Let's take a look at some of the common statements about company cultures and how they're actually playing out in the workplace:
"We offer workplace flexibility"
Flex time is key for parents or anyone caring for a dependent. It can also be incredibly helpful for employees with a long commute, whenever they have medical appointments, and whenever something unexpected pops up. Employees - especially women - are looking for workplace flexibility, but once they have it, many are finding that it can be costly to try and use it.
And there's evidence that women (arguably the people who need it most) are the hardest hit. A recent study found that 70% of people would be likely to grant male employees flexible schedules in order to accommodate child care. Only 57% would do the same for women. More eye opening: of this same group, men were more likely than women to be viewed as committed. "Flex time ranks high on the list of benefits employees want," wrote author David Burkus about the studies on Harvard Business Review. But, "If these programs aren't producing the results they're designed for, the logical step is to look at what adjustments to the design need to be made to eliminate the perceptions and biases that come along with the programs."
"We offer generous vacation"
Vacation helps employees recharge, de-stress, and make room for higher productivity and engagement. If only people would take it. Why aren't they? Many don't feel they're entitled to. More than half - 57% - chalked it up to work culture and obligations, suggesting they don't feel encouraged to use their vacation time. But 80% of employees say they'd be more likely to take more time off if they felt supported by their managers.
Employees' perception that they shouldn't take time off is hurting productivity - it's causing employee burnout, high levels of stress, and low levels of job satisfaction and engagement.
A family-friendly culture offers working parents much-needed support. But when it's touted and isn't carried out in the office, it can backfire. And according to Bright Horizons' Modern Family Index, that's exactly what's happening. A quarter of new parents experienced judgment from supervisors and/or coworkers after simply telling the boss they were expecting. It's even worse for first time fathers; over a third of new dads felt they were negatively judged after the announcement - before they even take time off to welcome the new baby. Once they return to work, 35% of new parents feel actively discriminated against.
And it's hurting your employee retention rates. In fact, 59% of working parents say they're likely to switch employers once they have their first child, in search of family-friendliness.
"We support everyone's responsibilities equally"
In theory, benefit equity ensures everyone feels supported...but in reality, employees often feel left out. Working parents might have the opportunity to head out early to their child's soccer game or work from home when their child is sick, for example. But employees who don't have children may not be offered the same flexibility, even if they're caring for an elder relative or the family pet. "Parents are a special class, and they get special treatment," Kelly Azevedo told the New York Times after leaving her job at an internet marketing company. When Kelly covered for her working parent colleagues, there were times she was forced to forgo her own responsibility of caring for her ailing grandparents.
The result is resentment among those who aren't parents, and so reduced job satisfaction and less interest in staying with their current companies.Some of these things might be slipping under the radar; finding them will likely require conducting an employee survey. A positive work culture and desirable, comprehensive benefits can help you recruit people; but supporting employees who use them will help you retain them, too.