HIGHLIGHTS: ABEER AHMED
Checking in to a colourful, bright and cosy nursery or a child care unit in the middle of an extremely hectic day can be a stress reliever for the singles working in an organization too! That being said, itís a great way towards communal maturity and effectively moving forward in a developing country where being cost effective should be a prime concern!
With the race for talent heating up in Pakistan, it has become abundantly clear that organizations have to do more to be perceived as an employer of choice. Where compelling and engaging work, coupled with a competitive remuneration is fast becoming the new norm for top talent, what really sets an organization apart is the work environment it offers. Work life balance is an area many value, and even more so once they become parents.
To keep employees engaged to their work commitments, many organizations have found that offering unique workplace perks helps grow their employer brand. Whether itís an on-site gym or a breakout room, telecommuting or a day-care, organizations are stepping up their game in establishing an engaging relationship with current and prospective employees.
The establishment of on-site day cares ñ especially since itís not as common in Pakistani offices yet ñ is a unique way for organizations to attract and retain diverse talent. Not only do current employees feel more valued when the organization pitches in child care, but the employees are also able to better focus with their child in close proximity. In fact, Business Insider has observed that corporate-sponsored day-care has benefits for even those who do not have children! When employees with kids have peace of mind at work, their co-workers benefit, as they do not have to pick up after their child-rearing colleague ñ and thatís great savings in terms of both morale, and productivity.
Where it allays separation anxiety, on-site child care also reduces absenteeism and lateness whilst alleviating overall stress in the workplace. In fact, it has been seen that children in close proximity to the workplace help keep the environment calmer and less prone to aggressive outbursts. Anyone who has spent time in the workplace can confirm that parents often have to dash to pick up their child from day-care in the middle of important work, and worriedly look at their watch as the day wanes. Employers often cite logistical hurdles as a reason for not offering on-site day-care. Indeed, between site selection, proper arrangements, appropriate policy creation and implementation, and the largest barrier of recruiting and training staff, it is fair for employers to be intimidated by the magnitude of the project.
In terms of strategy, the organization must consider whether it has the space and budget to allocate to a day-care. Moreover, itís important to involve employees in the process, asking what facilities they require, and also to gauge the expected enlistments for the new day-care. Guidelines must be set up in collaboration with parent representatives. Qualified nannies or paediatric nurses must be employed to cater to the specific needs of the children.
There are two ways that organizations have dealt with these strategic and logistical barriers. The first way is to hire external consultants who specialize in setting up onsite child care services. In Pakistan, Catco Kids provides a turnkey solution, and counts the largest corporations amongst its clientele, including Unilever, PSO, Engro, Nestle and even the Government of Punjab Civil Secretariat. Where there is a larger upfront cost (that can be offset by a subsidized monthly fee), this set up allows organizations to let the experts do their job, and for the corporation to focus its efforts where their competitive advantage lies. The second is to work with current employees to survey what kind of child care they would prefer. Many employees prefer flexible benefits such as a spending account, so that those with elderly parents can support their parents without feeling disadvantaged as well, and those with younger kids can subsidize externally available and personally suitable child care (such as a full time nanny).
In any case, the organization has to analyse what it intends to do for its employer brand. For some companies, appearing family-friendly is crucial, so having child care benefits are essential. For other corporations, building a robust culture of care is a priority, and often means providing more diverse benefits to cater to the specific needs of its employees. Where some organizations have introduced onsite child care as a ëbest practiceí, others see it as a way to set themselves apart in the sector to attract the best talent.
Itís observed that the most attractive employers in Pakistan now offer some kind of child care support. For organizations that are aspiring to be the employer of choice, a day-care is a worthy investment given that it fits into the strategic objective of attracting diverse talent.
A cost-benefit analysis of the banking sector in California by Cynthia Ransom and Sandra Burud pointed to on-site day-care programs cutting down turnover and absenteeism, which helped reduce operational costs by up to US$232,000 annually. According to the book ëKids at Work: The Value of Employer-Sponsored On-Site Child Care Centersí, on-site day care has been proved to not only be affordable, but also profitable. During their study of hundreds of employer-sponsored child care programs, and interviews with around 1,000 employers, authors Rachel Connelly, Deborah S. DeGraff, and Rachel A. Willis estimated savings in wages of US$150,000 and US$250,000 for just two companies that provided on-site day-care.