It all started with a question: Why? As you might have discovered over your career, ‘why’ is a question that goes unanswered at many companies, and asking it can get you labeled as ‘defiant’ or ‘not a team player’. Things work a little differently at DEG.

A few years back, Inc. Magazine recognized DEG as one of the 25 Companies Changing the World. For a growing agency in KC, this recognition was and still is, quite remarkable. Even more remarkable was that we were not singled out because of our work (which is fantastic) or our leadership (who have done an amazing job of guiding our company). It was DEG’s culture that set us apart. The team at Inc. understood how deeply the idea of entrepreneurialism is ingrained in our company, how essential it is to our ethos, and how it manifests almost daily in the running of our business.

Related: DEG Makes Ingram’s List of Best Companies to Work For

And so when Brenna Hawley-Craig, a longtime DEG associate, approached me last year and asked why our maternity and paternity policies were falling behind, I didn’t brush her off with a simple, “It’s just the way things are.” We talked about it. The longer we talked, the more questions Brenna raised: How long had the current policy been in place? How does the way we support new parents measure up against our competitors in the area? And perhaps most importantly, How does this policy align with our core values, number one of which is ‘Doing the right thing’? If we were truly doing the right thing by our associates, wouldn’t we want to take better care of them through this important life stage?

Brenna had raised her concern, which is not an easy thing to do. However, she had been working at DEG for years and knew that pointing out an opportunity for improvement is not what makes an entrepreneur—you also need to roll up your sleeves. Parental leave is an important issue, but resources were tight. Brenna asked one final question that made all the difference: How can I help?

Pointing out an opportunity for improvement is not what makes an entrepreneur—you also need to roll up your sleeves.

We talked for more than an hour and laid out a plan. To effect real change, we needed to do more than point out the problem to our principals—we’d need to recommend a realistic solution, backed up by data. So, Brenna went to work.

Investing personal time on nights and weekends, she started gathering data. She consulted local and national surveys; leading industry voices on maternity, paternity, and adoption leave; and she interviewed her extensive network in the city, as well as her peers inside DEG regarding their current and past experiences.

When she was ready to make her case to our c-suite, she had a well-informed, compelling story to tell. She spoke of how the company had changed and evolved since our family leave policies had been initially created. She presented the results of her research. Only 20-25% of companies nationally offer some form of paid parental leave in addition to disability and PTO. In Kansas City, the numbers were even smaller, only about 10% of companies supported their staff with paid time to recover from birth and to bond with their child. Additionally, only 2% of KC companies offer benefits to assist adopting parents. To close, Brenna convincingly presented improvements to our paid leave as a unique fulfillment of each of DEG’s mission, vision, and core values. As she ended that first presentation, I could tell our officers were onboard.

We took their support and started running the numbers and making specific recommendations for which benefits might change and how, with several proposals for each plan type. We went back and forth with the officers discussing particulars of the program before finalizing DEG’s new paid leave benefits.

Only two percent of KC companies offer benefits to assist adopting parents.

Our new program rolled out this past winter, and I’m proud of the result:

Maternity. DEG now supplements disability to ensure that birth mothers receive 100% pay for the length of their disability, usually 6-8 weeks.

Adoption. We also now provide two weeks of fully paid leave for prospective adoptive parents that can be used after the child joins the home, or during the adoption process for things like legal, administrative, or travel needs. This leave may also be combined with a $5,500 expense reimbursement.

Parental. DEG provides ALL new parents with two weeks of fully paid leave to bond with and care for their new children. Parental leave can be combined with Maternity or Adoption leave granting these new parents a total paid leave of 8-10 weeks or four weeks respectively. For other non-birth parents, these two weeks of leave may also be referred to as paternity leave.

The more we discussed DEG’s priorities in the context of parental leave, the more we realized that improvements were necessary in our other paid leave policies as well. We also enhanced our Military, Bereavement, and Civic Duty leaves, and introduced a new Disaster Leave policy. Finally, we made improvements to our holiday schedule (including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the first time) and vacation policies company-wide, maintaining a completive program to our peers and supporting another one of DEG’s core values: fostering a well-rounded work environment. We actively encourage our associates to pursue outside interests, prioritize their families, contribute to their communities, and travel; improving these policies gives staff the space to do that.

Brenna’s story is a fantastic example of an entrepreneurial mindset in action. Her efforts have improved the benefits and life balance of all her current peers–including the DEGers pictured above–and all those that come after. The best part of this story is, this isn’t the only example of entrepreneurialism you’ll find in our firm. I see it every day in small ways and am always grateful when it leads to monumental shifts like Brenna’s efforts did.

I can’t wait to see what the team does next.

Ready to Evolve?

We want smart, driven individuals to help us create DEG’s future. If you invest yourself in your work, live with enthusiasm, and thrive on results, we want to know you.

View Openings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>