When you get down to it, our work at EdNavigator is fairly straightforward: We help families with school. Our Navigators work one-on-one with hard-working moms and dads to help them do everything from finding the right schools for their kids to tackling serious learning challenges to getting books to read at home. They’re like a family’s pediatrician, only they’re focused on educational, not physical, health.
The secret ingredient in this approach is our partnerships with employers. We ask employers to cover a portion of the cost of providing EdNavigator support to their staff, the people who keep everything running smoothly. The rest is subsidized by our philanthropic partners.
It all started with the International House, a pioneering boutique hotel in downtown New Orleans. The hotel’s owner and management team decided that EdNavigator was a benefit their employees should have.
This is about when most people ask, “Why? What’s in it for the employer?” It’s a fair question. For the International House, it was simple: They knew schools were a common source of concern for their employees and thought giving them some help was the right thing to do. They didn’t need another reason. If they did, though, we think there’s a strong case to be made that helping families with schools benefits employers as much as employees. Here’s why.
1. When parents are distracted by school issues, they’re less productive at work.
It’s really hard to focus on work if you’re worried about what’s happening at home or at school. In a 2013 study, nearly half (47%) of all employees reported that the stress of a personal problem affected their performance at work. Among working parents, 41 percent say the lack of family assistance-related benefits, specifically, has hurt their work performance.
Dealing with problems or issues at school can also result in lost time on the job; for example, about one in three working parents (31%) admit that they have faked being sick to meet family obligations. That decreased productivity and lost time comes at a higher cost than you might think; one study estimated the costs of unscheduled absences for hourly workers to be $3,600 per employee annually.
2. Employee turnover is a big, expensive problem—and smarter benefits can help reduce it.
Employee attrition is an enormous challenge, especially in the hospitality industry, which suffers from the highest voluntary quit rate in the country. One in three hospitality industry workers chooses to leave each year, and total turnover exceeds 50 percent annually. This churn has costly ripple effects in the form of recruitment, orientation and training costs for new employees and reduced productivity among employees who remain. The larger and higher-end the institution, the higher the costs; estimates of total turnover cost range from $4,500 to $10,000 per employee or more in the hotel industry.
How does supporting employees’ families with school issues help? For one thing, it sends a powerful message that the company cares. Researchers at Gallup found that employee turnover was 22 percent lower among employees who responded more positively to the statement “someone at work cares about me.” There’s also evidence to suggest that employer-sponsored supports that affect employees’ children can make them think twice about walking out the door; for instance, Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index found that working parents “would be willing to forego higher paying jobs, vacation time and other benefits for reliable child care.”
3. Talented employees want to work for employers who care.
Talented workers have options, and they increasingly want to work for companies who demonstrate a commitment to supporting their employees’ personal commitments and family lives. According to Bright Horizons’ 2015 Modern Family Index, 62 percent of working parents said that it’s extremely important for company values to support the needs of working parents, and 52 percent said it was critical for company cultures to address family responsibilities. Eight out of 10 job-seekers told Gallup that they are more likely to apply to companies that have been recognized for creating a great workplace.
4. Better schools are good for business.
Companies know that a well educated local workforce is a key competitive advantage in the global marketplace. So how do you get a well educated workforce? There’s plenty of evidence that engaged families make for better schools. Their children are absent less often, come to school better prepared, and get more consistent support at home. When families know what their kids should be learning and what schools and teachers should deliver, they also put positive pressure on the school system as informed consumers. And when schools are doing well, everybody wins, including local businesses.
5. Consumers want to affiliate with companies that care.
The next generation of consumers expects more from businesses than just quality products or experiences. They are looking for companies that reflect their values. In a recent survey by Aflac, for example, two thirds of millennials said that they are likely to invest in a company well-known for its corporate social responsibility program. Another study by Horizon Media found that 81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.
Why should employers care about families and schools? The real question is, how could they afford not to?