When family comes first, where does work fit in? There’s a common misconception that employees focus less on their jobs once they become parents. Absences for maternity leave, school activities and other family matters can sometimes leave co-workers with that impression. But after surveying more than 400,000 employees at hundreds of companies, Great Place to Work found that parents actually display more signs of dedication to their organizations than their co-workers without kids.
Work means more to parents
Working parents can be highly invested at home and on the job at the same time. Nine in 10 moms and dads at the recently announced 2017 Best Workplaces for Parents said they were planning long-term futures at their organizations. That’s an even greater share than we found among team members without children. At the leading employers, 88% of mothers and 87% of fathers also agreed their positions were more than “just a job.”
Employees consistently tell Great Place to Work that careers hold an important place in individuals’ sense of who they are. That doesn’t change with the arrival of a baby. If anything, parents are even more committed to their work when providing for their families adds additional meaning to their labor.
What does shift for parents is the demand for their time. The most respected employers don’t expect less from their team members with children. Instead, they allow them to be productive in ways that acknowledge work deadlines won’t be the only items on parents’ calendars. Eighty-six percent of the Best Workplaces for Parents offer flexible scheduling, and roughly half of their employees take advantage of it. This type of leeway can have a particularly positive impact on the retention and well-being of co-workers with kids.
“I get the best of both worlds because I enjoy the flexibility of working out of a remote office and traveling to various hotels within my region,” said one employee at Hilton, one of the Best Workplaces. “I am able to balance my responsibilities as a mother and partner to my husband without sacrificing my career aspirations.”
Motivated moms and dads
The most influential traits of high-trust employers don’t vary much between parents and non-parents. In survey data, the biggest drivers of retention for both groups were pride, personal impact and their experience in the workplace overall. Mothers and fathers who say they’re proud to tell others where they’re employed were respectively 15 times and 11 times more likely to say they want to work at their organizations for a long time. Moms and dads also were five and six times more likely to stay long-term when they said their work makes a difference.
Work/life balance tends to dominate management conversations about working parents. Yet balance ranked toward the bottom of survey statements related to employee retention for all employees, including parents. In fact, childless men were the cohort that displayed the strongest link between work-life balance and intent to stay.
Companies eager to retain employees with kids would be better-served looking at areas where working parents’ experience trails that of their colleagues. Across all organizations we studied, both mothers and fathers gave their employers slightly lower marks for the fairness of their pay. Mothers were also less likely than women without children to say their organizations avoid office politics.
When parents come in early to accommodate daycare or skip after-hours social activities to dine at home, they can miss chatter about potential career opportunities or information relevant to their projects. It’s essential to check that internal communication reaches parents effectively. At the same time, it’s also important to call out parents’ contributions and ensure parents are included in the ways companies recognize their teams’ accomplishments.
Ultimate Software, for example, not only offers luxury trips to high-performing teams outside its sales staff. It also invites family members to join department trips to destinations that have included Disney World and the Bahamas.
“From the first day that I arrived, it has been a blessing,” said one Ultimate Software team member. “From the company-paid benefits for my entire family, to the stock given, which helped us to have our first home built, to all of the company perks given on a day-to-day basis, and wonderful people and work life balance. I hope to retire here.”
On the compensation front, David Weekley Homes offers all employees a stake in the company’s success through quarterly profit sharing broken down by market. The builder also rewards employees with scholarship funds based on tenure, as well as a paid, professional internship program for employees’ children.
“My husband and I both work for, and love, David Weekley. And our passion for the company has spread to our children, who both interned with the company this summer,” said one co-worker, whose son went on to pursue a degree in the field. “He also recognizes the amazing company David Weekly Homes is, and he aspires to someday join the David Weekley team as a builder.”
Parents in all industries invest their talents—and time apart from their families—in their employers. Our research shows that most mothers and fathers are highly committed to their jobs, and the Best Workplaces return that investment in equal measure.
Jessica Rohman and Sarah Lewis-Kulin are Director of Content and Vice President, respectively, at Great Place to Work, the longtime research parent for FORTUNE’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and other Best Workplaces lists, including the Best Workplaces for Parents.