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Perspective | Greensboro aims to lead North Carolina — and maybe even the nation — in family-friendly workplaces

What makes a city a great place to live, work, and raise a family? That’s a core question that Action Greensboro has been pursuing since its inception more than 20 years ago, and it still drives us to take new risks and tackle great ideas today, from the Downtown Greenway to STEM Early College at NC A&T State University.

We ask this question of Greensboro’s workforce regularly, and nothing ranks higher on our workforce’s list of priorities than public schools, college talent, and family-friendly support systems.

Yet across industry sectors, only 7% of Greensboro employers offer paid parental or family leave, support for child care, or wellness rooms, a 2023 workplace survey in Guilford County found. Employers cite “family reasons” as a top reason for the high rate of employee turnover post-pandemic. These findings reinforced what we learned in our 2018 “Generation Greensboro” survey of nearly 2,500 members of Greensboro’s workforce. Respondents placed high value on work/life balance, and believed that Greensboro is a “great place to put down roots.” Yet over one-third of respondents were unsure or did not think their next job would be in Greensboro.

Action Greensboro’s track record is leveraging the collective thought leadership and financial support of our local philanthropic sector to respond to Greensboro’s biggest challenges and opportunities. The survey findings spurred us to imagine what could be possible if we targeted the family-friendly policies of local employers — and to reach out to our colleagues at the NC Early Childhood Foundation and its Family Forward NC initiative

Future Ready Greensboro

Spurred by the new 2023 survey data, Action Greensboro’s philanthropic partners came together to launch a new campaign: Future Ready Greensboro. The Future Ready Greensboro campaign launched on February 21, at the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s 2024 Annual Celebration. With the support of eight Greensboro funders, Future Ready Greensboro aims to ensure that at least 85,000 employees in Greensboro work for employers certified by Family Forward NC by 2025. By this time next year, Greensboro will become the first Family Forward NC Certified community in the state. 

Action Greensboro will lead Future Ready Greensboro, along with the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and the NC Early Childhood Foundation, to support employers becoming certified. Through presentations, workshops, roundtables, and panel discussions, employers will learn the competitive advantage of offering family-friendly policies and practices, the mechanics of creating a family-friendly workplaces, and the process of becoming Family Forward NC certified. The Future Ready Greensboro team will also prioritize small and minority- and/or women-owned businesses.  

Workplaces that attract talent and support healthy child development 

Action Greensboro will leverage the designation as another tool to attract new business and talent to the region, and become a model for the state and nation. Action Greensboro, together with the Chamber of Commerce, serves as the city’s primary economic and community development group. Formed in 2001, Action Greensboro comprises eight local charitable foundations. In collaboration with business, higher education, and municipal government, Action Greensboro works to strengthen Greensboro’s economy and ensure the continuation of its excellent quality of life.

Family Forward NC is an innovative initiative of the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation to improve children’s health and well-being and keep North Carolina’s businesses competitive. The Family Forward NC Employer Certification designates employers that offer policies in one or more of five main areas, including paid leave, child care support, and health and wellness benefits.

Research shows that family-friendly workplace practices lead to better health and well-being outcomes for children and their families. One clear indicator of future success is grade-level reading by the end of third grade. In Guilford County, fewer than half of third-graders were reading on grade level in 2022.

Becoming a Family Forward NC Certified Employer

Fourteen Greensboro employers have already become Family Forward NC Certified, representing more than 7,251 Greensboro residents. They include: Bell Partners, Boulton Creative, Brown Property Investments, Charles Aris, Children and Families First, City of Greensboro, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Delta Dental of NC, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, Guilford County, Kindermusik International, Machine Specialities, shift_ed and Ready for School, Ready for Life.

Employers who want to join the effort by becoming a Family Forward NC Certified Employer  must: have a minimum of five employees located in NC working at least 30 hours per week; allow 100% of the employees working at least 30 hours per week to be eligible for benefits; and  have written policies available to all employees. 

As Mayor Nancy Vaughan said in the Future Ready launch video: “To be a future- ready community is so important, as it really defines what our values are and what we see in our future that will help us attract talent. Not only do we want our city to be certified but our community to be certified — and lead the way when it comes to the recruitment and retention of employees.”

Cecelia Thompson

Cecelia Thompson is the executive director of Action Greensboro. Action Greensboro, together with the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, serves as the city’s primary economic and community development group.