Magazine article Management Review

Keeping Kids at Work

Magazine article Management Review

Keeping Kids at Work

Article excerpt

The evidence is in. Working mom-and dads-are increasingly ranking safe, affordable childcare at the top of their corporate agendas. And companies that want to recruit and retain qualified employees are learning that parenthood is a 24-hour job.

On-site childcare facilities are not new-Stride-Rite opened its first childcare center in 1971 at its Roxbury, Mass., facility-and solutions come in as many sizes and shapes as the kids themselves. The philosophy, however, remains constant: to cut turnover rates and retain qualified workers. Here's how three companies-which range in size, geographic location and demographics-found cost-effective ways to keep kids at work.

KIDS COME FREE

Although SAS Institute may not be a name that comes up in casual conversation, this is one company worth noticing. SAS Institute, a Cary, N.C.-based Privately-owned software company, has about 1,500 employees and is home to one of the most extensive Private childcare centers in the country. The company made a commitment in 1981 to provide on-site childcare for its employees and opened its first facility in 1982. But what makes the Institute's program different is that it provides complete childcare services for children age six weeks to 5 years old-for free.

Last April, the Institute opened its newest childcare building, a 24,000-square-foot facility that houses infants and toddlers only. There are 10 infant classrooms, each with a caregiver/child ratio of 1-to-3. The infants range in age from six weeks to 12 months. Toddlers, ranging up to 3 years old, are housed in 13 classrooms, with a caregiver/child ratio of 1-to-4 or 1-to-5. The facility also has a nursing room, teachers' lounge, conference room, kitchen, laundry and playground area.

A second 16,000-square-foot facility houses pre-schoolers in six classrooms. It also includes a kitchen, living room/reception area, conference room and playground area. The children range from 3 to 5 years old with a caregiver/child ratio of 1-to-8. All ratios meet or exceed North Carolina state requirements. Three administrators oversee the childcare program, and a total of 82 are employed by the Institute.

The centers are affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS), and the majority of teachers are Montessori trained. The philosophy behind a Montessori education is to teach children to take responsibility for themselves and their environment. Children learn practical skills such as setting and clearing the table, taking down and putting their work materials back in proper places, and cleaning up after themselves. The Montessori philosophy aims to equip the child with initiative and motivation.

Ceci Edminston, a Quality Assurance Analyst and SAS Institute employee since 1985, believes the program has done a world of good for her son Robert. Robert has been in the toddler program for about six months and "I noticed a change i him from homecare to he's blossomed," she says. "It is a marvelous program and it is nice to have Robert so close. It gives me such peace of mind to know he is a half minute walk away." Edminston reports that she "definitely" feels comfortable and confident with the care Robert is receiving. And she is grateful to the company for providing these services for free. "It is amazing what SAS will offer you. It is a wonderful feeling to know how much your employer will do for you."

Children become part of the corporate environment at the Institute. In fact, older children can eat in the company cafeteria with their parents. Having children on-site and visible allows the parents to relax and leaves them stress-free. The program has contributed to low turnover and high productivity, according to an Institute spokesperson.

An employee must work for SAS Institute for one year before a child is eligible for enrollment. The only costs to the employees are the children's lunches and snacks, which are deducted monthly from the parent's paycheck. …

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