Employee needs change over time, and parenthood is one of the biggest catalysts. Companies often assume employees returning from parental leave will be able to resume their work without complication, but many new parents often struggle to achieve work-life compatibility upon their return. This is where structured flexibility can prove vital: It doesn’t just attract top talent, it retains employees and empowers them to do their best work, no matter what changes come their way. Unfortunately, most companies today don’t have adequate reboarding strategies in place to help new parents return from leave, and even fewer incorporate structured flexibility as an integral component of that strategy.
Women tend to feel these challenges most acutely. Aside from the motherhood penalty, new mothers also face a largely inflexible corporate culture. As a result, many quit their jobs or don’t return at all. A recent Bain & Company study showed that of the 30 percent of women who leave their jobs after starting a family, 70 percent would have stayed if their jobs had offered more flexibility.
It’s important to note that getting flexibility right isn’t just critical for women. According to our research, 76% of millennial men want greater access to flexibility, most likely due to changing family structures and evolving gender norms. Studies show that millennial fathers are more involved with household and caregiving responsibilities than fathers of any previous generation. As more men begin demanding (and hopefully receiving) paternity leave, the more flexibility must be leveraged as part of a gender inclusive reboarding strategy.
Faced with rising dropout rates, there’s been an increase in companies offering formal returnship programs. Path Forward, for example, is a non-profit returnship organization with a mission “to empower people to restart their careers after time spent focused on caregiving.” The organization does so by working with companies to create returnships so men and women can get “a jump start back into the paid workforce.”
A formal reboarding program that centers around flexibility can not only increase the retention of employees returning from leave so that they don’t drop out of the workforce to begin with, but also increase the effectiveness of returnship programs like these by ensuring employees who are returning to work are being structurally set up for success in the months and years to come.
When companies incorporate structured flexibility into their reboarding and returnship programs, it’s not just parents who benefit. Data shows that employees with access to flexibility are significantly more productive than those without, and that means better results. Plus, flexibility has the ability to greatly reduce attrition, and everyone knows it’s easier, not to mention more cost effective, to retain an employee than it is to hire a new one.