteristics that entrepreneurs rely on every day.

Iteration

Anybody who’s played an instrument or been a part of a choir can tell you that the number one thing you’ll learn in a musical group is that you won’t make it unless you practice, practice, practice. Although in the moment it’s not that great to hear little Timmy or Ginny run through their C-scale a hundred times, a few years down the line when all those hours of iterating result in the lilt of Beethoven through your household, you can be sure that your kid has learned that repeating the little steps helps them achieve large goals.

Showmanship

A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing your markets, or your audience, and able to keep their attention so that they come back to you when they need your business. Being a part of an ensemble not only teaches children to be comfortable in the spotlight but to crave putting on a show.

Teamwork

When young musicians come together to play in a band or raise their voices in a choir, they’re learning a lot about how to collaborate with others in order to achieve a goal. When a young alto sings alone, her notes may sound strange without the soprano tones filling out the melody. The duet that comes from them learning to work together and complement each other builds a strong foundation for any team venture your child will encounter later in their careers.

Competiveness

Although music provides a solid foundation in harmony, it also contains just as much grit and competition as the football field. Music groups compete in regional and national championships just as athletes do, and solos offer opportunities to self-select and advocate. Hell hath no fire like a second seat musician who dreams of being first chair.

Self Confidence

Unlike sports, music is accessible to those who might struggle with finding confidence. There are no “best” requirements to play—regardless of height, weight, and other characteristics that nobody has any control over—nearly anyone can pick up an instrument or find their voice. This perhaps may be the greatest gift that you can give your child, the confidence that no matter what they look like they can excel.

As your child begins to consider the different activities that will help them build toward their future, don’t discourage them from pursuing a musical path. When they have to stand in front of an audience of their peers and deliver a presentation with an unwavering voice, they’ll thank you for the years they spent getting comfortable in the spotlight. Especially if they pursue entrepreneurship!

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