Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Employees’ Families are Part of Your Support Team

We recently celebrated Family Day in my home province of Alberta. The holiday is intended as a day for people to spend time with their family, which reminded me of the role families play in businesses. Inspiring workplaces recognize that families matter and that the families of employees are part of their support team.

Consider the impact work has on your life. Chances are, it is the biggest use of your waking hours – in fact, many people spend more time with their colleagues than they do with their family. Work affects your mental and physical health, your attitude and energy level you carry home with you, and your personal development and growth.  Work can’t help but have an enormous impact on your marriage and on your children’s lives.

Which is why companies such as SAS Institute, a software company based in North Carolina, places a huge emphasis on the importance of family. They have daycare facilities on their campus, bigstock_Smiling_Little_Boy_With_Cell_P_6509497where employees can visit their children any time they wish.  They create events that involve family members. And they place a huge emphasis on work-life balance by encouraging everyone to leave work when their shift ends at the end of the day. For this reason, and many more, SAS often ranks as one of the best places to work in the United States.

Recognizing the impact that work has on employees’ family life is important. Studies and surveys suggest this will become increasingly important to young people entering the workforce, who often place a premium on work life balance over the almighty dollar.

Consider the story one of my clients told me, about a senior executive who was headhunted by a competitor and offered nearly double the salary. The CEO could offer only a modest raise, but he simply wasn’t in a position to match the competitor’s offer, so he told the executive to go home and talk things over with his spouse, letting him know that he’d respect whatever decision they made together.  The executive returned the following morning to announce his decision: He was happy to stay put. Why? Because his wife reminded him that he had never been happier and less stressed out in his life – she didn’t care about the extra money, she cared more about his well-being and the impact that had on their family. Part of his decision reflected the emphasis the company places on culture, but it also reflects the fact that the CEO goes out of his way to build relationships and connections with his employees’ families.

Here are just a few ways you can make sure your employees’ families feel like a valued member of your support team:

  • Send a welcome company gift basket to the families of new hires.
  • Create a fun “Who We Are” video message for new employees to take home and share with their families.
  • Send thank-you gifts home to family members or spouses when an employee has had to work a lot of overtime or travel extensively.
  • Hold an annual open house and invite family members to participate as a way for them to get to know your company better.
  • Hold contests that include participation from family members.
  • Participate in “Bring Your Child to Work Day” initiatives (childless employees can always bring a nice or nephew to feel included!)
  • Participate in “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” events.
  • Participate in “Bring You Dog/Cat To Work Day” events.
  • As Beryl Health does, create a wall at work where parents can post their children’s artwork.
  • Beryl also sends a company magazine to families’ homes once a month, specifically aimed at families.
  • Hold family-friendly events, including barbecues, themed luncheons, Halloween, or Christmas celebrations.
  • Michael Abrashoff, the commander of the USS Benfold, wrote letters of appreciation home to family members, including often parents, of crew members who did something praiseworthy – a brilliant way to foster pride in employees’ accomplishments at work.
  • Consider family-friendly policies that help support better work/life balance.
  • Invite spouses in to hear guest speakers when relevant.
  • Bring family members in to brainstorm on key issues – a Flour Corporation office in California regularly holds brainstorming events with children, and the sessions with children typically generate more ideas and better ideas than the adult-only groups.
  • Create a “Why I Work” wall where employee can post images or words that reflect their real underlying reasons for why they work – this will help them feel connected to a greater sense of purpose, by reminding them that the paycheck isn’t the ultimate reason they show up at work everyday, it’s what they do with their paycheck that matters.

Recognizing families as part of your support team will pay off with reduced absenteeism rates and reduced employee turnover rates. It will create healthier and happier employees. And it will help build trust and cement long term relationships and help convert long term employees into truly loyal and committed employees.

In other words, don’t just celebrate families once a year – make it an ongoing practice to foster a culture that recognizes and supports families.

Michael Kerr, 2016.  Michael is an international business speaker specializing in inspiring workplace cultures.



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