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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

Business advice from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind

(OPINION) Leadership comes from years of refining your practice, and great leadership comes dedication and focus, but Babe Ruth would add more to that…

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All good leaders pull from a variety of inspirational sources to create their formula for success, even from unlikely sources like an overweight baseball legend. Babe Ruth was a winner in his day without steroids and without the paparazzi and while he wasn’t a business leader, he hustled every day to be the best.

Today, we share with you a quote from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind when operating business because this simple concept is one of the hardest to remember. “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games,” Babe Ruth said. Let that settle in. Are you resting your laurels on yesterday’s home runs?

Are you puffing your chest because last year’s sales were high or because your net worth was higher in 2008 than anyone else’s in your circle or because you won a prestigious award in 2007?

It’s very common to consider past accomplishments as part of your identity, there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes relying on yesterday’s home runs stunts a leader’s intellectual growth – once you think you’re at the top of your game, sure you keep working, but are you really focused on today’s game?

The cliche of keep your eye on the ball would also be relevant here, because if you’re in the outfield dreaming about last week’s home run, you’re not in the game today with everyone else.

What steps are you taking to focus on today’s game? Maybe the image below should be your desktop or smartphone wallpaper as a reminder to focus?

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Business Entrepreneur

10 advantages and disadvantages of becoming a freelancer

For many reasons, you may be considering becoming a freelancer, and while there is great freedom in becoming your boss, you also take on a great deal of responsibility and risk.

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You already know the signs of when it’s time to quit your job and become an entrepreneur. But before you start your own freelance business, you should be aware of the pros and cons for your decision. After all, this type of decision has the potential to be life-changing, in either a positive or negative way. But we’ve done the work for you. Here are the top five positives and the top five negatives of becoming a freelancer in lieu of a full-time, 9-to-5 employee.

5 advantages of being a freelancer

1. Flexible Hours – The first advantage of becoming a freelancer is that you can work whenever you want. You get to choose your own hours. If you want to sleep in until noon, you can do that. If you want to take the weekend off so you can explore the city, by all means, go for it. As a freelancer, you can actually work during your most productive hours, and those hours don’t have to fall in during regular business hours.

2. Control over Jobs and Clients – When you work for someone else, you don’t get a choice of who you work with. You can become stuck with unprofessional or rude clients. But, when you’re a freelancer, you can choose with whom you work. If you don’t mesh well with a client’s personality or business or payment philosophies, you can pass on the opportunity and wish them the best. It’s as easy as that.

3. Work Wherever You Want – Whether you prefer consistency or shaking things up when it comes to your work environment, you can choose to work wherever you want, whether you choose to work in a local coffee shop or while you’re on vacation in Europe.  You are no longer stuck in an office or even in your home. Find a place in which you work best. You could work in a park, at the library, or in your living room while you’re wearing your pajamas.

4. You’re the Boss – You no longer have to answer to anyone but your clients and yourself. No one is hanging over you or micromanaging you. You are free to do as you please, when you please. Making all the tough decisions just became your responsibility; you have all the control.

5. You Keep All the Profits – No longer do you have to work for a flat rate, no matter how large the projects are taht you complete. Now, you get to allocate or keep all the profits from your large and small projects and clients. This gives you the freedom to then use that money to improve yourself and expand your business.

5 disadvantages of freelancing

1. Not Steady or Reliable Workloads – Unfortunately, being a freelancer means that your income and your workload are unstable and inconsistent. For the most part, you won’t be able to depend on any regular project, client, or profit, whereas you would know the exact pay you’ll receive at a traditional job.

2. Distinguishing Between Work and Personal Time – Being your own boss and working from your home also means that it can be difficult to distinguish between your work time and your personal life. This means that you can work long hours and never make time for your personal interests.

3. A lot of Legwork – You are now in charge of finding all your own clients and projects. When you worked a traditional job, your projects were probably handed to you. But now, you’re the sole person responsible, so that means a lot of legwork on your part.  And that means you have to wear many hats, including marketing, advertising, and sales.

4. Not Getting Paid – Being a freelancer also means that you run the risk of not getting paid. This is fairly common in the freelance world, and one more hat you’ll have to wear is that of a debt collector. There are ways to protect yourself from non-paying clients, but sometimes you won’t realize you’re at risk until it’s too late.

5. No Employer Benefits – Health benefits are expensive. Depending on your current health, switching to a freelance lifestyle might not be in your best interest. Also, starting your own freelance business means you no longer have paid sick days or vacation time to use. Every day you don’t work is a day you won’t get paid.

The takeaway

Freelancing is equal parts positive and negative. You just have to decide if you’re willing to take the risk that almost always accompanies it. Freelancing means professional freedom, but it also means instability and the risk of failure. And that may not be what you need in your professional life. But if you risk your stability for something more in tune with your professional goals than a traditional job, you have the opportunity to build your name and reputation and reach your professional goals.

This editorial was first published here in 2012.

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Business Entrepreneur

6 entrepreneurial tools for startup productivity

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Whether you’re a small business or startup, improving efficiency means more money and less stress. Here are six tools to help do just that!

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Truly great entrepreneurs are also well organized and know which tools will help them see their ideas to fruition.

That can be key for getting a startup business off the ground. Good ideas and a strong entrepreneurial spirit aren’t always enough on their own. Sometimes you need the right mix of technology and tools to keep the more mundane and tedious tasks from bogging down your efforts.

Here are six tools almost any entrepreneur can use to help keep productivity high when starting a new business:

Lawtrades: For legal help

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but making sure you have your legal ducks in a row is important for any startup. Lawtrades helps with that while trying to keep costs down — music to the ears of any startup business owner.

The service is a legal marketplace of sorts designed specifically for startups and entrepreneurs. It connects business owners with legal professionals that it claims don’t charge “bloated law firm hourly rates.”

Lawtrades offers a number of services, including business formation, employment and labor, contracts and agreements and intellectual property.

Do: For productive meetings

Anyone who has started a business knows that it doesn’t happen without a multitude of meetings. Do is a service that can help make your meetings productive so you can waste as little time as possible.

The app allows you to plan and share an agenda to make sure everyone is on the same page. Other features include the ability to track accountability by showing you which points and/or tasks have been covered.

1Password: For easy password management

Starting a new business likely means starting and managing lots of online accounts. The 1Password app from AgileBits helps you save time by remembering passwords and other information for you.

The app helps you generate strong and unique passwords for your many accounts, and secures them behind one safe password known only by you. The app doesn’t only work for passwords — it can also help remember other information such as credit card numbers, safe combinations or street addresses.

Kanbanize: For product development

If your startup involves a specific product or set of products, Kanbanize helps you develop them with your team without bogging down the process. The software allows you to post and share boards that include product information and progress, and you can choose which people see which information.

For example, if you want to update investors on the status of your product development, you can share certain boards with stakeholders and no one else.

Evernote: For organization

There are many applications available that aim to help team productivity, but Evernote is one of the best.

The software allows you to collaborate with your team all within one workplace, keeping projects and other work together. You can also give feedback on ideas and share notes while syncing the data across computers and phones.

There are many other features as well, including in-app chat functionality and integration with Google Drive.

TaskHusky: For web development

Almost any new business will want some sort of business, but a staff of web designers and developers isn’t always an option for startups. That’s where TaskHusky comes in.

TaskHusky is an on-demand service for small businesses that need help with one-off tasks with the Shopify, Bigcommerce or WordPress platforms. The company has a simple three-step process: You create a task and pre-pay, a TaskHusky team member is assigned the task and gets to work and the task is completed and is sent back for your approval.

The takeaway:

Smart entrepreneurs understand they can’t get everything done on their own when it comes to starting a new business. These six tools may not be everything you need to launch and maintain a startup, but they will go a long way to helping you keep productivity at a high level.

#productivity

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