Gen X to Employers: We Are Here! We Are Here!

Support for Working Parents

Last June, the CDC released a report on the nation's birthrate that revealed an interesting fact; women are waiting longer to have children.

While the number of babies born to women in their 20s declined again in 2014, the number of births to women in their 30s and 40s continued to rise.

This is an important statistic for employers. Older parents in the CDC study would be part of Gen X and at a pivotal crossroads in their careers. By waiting to have children, these people have put one or two decades of career experience behind them and amassed an exceptional knowledge base. That makes them especially valuable employees. Yet with careers now going head to head with new parenting responsibilities, these employees will likely be at risk at the very moment employers need them most.

Pivotal Challenges and Support for Working Parents

This is part of the shifting demographic in today's workplaces. Skills gaps discussions often focus exclusively on the hand-off between retiring Boomers and Millennials. It's a worthy concern. But Gen X has a key role to play, too. With Boomers out of the picture, it will be Gen X taking the leadership reins, moving into more senior roles and becoming the pivotal players who keep organizations afloat. That means it's important to make sure these employees are ready. And the CDC report says it's likely many of those future leaders will step into those roles with small children in tow.

The question is, what can employers do to make sure they're able? There's good reason to wonder. Last year's second Bright Horizons Modern Family Index showed a distinct trend of working parents feeling unsupported by their workplaces and so unable to manage the weight of work responsibilities that were taking up more and more of their time. Nearly all of them said they'd experienced burnout. Many were considering new jobs. And almost all felt they needed more assistance from their employers.

What Employers Stand to Gain By Providing Child Care

It's a critical discussion since conflicts between family and work - things like availability of child care and cost - have historically been top reasons working parents change employers or opt out. For employers, that could portend a mass exodus of key employees at a highly inopportune time. There's good reason to believe support for working parents -- specifically child care -- could make a huge difference. Nearly 90% of people in our Lasting Impact studies said the child care provided by their employer was the main reason they came back to work after a baby; and one in seven told us they'd actually turned down another job just to keep child care.

And it's not just about working moms. Support for working parents assists all corners of the workforce.

Dads are Feeling Equally Stressed

Managers might (as they told us) believe that dads are focused on their careers. But among the surprising facts about today's working dads is that more than half of them said that what they're really stressed about is work/life balance and the fact that lack of family time is burning them out.

Yes, Millennials Need Help, Too

If you're still thinking about Millennials, that CDC study includes two other important statistics: that the overall birthrate is up for the first time since 2007, and that older mothers have been trending for years. Those new employees who forego having babies today will be experienced employees who do have children down the road...and who will need support. In that same Lasting Impact study, more than half of employees attracted to their employer by child care didn't even have children at the time they were hired. That says child care is the kind of powerful recruiting tool that communicates not just an individual support, but an overall supportive culture.

In light of Millennials' candid declarations about avoiding the burnout of their predecessors, that last point could prove to be pivotal. Because even if they don't have children today, the data show that these employees will gravitate to those employers where they see support for working parents, and a positive future.

And as for Gen X... these employees are proving way too valuable to be forgotten.  

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.