The New Strategic Road Map for Attracting and Retaining Working Parents

Working parents’ pandemic-era experiences highlight the significance of organizational location decisions for talent recruitment and retention.

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The collective experience of the past pandemic year has led many employees and employers alike to reprioritize the importance of employee quality of life and well-being. For some working parents, this has meant reevaluating and recommitting to their choice of where to live.

Traditionally, companies have chosen locations based on institutional needs such as large talent pools, good infrastructure, tax incentives, and brand exposure. Businesses have expected new hires to do the moving, often including incentives such as relocation packages in job offers for those workers with the flexibility and freedom to relocate geographically.

But the expectation that workers will uproot and move from the places they love for new work uniquely complicates the career choices of working parents. Employees with children, especially school-age children, are often limited in this path to job opportunity and career growth; parents’ preference for community stability competes strongly with career mobility once kids become part of the equation.

Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there were 33 million families with children under the age of 18 as of 2020. At least one parent was employed in 88.5% of those families. That number jumped to 95.3% among married couples with children, and both parents were employed in over half (59.8%) of this segment. Millennials (now aged 24-40), currently the largest generation represented in the workforce that spans parenting years, have historically valued work-life balance and, since the pandemic began, have indicated its increased importance, along with flexibility in hours and location.

We analyzed data gathered in July 2020 by a U.S.-based business and technology newsletter that had surveyed subscribers (men and women across a wide range of industries and salary levels) about their plans to move over the next six months and their reasons for either moving or not moving. We focused on the parent responses in the sample — 150 cases, or 9% of the 1,618 valid nonmover responses — due to the unique needs and growing size of this segment of the workforce.

Parents Prioritize Community and Lifestyle

The data revealed two dominant factors that explain parents’ preferences for where to live: community embeddedness and replicable lifestyle qualities.

Community embeddedness. The extent to which individuals are enmeshed in their communities through close-knit relationships — which support family well-being — emerged as a key preference for parents.

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