Building a More Flexible Employee Culture in Utah? Don’t Forget Child Care

This article was published in the Winter 2022, Hall of Fame Issue
by Katie Morrow, Senior Director of People Operations, Podium

From the beginning of 2020 until now, the world around us has been steadily pulled into new and unfamiliar places and the world of work has not been immune to the impact of the pandemic -- one such effect has been the Great Resignation.

While there are many different drivers for this mass exodus out of the workplace, one overarching theme has been simple dissatisfaction -- caused by burnout or fear of cost cutting. Since March 2020, employees have had a lot of time to sit at home and ponder the directions of their lives, and now many of those who are unhappy are taking steps to change it. It’s currently an employees’ market, and employers no longer appear to hold all the cards.

As Utah companies respond to this major shift in the workforce, we have focused our attention on new ways to support our employees and to jumpstart new initiatives that we believe will help to maintain a healthy work and home balance. Perhaps the most important of these was rethinking our child care benefits.

In 2021, Podium launched Little Founders, in partnership with Bright Horizons. This on-site child care facility has been enthusiastically embraced and has made an immediate difference for our working parents.

Any business in Utah that wants to supercharge employee happiness and create an environment with greater flexibility should consider improving its child care benefits. Here are a few reasons why:

Benefit No. 1 – Addressing local challenges

Utah is a unique state at a unique crossroads in its unique history. That means we also have unique challenges to manage, including incredible growth.

Our state is growing at one of the fastest paces in the country. First, in GDP, where we continue to see businesses boom and industries take off. Second, in population, where not only do we have one of the highest birth rates in the country, but people are moving here at lightning speed to benefit from our incredible job opportunities and lifestyle advantages.

That amazing growth means we have a lot of children to care for, which is ideal for the future, but also drops a major burden onto parents who work out of the house. In those circumstances, smart businesses really don’t want to put people in a position where they have to choose between their job and the wellbeing of their children.

Unfortunately, most Utah businesses still operate in a way that puts those choices on parents. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of local companies lose talented employees to other jobs simply because it makes their lives as parents easier.

As Utah’s population continues to explode, the companies that give working parents more appealing options will have a massive advantage in recruiting and retention. Organizations can’t always offer the same benefits Podium provides, but every company can do something – and your people will appreciate it.

Benefit No. 2 – Creating more flexible, desirable workplaces

The pandemic certainly didn’t help working parents who already felt overburdened. As health and safety regulations closed school buildings and daycares, most of those responsibilities shifted home.

Now, as businesses around the country are continuing our slow, cautious reopening, we have a perfect opportunity to make concrete changes that will benefit working parents. A recent study from EY found that nearly half of employees around the world would quit their jobs if the companies they work for don’t provide flexibility after the pandemic.

Losing people to other opportunities simply because they need better options in caring for their children is unacceptable. So at Podium, we brought the daycare center to us and embraced flexibility in our scheduling.

Many high-quality child care centers have massive waitlists, and most parents simply can’t wait a year or more for that opportunity to materialize. If they don’t have local connections who can help, then the only option is paying for a nanny, which is cost-prohibitive for a lot of families.

Benefit No. 3 – Encouraging greater diversity

Companies will realize additional benefits from creating workplace cultures that provide flexible options to employees, including supporting diversity efforts by opening your doors to more people. When we support working parents, people moving to our organizations from outside of Utah benefit in peace of mind, and this is especially true of on-site child care.

Great employees with the right experience to help your company are not always going to be available nine-to-five. People’s lives change, and if we put them in a position where they feel like they have to compromise their family time, we lose their experience and expertise to a more inclusive organization.

Along with many business leaders around the state, we have committed to improving our diversity, equity and inclusion. Expanding child care benefits is an absolute necessity for any company that wants to successfully reach its DEI initiatives.

Improving child care options for working parents just makes sense. It will help recruiting and retention and it will attract and encourage greater diversity in our organizations.

As we address the unique challenges of the area and consider the needs of working parents, we can build a framework for growth. Solving our biggest hurdles in encouraging talented people to bring their families to the Beehive State will help build a bright future for everyone.

The Great Resignation is a signal to companies that employees want more flexibility at work, effort toward diversity, and understanding of their challenges from employers. Organizations can embrace this call and create attractive, beneficial cultures in Utah businesses by improving their child care options and helping ease the burdens on working parents.

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