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Netflix's New Parental Leave Policy Lacks Teeth

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

While we should applaud Netflix's recent announcement of paid parental leave of up to one year for moms and dads after the birth or adoption of a child, it lacks the teeth and innovation necessary to encourage dads to take full advantage of this progressive policy and for Netflix to reap its full potential.

Netflix's policy is good for dads, families and our country. It sends a strong message in a country that's far behind others in providing paid parental leave, especially to dads. It recognizes that dads:

  • Spend more time than ever in the daily care of their children.
  • Provide more care to their children after they return to work when they the take more time off from work after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Are more conflicted than moms in their attempt to balance work and family.
  • Are more likely than moms to scale back at home when they experience family demands and work overload.

Perhaps most important, it recognizes that more involved dads increase the well-being of children, mothers, families and communities.

Netflix's policy is also good for Netflix. Many dads fear taking advantage of parental leave and other work-family benefits. Despite these fears, when dads balance work and family, they are more productive employees who advance farther and faster in their careers. Involved dads--especially Millennial dads--are less fearful of the impact of balancing work and family. They demand jobs that provide paid parental leave. This demand from the newest dads is why it's no surprise that tech companies like Netflix lead the way in providing paid parental leave.

The challenge for Netflix is how to encourage dads to take full advantage of this policy. Dads are not moms. They require efforts that speak specifically to them--that meet their needs and wants as dads broadly and within the context of work-family balance. Dads are much less likely than moms to take parental leave. While 90 percent of dads in the U.S. take some time off from work, most of them take a week or less off.

To help their dads and the company, Netflix must give the policy the teeth it needs. Netflix must proactively encourage dads to take time off. Nothing in Netflix's announcement--or other commentary on the potential challenges of successfully implementing this policy--suggests that it is anything but a passive one. It lacks innovative tactics--any tactics, for that matter--that will give it a better chance to hold value and succeed with dads. This failure to recognize the need for an innovative, proactive effort to encourage dads to take full advantage of the policy is somewhat surprising given that Netflix is synonymous with innovation and the testing of tactics and approaches that disrupted and transformed how Americans consume movies and television shows.

Netflix must develop a campaign for dads that it constantly tests and refines (e.g. using a Lean Startup approach). The campaign must include, at a minimum:

  • Messages for dads, delivered through multiple internal channels and with enough frequency to be effective, that address the fears some dads may have about taking full advantage of the policy, such as it might hurt their career prospects or their job duties will suffer in their absence. These messages must include a value proposition that resonates specifically with dads.
  • Resources that educate dads (before and after the birth or adoption) about how to be involved dads, such as referrals to websites, brochures and other print materials, and on-site workshops/seminars that provide fathering education.
  • Ways to measure the impact of the policy on dads. Netflix must track the impact of the policy, such as the rate at which dads use the policy at all and, if so, how much leave they take. Netflix must analyze the data in a way that identifies the kinds of dads who do and don't take advantage of it using demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. Netflix must also gather qualitative feedback from dads on the impact of the policy and on the effectiveness of the campaign.

Netflix must also involve dads in shaping the campaign and delivering elements of it. The company should, for example, consider forming an interdepartmental team of dads at different levels of the company to help develop and evaluate potential tactics. It should use dads who work at Netflix as spokespersons to deliver messages that contain the value proposition.

Netflix must approach this effort from the consumer-based mindset that has led to so much of its success. The dads who work at Netflix are, after all, the consumers of its policies. Dads have different needs than moms when it comes to being parents and balancing work and family. They deserve the same dedication to the effective use by dads of this policy that their company makes to create the algorithms that meet the entertainment tastes of its diverse external customers.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

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