If you don’t have kids of your own, you probably know as much about working parents as you do about different brands of diaper cream — not a lot.
Conventional wisdom may tell you that employees with children may not be as productive or reliable as those without. After all, kids get sick, parents have to pick them up from school, and employees with small children in the home aren’t going to be too happy to take your late-night phone calls.
But this attitude fails to take into account all the extra skills a parent picks up raising a family. In fact, hiring moms and dads is not only a potential gain on an individual level, but it can also help foster a happier and more productive workplace.
Parents Know How to Work
Before diving into the hidden skills of working parents, let’s get one thing straight: Working more does not automatically mean you’re being more productive. In fact, studies have shown just the opposite is true. Results matter much more than the hours a person puts in.
With that in mind, here are a few skills parents have that allow them to get results while still getting the kids in bed by 8:00:
Time management: Being a parent often means living your life around your kids’ schedules. Whether it’s getting chores done between newborn feedings or finding the time to run errands between soccer practice and a piano recital, moms and dads are typically scheduling wizards.
At work, this means parents are more likely to keep track of how much time they have to get things done and prioritize tasks better than someone who doesn’t have to pick up the kids by 5:00 sharp.
Multitasking: There’s a fine line between knowing how to multitask and being easily distracted, and moms and dads quickly learn how to stay on the right side of that line. I can remember one occasion when I had interviews in the morning, a reading to my kid’s class, a new client pitch in the afternoon, and a Little League game all in the same day.
It’s easy to do all those things badly, but parents usually can’t afford to phone it in because their kids will call them out on it in a heartbeat. In a small, fast-paced company where everyone is being asked to roll up their sleeves and get multiple things done at any given time, these well-honed skills come in handy.
Team management: Having a family is like baptism by fire for learning team management. It requires Zen-like patience and empathy and a knack for communicating with stubborn and difficult team members. In fact, there are even some researchers who have said that moms make better bosses.
Organization: Many moms are the COOs of their households — coordinatinglogistics,providing rides to school, and scheduling sign-up dates. These skills are invaluable in the business world, where success is often just as much a result of coordinating a project’s moving parts by deadline as it is the result of sheer talent.
A Parent-Friendly Environment Is a Happy Environment
Having parents in the office doesn’t just mean you’ll have a more productive team; the environment at a parent-friendly company can actually make all employees happier and make your company stronger as a whole.
For one thing, most parents aren’t looking to change jobs every couple years. They want to be in a place where their jobs are secure and they have the potential for growth. Not many people want to start out in a new, uncertain position when they have others who rely on them financially.
By welcoming parents into the fold, a company can say to all its employees: We want you for the long haul. If employees aren’t constantly waiting for the next shoe to drop or seeking a new place of employment, then they have more time and energy to commit to their jobs and will be happier doing it. Security breeds happiness, and happiness is contagious.
A parent-friendly environment can also foster behaviors that increase happiness at a company-wide level. A parent-strong workforce forces employers to be more flexible when it comes to time. (Kids need to be picked up from school at a certain time, and they sometimes get sick and have to stay home.) But rather than this being a hindrance, it can actually help refocus a business’s priorities.
Instead of evaluating employees based on the hours they work, these companies can focus on the results employees are getting. Did the job get done right and on time? What can be done to improve performance? Sometimes the answer is working more hours, but more often than not, there are other factors that could be adjusted to help employees improve their performance.
But possibly the biggest benefit a parent-friendly environment can provide is an attitude adjustment. By being more flexible with time and readjusting the company’s work-life balance to accommodate different priorities, a business can turn tired wage slaves into happier, less-stressed employees who are loyal and willing to work hard for a company that respects their time and their lives.
Not every parent is a slam-dunk employee, of course, but their extra responsibilities can make them more valuable, not less. As long as you’re willing to work with them (and they’re willing to reciprocate), you can create an environment that inspires a happier, more productive company.
Robert Glazer is the founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, a digital strategy firm focused on profitable online customer acquisition for high-growth consumer businesses. Representative clients include Tiny Prints, Shutterfly, adidas, Reebok, ModCloth, Blurb, Stella & Dot, Warby Parker, Bonobos, Rent the Runway, Target, zulily, Tea Collection, and Layla Grayce. Robert was named to the Boston Business Journal’s 2013 40 Under 40 list, and his depth of industry expertise extends to consumer products and services, technology, retail, and clean technology.
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