THE BLOG
10/11/2011 03:11 pm ET Updated Dec 11, 2011

Six Innovative Family-Friendly Workplace Practices

In my recent post, I made the case that companies that help their employees better manage their work-life balance are really helping themselves, as those organizations tend to experience longer employee tenures and lower turnover. I also shared 10 outside-the-box flexible workplace approaches firms can use to make great strides in this area.

As October is National Work and Family Month, this time I thought I would emphasize family by taking a look at innovative family-friendly workplace practices being used today by some of the nearly 350 North American companies who applied for Winning Workplaces' 2011 Top Small Company Workplaces award. As with using effective work-life practices, there is a definite business case for making your organization more family friendly: among our research sample, we noted that in addition to longer average employee tenures, firms that have this focus earned 49% more revenue in 2010 and were more likely to be profitable as well.

That said, if you own or lead a business, consider doing one or more of the following:

1. At the low end of the cost scale, an Alabama-based government services provider reports that its successful spot recognition program delivers maximum results with minimal investment. It allows employees or managers to nominate another employee for spot recognition based on a specific performance result. Recipients receive dinner and movie tickets (<$100 value) with a personalized thank-you letter, signed by the CEO and sent to their home, highlighting their accomplishment and stating appreciation for the employee's effort and the family's support that allows them to excel in the workplace.

2. With employee committees increasingly in vogue, why not form one for those who would like to volunteer to assist their fellow coworkers in times of need? Using this approach, employees of a manufacturing firm based in Texas have coordinated a raffle to help an employee whose house was burglarized, refurbishing efforts for an associate whose apartment sustained a fire and visits to team members and their families in the hospital.

3. Hire out short-term or odd jobs to your employees and their family members. A Florida-based retailer has looked first to businesses or side businesses of their people and those in their lives to do things like paint the office and provide music at company parties.

4. Make learning as much a value and focus outside the workplace as inside. A business services firm in Michigan, for example, includes all their employees' children in their Whiz Kids program, which offers up to two $50 bonus certificates per employee household, per year, for children who receive an all-A report card. In addition, when the company hosts outside speakers, employees are encouraged to invite their families to hear them.

5. In 2002, the CEO and COO of a Minnesota-based food and beverage company purchased 100 acres of land, including a lake, to preserve it from future development. As a special perk, team members may use the property for canoeing, hiking and snowshoeing with their families. This practice could work especially well for firms whose business model or core values hinge on being good to the planet.

6. Rare in the construction industry, a firm in Maryland pays 100% of health insurance premiums for both employees and their dependents. Rare in general: on top of that they pay both groups' deductibles via a company-issued debit card. It's certainly an expensive practice, but on the other hand, how many employees would think about leaving that kind of support and peace of mind during medical emergencies? (In other words, it can substantially curb replacement hiring and training costs.)