The following is a summary of a presentation I gave at the Best Place for Working Parents® 2023 National Summit.
We believe our people are what make our agency special. Not just the roles they fill but the whole person they represent. Our careers are only a portion of who we are as individuals. As convenient as it would be, we don’t get to fit our various identities into clean compartments and focus on one at a time. As I write this, I am fully an agency owner, a husband, a father, a friend, and a brother. Those roles and responsibilities are what make me who I am and they all pour into the other.
Chances are, most people at Schaefer aren’t going to retire here, though it would be awesome if they did! We’ve come to grips with that reality and know that employees join our team for a season. Some for years and some for decades. We have the extraordinary privilege and opportunity to support them, coach them and learn from them during the season they share with us. All with a goal of making life better. Sure, it’s hard. But it backs up the principle upon which I started — our people matter. And, we must be intentional about the time we invest in each and every one of them.
In 2022, we received an award for Policy Innovation for Working Parents. Though humbled and appreciative of the recognition, I don’t think of us as being innovative, but rather deeply intentional. Maybe that intentionality is the real “innovation.” It’s hard, it’s time-consuming and it constantly changes, but it’s proven to be worth it.
More than 15 million U.S. workers have quit their jobs since April 2021 – and 45% percent of those surveyed said needing to take care of family was a key factor in their decision.
The last few years have clearly shown us how the needs of our employees can shift. We have to be willing to reevaluate how we interact, the benefits we offer, and the policies and procedures that support our operations, to ensure we stay relevant, congruent and continue to be catalysts for the positive culture that is essential to our existence.
The importance of family to employees isn’t a new trend but parent’s ability and permission to prioritize their family is. As an original “latchkey” kid, I saw firsthand the struggles working parents often face – the tough reality of choosing work OR family. For them, work drew hard lines that defined a separation between “professional” and “parent.”
Our intention at Schaefer is to create and nurture an environment where parents don’t ever have to choose between chaperoning their daughter’s field trip to the zoo and work. They don’t have to choose between coaching little league and their career. They don’t have to choose between staying home with their child because they’ve come down with a cold. We’ve worked hard to create an environment that genuinely supports our working parents.
- We’ve expanded our parental leave policy to include fathers and parents of adoption.
- We’ve set up and outfitted a private nursing room, so our mom’s aren’t forced to choose whether they continue to breastfeed after returning to work.
- We have an open door policy for children in the office and celebrate them when they are in the office (or show up on a Zoom call).
- We share family pics in our Slack channels and step into conversations about how our new moms and dads are feeling.
- We host baby showers and wedding showers with spouses.
- And much more…
We have found that intentionality is not just one thing; it simply can’t be. It’s the combination of a hundred decisions that make your workplace one that is driven by intention rather than the latest and greatest benefit. It’s far more holistic, and in the end, it’s far more beneficial to our entire team. We want parents (and all of our employees) to be their best, healthy and whole selves.
Do we always get it right? No. Are there still high expectations of our work team – absolutely. But that’s the point. This isn’t an either/or — it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s a both/and. equation.
This culmination of intentionality toward working parents, over time, generates innovation that lasts. Creating an environment that’s conducive to working parents isn’t built with policies and gimmicks. It’s built through culture and supported by consistent action. If they don’t see you living it out in both word and deed, then it’s pretty hollow and certainly not authentic or going to last.
I believe with all my heart that small businesses can support their working parents. It’s not just for big business. Seeing all that my mom had to sacrifice to pursue a career left a lasting imprint on me that has driven me to create a workplace where people don’t have to choose between being a parent and having a career.
Schaefer Advertising Co. is an independent advertising agency based in Fort Worth, Texas. We combine insight and imagination to create powerful ideas and compelling experiences that help brands connect, inspire and move audiences to take action.
Purpose is at the core of everything we do. It’s the reason we dig deep when learning about your customer, business, and brand. It’s also the lens from which we identify opportunities to make life better for the brands we work with and the people they serve. That said, we strive daily to be better partners to our clients and partners, and a better home-away-from-home for our employees.
About the National Summit
The Best Place for Working Parents® 2023 National Summit is an opportunity for business leaders across the country to connect and learn about family-friendly workplace practices that are both benefiting today’s working families AND businesses’ bottom line. From boosting attraction and retention efforts to motivating and optimizing a post-COVID workforce — the 2023 Summit featured national experts on the most critical workforce topics of today, as well as industry leaders sharing lessons learned and key strategies for building a stronger workforce in a new era.