How Employers Can Profit from Their Investment in Parents


Parenthood – one of the best management courses ever! 

When it comes to looking for leadership skills, many employees have it, but have not thought about it. Neither have (their) employers. Efficiency, organization, prioritization, teambuilding and creativity are all a parent’s stock-in-trade, and they are skills that are highly valued by employers in their constant search for that competitive edge.

A parent’s skills are developed from babyhood to first day at college. Their experience in conflict management, as well as delegation and motivation strategies is an enormous potential advantage for employers, managers and employees. However, many employers do not think about where their employees get these skills. As employer support for their employees to combine work with family-life is increasing in many countries, it’s high time to talk more about employers’ Return On Investment (ROI) for support to working parents. 

Parentsmart employers adding to more equal societies

Many employers make great efforts to improve gender equality, to help their employees have a good work–family balance and to support parental leave. They realize the importance of making use of ALL skills available to them, but they need to do more.

They need to find ways to promote more women in business, more paternity leaves and more support to working parents. One issue facing governments and employers is getting both parents to take advantage of paid parental leave. One way is to encourage an exchange of information between governments and employers on their experiences. Another is to work with local attitudes. In societies where paternity leave is virtually socially unacceptable it can make a big difference if an employer tells a father that paternity leave is not only valuable for him and his child – but also for the company.

Of course the idea is not to discriminate against those who don’t become parents. It is about changing attitudes about parenthood at work; making it a benefit, not a burden. If employers and managers also communicate their belief in this, it will change norms, helping both women and men live a “whole life”, without having to choose between work and family. These companies will not only develop more gender-equal and sustainable workplaces, they will be fostering powerful ways to build more gender-equal and sustainable societies, all around the world.

"I felt strengthened in my decision to take parental leave and I feel a strong loyalty towards a company that not only accepts that, but also is proactive in the matter. I also feel that I discovered a number of links between parenthood and leadership – things that I otherwise would not have thought of. I will use the mindset in my leadership forward, to motivate, keep and develop my employees, using ALL their competence.” 

- Joakim Ströberg, father of three children, former Marketing Manager in the Parentsmart Co Telge AB -

Parenthood value at work - a universal fact applicable everywhere

Conditions for developing these attitudes to parenthood naturally differ according to country, depending on everything from its particular history and culture, to legislation and society support.

Some challenges are universal, but one of the solutions is universal as well. Valuing parenthood at work creates commitment and brings about an understanding of the changes in attitude needed for more inclusive societies and company cultures – no matter where. It is of value for everyone, in every business and society – men and women, parents and non-parents, managers and employees.

Many Swedish employers and managers are considered as role models abroad because of their attitudes to gender equality and support for working parents. Swedish examples can inspire, but only local examples can change local attitudes – showing it is possible to implement the needed mindset anywhere. Global companies can, for example, identify local role models in all their countries, and discuss the benefits, to employers, of supporting working parents and encouraging parental leave – thereby also contributing to more sustainable and equal societies. 

A concrete model to develop/change norms and attitudes

The Swedish initiative Parentsmart Employers is an effort to broaden perspectives, and encourage a cross-border exchange of experiences. The initiative has, during the last few years, attracted a lot of interest in eastern Europe, Japan and the US.

However, the Swedish experience shows that, even if an employer supports parents in different ways, it will still have difficulty retaining employees if it does not show, from the top, that parents also add value and are more a benefit than a cost. It is a waste for this kind of company not to talk about the all-important Return On Investment. It strengthens both parents, companies and societies.

“I’m in a company investing in support to parents, and we have an excellent parent policy document. But when I need to leave earlier to get my child at preschool I meet sighs and eyebrows from my managers. Then our policy is nothing worth, their attitudes really give bad conscience. We are several colleagues feeling very bad at work, considering leaving the company soon, for a one where parenting is not seen as a burden.” 

- Anonymous mother working in an international company -

Get going - where to start!

The Parentsmart Employers model and certification is about initiating structured dialogues in the company/organization, to influence attitudes and identify internal role models. It is about integrating concrete tools and routines for supporting working parents in both practice and attitudes. The train-the-trainer concept allows managers/employers to implement the model locally, with workshop material, a “life puzzling” tool, a parent-support framework and a role model communication strategy.

As an employer you can get started by discussing a couple of simple questions – and noting the reactions you get when posing them:

1) Which key competences are needed in our company/organization and/or in our roles at work to reach vision and goals?
2) Which skills and competences are learned during (your, if talking to a parent) parenthood? Write down everything you can think of.
3) Describe connections – of situations experienced by parents to the skills needed at work.

Becoming a Parentsmart Employer…

… strengthens both the employer brand and the company brand and market position in a modern sustainable way, using an example which is relevant everywhere.

… shows how to become an innovative employer in ensuring it has the competences it needs.

… is a concrete way to add to the Gender Equality goal of Agenda 2030

… is not a new project. It’s a tool for increased effects of existing work and projects. It creates more value of current investments/ROI.

… leads to more women in business and leading positions, tools for work-life balance, gender equality, paternity leaves, and lower costs for recruitments, sick leaves and competence development.

… sets an example for attracting and retaining current and future competences – a high priority challenge for most employers.

 The initiative Parentsmart Employers is founded and run by Tiina Bruno in Sweden - mother of three children, economist, management consultant, international lecturer and author of the "Parentsmart handbook for managers and employees" (in Swedish, under translation into English, Japanese and Russian).  Tiina is often referred to as a though leader and norm-breaker, presenting a new perspective on the combination of work with family-life for more gender equality and profitability in companies.

She is participating in international conferences, as a Swedish expert in the area, and is involved in an international exchange of experience in different ways - for all societies to speed up the development by learning from each other. 

Contact Tiina here. Find more about Tiina's work here.

Attend the webinar on "Parentsmart Employers" with Tiina Bruno's participation on 25 October 2016. Details and registration link here

Photographer & Videographer Credit: Henrik Montgomery

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