Life-stage support for greater employee loyalty and improved employer attractiveness

In a constantly changing world of work, focussing on the individual needs of employees is becoming increasingly important. Here we explain what a life-phase-orientated HR policy is and how employers can support their employees in key phases of their lives through targeted measures.
Personen verschiedener Generationen

What is employee life-stage support?

Life-stage support for employees refers to companies designing their HR strategies to be flexible and adaptable in order to take into account the needs of their employees in different phases of their lives. This includes not only professional development (entry, day-to-day work, career, further training, exit, etc.), but also employees’ personal life situations.

The idea is based on the fact that employees have changing personal circumstances and needs over the course of their (working) lives. These are not “purely a private matter”, but also have a daily impact on employees’ working lives. Since coronavirus at the latest, it has become clear that the boundaries between private needs and working life are becoming increasingly blurred and that employees expect their employers to take more and more care and consideration of these private needs. The aim of a life-phase-orientated HR policy is to provide employees with the best possible support and encouragement in the various phases o

What are the benefits of supporting your employees throughout different life stages?

First of all, it is important to recognise that a lack of support has an enormous price. Employee productivity and motivation fall in difficult phases of life if there is a lack of employer support, sickness rates increase – particularly due to mental strain and stress – and it is not uncommon for employees to quit their jobs due to a lack of work-life balance. This affects women even more frequently than men, who quit their jobs or reduce their working hours disproportionately often due to a lack of work-life balance. 31% of mothers of minors are not (or no longer) in employment, 26% of women quit during fertility treatment or reduce their working hours, 10% of women quit their job during the monopause and a further 13% consider doing so due to symptoms of the menopause.

In times of skills and labour shortages, companies can no longer afford to lose employees – and women in particular – so easily. At the same time, employees are becoming increasingly self-confident (this does not only apply to GenZ, as is so often claimed) and are asserting their demands for HR policies that are better tailored to their needs. If employers do not offer family-friendly concepts, employees are quick to vote with their feet.

Conversely, however, it has been shown that employees who are supported by their employers during difficult phases of their lives are healthier, more motivated and more productive, grateful and loyal.

Studies show that family friendliness is now at least as important as salary for over 90 per cent of young employees with children when choosing an employer and is also the most common reason for changing employers (BMFSFJ 2023). In this respect, it is in the employer’s own interest to address this issue comprehensively. It helps with employee retention and employer attractiveness.

What are the different life stages and what needs do employees have during these life stages?

The phases of life from adulthood onwards are, for example, life as a single person or in a partnership, the desire to have children and start a family, reorientation or reorientation, voluntary work, caring for relatives, menopause or illness (source: based on life phases according to Prof. Jutta Rump, Institute for Employment and Employability). Not everyone goes through all phases of life and not all phases of life have the same significance for everyone. However, it is likely that the majority of the population experiences at least some of these life phases – and the associated changes in needs – in this way.

The needs of employees change depending on their stage of life and the support offered by companies should change accordingly.

Here are a few examples of individual life phases.

  1. Single, live as a couple

Needs and stresses in this phase

  • Need for self-realisation (e.g. travelling, living abroad)
    Building up knowledge and further education to lay the ideal foundation for a future career
    Building up a financial basis, usually not yet a sufficient financial basis to fulfil all wishes and dreams
    Time for leisure activities and sport
  • Abstract, postponed desire to have children

Employees in this phase of life benefit, for example, from further training programmes, typical leisure, sports and health benefits (e.g. gym membership) and the opportunity to flexibly combine work with leisure interests as required. Sabbaticals or the offer of stays abroad or workations can also be interesting. With regard to the desire to have children, offers that relate to the abstract, future desire to have children are particularly interesting in this phase, i.e. the precautionary freezing of eggs (“social freezing”) if there is a desire to have children but the right partner is still missing.

2. Desire to have children

Needs and stresses in this phase

  • Uncertainty regarding the compatibility of career and desire to have children
  • Enormous emotional stress if the desire to have children cannot be (immediately) fulfilled – entire life plans may be called into question.
    Stress can go as far as depression
  • Financial burden due to the costs of fertility treatment
  • Time pressure due to appointments at the fertility clinic
  • Possible physical stress due to hormone treatments or the consequences of a miscarriage from which you need to recover

Companies can support their employees during this phase through Fertility & Family Building Benefits. By giving their employees access to Onuava’s information and counselling services, or even supporting them financially with Onuava on the way to their dream child, employers can help their employees to cushion the consequences of a fertility journey. This also includes flexible working hours for medical appointments and the option to work from home during this time. These measures not only help to reduce employee stress, but also demonstrate a strong commitment to the wellbeing of their workforce.

3. Young families and returning to work

Needs and stresses in this phase

  • Spatial and temporal constraints, e.g. due to fixed daycare times
  • Increased need for flexibility on the part of the employer with regard to adapting working hours
  • Financial burdens and bottlenecks due to additional expenses and possibly reduced salary due to part-time work
  • Emotional stress when returning to work, e.g. due to lack of sleep but also uncertainty in the new role and double burden

Companies can help by providing childcare support. This can be a company daycare centre, a company kindergarten or a nanny service. Holiday offers can help to bridge the long holiday periods. Flexible working options, hybrid working models and part-time or job-sharing programmes are also particularly important for employees in this phase. Practical re-entry training programmes can help when returning to work, as can offers such as sleep coaching to support employees who lack sleep.

4. Caring for relatives

Needs and stresses in this phase

  • Spatial and temporal constraints, e.g. regular care at home or accompaniment to medical appointments
  • Increased need for flexibility on the part of the employer with regard to adapting working hours
  • Great need for information and the burden of finding a suitable care service

Caring for elderly family members is a reality for many employees. Companies can take supportive measures here, such as providing care leave, flexible working time models or arranging support services for care at home. Through these measures, employers show empathy and help employees to better reconcile their professional obligations and their role as a carer. Above all, this allows companies to retain employees instead of having to replace experienced staff.

5. Menopause

Needs and stresses in this phase

  • Physical stress due to lack of sleep, hot flushes and deterioration in physical condition
  • Emotional stress and even depressive moods
  • Temporary lack of concentration and loss of performance

The menopause is a phase of life that is often overlooked when it comes to support in the workplace. However, companies can introduce targeted programmes to mitigate the effects of the menopause. These include flexible working hours, the provision of private retreats, simple things like desk fans or workshops to raise awareness of the issue. Access to menopause-specific counselling and information services can also help. By treating menopause as a normal part of life and offering appropriate support, employers can create a positive and inclusive working environment.

Conclusion: The advantages of a life-stage support approach for employers and employees

Introducing a life-stage support policy offers numerous benefits for employers and employees alike. In addition to increased employee satisfaction and loyalty, companies can also benefit from higher productivity and a positive image. By recognising and supporting the different life phases of their workforce, companies not only demonstrate social responsibility, but also strengthen their competitiveness on the labour market.

Overall, life-phase-orientated HR policy shows that it is not just about promoting professional development, but also about creating a supportive environment that respects and values the individual needs of employees. Companies that implement these principles are not only perceived as attractive employers, but also promote a healthy and sustainable corporate culture.

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