If you missed the February 14, 2017 WBC program, The Evolution of Women in Business, then you missed a good one. Moderated by Alissa Quinn, Senior Vice President, UBS Financial Services, The Quinn Wealth Management Group, the three panelists, Joanne Kugler, Senior Executive, Global Operations and Integration, GE, Paula A. Stopera, President and CEO, CAP COM Federal Credit Union, and Marcia White, Former President, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Inc. each shared words of wisdom and advice from their many successes and illustrious careers. I left feeling empowered, bold, and ready to take on the world. Peppered throughout the conversation were statistics about working women in America. For me, one of the most thought-provoking topics that arose was the idea of job-hopping. It’s estimated that forty percent of America’s Baby Boomers will stay with their employer for more than 20 years, while ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years – meaning they would hold 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives.
The workforce is changing – younger and older generations (I happen to fall right in the middle as a Gen X) are facing new challenges and demands. We are all being asked to do more with less; needing to be adaptable, technologically savvy, and driven. But, it’s not just the workforce that is changing; businesses and organizations need to change as well to keep up with this new reality and to meet the needs of their employees. Research continues to show that money is not the number one motivating factor for happiness in employees (especially Millennials); instead, people want to know they are making a difference and are looking for creativity and flexibility in their workplaces. Companies and organizations that understand this will be able to recruit top-rate talent and keep them. Those that are not changing with the times are suffering and shuttering their doors.
I learned this first-hand almost four years ago, when I began working at YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, Inc. My son was just barely two-months old when I received a job offer to become their new Director of Development and Marketing. I was eight-months pregnant when my position at a small, private school in the area was eliminated. I was undecided about returning to work as I was a typical nervous new mother and couldn’t imagine leaving him so soon. Every daycare I visited felt wrong and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Would I be like the forty-three percent of women leaving their careers (at least temporarily) when they realize that their old jobs do not allow them the flexibility to create true work-life-balance?
After receiving an offer from YWCA-GCR at the interview, I asked for some time to consider it, when the former Executive Director said to me offhandedly as I was leaving,
“You can bring your baby with you.”
“I can bring my what, where?” I stuttered.
“Here, you can bring your baby here. Your predecessor did so. In fact her office is still set-up. Check it out,” she said.
And I did. When I walked into the office, I saw a pack ‘n play, baby swing, high chair, and about a million toys. I called up my predecessor and off-the-record asked her about bringing the baby into work. The first question I asked her, which is by far-and-away the question I get asked the most was,
“So, can you actually get anything done with your baby there?”
She laughed and then assured me that she never had any trouble getting her work done. After asking her a million questions and stealing a precious hour out of her Saturday morning, I called YWCA-GCR back and accepted the position – and it was by and far the best decision I have ever made for myself personally or professionally. It turns out you really can get a lot done with an infant at work. I have learned to prioritize in a way that I never had before, and procrastination is no longer a word in my vocabulary. I now know how to delegate, and have finally learned that done is better than perfect, and sometimes good enough is good enough. Plus when it comes to fundraising, bringing a baby to a meeting is a sure-fire way to get a yes, just ask some of our sponsors. My son is now three-and-a-half and is happy in full-time preschool and my infant daughter has taken over his position in my office.
YWCA-GCR gets it, especially as a nonprofit. They cannot afford to pay huge salaries, but they more than make up for it with flexibility and some of the most progressive family-friendly policies around. They are consistently able to attract top talent, and are asked to let people know when they have an opening – which happens very rarely as staff is so happy, there is extremely low turnover. Besides happiness, their policies allow their staff to be more productive as well. This week is winter break for most of the local schools. I am sure that many offices in the area are partially empty because their employees had to take the week off from work or are frazzled and stressed after cobbling together last-minute childcare. In contrast, my office is full, not just with workers, but with children playing in the computer lab and concocting elaborate games of hide and seek throughout the building. While I know that bringing children into the office is not an option for all workplaces, I think many more could make this option a reality if they were willing to let go of the notion of the old traditional workplace and worker.
Be sure to check out part two on starting your own business and working from home of this three part series which will be posted soon. And stay tuned for part three on the skills students need to learn today to succeed in the nontraditional workplaces of the future.