How Leadership Can Support Employees During Significant Personal Milestones

By: ITA Group
working dad dropping son off at school

Employees experience all kinds of personal changes, priorities and life stages outside of work. Each area impacts their work lives, including how they feel when they show up to work.

Considering this, it can be challenging to check one’s emotions at the door when you come to work. It’s not as easy as just flipping a switch.

Working parents also make up a significant portion of the workforce, which leads to the question, “how can we best support them?” 

With Working Parents Day on September 16, it’s encouraging to know that KinderCare’s 2022 Parent Confidence Report finds that 69% of working parents feel they’ve been able to be more involved in their children’s lives because of more flexible work schedules.

As a leader, it’s so important that you stay tuned in to your team members’ unique needs (and how those needs vary based on life stage) to ensure they are enabled to succeed, no matter what change they might be tackling. Take a look at the following personal milestones your employees will likely experience, and how you can keep them motivated throughout.

1. Employees New to a Role

It’s wise to remember that new employees are at various stages of their lives and have existing experiences they are managing. These days, it’s not uncommon for you to be managing someone beginning a second career, someone transferring from another department within the company or a former stay-at-home parent who’s now reentering the workforce. No matter what their circumstances, they’re new and will be looking for help transitioning to their new role. Casual check-ins and an open-door policy will help these less-experienced team members feel supported. Additionally, employees at all career levels increasingly want to know how their assigned tasks fit into the bigger picture. Providing context for their work and connecting it to your team, department and company goals allows them to see the importance of the duties they’ve been assigned as well as connect to your company’s mission.

Research has found employees who connect to a larger purpose or mission in this way are more satisfied, productive and more likely to be retained. 

2. Working Parents With a New Child 

Working parenthood is an 18-to-26-year job, and the makeup of working families continues to grow and evolve. Yet, most companies concentrate their efforts on the most visible of working parents—new biological mothers. While these initiatives are a great step forward, they address only a fraction of what having a child means and those who experience the impact. That's why smart companies are starting to offer parental benefits to all employees who become parents. This means providing paid time off for child-bonding to spouses and partners, parents who have a child through a surrogate and parents who adopt a child. Paternity leave, flexible work arrangements, family-inclusive events and more, all help to align your organization’s programs to this reality and better targets the issue for all those impacted. It sends a more inclusive message, too.

3. Working Parents With Growing Kids

As parents raise children, some of the unseen mental load of managing a household, helping with schoolwork and staying connected to their partners can take its toll (often combined with the need to care for their own health and well-being). Employers need to be aware of common parental experiences, so they can offer proactive solutions that help working parents through this part of their life, beyond parental leave associated with the birth of a child.

One important benefit employers should consider is a flexible PTO policy that gives parents wiggle room to take time for themselves, in addition to time spent caring for a child. 

4. Employees Nearing Retirement

Just like your new and entry-level employees, those employees who are preparing to retire are looking for purpose. They want a plan for their post-work life and are likely feeling anxious about an impending retirement. Instead of letting team members dwell on the unknown, support them with purposeful work. Provide volunteer time off during the workweek or flexible schedules that allow the pursuit of activities outside of the office to refresh and invigorate employees. Additionally, 60+ year-old employees still want some type of career advancement. Offer training and networking opportunities to develop new skills and work with new people.

Most importantly, advocate for them because even as they prepare for life outside of work, they have a lot they can offer through mentorship of your younger employees.

While each person is motivated differently, leaders would be wise not to follow blanket stereotypes. Take advantage of the differences in values and expectations of each individual employee but don’t forget what makes them similar and, ultimately, brings team members together. Accommodate personal needs and be prepared for change. Different employees will be in different stages of life and career and may require employers to make adjustments to find a balance between work and life.

Is your organization ignoring the traits that are shared across all generations? Check out more from Insights to learn how you can engage with your employees regardless of generation.

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