Archive for December, 2009

Where’s Work+Life Flex on SHRM’s National Conference Agenda? Essentially Missing.

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The other day the Society for Human Resource Management’s national conference brochure arrived.  I opened the front cover and read:

“…This year’s conference is programmed to provide the most comprehensive line-up  of thought-leaders, practitioners, and executives to interact with you on some of the most critical issues facing HR professionals today, with topics covering such key issues are:

  • Talent Management and Staffing
  • Employee Engagement and Morale
  • Legislative Compliance
  • Communication Strategies
  • Layoffs, Downsizing and RIFs
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Business Competencies
  • Leadership/Career Development
  • Healthcare Strategy and Reform
  • Continuity Planning
  • Global HR”

“Great,” I thought, “I wonder who’s presenting on work+life flexibility as a powerful strategy to help organizations and individuals tackle these challenges and opportunities.”  Given the broad business impacts of strategic flexibility it made sense that it would have prominent placement in the program.

So I looked through the printed conference brochure.  Workplace flexibility.  Nothing.  Work-life flexibility.  Nothing.  Work flexibility, or perhaps Flexible Work Arrangements.  Nothing.  I was confused.

Let’s go to the computer.  Maybe it’s mentioned online in the more detailed conference agenda.   I started with the large, plenary or “Mega” sessions.  Hmmm, nothing again.  Even in the mega sessions that cover issues where flexibility is very relevant–engagement, HR trends, leadership, retention, wellness, change management, motivation and balance—it is not mentioned …. Keep looking.

Go to the concurrent sessions.  Searching…Searching…Searching.  Finally, buried in over 100 concurrent sessions held across three days, I found one presentation that specifically discusses flexibility.  It’s under the International HR section and is entitled, “ Flexible Work Arrangements to Promote Organizational Diversity,” or how the increased use of flexible work arrangements expanded the talent pool in India.  Okay, one is better than none, but that’s it.

What’s going on?  Some may argue, “But, Cali, you aren’t counting the two concurrent presentations in the Employment Law and Legislation sessions that deal with caregiver discrimination and FMLA Jeopardy.”  No, because that’s not what I was looking for.  I was searching for the inclusion of work+life flexibility in the broader discussions of how companies and people will thrive and compete in a post-recession landscape.

For work+life flexibility to become part of a business’ day-to-day operating model, Human Resources can’t be the sole owner and advocate.  A majority of the top 100 CFOs interviewed for a survey that we co-sponsored with BDO Seidman in March, 2008 concurred.  They believed that direct line involvement was necessary for flexibility to succeed.

That being said, HR is a critical partner in the development, implementation and execution of a flexibility strategy.  It is often the first place that the need hits the radar screen as a solution to address talent and employee work+life fit issues.  HR is a critical entry point for the discussion of the broader strategic applications within the business.  This is why the fact that there was only one presentation specifically discussing flexibility buried deep in the concurrent sessions of the national conference the Society for Human Resource Management gives me pause.

It doesn’t bode well for increasing the effectiveness of work+life flexibility inside of organizations.   In other words, many organizations have formal flexible work arrangement policies, but flexibility isn’t an effective part of the way the business and its people operate day-to-day.  This is unfortunate because flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed is more important than ever.

Moving beyond confusion and shock, I began to ponder why work+life flexibility had such a minor role in the SHRM conference agenda?   Here are some of my hypotheses.  Please feel free to chime in and share yours:

  1. SHRM doesn’t think it is important. (I find that hard to believe, especially since in May,2009 SHRM released an entire policy statement on flexible work arrangements).
  2. SHRM thinks it’s important, but only enough to warrant one concurrent session solely focused on talent applications. (Again, I find this hard to believe but perhaps SHRM doesn’t see or understand the direct strategic relevance beyond a programmatic or legal application even though flexibility does directly address most if not all of the critical issues targeted in the agenda).
  3. SHRM thinks flexibility is important, but doesn’t really know what more can be done beyond the policy, program and benefit implementation of formal flexible work arrangements and government mandated regulations. (This is the theory that makes the most sense to me.  It is a matter of mindset and perspective.  If SHRM doesn’t think flexibility is part of the strategic conversation related to engagement, creating great workplaces, leadership, retention, change, global talent, and motivation, what more is there to do beyond implementing a policy and understanding the legal issues? )

But that’s just it, there is still so much to be done to move flexibility from a “nice to have” policy or program to a core strategic lever. This is why its exclusion from the SHRM conference agenda is a disappointing missed opportunity.  HR professionals won’t leave the conference:

  • Understanding how to make the business case for greater flexibility to their line leadership.
  • Knowing how to support and promote broader change management efforts necessary to make flexibility part of the operating model.
  • Prepared help leaders and employees understand their roles in creating win-win innovative solutions able to respond to changes in market climate, and
  • Able to articulate how the strategic, business-based application of flexibility can help their organizations and employees successfully manage the challenges and opportunities in today’s rapidly changing marketplace.

Do you think work+life flexibility should be more prominently featured in the SHRM conference agenda?  Why do you think it’s not?  What do you think this missed opportunity means for the advancement of strategic flexibility inside of organizations?

Fast Company: How to Work with More Meaning…and Get Paid

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Why do you work?  As we emerge from the rubble of the Great Recession, an increasing number of people from a variety of sectors and in different stages of life are searching for a more meaningful “why” behind the work they do.

Paying the bills continues to be important, but there’s a growing awareness that work needs to be about more than money.  As we have seen, the money either isn’t going to be there in the amounts it was before or it can disappear in an instant.  Here are some of the discussions about and resources supporting the movement to find paid work with greater meaning that have come to my attention over the past week.

Looking for an Encore Career?  The guide to finding work that matters by Encore Careers

As they approach traditional “retirement,” many Baby Boomers want to work and make money but they also want their work to have greater purpose.  Following its recently announced Encore Opportunity Awards, Civic Ventures paves the way to a purpose-driven job with its excellent new guide, “Looking for an Encore Career?

According to Marci Alboher, Senior Fellow with Civic Ventures, the core tenents of an Encore Career are 1) continued income, 2) personal meaning, and 3) social impact, “This generation is looking to change the world in this next phase of their lives.  They are returning to the values of Kennedy, and they are interested in service, giving back and having impact.”  Many of areas in which people have launched successful encore careers have also seen some of the greatest job growth:  social services, government, education and green jobs.

Alboher and I agree that everyone should begin their “encore planning” as early as possible because this is the new vision of retirement.  And much of the planning for an encore career can, and should, be done while you are still working in your primary job.  You can chart the winding path of research, informational interviews, conferences and trying out different options.  When the moment arrives to make the transition, you are ready.

And you don’t necessarily need to wait until retirement.  The Encore Career guide is an excellent resource for anyone in any stage of life looking for a purpose-driven job.  In fact, I realized after reading the guide and talking to Marci that I started my encore career in 1993 at the age of 29.  That’s when I left banking, went back to school and entered the work+life field.   For the past 16 years, I’ve made money (albeit initially less than I made as a banker), found personal meaning and have had social impact.  I need to start planning my second encore!

Finding Meaning in Your Current Job – Authentic Organizations Blog

As CV Harquail points out in an insightful post on her Authentic Organization’s blog, you don’t have to leave your current job to find more meaning.  In “How Job Crafting Can Get You Closer to Authentic Work,” Harquail, a former Darden b-school professor, explains how the revolutionary concept of job crafting (also outlined in a recent Time Magazine article) can help everyone build more meaning into their existing work…(Click here for more)

Complete Survey for Sloan Work and Family Research Network — Win Amazon Gift Card

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One of my favorite groups in the Work-Life space is the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, and one of my favorite work-life colleagues is Judi Casey, the Network’s Director.

The Sloan Network is completing the process to determine its future strategic focus and is gathering as much feedback and information as possible: “The Network has been exclusively funded by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the past 13 years, which has allowed it to provide all content at no cost to users. The current grant cycle ends in June and the Network has been asked to apply for one final transition grant to move toward self-sufficiency. The Network is therefore seeking your input to inform its evolution.”

So, please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey by December 20th.  You just might win an Amazon gift card!

Survey Link HERE

Meet Honey Dew Yost! Adding a Dog to My Work+Life Fit

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Meet Honey Dew Yost, the beautiful, six-month old Puggle (half Pug/half Beagle) puppy we adopted on Sunday from Curly Tail Rescue. honey dew

Yup, I went there.  I added a dog to my already very full work+life fit.  In the process, I am recalling many lessons others have shared with me over the years about managing the realities of work and pets, particularly dogs:

  1. Last minute meetings and business travel become much harder–plan accordingly.
  2. Make sure you have dog walking back-up with keys to get into your house in case your plane is delayed, train is canceled, you get caught in traffic or a meeting runs late.
  3. Build time into the day to spend with your dog, as you would a child–good news is my 11 year old and 8 year old are all over the dog whenever they are home.  But, I am trying to take a few extra minutes here and there to just be with her and get to know her.  She is very, very loving and cute.

So far Honey’s arrival hasn’t required too much of a work+life fit reset, but it sure has added a lot of smiles.  What other tips should I know about successfully managing my work+life fit with a dog?

Fast Company: Health Care Reform and Budget Cuts Put Future Elder Care on Your Radar Screen…Now More Than Ever

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We spent Thanksgiving with my cousin and her husband, who is moving into the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.  Over three days, I watched in awe as she patiently and lovingly cared for her partner of 23 years even though most of the time he didn’t recognize where he was or whom he was with.

Over the past few years as his disease has advanced, my cousin has worked full-time and cared for him at home.  She’s done this with the help of a  group of outside caregivers, but at great cost.  Right now their hours are 8:00 to 5:30 pm everyday, which costs her $800 per week, after taxes.

Fortunately (if you can call any part of this story fortunate), because he is fifteen years older and had already retired, his pension covers most of the costs.  But she must work to pay for everything else.  No one knows how long this situation could continue and she wants to keep him at home as long as possible.  Although he is severely impaired cognitively, he’s in great health physically.  She must earn a living, plus work reenergizes her. It gives her the deep reserve of patience and understanding that caring for him requires.

As the debate regarding health care reform rages on, and state budget crises make headlines, I often think about my cousin and the millions of other caregivers who currently or will care for an adult family member.  Why?  Because the outcome of these challenges will profoundly affect access to the already minimal level of affordable elder care support that exists.  No one seems to be talking about it, and we need to.

Over the years, I’ve blogged about my personal, eye-opening experiences with elder care, as well as the realities of others.  I come back to the same questions I originally asked in a post I wrote in July, 2008 about caregiving-gone-very-wrong,“Heartbreaking Reminder—There’s No Elder care:”

Over the years when I’ve brought up the challenges facing parents trying to find child care, more than a few people have commented, “Well, if you can’t care for your kids don’t have them.”  Okay, let’s assume for a minute that argument has merit (which I don’t think it does) and explains why child care should be the problem of individual parents rather than the broader community.  How does that argument hold for elder  care?  “Well, if you can’t care for your parents don’t have them?”  We don’t have any choice in having parents.  We all have them.  And increasingly the responsibility to care for an ever-growing number of aging adults is going to fall to all of us.  Where are we going to turn for support and help so that we don’t find ourselves making the same misguided, perhaps desperate choices as Theodore Pressman?

Are we as a country and as individuals prepared for the reality of elder care?  Do we truly understand how little support is out there, and are we planning accordingly?

I wrote that post just before the worst of the financial crisis began to challenge already strapped state Medicare and Medicaid budgets.  At the time, I’d asked an elder care expert where she thought the support would come from and how it would be paid for.  She responded without missing a beat, “Medicare.  We’ll demand it.”  Well, we can demand all we want.  But you can’t get blood from a stone.  A recent story in The Washington Post reports many states are already cutting the daily reimbursement rates for adult day-care centers.  These are critical, relatively affordable supports for individuals who are providing elder care at home but need to work.

What should we be doing?  Here are a few thoughts, but I very much welcome the insights of my colleagues who specialize in elder care related issues, so please comment: (Click here for more)