How Kimberly-Clark supports caregiving colleagues
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
I work "full time-plus. ”
I have a demanding job and volunteer during my "off” time.
That’s not an unusual story for a woman in business. What is a bit
different: The place I work — Kimberly-Clark Corporation — is the place I
volunteer, as part of the company’s Family Caregiver Network
In our country, the average
family caregiver, a person providing unpaid care to an
adult family member or friend, is an employed female, age 48, who is caregiving
for an aging parent and has a child
under 18 at home.
About 20 years ago,
Kimberly-Clark encouraged the formation of employee networks (aka affinity
groups or employee resource groups) so that employees with common interests
could inform and support each other’s professional development while benefiting
the company’s recruiting, retention and communication. Shortly after, a group of
employees had the insight to form an affinity group for family caregivers. We applied
and received ERG status for the purpose of retaining and improving the
effectiveness of employees by providing information, support and advocacy for
family caregiving. We believe it is the only ERG of its kind in the country.
a small budget for ERGs from the human resources diversity budget. (Other
companies may find a home for this in their work/life balance office.) At
Kimberly-Clark, members of ERGs use corporate meeting facilities, but volunteers
use their own time and talent to run the networks.
For as long as FCN has
existed, we have been holding quarterly lunch-and-learn forums and occasional
longer workshops to present speakers on topics of interest to caregivers or
those preparing to care, mostly Baby Boomers. The forums are open to all
Kimberly-Clark employees and their spouses and partners. Panel discussions with
elder law specialists are a perennial favorite.
This year alone, the FCN:
- Invited a certified senior move manager
to talk about ways to help an aging parent move from a larger home to a smaller
- Organized a book club and teleconference
with New York Times blogger Jane Gross, author of The
Bittersweet Season, Caring
for Yourself and Your Aging Parents.
- Hosted a Prepare to Care Resource Fair.
Nearly two dozen local exhibitors who have a business or service of interest to
caregivers and future caregiversfilled a large conference room. The
exhibitors were thrilled with the results — many had more contacts during this
on-site event than at some of the senior/caregiving expos they attend. It was
more convenient for employees, too. As one employee said, "Thank you, thank
you, thank you! This is great
More than 65 million
people in the United States are serving as family caregivers, according to the
National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. It’s obvious that many employees have
to devote time to caregiving responsibilities, though those responsibilities
are often unseen by their employers. The pressures felt by an employed
caregiver show up as stress-related illness, higher utilization of health care,
decreased productivity, high absences and financial losses from reduced work
hours.In a survey done by the National
Alliance for Caregiving, 10 percent of caregivers said they
had to give up work entirely.
Often it’s a crisis (dad
has a stroke, mom has a broken hip) that causes a chaotic time in work and home
life.There no way to predict when the crisis will happen, but there are
preparations to reduce disruptions and have better outcomes for all.
Many professionals who
support family caregivers, such as county Aging and Disability Resource Centers
and Caregiver Coalitions, have asked us to share our model and practices and
encourage other employers to offer resources for employees before "the crisis.”
Being unprepared puts a huge burden on all ― the providers, the community, the
employee and the employer.
If your company hasn’t
reviewed its human resource policies lately, it’s important it does and include
caregiver resources in the mix. Remember how businesses adapted to accommodate
the needs of workers with young children in the 1980s? Now there’s a new
challenge: Most people ― and by "people” I mean "women”― will spend more years
caring for aging parents than they did for their children. The ideal is to have
an eldercare resource and referral system with access to a geriatric care manager.
However, with more
limited resources, it’s still possible to support employees. As we’ve shown at
Kimberly-Clark, a small budget, flexible work policies, corporate approval of
employee networks and a passionate group of volunteers can make a huge
Brown-Koeller is a technical leader in the marketing research department at
Kimberly-Clark Corporation. She is chairperson of the Family Caregivers Network
and has been volunteering with FCN for 17 years. She holds a bachelor’s
and master’s degree in psychology and has a special interest in aging. She feels
extremely lucky to have a wonderful brother and sister who share care-giving
responsibilities for their mother.
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