How Extending Compassion Goes a Long Way in Retaining Talent in Agencies

Benefits like leave policies make people feel understood and valued

Allowing flexible leave for employees entices them to stay at a company for longer. Getty Images
Headshot of Laurel Flatt

Competition for top talent is fierce, and the investments you make in training these employees to advocate for your brand are significant. That’s why retaining high-value talent is crucial, now more so than ever before.

Here is a surprisingly simple strategy that helps: Create a compassionate work environment and a culture that supports it. Promoting compassion in the work environment must start at the top and permeate the entire corporate culture, and I’ve found that creating this kind of environment begins with a strong parental and caregiver leave policy.

Why compassion matters

Businesses today ask a lot of people, especially with our always-on global business environment, which often requires early morning and late-night calls and emails. The reality is, however, that sooner or later everyone has something in their lives that needs extra attention, whether it’s having a baby, caregiving for a family member or another demanding personal situation.

Promoting compassion in the work environment must start at the top and permeate the entire corporate culture.

I have experienced this firsthand: first when my mother was battling cancer in another state, and then again in my late 30s when I had my first child. Both times, my companies’ policies allowed me to be there for my family when it mattered most.

Many employees crave a compassionate work culture, and companies that offer this type of environment gain a nearly insurmountable competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent. In fact, Psychology Today cites research that demonstrates the power of a compassionate work culture in retaining talent, with 52 percent of employees reporting that workplace stress caused them to look for a new job, decline a promotion or leave a job.

Strong leave policies promote a compassionate culture

A bold parental leave policy is one of the foundations to building a compassionate culture because it shows that the company understands the importance of family. Strong parental leave policies should be egalitarian, affording the same benefits to both moms and dads, based on the recognition that fathers also want and need to spend significant time with their new children. Companies can show their commitment to their new hires by making eligibility for leave available on the very first day of work and consider including part-time employees who work more than a minimum number of hours as well.

Since it is not just new moms and dads who need flexibility, caregiver leave policies should encompass other types of personal family situations that employees might be facing. For instance, an employee who has a relative who needs assistance may want to utilize the policy to support that family member in a time of need.

Employees of all ages thrive in a compassionate work environment. Workers in their 50s and 60s might need to take advantage of corporate leave policies to take care of aging parents, for example. In fact, according to a recent report, flexibility is essential to retaining older workers.

Even when employees are not taking formal parental or caregiver leave, the company work culture should try where it can to support the ongoing need to balance work and family. By providing flexibility for when people need to be in the office, companies can do their best to allow for people to arrive late or leave early when necessary, with the understanding that employees will meet their commitments and deadlines. This approach enables those employees who have kids to be able to do the school drop-off or pick-up sometimes, for instance, or for those people who have classes or activities after work to be able to attend those things on occasion. These are things people might miss out on in more rigid work environments.

A strong parental and caregiver leave policy can be the foundation for building the kind of compassionate work culture that today’s workers want and need. Having a work culture that supports work/life balance creates a stronger, happier and more productive work environment. And with a corporate culture like that, it’s no wonder employees want to stick around.


Laurel Flatt is president of mcgarrybowen Chicago.
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