My business partners and I started Clockwork, a Minneapolis-based experience design and technology agency, 17 years ago in our basements. We had a very intentional goal: to create the jobs — and the workplace — we always wanted. A work culture that proved the treatment of people mattered in business. In those very early days, we made a commitment to put people first. That was, and continues to be, our business strategy.
My employees know I care about them. I tell them all the time, but actions speak louder than words. We have worked hard to attract and retain talent in a tight market since the very early days of our business. All while being surrounded by much larger companies with the financial ability to do more and offer more to employees. We bootstrapped our business, and continue to be entirely independent 17 years in. We have always offered some amount of medical leave, but it’s lean compared to large companies. Still, we do our best.
I’m a business owner who offers benefits to cover some of what Minnesota’s paid family and medical leave legislation would offer, and I’m still for it. Why? Because Rep. Laurie Halverson’s HF 5 bill would allow us to think more creatively about how we extend leave benefits to our staff. And because, while we invest as heavily as we can in our benefits package, we still can’t compete with large companies and their rich benefits. With help, like this legislation, we could improve our pool of benefits. For example, we could offer 12 weeks of parental leave and top off those salaries so that families aren’t penalized at all when life happens.
Competing for talent
While I can never be General Mills, Target, or 3M, I do have to compete with them. Arguably, every employer in Minnesota is competing with them for talent in some way. The benefits they offer are what every person in the state wants. I hear it from employees all the time.
It’s vital that businesses of all types and sizes keep up with what the workforce is demanding. Employees are demanding a work-life balance. But more than balance, they are asking for some amount of respect and awareness of their lives.
When businesses do this, the businesses benefit. People who get what they need from their employers give more back to the company. My company and I are living proof of that. And it hasn’t been easy. No one is giving my company a tax break simply for being in Minnesota, or for extending this benefit to employees. And yet I employ 60 people and I care for them. And their families.
Our workforce as a whole will be stronger with this legislation in place. We’re all afraid that we won’t be able to take care of our families if something happens. And that fear erodes our workforce and our capacity.
A safety net in an unpredictable world
Our lives are messy and hard; the proposed legislation would allow business owners and employees to plan — just a little — for that messiness. It would create a financial and psychological safety net in a world that we all know can be unpredictable.
If our government doesn’t step in and help the small- and medium-sized businesses, even companies like mine — that manage to offer some paid leave — won’t be able to compete for talent in the marketplace. I get that there is a hard cost involved, but there is also an opportunity cost we shouldn’t underestimate.
As a woman, and a mom, and a business owner, my life boils down to two priorities: my family and my company. I would hate to have to choose between the two. I know I’m not alone. A benefit like this would mean my people don’t have to choose. And I can’t think of a better thing to offer my staff than peace of mind.
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