The “new dad” is a force to be reckoned with. Able to juggle multiple roles and searching for a balance between family and work life, these dads are changing what it means to be a working father. Their dedication and creativity make them great candidates to join any company – so how can you recruit and retain them to your team?


Who Is the “New Dad?”

The “new dad” isn’t just about becoming a father for the first time – it’s also about how these dads perceive their identities and their roles. One study found that there are four major “images” or “models” of fathering and fatherhood:[1]

  1. The provider: a “traditional” view of fatherhood as financially supporting the family
  2. The role model: modeling appropriate behavior for children
  3. The partner: working as a supportive, engaged partner in raising children and as a spouse
  4. The nurturer: being a caretaker who is both physically and emotionally present


The idea is not that one model is “better” than the others, necessarily, but that the very idea of fatherhood is evolving and expanding. As the researchers themselves point out, “Enacting both traditional and involved images of fatherhood creates a positive sense of self, and fathers are willing to live with the tensions that this multiplicity creates.”[2]


Many fathers experience all or most of these different fatherhood “images” at once, and for the most part, today’s dads are working to embrace those different needs and identities. A study from Boston College noted that over 90% of both men and women agreed with three statements about parental leave: “I wanted to be the best parent I could be”, “I took leave because it was available to me,” and “My family needed me.”[3] The “new dad” is focused on finding balance among the different demands on their time and the different aspects of life that they prioritize.


The key, for many fathers, is having the flexibility in the workplace to be able to handle these shifting needs.


Fatherhood and the Workplace

Challenges arise when workplaces aren’t as quick to keep up with changing norms as the people they employ. As many fathers begin looking at things differently than they may have generations or even years ago, companies must find ways to adjust policies, expectations, and overall culture to meet those needs.


Flexibility is at the top of the list when it comes to concerns of new fathers (and things that companies can address. Humberd et al.’s study noted that, while being viewed as capable of juggling multiple roles and identities was seen as a reputation boost for fathers in the workplace, “tensions can arise if workplaces are not flexible enough to accommodate more demanding fatherhood roles, and the responsibilities men have in relation to their spouses can intersect with experiences in the workplace to further exacerbate these issues.”[4] Along similar lines, the researchers also found that, while fatherhood often served as a social bonding tool in the workplace (such as bonding with other new parents), discussing the more stressful and challenging aspects of family-work balance remained largely “taboo” for fathers.


It’s equally important for companies to develop a culture of support for new parents, including new fathers. According to the Boston College research, men were less likely to feel extremely supported, especially by senior management (55%) and clients (49%), than women who took parental leave. Respondents suggested that leaders could do more to encourage a culture where taking leave is viewed positively, including taking full leaves themselves; researchers noted that the phrase “lead by example” frequently appeared in responses.[5]


That culture of support must also take into account the fact that economic status plays a significant role along with gender. Research compiled by the Harvard Business Review suggests that fathers in lower-income brackets are less likely to take meaningful (or any) leave, especially in cases where leave is unpaid or low-paid: only 43 percent of those in the bottom income quartile take paternity leave at all.[6]


Supporting and Attracting the New Dad

Flexible work schedules, financial and social support, and other perks make fathers more likely to be engaged at work and stay in their jobs longer. While companies may be initially concerned that offering these perks is too expensive for the bottom line, it’s likely that those costs will be balanced out in the long run. Offering robust perks pays off with increased employee engagement and productivity, as well as loyalty, reputation boosts, and overall retention.


The Boston College study provides stats that support this. Namely:

  • 75% of surveyed employees said that they are more likely to remain with their current employer because their employer offers expanded leave.
  • 30% reported an increase in loyalty to their employer, with only 13% who report a decrease.
  • The increase in employer loyalty is more than double for men (27%) than for women (12%).[7]


With those policies, however, comes a responsibility to ensure that they are communicated well. Researchers found that only 45% of employees felt like they understood their employers’ leave policies “very” or “extremely” well, leading to confusion and not taking advantage of the full range of benefits.[8] Communicating policies and ensuring that employees know where to find resources (and who to ask about navigating the process) is critical to providing a positive experience with parental leave benefits.


The other part of the equation is the return-to-work experience. Many parents reported a drop in support upon returning from leave. According to Boston College’s research, over 40 percent of women and 33 percent of men said that their job responsibilities increased following their return to work. 36 percent of women and 25 percent of men also reported feeling like their manager had higher expectations of them after their return from leave.[9] Companies that want to truly support new parents must ensure that this extends beyond just the basics of offering days off – a broader culture of support makes all the difference.


By Tom Zeleny, NHA


[1] Humberd, Beth, et al. “The ‘New’ Dad: Navigating Fathering Identity Within Organizational Contexts.” Journal of Business and Psychology, June 2014, 29 (2).

[2] Humberd et al., ibid.

[3] “Expanded Paid Parental Leave: Measuring the Impact of Leave on Work and Family.” Boston College Center for Work & Family, 2019,

[4] Humberd et al., ibid.

[5] Boston College Center for Work & Family, ibid.

[6] Koslowki, Alison. “When Workplace Cultures Support Paternity Leave, All Employees Benefit.” Harvard Business Review, 14 June 2018,

[7] Boston College Center for Work & Family, ibid.

[8] Boston College Center for Work & Family, ibid.

[9] Boston College Center for Work & Family, ibid.