The Benefits Of Creating A ‘Family-First’ Company Culture

familySeveral months back I attended a regional employee benefits council meeting and heard one of the HR executives joke during his presentation, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could wave a magic wand and get rid of employee dependents?” Half of the room chuckled and nodded their heads in agreement. As the founder of my own company, I get it. You lose the mindshare and productivity of your employees each day to one of your fiercest competitors—your employees’ dependents. Look around your office and mentally remove 20 percent of the people there. That’s how many people are disengaged or physically absent due to their family responsibilities on any given day according to Gallup research.

The simple reality is that you don’t just hire an employee, you hire their entire family. Your workforce is really 2.3 times larger than your employee numbers state—it also includes their wives, husbands, partners, parents and children. A 2017 Transamerica Institute study of mid to large sized employers found that 97 percent of HR executives realize that caring for family is a driver—either positively or negatively – of absenteeism, presentism and engagement. Families are actually your biggest competition. They are your employees’ first full time job.

But, what if we are thinking about our employees families the wrong way? What if we focused instead on our employees’ entire lives, but with their families’ needs at the forefront? This shift to supporting our employees’ whole being would serve as the basis of a highly strategic, financial and successful human capital strategy. After all, your culture is your brand. By embracing your employees’ whole family, you will be creating a ‘family-first’ culture. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Take a good, hard look at your company culture

Great company cultures don’t just happen –they take work. The first step is to audit how your company is currently treating your employees’ families. Signs that might point to a troubled culture, as far as family issues are concerned, include a high level of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) complaints from employees, secrecy from employees about appointments involving their family members, high levels of unexplained absenteeism, and sudden loss of productivity from your best employees.  Perhaps the most important indicator of a troubled culture is turnover of your highly coveted talent due to outside family concerns.


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During this audit, find out how your company treats employees who need to leave work to take care of family issues. Are you offering flexible work-life policies? Can employees work from home a few days per week; work a partial day in the office and finish up at home; and leverage technology for meetings and other interactions? According to Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study–Unlocking Growth in the Human Age, more than 50 percent of employees are asking for more flexible work life options.  Are you providing your employees with education and assistance about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? Do you provide your managers and executives training on how to handle FMLA and other family related situations appropriately? Do you provide your employees with paid family leave benefits? Are you making sure both your company and your employees understand the family and medical leave laws in the state(s) where you operate? Do you offer paid sick days that can also be used to care for relatives? Is stress reduction part of your employee benefits culture?

  1. Poll your employees about their unmet needs

After you have completed the first step, survey your employees about any benefits they feel are missing. Essentially, you will be conducting a “GAP” analysis that will identify your level of risk in the recruitment marketplace. Look at the demographics of your workforce and ask specific questions. If you have an employee affinity or resource group, this is an ideal partner to help execute your survey or to solicit additional input from.  It is important to note that if you actively solicit the input of your employees, it may build an expectation with your staff that you are committed to using this input. It is important to set expectations appropriately around any survey.

If your workforce heavily trends to millennials, you might want to ask them about their financial goals and how they are measuring up. Do they have high student debt? How are they progressing towards financial independence? Your Gen X employees’ – who are in the thick of raising children and looking after other family members – will have concerns and challenges that track their lives. Gen X, like their millennial co-workers, are also concerned about finances. The Mercer Study found that in fact employees spend 9 hours per week worrying about finances, but only 27 percent of companies offer policies or benefits to address financial health.

Don’t forget about including questions for baby boomers.  With their experience and knowledge, coupled with the talent shortage, it is crucial you understand the “gaps” in benefits they are concerned about. On the whole, baby boomers want competitive salary levels, health insurance coverage, and retirement plans.

Also, look at the benefits offerings and related data of your competitors, as well as other overall companies in your industry. What benefits are they offering? Are they treating their employees’ families as assets?  Remember you are competing for talent based on your culture and your employee benefits.

  1. Match your benefits to your employees’ needs

To get an even greater insight into your employees’ needs, make sure to turn to predictive analytics to identify what your employees and their families’ needs are. By analyzing employee and dependent information such as claims data,  workers’ compensation claims, FMLA requests, and demographic trends, you will be in a much better position to understand the benefits needed to be a “family first” company. You can then combine the data gleaned through this predictive analysis with the survey data and the competitive data you compiled. This is the baseline for your justification to your executive team regarding adding additional employee benefits.

You can either fight against the challenges employees’ dependents bring to the workplace or you can embrace them. These challenges provide the framework for a strategic approach to your workforce and can open the door to winning the battle for employee loyalty and longevity in your company. Your move.

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