Ask a three-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up, and the answer is just as likely to be superhero or mermaid as veterinarian or engineer.
But inside that preschooler’s brain, a foundation is being built that will play a large role in determining her future school and career success. That’s because during a child’s earliest years, his or her experiences are built into the body, shaping the architecture of the brain and creating the foundation for future learning and health.
In fact, the early years are so defining that by the time a child turns eight, his or her third-grade reading outcomes can predict future academic achievement and career success. Decades of research show that strong brains are built when three key factors fall into place: health and development is on track from birth; families and communities are supportive and supported; and children have access to high-quality birth-through-age eight learning environments with regular attendance.
One vital way employers can help support our current and future workforce is to offer family-friendly workplace policies such as flexible schedules, paid parental leave and support for breastfeeding mothers at work, which have a direct, positive impact on child health and well-being, especially during the critical early years.
Families aren’t the only winners when workplaces are family-friendly. Employers benefit by attracting and retaining more talent, improving productivity and boosting employee morale.
Conversely, when working parents struggle, employers feel the effects:
- 75 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers have passed up work opportunities, switched jobs, or quit to care for their children.
- Nearly 40 percent of parents say they’ve left a job because it lacked flexibility.
- In a nationwide survey of more than 3,400 nonprofit leaders, nearly 60 percent reported difficulty hiring and retaining staff.
- Half of North Carolina employers had difficulty hiring in 2018, up 10 percent from 2016, and a low 4.2 percent unemployment rate and an ongoing skills gap means employers must work harder to attract and retain top talent.
These trends can also negatively affect career attainment of parents with young children, especially mothers.
In early 2019, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) launched the Guide to Family Forward Workplaces as part of Family Forward NC, an initiative to create more family-friendly workplaces across the state.
The guide was informed by input from more than 1,000 employers and employees throughout the state and an advisory council of prominent business leaders, community leaders, and health experts. It provides tools for employers of all sizes with practical tips for selecting and implementing 16 family-friendly workplace practices that have evidence to support positive business impact and a positive effect on child health and well-being.
As a nonprofit, NCECF understands the challenges of thinking through paid family leave or childcare for employees can be daunting and can seem out of reach. But it is doable. The guide showcases employers of all sizes and industries who’ve made family friendly policies work and seen direct, positive business impact as a result.
For example, the YWCA Lower Cape Fear in Wilmington not only offers an on-site child care facility, but it also subsidizes child care costs for its employees. And NCECF, which has a small staff of five, re-vamped its paid parental leave policy just last year to provide 12 weeks of paid leave.
Ready to get started?
- Check out NCECF’s guide for research and resources to evaluate your workplace benefits and begin or continue a conversation for how your workplace can be family friendly. If you already have family-friendly policies, share them with NCECF to be featured online.
- Check out North Carolina Center for Nonprofits’ Principles & Practices: Best Practices for North Carolina Nonprofits for building and improving your organization’s human resources practices. (Center Members can download the guidebook as a benefit of membership.)
Lisa Finaldi is community engagement leader for the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), the state’s only organization focused exclusively on children from birth to eight. For more on NCECF, visit www.buildthefoundation.org.
NCECF has been a Member of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits since 2013.