While our social media has been blowing up with news of him for days, many readers may still be wondering who this Josh Levs guy really is. A father of three? A reporter for CNN and NPR? Author of the book All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, And Businesses – And How We Can Fix It Together? On Wednesday, the Chamber and many guests were able to get a clearer picture of the man behind the titles and accolades, and we were handed a pleasant realization: Josh Levs is a man that deeply values not only his family and personal life, but also the importance of innovation and business in a life.
The most important thing that Levs wanted the gathered crowd to know was that; “All In is not a call for businesses to pay for paid family leave.” What he proposed was not having businesses pay out of pocket, but instead for the nation to set up a system that has already proven successful in RI, CA and NJ, where employees pay a very small amount of their paycheck every month into a regulated fund that they then gain access to when they take leave time (For more information on this check out Levs’ book). Though Levs’ own personal experience had to do with leave for a birth, he told the crowd that this paid leave would be available for everyone under the name “Family Leave,” and could be used for the illness of a parent or spouse, or for other family-based issues, allowing for even those without children to make use of it.
Levs opened the lunchtime event speaking about his grandfather, who had been a small business owner as well as a kosher butcher in western Massachusetts. Levs learned the importance of business from his grandfather, but he also learned how every penny matters for small business owners, and how important small businesses are to the vibrancy of the communities they live in. He said that the health of society could often be measured by how well the businesses were operating.
It was in this way that Levs laid the groundwork for a fascinating bisection of life that he argues for within the pages of All In. To Levs, the human experience can be split into two clear categories. On the one hand there is Innovation; the natural human impulse to discover, to create, and to succeed. Levs sees the business world clearly within this category, driving humanity to reach ever higher and to always better our society. This is one of the clear drivers of life. The other category Levs refers to by several names: the Personal Connection, Love, and Family. No matter the moniker, the concept is the same. Together these categories create a simple picture of humanity. “We innovate and we love,” Levs says. “Never listen to the cynics,” he continued, warning of those that think it is not possible to honor both sides. “They are wrong.”
Levs used this bisection of the human existence to talk about the conflict of the “New Age Dad,” and to fight off the stereotypes that have for so long plagued fatherhood. Levs tackled these issues in an interesting light, addressing the question of how to increase profits while still making sure dads can be dads and moms can be moms. He brought forward the examples of modern companies that have embraced family friendly workplace practices. He pointed to successful businesses like Google, Netflix, Microsoft, and Johnson + Johnson, and noted how their family friendly practices were aiding them in their success. These practices are, in fact, drawing top talent to these companies.
Levs closed his presentation by commenting on how gorgeous the state of New Hampshire was, and how wonderful the lifestyle was here. Levs spoke of how people want places like New Hampshire to live, and that employers would be wise to embrace their employees as whole people. He told of how, in a recent talk in Madison, WI he was informed by individuals in the crowd that with the work of local and state government, Madison was actually bringing whole new industries into their city because it was a desirable place to live and because these industries were accepting their employees lives outside of work and encouraging them to flourish. Levs ended with his bisection of human nature, noting that we have to honor both halves of the story of humanity in order to achieve true success. Put simply “Innovation + Family/Love/Personal Connections = Success.”
Levs then hosted a panel of experts on stage which included Jeff Feingold, Editor of the NH Business Review; Michelle Gray Founder & President of HR Synergy, LLC; and Katie Kiernan Marble, Employment Attorney & Owner of Marble Employment Law. Levs started by asking the panelists for examples in their own lives where family and work came into direct conflict. All of the panelists, commented on the difficulty of finding the balance between work and their families, and both Marble and Gray spoke of how, after the birth of their first child, they had attempted to keep to the same schedule they had held prior to having children, but each found that this was simply not going to work and had to discover new ways to manage their home and work lives. Feingold, as the only male on the panel, supplied the crowd with an interesting look at the biases held against fathers, when he talked of his time as essentially a stay-at-home father, and how many other people in his town gossiped and wondered at why he was not working.
Much of the panel time was spent discussing the need for educating both employers and employees on the value of family friendly workplace practices. While both Marble and Gray lamented the necessity of it, they both seemed to feel that a continued upholding of strict laws were the only way to truly drive the benefit of family friendly workplaces home. Both were hopeful as far as the continued education of employees and employers went, but felt that as it now stood, such efforts were not enough to see a true societal shift.
Some discussion of the first in the nation primary in New Hampshire was also raised during the panel discussion, and Levs admitted that this was one of the chief reasons he had come to New Hampshire. He told the crowd how he was yet to find a true dissenter of better family friendly work place practices, and that the issue was not one for just Republicans or Democrats to cling to, but really just a pan-human issue that our nation needs to address.
We at the Chamber would like to send a huge thank you to the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, our partner in putting this event on. We would also like to thank Levs for taking the time to speak with us during his #ALLinNH Tour, and to our presenting sponsor TD Bank. We would also like thank our supporting sponsor, Charles Schwab; our centerpiece sponsor, Elizabeth Grady of Nashua; and the tour’s hospitality sponsor, Lovering Volvo of Nashua. Greenleaf Photography provided all of the lovely pictures on both our Facebook page and on this blog, and we thank them deeply for that as well. Finally, we would like to offer a special shout out to Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, who came through in our darkest hour when our local book supplier did not receive their shipment of All In in time for the event. We hope that this event has been informative and thought provoking, and that our members and the community at-large are now better educated to embrace a future balance between innovation and love. We are ready to go All In, and we hope you are too!