In an age where extending or removing employee benefits can turn into an immediate social media wave of reaction, many companies are being very careful about when and how they make HR changes.
The latest major company to announce a new shift in Human Resources policy is IBM. The company recently announced it would be doubling the amount of paid leave new parents are offered. Better still, the company announced the plan would be retroactive to parents whose children were born after November of 2016.
Now, both parents will be offered 12 weeks of paid leave, which is up from six weeks, the limit under the former policy. Mothers can also have up to another eight weeks thanks to medical disability coverage.
There’s no doubt that parents need to be there with their kids in those crucial early weeks. There’s bonding to do, norms to establish and sleep to miss as parents adjust to the baby and mom heals.
IBM VP of benefits Barbara Brickmeier told CNN the increased leave was the right call for their team. “The market is changing, and we’re watching what other companies are doing… it’s important to keep women in the workforce…”
While IBM isn’t exactly late to the party on this decision, Brickmeier is correct in saying the company is responding to what’s, essentially, a new normal in corporate America. While certain industries are different and offer different benefits, both in and out of the workplace, the need to have more time off is something many new parents have been requesting for a long time.
At least, that’s what Brickmeier is saying, clarifying in her comments that the policy changes were coming at the request of the company’s employees.
But that’s not the only change IBM is making. In addition to the extended leave, IBM is expanding its financial assistance for adoptive parents. Previously, the company offered a $5,000 benefit for parents. Now they are offering up to $20,000 to cover costs.
According to the CNN report, IBM has extended these, and a few other, new benefits to both full and part-time US employees. It’s a strong positive message from a large company trying to find a winning message in a changing marketplace, where employees are asking for more than paychecks from their employers.
These dynamics began with Gen-X as the percentage of women in the workplace continued to rise. Now, with the massive Millennial generation bring their perspectives and priorities into the mix, expect to see human resource policies continue to shift.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.