By Angela Young 10 October 2017

Most would agree that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. But what’s required to build a happy workforce, and how can companies encourage staff loyalty?

One significant factor underpinning high employee retention rates is the provision of access to good quality childcare. 

Looking after infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers is a billion dollar industry in Australia. According to the Productivity Commission, nearly all of Australia's 3.8 million children aged 12 and under have been exposed to some type of early childhood education and care (this can include pre-schools and family day care, but demand for centre-based care is on the rise).

As women race towards equality with men, climbing professional ladders and continuing in these roles after having families, it’s more important than ever that companies have something in place to help their top talent return to work at the right time.

Several research groups have reported strong findings that a return to work after having a child can be hampered by difficulty in securing appropriate childcare, thanks to both access and affordability issues. Indeed, it can even be a barrier, preventing perhaps highly valued members of a workplace from being able to contribute to their companies. Ensuring the return to work (and provision of, or assistance with, childcare) is a positive experience can be of enormous benefit to employers and their staff.

Corporate clients have noted a reduction in staff turnover as a result of linked childcare programs.

Here or there?

Complicating the picture somewhat, personal preferences on childcare arrangements vary hugely. Some working parents like to leave their children near their home, while others prefer the option of having the little ones close to work.

Guardian Early Learning Group’s Bonnie Blackburn says the company works with property developers to include childcare in their development given it has seen a leaning towards the latter. 

“Parents overwhelmingly tell us they enjoy the peace of mind of having their child on-site or close by,” she explains.

While reasons differ between families, a key theme is avoiding the stress of getting back to the childcare centre in time for the pick-up.

“[Parents] are able to share more quality time together on the commute home,” she says.

Additionally, there’s a huge benefit to breastfeeding mothers, who find it eases their transition back to work if they can drop in and see their baby during the day. Whether the facility chosen by parents is near home or near the office, a company that helps employees find the perfect option is taking a step towards a very happy workforce.

According to Guardian’s NSW General Manager Kristie Wilson, corporate clients have noted a reduction in staff turnover, and improved job satisfaction as a result of a linked childcare program.

“Productivity has improved, as families aren’t having to rush out the door of an afternoon to make that long commute to go and pick up their children,” she says.

In the modern working world, staff are coming to expect childcare offerings from employers, and having something in place could therefore mean the difference between hiring or retaining excellent employees, or losing them for good.

So it’s a major issue for companies in terms of shaping their workforce. It’s these types of benefits that can shift your employment proposition versus that of your competitors. This is where a workplace community hub can come in very useful.

Parents enjoy the peace of mind of having their child on-site or close by.

A fast track to good care

Dexus, for example, offers its commercial property customers a fast track to the top of Guardian Early Learning’s national priority wait list – an Australian first – reducing costly and time-consuming wait times at other local providers. Considering Guardian has a portfolio of more than 90 centres around the country (including some within the walls of Dexus’s own buildings), this is a substantial incentive for employees. It can certainly make a difference, not least because encouraging staff to come into the office instead of working from home is believed by some to increase productivity.

The quality of the childcare is important, of course. In this case, parents also get an offering that includes family breakfasts (easing the children into their day), five nutritious meals a day, information sessions and an online network.

One working mum found the whole process took such a weight off her mind that it noticeably improved her working life. “It allayed my concerns for [my son] so I could focus on my role at work.”

Assistance with childcare is clearly a factor in employees’ job choices. If your company wants to minimise staff turnover it may need to take that into account. 

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