May 24, 2017 | Compatability of job & family

When fathers rise up

One father in every two sees family commitments as having a negative impact on their career. When it comes to compatibility, fathers are even more frustrated than mothers. Even so, everyone stands to benefit from a successful set of arrangements.

There has been a lot of talk about the compatibility—or, rather, incompatibility—of career and family. Usually, it has been angry women unwilling to accept that having a child necessarily means an end to their dream of professional self-realization. Now it’s the turn of fathers to have their say. And they’re mad.

One in every two of them now sees a conflict between family and career. This is revealed by the latest findings from a representative A.T. Kearney poll of over 900 employees. One thing becomes clear: This isn’t just a matter for politicians; businesses, too, should hear the alarm bells ringing. An aging society, such as the one in Germany, cannot afford to leave parents and people with relatives in need of care on their own. The dissatisfaction expressed by all concerned points to an urgent need for action.

The results of the poll throw a spotlight on the sharp rise in dissatisfaction: 92 percent of the interviewed fathers now consider that an acceptable degree of compatibility between career and family is highly important for their personal well-being. Despite that, not even 50 percent are of the opinion that their companies offer good career options to employees with family obligations. And almost one in every four estimates that family commitments will lead to worse opportunities. 

Employees who feel let down over family/career compatibility will switch company

Are companies themselves a career killer? Although most employers offer family-friendly options, these are not properly taken up. In actual fact, fathers have an increasingly skeptical take when it comes to just how family-friendly their employers are: Fewer fathers than in the previous year (28 percent in 2016 against 41 percent in 2015) rate the support on offer as very helpful.

One in three fathers even believe that their career will be at risk if they take up a family-friendly offer (only 22 percent in the year before). Equally, one in three fathers believe that their performance at work will be viewed more negatively by their supervisors if they avail themselves of the available offers; and 38 percent anticipate that they might face financial losses in future. As a consequence, significantly fewer fathers than in the previous year (64 against 75 percent) would unreservedly recommend their employer to other people looking for work. Over one in five fathers would even explicitly not recommend their employer to other people. Consequently, there is a noticeably growing willingness of fathers to switch company.

Compatibility as a growth accelerator: What now needs to be done

This is a wake-up call for companies. Yet a successful family policy can be a means of raising an enterprise’s productivity. In return, employees who experience a good degree of family/career compatibility at their company are significantly more loyal and more often willing to go the extra mile in their work. Yet they will do so only once they have finally experienced such compatibility in real life. Here are some key points:

  • New structures are needed to address today’s hectic pace of life. This calls for flexible working hours throughout an employee’s entire working life and not just in the first years of their career.
  • Increases in salary must be possible also after parental leave. In addition, of relevance on the political front are measures to reduce the financial strain on families.
  • Childcare facilities have to be improved and acceptance of different life models needs to be increased. Those who wish must be allowed to have their child looked after—and those who opt to do most of the childcare themselves must equally be allowed to do so. Both groups should be financially and individually assisted.
  • Above all, however, the compatibility between family and career should be facilitated by a new culture at work. After all, enterprises and managers are today also measured against how family-friendly they are. As far as family policy is concerned, it’s not just a question of fairness between men and women, but of hard-nosed competitiveness. For, in the final analysis, the fact is that German enterprises don’t lack family-friendly programs or money. The problem is one of culture.
  • A policy for families is a policy for growth: Enterprises that understand this will not only be serving their best employees, but also raising their competitiveness.

 The full results of the poll are available here.