‘Distracted Employees Aren’t Happy Or Productive Employees’

Debi Yadegari, founder of Villyge, on why it’s important to support working parents and caregivers.
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Employers take note: the Great Reassessment, also known as the Great Resignation, is especially relevant to working parents and caregivers.

So says Debi Yadegari, founder and CEO of Villyge, a New York City-based company that provides an online platform to support working parents that employers can offer as an employee benefit. Villyge provides personalized one-on-one assistance to employees and “just in time” guidance to managers.

Yadegari spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about the kind of support working parents and caregivers need today—and why it helps a company to provide it.

Why has the Great Reassessment—and the Great Resignation—pushed HR leaders to reimagine the working parent, and working caregiver, experience? 

The Great Reassessment has changed everything—for employers, employees, HR leaders, C-Suite leaders, caregivers, everyone. We’re coming off of a global pandemic—something none of us have ever experienced or could have planned for. And that’s forced us all to change our perspective. 

For working parents and caregivers, our personal and professional lives suddenly collided in a very big and, in many cases, very public way. One day we were working in offices and the next we had kids and dogs running around in the background of our Zoom calls. Parents had to shift between being employees and managers and being remote teachers and IT experts. Even though it had always been hard to balance home and work, now there was zero separation. Now our home and work lives were completely blurred and everyone—employees and employers—needed to figure out how to make it work. 

While we aren’t completely through the pandemic, we are seeing the impact of the Great Reassessment. Working parents and caregivers are re-evaluating what makes the most sense for them and their families. What are their priorities right now? Could remote work and work-from-anywhere arrangements be a long-term solution to help people achieve more—not just at work, but in every aspect of their lives?

People want their jobs to deliver so much more than salaries now. That’s forcing HR leaders to really think about how they’re including working parents and caregivers in the conversation in a meaningful way—something that, I’d argue, hasn’t happened at most companies, until now. We talk about bringing your “full self” to work in the sense of expanding diversity within an organization. But when we say that, we aren’t usually talking about working parents and working caregivers. We don’t want them to bring their “full self”—we want them to leave their “home” responsibilities at the door. 

That, then, is driving this massive resignation we’re seeing. If employees can’t get what they want and need from their current employer, they’ll go somewhere else—and because we’re seeing more open headcounts than job seekers, they’ll likely find what they’re looking for out there. Working parents want to be at those PTA meetings or be able to go to afternoon sports games. And they know they can because they spent two years working from home and being able to be in the stands and get their work done. Why should they give that up to go back to an office?

How does supporting working parents and caregivers benefit employees and organizations? 

Employees really have that upper hand right now—it’s a competitive hiring market, and getting and retaining talent means meeting the needs of today’s employees. Like I said, that goes so far beyond salary, in a way we’ve never seen before. 

The better the support companies can provide working parents and caregivers, the better and more successful those employees will be at tackling their work responsibilities—and home responsibilities. We all have a heavy mental load, and the more on a person’s plate, the heavier that weight becomes. 

By providing support for working parents and caregivers, companies win, too. Distracted employees aren’t happy or productive employees. 

On the flip side, employees who feel supported are more engaged, more productive, more successful and more likely to stay in their current companies. We know 43 percent of working parents leave their employers post-baby—and that turnover has a significant impact on employers, from their profitability to morale to productivity. Cultivating a culture that prioritizes caregivers curbs some of those challenges while, at the same time, helping mitigate the risk of family responsibility discrimination claims. That’s also important. 

Your platform, Villyge, integrates managers into the communication and support framework — and provides resources for them, as well. Why is the manager piece—the resources, support and communication workflows—so important? 

Bringing managers into the process is so important. We see it over and over—most managers and leaders are extremely well-intentioned. But no one teaches you how to be a boss. Maybe that person was promoted into a managerial role because they’re an amazing salesperson or engineer or creative. There’s no moment of pause when that person is, then, trained to be an empathetic, engaged manager. So when life events happen—a birth, adoption, death in the family, divorce—managers often don’t know what to do to best support that employee. 

That said, when there’s a structured support system in place that prompts a manager and arms them with the tools and resources they need to best support an employee, everyone comes out a winner. 

That, though, is just part of it. People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. So our tools are important because they help managers navigate these pivotal moments, when people are more likely to leave. They help employees and leaders move forward, together, while lessening the risk of litigation because of discrimination or, even, unconscious bias. 

Having meaningful working parent and caregiver benefits, perks and support systems in place can have a significant ripple effect for businesses—specifically, for retention and recruiting. What are you seeing in companies that prioritize these types of initiatives? 

We’re seeing tremendous success in workplace satisfaction and retention. One number we’re particularly proud of has to do with retention, which we know is so important for employees and employers. The average retention rate for a company post-baby is 59 percent. Villyge companies have a post-baby retention rate of 96 percent.

When you think about the fact that replacing a single employee can cost upwards of three times that person’s salary, you see the immediate, bottom-line impact of these benefits—and that’s just the beginning. With programs for working parents and caregivers you’re also driving loyalty, you’re driving commitment, and you’re creating a culture people want to be part of. That’s priceless for everyone—employees, employers, everyone.

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