British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, the 39 year old top contender to replace Tony Blair in the UK’s upcoming elections, caused a stir this week. In a controversial speech at the Google Zeitgeist Europe 2006 Conference in England, he laid out “work/life” as a key focus of his party’s political agenda. (Full transcript of the speech).
His speech was remarkable for the mere fact that it happened. But also because it was delivered by the leader of the country’s pro-business party. When the right-of-center candidate says “Improving our society’s sense of well-being is, I believe, the central political challenge of out times,” it’s clear that governmental leaders are beginning to see the need for new models for managing work and the rest of life. Cameron believes that for individuals and nations to thrive in the 21st Century, “Our goal is clear: to move beyond a belief in the Protestant work ethic alone to a modern vision of ethical work.”
Two Companies where Flexibility is an Employee-Employer Partnership
This week I had the privilege of working with two of the most forward-thinking organizations in terms of work+life flexibility, one is a large investment bank, and the other is one of the Big Four accounting firms. Both organizations have flexibility strategies that are far along the innovation curve. They don’t see flexibility as a policy or a benefit managed and implemented from the top-down. Rather, they see it as a mutually-beneficial process where both the organization and the individual play an active role.
The SVP of Global Diversity and Inclusion in charge of flexibility at the investment bank and I partnered to conduct a teleseminar for some of the top Fortune 500 HR executives as part of BizSummit.com’s speakers series. We presented the model for how we work together to create that employee-employer partnership within the firm.
Last week I traveled to Wisconsin to present the Career Asset Management Model (CAM) with Mike Haubrich, the financial planner who developed it. Here’s what makes it unique:
- Identifies your career as a valuable asset that needs to be as actively managed as an investment portfolio.
- Integrates the Work+Life “Fit” process into the traditional financial planning model.
- Creates a partnership between planners and career coaches which currently doesn’t exist.
The CAM model helps planners assist their clients in creatively and flexibly managing their career through critical work+life transitions as part of their overall financial strategy. The Work+Life “Fit” process is the tool within CAM that facilitates the creation, negotiation and implementation of a particular “fit” to suit a client’s current realities (See my interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 5/9/06).
It’s an “Everyone” Issue, So Everyone Needs to Participate in the Conversation
I want to sit down with men and explain why the time has come for them to stop hiding in the “flexibility” closet. They are an important voice. And they are a necessary voice if we, as a culture, are going to move issue of work+life flexibility out of the “mommy” category and recognize that it’s an “everyone” issue in the 24/7 work reality of the 21st Century.
Recently I helped a client put together an event showcasing the successful use of flexibility in their organization. The goal was to explain how flexibility can be an effective work+life “fit” management tool for the individual and a strategic management tool for the managers.
Frequent readers know that I consciously steer clear of the ongoing “Moms versus Work” debate because I believe:
- Work+Life is not just a “mothers” issue, it’s an “everyone” issue
- Making it a mothers-only issue actually hurts women, not helps
- It doesn’t get us any closer to a solution, but keeps us mired in the problem
- Only a privileged, minority of mothers who have the financial wherewithal to live on one salary can really engage in this debate. Most mothers need to work and are left feeling guilty that they aren’t able to make a different choice.
That said, here I am anyway. Because I believe the mommy wars/opting out/off ramps and on ramps conversation is way off track. We’ve gotten stuck in a circular, emotionally-charged, all-or-nothing debate that misses not only the countless work+life “fit” possibilities, but also overlooks some key facts that really should influence a mother’s decision whether or not to work.