How a ‘Cone of Care’ Can Boost Employee Productivity

I looked up from a parent-teacher conference and I saw the image every HR leader, every people leader, wellbeing officer, every person in charge of total rewards should have in their mind.

It’s this inverted cone, meant to help elementary school students with problem solving. It balances on a tip that is filled with small problems, and the magnitude of those problems rachets up with intensity. If it gets to the emergency level at the top, the cone can tip over spiling everything out.

This is an image that companies could adopt for Lead Dads, Working Moms and caregivers in general. It would help them understand and discuss the magnitude of an employee’s need at any given moment – and adjust accordingly. Call it the Cone of Care.

Why do this? It’s a better way to manage, of course. But the business rationale is retention, which is one of the biggest stressors and costs for any organization.

I was looking at this sign at a school where the teachers, administrators and staff are thinking about how they can help these kids connect with each other but also to prepare them for less understanding world.

But what if the world of work was better? What if it thought of our work, our care, our personal responsibilities as cones?

Take a look at the photo again. It’s brilliant in its straightforward simplicity.

The biggest piece of the cone, the part that balances everything else, is “problems I can solve myself”. They’re labeled small. That’s most of what we encounter. Things go well, things don’t go well within a ban.

The categories get narrower as they increase, starting with “I need help to solve the problem”. These are the medium and large problems.

The narrowest band is “Emergency” in red. It’s at the top and if it starts to roil, it can boil over – or topple the cone.

You don’t want to get to Emergency. You want to deal with your problems by yourself or with scaffolding before you get to that level.

But if you get to Emergency, bad things can happen to your mindset, your performance, the organization you’re part of.

It should never get to that point.

But it does.

Too often HR departments are more focused on the product than the process of implementing the product – e.g. well-crafted parental leave policy, untrained manager who makes comment about leave being vacation.

HR leaders can use the cone as a way to help caregivers in the hybrid work environment. It’s not a moonshot. It’s a better way to think about organizational dynamics and work wherever it is.

What would it take HR leaders to embrace this? What’s holding them back now?