Deloitte CEO: Family leave invests in our employees
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There was a time not long ago when employees were supposed to leave family issues at home. The stress of caring for an elderly parent, a sick spouse, or a newborn was something better left outside the confines of the office. It was even taboo to take too much time off to deal with something personal, other than a short maternity leave.

But a sea change is coming in companies’ attitudes about the workforce. As companies deal with the impact of technology and the incredible pace of change, they are fundamentally rethinking talent and family leave programs.

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There’s still a long way to go, but it’s clear that more companies are putting some muscle behind the old saying, “people are our greatest asset.”

Family Comes First

When people are your greatest asset, like at Deloitte, investments in human capital should be considered in the same way other companies might invest significantly in product R&D. The innovation of our workplace is key to the development of innovative solutions that address the evolving complex challenges of our clients.  And, it is about taking a holistic approach to supporting the various stages of our professional’s journey at Deloitte.  

Recently, one way we made a bold move to support our people is through an extended family leave program, which provides up to 16 weeks of fully paid leave time to our US professionals for a broad range of caregiving needs. This allows our people to adjust to the kinds of events that require more of their time, energy, and attention. We want our people to know that when they welcome home a child or need to take care of an ailing relative, they should be able to meet their priorities at home and not worry about losing income or professional opportunities. And we want them to know that they will be welcomed back, because the best and most fulfilled contributors to our work are focused, rested, and ready—not stretched too thin trying to do it all. The breadth, inclusiveness and length of this program is the first of its kind in the professional services industry. 

One of the questions I’ve gotten is, how can you afford to do this?  In truth, it’s not a difficult decision.

First, there’s the return on investment in hard dollars. Surveys show that programs dedicated to time off for caregiving are a top need. A Gallup survey found that workers miss an average of 6.6 days of work per year tending to caregiving demands, costing the US economy approximately $25 billion in lost productivity annually. When at-home or family demands are even greater, and workers actually give up their jobs to adjust, they lose their income, their health and retirement benefits, and, importantly, they dramatically reduce their ability to participate fully in our economy. Companies also lose money hiring and training new people to take their place. We can’t afford to let high performing talent just walk away from our companies without providing an opportunity to work through family needs.

Our recent Parental Leave survey of 1,000 employed workers in the United States found that nearly 9 in 10 respondents would value leave that encompasses family care beyond parental leave. It also found that 50 percent of surveyed employees would rather have more parental leave than a pay raise.   

The Overwhelming Responses

I cannot begin to summarize the incredible notes I’ve received since we announced the new program. One employee told me she is managing care for two aging parents, one with Alzheimer’s and one with Parkinson’s, and that this program will help her as she tries to meet the needs of her family and continue to fulfill her passion for working. Another employee said he looked forward to using his leave to pursue, with his partner, their long-time goal of starting a family through adoption – and being home during those critical weeks of bonding with a new child. Some say they have no plans to use the program, but that they welcome it because it gives them peace of mind, should they need it someday. 

These are just a few stories that show the power of taking care of people. We have found that it’s important to offer the traditional benefits of a 401(k) plan, along with medical, dental, and vision health care insurance plans, tuition reimbursement, and generous vacation policies. But what really demonstrates our commitment to our people is to show them that their years with Deloitte will involve a diverse range of challenges and that we will support them at every stage in their lives. Today, this commitment sets us apart. I hope that as more companies #LeadOnLeave, as social media puts it, this will become the norm rather than the exception.

What’s Next?

I’ve been there, and am still there, myself; over the course of my career I’ve been raising two children while trying to “do it all,” I have helped a sibling through 6 months of chemotherapy treatments, and am now thinking about what I may need to do one day to care for an aging parent. Now, our people will have more help when thinking about their own life events.

So if there’s an ill child in the house, or time off is needed to care for an aging parent, our people will have the peace of mind that comes from the ability to take the time they need. This is how innovative organizations in the age of transformation build a “culture of courage” in their workplace – one which fosters impacts that matter for clients and people.  

Cathy Engelbert is the CEO of Deloitte.


 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.