Why every leader needs a ‘Working Family’ strategy now

Why every leader needs a ‘Working Family’ strategy now

It’s a tough year for leaders. Managing a financial downturn with record inflation, navigating hybrid work, maintaining employee access to reproductive health services, and retention in the face of so much uncertainty are just a few things at the top of their minds. It can be difficult to figure out what to tackle first, but the good news is there’s a shortcut right in front of every leader that addresses the epicenter of workforce challenges today. When you support working families, you drive better business outcomes.


Working families have an outsize impact on company results. Parents and active caregivers of loved ones (together they make up what we refer to as “working families”) are 60-70% of employees at most companies—and a large majority of senior management. This massive segment of the workforce remains severely underserved by employers today.

Data from the CDC reports that 70% of parents and caregivers are suffering from mental health issues post-pandemic. With the highest risk of burnout, businesses see a negative impact on performance and retention. Meanwhile, the lack of cohesive working family strategies at companies today is stifling women’s progress in the workforce. The National Women’s Law Center found that an astounding 1.1 million women never returned to the workforce after leaving their jobs due to the pandemic (often due to the strain put on caregiving responsibilities), while men have already made a full rebound.

Of course not all of this is news to progressive employers, but most are still missing the fundamentals required for transformational progress. While every company will build its own path, here are some critical best practices that leaders can implement immediately.



Far too many employer strategies focus on supporting parents of young children, and overlook the struggling parents of older children, caregivers of chronically ill adults, or those with special needs. It’s time for businesses to broaden their definition of Working Family. Company reporting on working families exacerbates the issue, as it is usually incomplete and does not show the full picture of your workforce. Human resources information systems (HRIS) data narrowly focuses on birthing parents, because it reports on health claims and parental leave data. Tracking and acknowledging other caregiving responsibilities—like individuals caring for a sick parent—is a crucial first step.


HR should not be solely responsible for supporting working families. Empower leaders from across your organization to lead the charge on driving change. Putting together an engaged cross-functional team focused on making open-minded, innovative changes is crucial for success. This goes beyond the scope of a typical Employee Resource Group (ERG), so employees should be compensated for the additional work they’re performing, or should be relieved of some of their other job duties, so they can make space for the task force.

The task force should start by surveying your employees to gather data to get a baseline on who these parents and caregivers are, and what they’re struggling with. At Cleo we created a custom Working Family SWOT analysis. Doing your own will help you understand your business’s specific Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) as it relates to supporting working families. Gather insights from peers in your market about their programs, benefits, and policies for families. This can often be as simple as checking out their benefits pages on their website, or asking your HR consultants for a quick list of common policies at your peer companies. Look at things like:

  1. Flexible hours and work: Do your workplace and hours policies support the needs of active parents and caregivers?

  2. Benefits and leave inclusivity: Do your benefits and leave programs address the multigenerational needs of your working families? Who has been left out of these support systems?

  3. Engagement and awareness: Are your benefits being used by a significant percentage of your working families or are underutilized?

  4. Culture and leadership: Are managers creating a bias-free workplace for families, and are they trained on how to provide support? What is the tone of your leadership team?

  5. Inclusion: Are working families experiencing the same rate of upward mobility as their peers? Is there a difference in retention rates?


With the detailed research required to understand where change can be most impactful, it’s time for action. The leadership team should collaborate closely with HR and the Working Family task force to develop strategic changes through new policies and programs, with clear budgets and timelines. Changes can include everything from shifting norms on working hours, mandatory bias training for managers, new employee benefits, and more. Avoid “quick wins” and focus on long-term impact when determining where to focus first.


Define two or three KPIs you’ll monitor at the company level to define success. This can include promotion rates, retention, eNPS, and overall employee well-being. Compare your baseline survey results to ongoing quarterly engagement surveys to understand progress, and make tweaks or changes to programs as needed.

There is no one size all strategy, but companies at every stage can make an impact on working families quickly, and in budget-conscious, high ROI ways. At Cleo, we support multinational employers with a family support system built for all stages and ages of parenting and caregiving. We’ve seen dramatic outcomes particularly when they move beyond traditional benefits and implement modern strategies, which is why we’re passionate about not only creating new policies but instead new norms, so that families and women can thrive at work.

Article link- https://www.fastcompany.com/90782542/why-every-leader-needs-a-working-family-strategy-now