It was a snow day, and Karen Evans and Brooke Miller got together for a playdate. While they watched the kids frolic, the two mothers started discussing the challenges of being a working parent. By the time the day was over, they’d agreed to launch a company dedicated to making the process run more smoothly for both parents and employers.
“We decided to pool our talents,” said Evans, who lives in Royal Oak. She’s an attorney, business consultant and adjunct professor at Lawrence Tech, while Miller, a Berkley resident, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of Honey Space for Moms, a boutique wellness and co-working space in Ferndale.
Each is the mother of two small children and knew all too well the struggles of balancing work and family life.
The idea behind SIX Corporate Parent Experience Consulting is simple, and, some would say, obvious: It’s possible – and beneficial for everyone involved – to be both a present parent and a productive employee. But that is often not the case.
“I did a deep dive into all the academic literature from around the world two years ago, and found that very few workplaces are thinking about this,” Evans said. “It’s such a missed opportunity.”
Companies that don’t support parents are losing out on talent, deep institutional knowledge, time, and money, she said.
“Women and men have been invested in a lot by their employers before entering the parenthood journey, and they are still ready to deliver results for their company. They may just need a little more flexibility, support and understanding,” Evans said. “In exchange, companies receive loyal employees, get a return on their investment and become an overall better workplace.”
It’s not, she stressed, about giving parents more benefits or special treatment, but simply recognizing that their lives have changed and that it benefits everyone to accommodate that reality.
Helping companies support new parents
Among workers, new parents are the most likely to leave their jobs, Evans said, and it costs a company 11 percent of an employee’s salary to replace them, a hassle and expense companies can easily avoid by making a few accommodations.
“Supporting parent employees in the workplace is a win-win proposition,” she said.
Often, Evans said, that can be as simple as improving communications between the human resources department and employees. “Surveys show that even HR leaders who understand that they have wonderful benefits are so often not communicating them well, so the employees don’t even know they exist.”
SIX, which did a soft a launch over the summer, offers three services: on-site consulting, an HR Certificate program, and presentations at conferences and workshops.
The consulting aspect focuses on a company’s existing programs and communications and looks for ways they can improve.
“We always start with an audit of the corporate parent experience, what you are doing well and how to leverage your strength and existing culture,” Evans said.
The HR Certificate program includes a full-day seminar that includes legal updates, understanding maternal mental health, handling difficult conversations, leading and working with purpose and creating and implementing sustainable work-from-home procedures. There will be one on November 8 in Metro Detroit, followed by seminars in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Chicago.
The women also speak at conferences and workshops on topics that range from bringing mothers back to work, to establishing successful work-from-home policies.
Their recommendations include supporting a mother’s need to nurse by providing appropriate space, hiring an onsite lactation consultant for those experiencing challenges, and implementing ways to transport breast milk if a nursing mother must travel for business.
They suggest teaching managers about the challenges of coming back to work after becoming a parent, and offering parent support groups led by a trained leader, perhaps during lunch hours.
“Some managers are afraid to have any conversation at all because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing,” Evans noted.
Other solutions include offering onsite daycare and/or medical care, providing subsidies for offsite daycare, and hiring professionals to take care of sick children so their parents can still work.
What companies are looking for...but struggle to find
Not everyone is convinced of the need to acknowledge working parents, Evans admitted. “There are segments of people across the board who are worried there is too much of a push to being too politically correct or giving too much to women and minorities. And there can be pushback from non-parents who think the parents are getting special treatment. This is a real concern that we don’t take lightly.”
Nevertheless, she said, many corporations, like client Quicken Loans, are open to the message.
“We have been really surprised at the type of recognition we have received. After our soft launch, we were immediately reached by some pretty large organizations throughout the country who said that this is what they’ve been looking for but hadn’t been able to find,” Evans said. “Change does come slow but we are really excited and see a lot of opportunity to make a difference.”
Joyce Wiswell is a Royal Oak-based freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in a variety of publications and platforms.