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Diane Stafford: More baby time helps recruit and retain employees

When Gary Jankowitz interviews prospective employees, he hears lots of questions about the bank’s employee benefits. Right now, he’s pretty confident his answers help him win the talent war.

Jankowitz, president of Bank of America’s Kansas City, Mo., market, says the company’s extension of its paid parental leave policy from 12 weeks to 16 weeks — for mothers and fathers — is a strong recruiting tool that also helps retain workers.

“We get feedback from the people who already work here,” Jankowitz said. “We hear their needs and goals. … I feel like we’re respecting their goals and life priorities.”

Business leaders are always looking for workers who will commit to the workplace for a reasonable tenure. It costs a lot to hire and train employees, and it’s frustrating when turnover is fast.

Average employee tenure has shortened in recent years for many reasons, but a big one is that millennials, now the largest sector of the workforce, are in their childbearing and child-adopting years. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but a good segment of 20- and 30-somethings are becoming parents, and they want more time with their babies.

Add to demographic trends an economic reality: Voluntary resignations from jobs are up, partly because job growth makes re-employment easier. In the pit of the last recession and jobless recovery, new parents were inclined to accept six-week (or whatever) leaves because they wanted to keep their jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance.

Now it’s easier to jump ship, stay home with the baby and plan on a job search later — assisted by Internet sites that rate company culture and share what “best practice” employee benefits packages look like.

I wouldn’t bet on 16 paid weeks becoming the new parental leave norm quickly or broadly. It’s expensive. Big companies may have the budgets and the backup help to cover lengthy leaves, but smaller workplaces don’t.

At any rate, Jankowitz said he’s glad to be ahead of the pack. Bank of America is extending its parental leave benefit to full- and part-time employees who work at least 20 hours a week and have worked at the bank for at least one year. The leave also has time flexibility — it can be taken any time in the first 12 months of a birth or adoption.

Want to compare your benefits with the bank’s?

Its package includes adoption reimbursement of up to $8,000 per child, child care assistance of up to $240 a month per child, backup child care with approved vendors, phone or Web contact directly with doctors to get prescriptions, and an employee assistance program that can provide legal counseling, financial planning and other family related help.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com. Follow her online at kansascity.com/workplace and twitter.com/kcstarstafford.

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©2016 The Kansas City Star

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