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Omaha Magazine

Working Parents During a Pandemic

Dec 01, 2021 12:31PM ● By Sara Locke
Headshots of Christine limbo, Heidi huk, and Becki Jelinek

Photos Provided    

 Many people these days need a two-income household to survive, and many employers are going to great lengths to lure and retain the talents of working parents. This month, industry leaders discussed the incentives they are offering to create a work/life balance for their employees, and their post-COVID-19 response to the child care shortage many parents and child care facilities are facing. B2B spoke with FNBO’s Human Resources Senior Associate Christine Lembo, Nebraska Medicine’s Employee Wellbeing and Safety Manager Heidi Husk, and The Hills Montessori Education Director Becki Jelinek.

B2B: Have you experienced staffing conflicts within your business that can be associated with the child care shortage?

CL: The Child Development Center is not immune to the broader child care shortage, so we are constantly evaluating salary and benefits packages and creative recruitment strategies so that they remain
highly competitive.

HH: Yes, especially early in the pandemic when schools were engaged in all remote learning and many child care centers were forced to close. We were fortunate to keep our onsite child care facility open throughout the pandemic and we received support from the community to assist where possible.  

BJ: Yes, we have most certainly experienced some unprecedented changes within the child care industry pertaining to hiring. Although finding the perfect fit has always been challenging, since COVID it has been an entirely different animal. As things began picking up and guidelines loosened, our student enrollment began to increase and get back to normal, however we were then struggling with hiring.  It was more difficult than ever to find staff. I had many people submit resumes in response to our job postings, but less than 5% would respond to our call-backs for interview.

B2B: How has the child care shortage affected a return to in-person business for your company? 

CL: Things like work location do affect child care decisions and we are seeing how that will play out at our Child Development Center (FNBO’s downtown onsite child care and education facility) as employees return to the worksite.

HH: Returning to the office during summer or with children engaged in remote learning posed substantial challenges for the working parents within our organization. We wanted to ensure that parents had ample time to coordinate care for their children, so advance notice of our timelines was vital to the success. Due to the rise in the Delta variant, we have delayed our return to the office. We know that child care needs are different from person to person, so we’re striving to do the best that we can to accommodate the differing needs of our staff.

BJ: At (the time of reopening) only about 1/2 of our teachers felt comfortable returning, and that turned out to be ok because there were strict guidelines in place, severely limiting student capacity.

B2B: What efforts has your business made to retain working parents in light of the current labor shortage in the child care industry?

CL: At FNBO, we recognize that child care impacts every family differently. While we offer benefits to help employees navigate child care solutions, we provide as much flexibility as possible for them to arrange a solution that works best for their family.

HH: Our primary goal is to create a culture that encourages our colleagues to be parents first. We’ve given colleagues the option to choose the work situation that is best for them and their family, as much as possible. Internally, we created a child care resource sharing page. Colleagues can volunteer to help their peers with child care needs. We’ve also added Swishboom (a babysitting share app) to our Total Rewards offerings. We’ve looked at adding opportunities for staff members to work weekends instead of weekdays if that helps their child care needs. We’re in the planning phase of a new onsite child care center with additional capacity to care for the children of our staff. As we add new benefits and Total Rewards programs, we constantly look through the lens of the working parent as we recognize that there are unique challenges facing this population. 

BJ: I currently have more parents working for me than ever. Recruiting staff who have small children has been one successful strategy. Many moms feel it’s a huge benefit to work at the same place where their children can attend. We also offered Remote Learning for K-third grade last school year as a way to keep our staff employed, and [offered in-person learning to give] parents who needed to report to work with a safe place to send their children...We also offered all of our employees a $500 referral bonus, if they brought in a good staff. That worked, and we recruited two amazing staff people and that got us to the good place we are today.

This article originally appeared in the November/December  issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.