Father's Day Reflections and the Future of Work

My father was born during the depression to tenant farmers.

The lifestyle meant early mornings and late nights, hard work and questionable income. As he came into adulthood, he took the road less traveled, putting himself through college to become an actor. To describe my father as a man of tenacity might be an understatement – he took himself from a one-room schoolhouse to a master’s degree, and from a wardrobe made of old grain sacks to one created by costume designers.

The similarities between his life on the farm and that on the stage may not be completely obvious, but each present a unique set of challenges not too far removed from the realities of the independent workforce we see growing today. The work is hard and inconsistent, it leaves the worker without protections or security, and there is no telling what the next move will be.

By the time I was born my father was 50 and had managed to find a cadence in these ebbs and flows. It was from him that I learned about what it meant to have a work ethic. He taught me to find solutions for anything that didn’t work, the meaning of “an honest day’s work,” and how to make the most of what was in front of me. Without knowing it, that laid the foundation for a future where I would work to align business and worker priorities.

A series of seemingly disconnected moments led me to a position with the Obama administration, and a period in my life that I will always hold in the highest regard. Part of my time there was served at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), where my fellow colleagues worked tirelessly to ensure that people, like my father, have the protections and supports necessary to be successful. Throughout my tenure at DOL, I frequently joined forces with businesses to advance worker needs, overcoming the prevalent narrative that what is good for workers is bad for business.

In that role, I came to understand the value of uniting unlikely allies and had many opportunities to create moments where seemingly conflicting perspectives were able to share common ground. The experience forever shaped my own views, and I vowed to continue the work of furthering worker-centric supports into the future.  

As I pondered the next step in my career, I was introduced to Gabrielle Fitzgerald, CEO of Panorama. She gave me the opportunity to think about how Panorama’s work with companies on paid leave might grow to encompass the needs of a changing workforce.

It was during these conversations that my father was abruptly rushed into an emergency heart surgery. His recovery was complicated, and he found himself in a rehabilitation facility. It was while sitting just a few feet from his hospital bed that I finished writing my proposal on this work – and in those moments I realized that while my passion for this work had always been clear, never had it been so poignant.

Shortly after, I joined Panorama – were I have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for business-led solutions that advance the needs of a changing workforce. We believe that a dependable livelihood should be a reality for all people and that the contributions of a diverse group of people is essential to driving innovation in the coming decades. This becomes a reality when all workers have the support they need to thrive, and employers see worker-supports as essential to the cost of doing business.

Regardless of where we come from, we all have to work hard to balance our jobs and the personal demands of our lives. I am inspired by the innovative ways businesses are leading the charge and look forward to working with these leaders to ensure that all American’s have the opportunity to thrive at work and at home.

Thanks to my dad for showing me the way.

 

 

Panorama Calls for Business Leaders to take The Paid Leave Pledge

Effort is a step toward strengthening the evidence base for employer adoption of paid leave

SEATTLE, June 6, 2018 - Today Panorama announced a partnership with Nestlé, Union Square Hospitality Group, Limeade, Burton SnowboardsBusboys and Poets, and TCG, among others, to further the adoption of paid leave by U.S. employers. The Paid Leave Pledge, which launched today, galvanizes leading business voices on paid leave around a commitment to share data on the impact of their paid family and medical leave (PFML) programs and calls on others to join. The effort has gained endorsement from former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Chris Lu, who acts as an advisor, and JUST Capital, who provides support for data collection analysis.

“We are excited to partner with industry leaders on this important work, and are calling on other employers who track the impact of their policies to share what they have learned,” said Kimble Snyder, Director at Panorama. “By collectively building the evidence base, businesses can ensure that more Americans have access to the resources that help them thrive both at work and at home.”

For Nestle, the pledge reinforces the company’s efforts to implement a range of parental workplace support policies launched in 2016 and designed to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for families. In addition to a broad network of parenthood support resources, Nestle offers primary caregivers up to 14 weeks of paid leave and an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a newborn child.

This founding cohort of business leaders has carefully considered how they can improve the quality of life for their employees and their families through internal, worker-centric policies. Over the next three months, Panorama will be reaching out to companies, businesses large and small, across a range of industries to gain additional commitments, with the forthcoming round of adopters slated for announcement in September 2018. Throughout a yearlong cycle, the consortium of businesses will share strategies and best practices, leading to the release of data impacts in summer of 2019.

“Through our work with the private sector at the Department of Labor, we repeatedly heard from businesses that the hardest thing was not having strong data on the impact of PFML policies,” said Lu. “Ultimately, there is a gap in data and this initiative is an important step toward addressing it.”

Tracking the results of paid leave requires flexibility, given the specific needs of each business, but there are some broad areas of impact that apply to businesses universally. In conjunction with the pledge, Panorama is developing a return-on-investment framework to provide employers with a comprehensive model of costs and benefits relating to a paid family and medical leave policy. Starting with a flexible approach is a recognition that, while not all business models are the same, there is value in better understanding the specific needs across industry sectors to protect both the wellbeing of workers and the sustainability of business.

“We’ve seen encouraging data thus far that suggest robust paid leave programs can lead to positive health outcomes and foster a more committed workforce,” said Judy Cascapera, Chief People Officer at Nestlé USA. “There is true power in this data and we hope to encourage other likeminded companies to share their analytics and learnings as we collectively work across industries to build even stronger programs for employees and their families.”

The pledge is a great opportunity for companies to better understand how to make workplace flexibilities work, and for those leading the way on these models to inspire others. Panorama serves as a trusted ally for businesses looking to expand or launch paid family and medical leave programs through its work on The Paid Leave Project. Access resources for businesses, learn how to participate in the paid leave conversation, and join future events at www.uspaidleave.org  

The Paid Leave Project to Develop Best Practices for Measuring Paid Leave

Effort will strengthen business case for voluntary employer adoption of paid leave

SEATTLE, April 9, 2018 – The Paid Leave Project, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will study how employers monitor the impact and track the outcomes of their paid leave programs. Encouraging employers to share their data externally, and supporting them in doing so, will help build evidence to address one of the largest concerns around paid leave adoption—cost.

Today, there is no standard approach to calculating the business value, health impacts, or general return on investment of paid leave. In the absence of a national policy, paid leave is a benefit some companies choose to offer. Employers looking to build a business case need data to understand the investment and impact. The Paid Leave Project is helping by developing measurement guidelines, sharing best practices and amplifying the voices of businesses.

“The next wave of employers looking to voluntarily offer paid leave want data,” said Angela Romei, director of The Paid Leave Project. “We believe that encouraging and supporting those who already offer paid leave to share their data and business results externally will reduce overall fear around costs and barriers to adoption.”

Tracking the results of paid leave requires flexibility, given the specific needs of each business, but there are consistent metrics and costs that will apply universally. To start, The Paid Leave Project is focusing on three areas: cost, business results, and health outcomes. Within these areas, success measurements include employee attraction, retention, engagement, morale, and changes in infant and parent health.

Tracking data is still the missing link in understanding the true impact of paid family and medical leave. Faced with a changing workforce, employers in every sector are exploring the impact of benefits like paid leave to productivity and their bottom lines.

Established in 2016 by Panorama, The Paid Leave Project works with employers to demonstrate the business case for paid leave by sharing research and resources. The team engaged with more than 470 large employers in 2017 to learn their paid leave stories and published a report on the findings. It was through this initial work with large employers that the need for measurement, or the return on investment, of paid leave was raised.

The Influence of Tech on Paid Leave

As I head to the WorkHuman conference in Austin, I find my mind drifting to my time in the technology industry. As a Seattleite, it’s likely not a surprise to know that before I joined the paid leave team at Panorama, I worked in tech. It’s been interesting to learn just how influential the tech sector is on the national conversation around paid leave.

Media coverage of tech companies coming out with new or expanded paid leave offerings is frequent, with the industry leading the so-called “parental leave arms race.” The tech sector has sizeable profit margins and steep competition for talent, so it follows that employers are finding innovative ways of differentiating themselves from their competitors (or matching their competitors’ offerings).

What you don’t see in the news is how this race is having ripple effects far beyond the confines of tech. Through our work on The Paid Leave Project my team and I have had in-depth conversations with large employers on the topic of paid leave, and the influence of the tech industry has come up again and again. In addition to competition for tech talent, employers find themselves vying for non-tech talent when they’re in close vicinity to a tech company. Agnostic to sector, workers are heavily influenced by the media coverage on tech’s paid leave programs, and benefits overall. People across the country are talking about the industry’s generous policies in employee groups, millennial fathers are forwarding these announcements to human resources, and unions are using this information in their negotiations.

Tech’s outsized influence is indisputable.

As I look through the conference agenda, I see an abundance of speakers and thought leaders from the tech sector. Hosted by Globoforce (tech!), WorkHuman is focused on the next generation of HR, working with businesses who thrive by bringing humanity to the employee experience. While paid leave is clearly in this vein, I was surprised to see that paid leave is not a topic of discussion here.

We believe the tech sector still has an important role to play by sharing the results, outcomes, and impacts they have seen because of offering paid leave. When Google increased paid leave to 18 weeks, the rate of new mothers leaving dropped by 50%. SAP shared that paid leave drives an increase in employee engagement, and every one percent increase in employee engagement equals a $75 million increase in net operating profits.

We’re excited to see other organizations here at WorkHuman that are leading the way with paid leave benefits, including Twitter, Intel, and LinkedIn. We hope they will also lead the way as the national conversation on paid leave evolves; by sharing information that will build the business case, they can affect more widespread adoption of this benefit and ultimately increase access for more U.S. workers.

Tech Industry and Millennial Expectations Play Outsized Roles in Paid Leave Adoption, According to New Report

Research from The Paid Leave Project Identifies Factors Behind Adoption in U.S. Private Sector

SEATTLE, March 1, 2018 – Competitive pressure, millennial workforce expectations, and the outsized influence of the technology industry are among factors impacting voluntary adoption of paid family and medical leave programs in the U.S. private sector, according to new research by The Paid Leave Project.

The year-long project gathered information from more than 470 large U.S. employers across 23 industries to identify which factors impact a company’s decision to voluntarily offer paid family and medical leave.

“The need for paid leave programs is already part of our national conversation,” said Angela Romei, director of The Paid Leave Project. “This new data is crucial to help employers better understand the decisions that will positively impact their workforce and business operations.”

Changes in the national labor force are accelerating paid leave decisions, according to the research. The emerging 21st century workforce, led by the millennial generation, values work-life balance even more than previous generations. Companies say the expectations of their millennial employees are driving them to consider adopting or expanding paid leave.

The influence of the technology industry, with typically generous paid leave programs, extends beyond its own sector and across the country as its benefits become widely known and expected. Companies cited this kind of employee pressure, as well as the positive benefits of being an industry leader, as top factors in their paid leave decisions.

While employers cited the cost of offering paid leave as a key concern, the complications of managing the benefit are proving to be just as much of a barrier, especially in low-profit-margin industries. The full research report includes in-depth interviews with companies that are paving the way in solving scheduling and other such workforce management challenges.

An overview of the complete research findings is available at The Paid Leave Project. The report builds on earlier work by The Paid Leave Project and the Boston Consulting Group, which in 2017 released Why Paid Family Leave Is Good Business, a summary report from initial research into the paid leave practices of more than 250 U.S. companies.

In 2018, The Paid Leave Project will focus its research on industry-specific dynamics, the challenges for companies in states with current or pending legislation, and how employers are tracking paid leave data, results, and return on investment.

National Paid Leave Credit Takes Effect with Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – E&Y Webcast

On Dec. 22, 2017 the President signed the GOP-backed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. While it’s most known for the sweeping tax cuts it’s aptly named for, the bill also includes a number of provisions, including a tax credit related to paid leave. This makes it the first paid leave measure at a national level.

Unlike other recently proposed paid leave bills this provision does not actually require employers to roll out paid leave to their workforce. Rather, starting this year, it will provide a tax credit to those employers that offer at least two weeks of leave and compensate their workers at a minimum of 50 percent of their regular earnings. To qualify for the credit employers must offer both full-time and part-time workers paid leave if they have been employed at the organization for at least a year. This overall effort can be viewed as a trial as it will end after 2019, unless extended by Congress.

For more on this, join Ernst & Young LLP professionals for a Jan. 31, 2018 webcast on important developments in employment-related federal business tax credits and what to watch for in 2018.