Working Dog Mom: Millennials, Culture + Employer Branding

Their soft cries wake me up. It’s poop, pee, and then feeding. I grab a coffee between laps as I chase them around the house while picking up their toys. I settle them down for a morning nap and I log on to my virtual workspace. This is how I start almost every day -I’m a working Mom, a working Dog Mom.

For those working Moms of humans reading this, I know dogs and babies aren’t the same. In fact, that’s precisely why I have dogs and not children right now. Dogs offer a taste of the responsibility of being a parent at a fraction of the cost and time when you are working full-time, paying back student loans and juggling rent or a first-time mortgage. Not to mention their unconditional love, and they can be great for your health too! But one of the biggest reasons? Pets make perfect training wheels.

Whether singles looking to test the water of partnership or newlyweds procrastinating what comes after marriage, the fact is 44 percent of millennials see their pets as “practice” for the real deal of having a child. To sum it up nicely, a Forbes article cites “money, freedom and practice” as the three main reasons why so many millennials are opting for pets and not parenthood.

So what does being a working dog mom have to do with employer branding?

It’s about understanding your target candidate and employee audience and what’s important to them, like dogs. Whether organizations like it or not, employees bring their whole selves to work every day. For many millennials that means wanting work-life balance to take their dog for walks or working for a company whose culture embraces pet-friendly work environments. According to Forbes, by about 2020, nearly half the working population will be composed of millennials. (<-- Click to tweet!) From shaping company cultures to shifting organizational values, this generation will continue to have a dramatic impact on the workforce and brands.  

To compete for and retain millennial talent, organizations need to understand what their  employee demographic values and take a hard look at what they could do to evolve with them as they continue to grow and learn how to “adult.” This doesn’t necessarily mean change all of your policies. It could just mean looking at your policies and benefits and showcasing how these can apply to your millennial workforce.  (<-- Click to tweet!) For example, sick days - most companies let you take sick days to take care of family members. Could this apply to furry family members? Make that clear!

Here are some other ideas for how to support working moms and dads of fur babies:

1. Evaluate Your Benefits

Understanding your target candidates and employees is important when considering what benefits to offer. Some organizations have more or less control over these, but at a minimum, employers should offer benefits that make sense for their employee population. To attract millennials consider offering pet insurance to help with vet bills and unexpected pet emergencies. If you offer employee discounts, make sure to include pet stores or vendors who sell pet products or brands.

2. Add to Your Office Perks

While dog-friendly offices sound fantastic, it isn’t an option for every organization. If it makes sense for your organization, great, but before declaring your office a dogtopia, be realistic about the pros and cons of encouraging employees to bring pets to work. Millennials value work-life balance, so help them balance their pet parent responsibilities by providing information about local dog-walking services or doggy daycares near the office. Host an employee appreciation day at a park and encourage employees to bring their children, both fur and human.

3. Tie Into Wellness Programs

Research shows that dogs not only reduce stress and help increase physical activity, but also that they can encourage collaboration and teamwork. A UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center study suggests “when dogs are around, groups are closer, more cooperative, and more trusting.” Consider hosting a “bring your dog to work day” or invite therapy dogs in for a “mental health hour.” Partner with local fitness organizations that offer pet-friendly fitness programs like “Doga” (dog yoga). Incorporate pets into your company branded wellness gear by making branded water bottles, pet bandanas, or leashes.

4. Social Corporate Responsibility

It’s no secret that millennials care about what organizations stand for and want to work for companies that support causes they care about. A great consumer example is Subaru’s Love Promise, a clear listing of the causes the company supports -- including a love of pets. Imagine that on a careers site where candidates could easily see what a company values and how that contributes to their company culture. On a smaller scale, organizations can offer employees opportunities to volunteer at animal shelters or with animal welfare programs, or consider matching a percentage of employee donations to nonprofit organizations, including those related to animals.

What it’s like to work at your organization and how you position it to candidates and employees depends a lot on who your employees are and the targeted candidates in your pipeline. It grows, shifts, and evolves. I’m not saying every organization should build their employer brand around millennials and become pet-friendly workplaces. What I am saying is it’s important to define your organization’s culture and understand where millennials fit in, so you can attract and retain the best-fit millennials for your organization.

If you enjoyed this post, check out this one: Culture, EVP and Employer Brand: Explaining It like a Two-Year Old

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