Study Reveals the Myth of the Family-Friendly Corporation

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Family-friendly benefits are grossly underutilized by most dual-career couples. An exclusive study finds that many companies still have a long way to go to turn family-friendly policy into practice that employees actually trust and use.

John Curtis, Ph.D. reveals that despite their employers' best efforts to be family-friendly, most dual-career couples don't trust their employers' intentions. Instead, to protect the health and happiness of their marriages, most dual-career couples are less committed than ever to their work.

Dual-Career Couples Are Divorcing Their Employers: Today's best and brightest employees are 1) lowering career expectations, 2) cutting back on work hours and 3) actively disengaging from their jobs despite employers' best efforts to be sensitive and family-friendly. 1 in 3 dual-career employees place fixed constraints on the number of hours they will work. 75% of dual-career employees are scaling back career expectations. The majority of dual-career couples with young children are refusing work-related travel or relocation to protect their marriages and to spend more time in family activities. 

Most Employers Are Unaware They Are Losing the Battle: This work-life balance study finds that while their intentions may be positive, many corporate executives are deceiving themselves about the value of their family-friendly benefits. In reality, such benefits are grossly underutilized by employees who fear that they will be seen as less than top performers, if they actually use them. One prime example is that of 384 Fortune 500 companies with paternity leave, only 9 of these companies have received a single request for this benefit.

Many companies find it easier to focus on winning family-friendly contest rankings rather than making the substantive changes in the organizational culture required to turn policy into practice that employees actually believe. The study concluded that if being family-friendly is to ever become an engrained part of an organization's culture, the employees are the ones who should be doing the ranking. Family-friendly awards may bring a steady flow of dual-career job seekers, but without establishing a true family-friendly culture, these same individuals, once they become employees, will quickly realize that the policy does not translate to practice… they feel deceived.

Nationwide, over 70% of mothers with children younger than 18 hold down paying jobs and more than 1 in 2 mothers with children less than a year old are working. These working mothers employed by Fortune 500 companies frequently avoid requesting flexible scheduling or parental leave, because they fear that this will lower their standing for promotions or increase the likelihood of their being laid off.

Despite corporate claims to the contrary, employees believe that their employer expects them to invest in their jobs first and, minimize the intrusion of family obligations. Many employers are resistant to accommodating the peculiar nature of the dual-career couples, and many employees believe that allowing children to disrupt work means your career options are diminished.
Some Employers Are Becoming Enlightened: The study concluded that there is clear evidence that working couples are attracted to organizations that offer a balance between work and family responsibilities, but once again, there is often a significant gap between policy and practice that must be resolved. Enlightened executives, who focus on the organization's culture, are in a unique position to examine the real value of their existing family-friendly policies and develop innovative strategies to positively affect the lives of their employees and not simply compete for rankings in a popularity contest.

Family-friendly benefits can be identified that are meaningful, worth the investment, and are actually used by employees. Executives will have a competitive advantage in attracting the growing scarcity of the best and brightest workers who can be equally committed to family and career, if they have an employer who supports both.

Dr. John Curtis


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Dr. John Curtis
IOD, Inc.
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