Planning for Elder Care in the Job Market
I had a situation recently where a talented Marketing Director interviewed successfully for a very attractive job opportunity, was offered the role with a generous package, and turned it down unexpectedly. It wasn’t because of a competing job offer, or a counteroffer from the current employer. It was because the job would have required an increase in overnight travel and the candidate’s elderly mother had recently experienced a decline in health and a reduction in the ability to care for herself. The mother is not in need of nursing care and is not in assisted living, so it came as a bit of a surprise to the candidate when family pressure – including from siblings – grew to the point where accepting the new position would have created anger and resentment within the family.
We know intuitively that it is important to plan for childcare in the workforce. The parent with primary caregiver responsibility must make difficult tradeoffs between their career and what’s best for their children. Members of the workforce who are in middle age often find themselves sandwiched between children and elderly parents who each have a level of need for their attention and care. It’s no longer enough to only account for the kids when considering career opportunities that include overnight travel or a possible relocation. We now must have serious discussions with aging parents (if they can be had) about what a potential job change might mean.
These are tough discussions, similar in some ways to the difficult conversation about the safety of driving a vehicle. In this case, however, it’s the elderly parent who may feel guilty about limiting his/her child’s freedom to pursue their ambitions. With the inexorable aging of our population, particularly now that roughly 10,000 U.S. Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day, this is going to be a family conversation that must be had more frequently. As an Executive Recruiter it’s part of my job to insert myself into these situations and ensure that families have these conversations as early as possible in order to avoid unpleasant surprises and hard feelings.
I can foresee a day when eldercare related benefits are a significant part of a corporate benefit package intended to attract and retain talented middle-aged employees who are often in positions of senior leadership. Perhaps we’ll even see assisted living centers sprouting up in office parks and adjacent to large workplace facilities. For now we simply need to include eldercare in our career management plans, not only as employees who are considering job opportunities but also as employers who want to ensure that candidates have considered all of their personal responsibilities before moving to the final stages of an interview process. I encourage candidates and hiring managers to bring this topic up as early in the process as they can, along with discussions about childcare benefits, relocation and travel requirements of a job.
As always I welcome your comments and questions.