Benefits of Onsite Childcare: Increased Retention, Engagement, Promotions

Best Practices From Marriott, Toyota, Eli Lilly and Northrop Grumman

By Barbara Frankel

Demetria Silvera Elmore
Marriott’s Demetria Silvera Elmore and her daughter

As companies readjust real estate to the workplaces of the future, they should consider a cost-saving benefit that improves retention, engagement and promotion rates, especially for women: onsite childcare.

Government and academic studies indicate that only 9 percent of companies nationwide have onsite childcare facilities, compared with 52 percent of The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. Yes, onsite childcare facilities are a big investment—building, security, trained staff. But the payoff is considerable, especially in retaining and promoting women, an issue of concern for many companies.

We interviewed executives at four companies that have had successful onsite childcare centers: Marriott International, Northrop Grumman, Eli Lilly and Company and Toyota Motor North America, Nos. 16,  29, 35 and 48, respectively, in the DiversityInc Top 50. We spoke them about the benefits of these centers and with parents who have found themselves more engaged and better employees.

Consider these facts:

Corporate Best Practices

Kymberlee Dwinell, Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman’s Kymberlee Dwinell

Employees and managers at all four companies cite the comfort factor of having safe, close childcare leading to better-performing employees. “Many state they have peace of mind knowing their children are so close to them physically and are being well cared for,” says Kymberlee Dwinell, Corporate Director, Global Diversity and Inclusion, Northrop Grumman. The defense contractor has had an onsite childcare facility in Redondo Beach, Calif., called The Launching Pad, for 22 years, with 168 children currently enrolled. Here are best practices from all four companies:

  • Use It As Recruitment, Retention Tool. Eli Lilly and Company has had two onsite childcare facilities at its Indianapolis headquarters for 18 years, with 300 children participating. The company says its feedback surveys on the childcare facilities are “flawless” and that it is a valuable recruitment and retention incentive.“Women often make that decision not to come back to work after having a first child—especially since most of our talent is recruited from outside Indianapolis, so employees don’t have that family support to help care for the child,” says Charlotte Hawthorne, Consultant, Global Diversity at Lilly.“We know that several of our participant employees have turned down other jobs where they wouldn’t have had that benefit of onsite childcare,” Northrop Grumman’s Dwinell says.
  • Have Flexible Hours. Most centers are open from early morning to at least 6 p.m., and some are open on days employees are off. Marriott’s Child Development Center at corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md., is open on school holidays as well as during the summer. The center has capacity for 113 children and is open to all employees at corporate headquarters.“Our participating employees are also able to be at work more often because the hours and days of the onsite childcare center correspond to our work calendar,” Northrop Grumman’s Dwinell says.
  • Consider Needs of Older Children. While most onsite childcare is for infants through 5-year-olds, Northrop Grumman has spring, winter and summer camps for school-age children (ages 5–12) to help during times when schools are closed.
  • Communicate Benefits Clearly. At Northrop Grumman, the center is advertised in the company’s bimonthly magazine. At Toyota, new-hire orientation introduces this benefit to employees.
  • Offer Referrals and Assistance in Locations Without Onsite Childcare. Marriott provides a childcare directory for its employees and help finding competent care.

    Charlotte Hawthorne, Eli Lilly
    Eli Lilly’s Charlotte Hawthorne
  • Offer Sliding-Scale Finances. While all of the companies provide good value on the service, it’s important to make sure the childcare centers are not affordable only for high-earning parents. Eli Lilly compares rates that employees are paying to rates at other local childcare operations. “We are able to offer higher-quality programming because Lilly picks up facility costs like lights, gas and maintenance. So all the income goes directly to the teachers and students,” Hawthorne says.
  • Be Security Conscious. At Toyota, video cameras enable parents to view live feeds of their children throughout the day. Toyota’s Erlanger, Ky., plant has had childcare less than half a mile from the plant site since 2001. Currently, 126 children participate.

    Toyota's Imagine Tomorrow center
    Toyota’s Imagine Tomorrow center
  • Have Waiting Lists That Move. Many of the parents interviewed told us they signed up for the waiting list as soon as they learned they were pregnant. “I told the waiting list [I was pregnant] before I told any of my friends,” says Demetria Silvera Elmore, Senior Director, Sales & Marketing Business Transformation and Planning at Marriott.
  • Involve Senior Leadership. When Marriott celebrated the 20th anniversary of its childcare center in 2010, Chairman and former CEO Bill Marriott was part of the celebration. He also often went through the daycare center and engaged with the children there, says Maruiel Perkins-Chavis, Vice President, Workforce Effectiveness & Global Diversity.Elmore recalls walking in the first month and running into the Chief Operating Officer. “I was a little uncomfortable as I wanted to be taken seriously as a young executive. He just came up and started playing with my daughter’s toy giraffe. He became much less intimidating to me after that.”
  • Be Inclusive of Parental Input. Marriott has a Parent Advisory Committee that generates ideas, holds fund-raisers and examines everything from the curriculum to the food.

Success Stories: Parents Who Came, Stayed and Were Promoted

1. Shruti Buckley is Vice President and Global Brand Manager of Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites. She has a seven-month-old daughter. She cites the center as a key factor in her ability to perform her very demanding job. “As a new mother, they have provided great guidance for someone like myself who is going through parenthood for the first time,” she says.

Shruti Buckley, Marriott International
Marriott’s Shruti Buckley

Buckley’s job requires her to be on the road between 15 and 20 percent of the time, including several week-long trips, some international. Her husband is a management consultant who has less flexibility in his job, but her mother lives locally and can help out. “The center gives us the ability to plan ahead. … I feel like I can focus on my job more effectively and efficiently because I know she’s in a really great facility and she’s nearby.”

Buckley considered having an in-home provider and tried it for six weeks “but we realized the baby wasn’t getting socialization. Children who are part of a daycare system learn things from the others.”

2. Marriott’s Elmore has a similar story. She has a two-year-old daughter and a son due in January. She was on the onsite facility’s waiting list for the first three months she was back at work after her daughter was born, forcing her to use another daycare center. “I was frantically running to the other side of downtown because they closed at 6. Marriott’s is open from 7 to 7. You know your child is in good hands. It was one of the reasons I wanted to work at Marriott. I’m a planner and I knew I was going to have kids.”

She felt very secure with her decision because her boss had three children at the center at the time and her boss’ boss had also put three children through the center.

Linda Solomon, Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman’s Linda Solomon and her daughter

3. Linda Solomon, a Department Manager in Systems Engineering, has been with Northrop Grumman for 18 years. All of her children, now 10, 8, and 3, have been enrolled at The Launching Pad. She cites this as a factor in her initially coming to the company and in her staying—and being promoted.

“One of the main reasons I chose the company was for future planning of hopefully having a family. Having daycare on site has been a huge factor in my career and has really enabled me to be more productive, knowing that they are in a safe, consistent environment,” she says.

Toyota's LaToya Duncan
Toyota’s LaToya Duncan

4. LaToya Duncan is an Assistant Manager, Corporate Strategy at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America. She has two sons, 11 and 2. Toyota’s onsite childcare facility at the Erlanger, Ky. plant, called Imagine Tomorrow, was a critical part of the decision she made with her husband to keep working fulltime after they became parents.

She cites the diversity of the children as a major factor because it “provides our children the insight into the diversity of the world, which is difficult to find in other centers in our area.” She notes that only children of Toyota employees are enrolled in the center, reflecting the diversity within Toyota.

“My children are nine years apart but have had the privilege of having some of the same teachers. This continuity has enabled us to develop a productive educational partnership among the staff and our family, which is invaluable. I’ve learned their teaching styles and they’ve learned our parenting style,” she says.

5. Dr. Pamela A. Bush, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an MBA, both from Carnegie Mellon, is a Consultant in Finance for Eli Lilly. She has three children, ages 7, 4 and 2. The onsite childcare facility at Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis was a major factor in her deciding to work for the company in 2009.

“I definitely saw this as a benefit of working with Lilly. The first thing I did when I accepted my offer was put in my application for childcare,” she recalls.

If her children are sick, the center keeps an eye on them and reaches out to her immediately if symptoms become more severe. “The kids are very safe, well taken care of, and challenged,” she says.

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