Archive for August, 2010

Fast Company: Quarterly Earnings Kill People-Based Innovation…

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Do a quick search in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and you will find numerous articles by very smart people pronouncing that only “innovation” will lead to an economic recovery.

Yet, it’s ironic to read these articles at the same time that Hewitt releases its most recent quarterly global employee engagement survey. In the first quarter of 2010, the trend lines of companies reporting increases and declines in engagement converged and crossed. For the first time in 15 years, the companies experiencing declines far outpaced those reporting improvement. Houston, we have a problem. As Hewitt correctly states in their report,

“This highlights the growing tension between employers—many of which are struggling to stabilize their financial situation—and employees, who are showing fatigue in response to a lengthy period of stress, uncertainty and confusion brought about by the recession and their company’s actions.”

Yup.

Now we could argue the point about employers are “struggling to stabilize their financial situation” when 3,000 non-financial firms hold an estimated $1.6 trillion (yes, trillion with a “T”) in cash and equivalents, but I want to focus back on one simple question:

How do companies across the globe expect to innovate on the backs of an increasingly demoralized workforce that’s stressed, overworked, undercompensated, unrecognized, lacks career opportunities, and doesn’t trust leadership?

As I said before, how do we square this circle?

Now, I’m not an expert on innovation strategy, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not, “Be sure to overwork and undercompensate your employees. Make them really afraid. And then, when they no longer trust you, put everyone in a room and let the magic begin!”

So, what’s the answer?

Let’s go back to the articles begging for more innovation written by those very smart people. What do they say?  (Click here for more)

Work+Life Flexibility “How to” in Pictures: #4 Making it real takes more than traditional policy, toolkit and training

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Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #1 Don’t get stuck on innovation curve

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #2 Change requires employee+employer partnership (some gov’t) and shift in broader cultural conversation

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #3 Focus on fact that same flexibility keeps business open in a snowstorm, cares for aging parents (and more)

Work+Life Flexibility “How to” in Pictures: #3 Focus on fact that same flexibility keeps business open in snowstorm, cares for aging parents (and more)

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AND, more specifically….

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #1 Don’t get stuck on innovation curve

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #2 Change requires employee+employer partnership (some gov’t) and shift in broader cultural conversation

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #4 Making it real takes more than traditional policy, toolkit and training

Work+Life Flexibility “How to” in Pictures: #2 Change requires employee+employer partnership (some gov’t) and shift in broader cultural conversation

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How Employees Can Partner with Employers: Work+Life Fit in 5 Days Series

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #1 Don’t get stuck on the innovation curve

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #3 Focus on fact that same flexibility keeps business open in snowstorm, cares for aging parent (and more)

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #4 Making flexibility real takes more than traditional policy, toolkit and training

Work+Life Flexibility “How to” in Pictures: #1 Don’t get stuck on innovation curve

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Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #2 Change requires employee+employer partnership (some gov’t) and shift in broader cultural conversation

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #3 Focus on fact that same flexibility keep business open in snowstorm, cares for aging parents (and more)

Work+Life Flex “How to” in Pictures: #4 Making it real takes more than traditional policy, toolkit and training

Yes, Flexibility Increases Productivity (and, More)…Favorite Flex Research/Resources Links

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This past weekend during the BlogHer panel, “Screw Work/Life Balance, We Need Work/Life Policy,” an attendee raised her hand and said, “I know from personal experience that when I work from home I am more productive.  I wonder if anyone has done research on whether this is true more broadly?”

I’ve been immersed in work+life flexibility for so many years that it’s easy to forget that most people don’t know about the stacks and stacks of research that proves that flexibility not only increases productivity but benefits businesses and individuals in many other ways.

In an effort to answer the question, I’m sharing a few of my favorite pieces of flexibility research.  I’ve also included a list of resources that have been studying and advocating for greater flexibility for more than a decade.  Many are on social media.

Great Flex Research Links (no particular order):

Great Resources…that I know personally and who seriously understand the underlying research-based business case for supporting work+life fit and flexibility (no particular order):

Do you have a favorite piece of flexibility research you’d like to share?  Add it to the list in the comments section.  And spread the word!  Flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed benefits everyone…individuals and business.

(Fast Company) Change the Game: Add Aging to the Parent-Centric Work+Life Debate

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The other day, as I read Sharon Meers’ (author of Getting to 50/50) clear and compelling article in The Washington Post, “How Joe Biden Can Help Working Parents,” I had two conflicting reactions:

  1. First was, “Go Sharon!” because she did a great job laying out the powerful data that support why we all benefit from helping parents manage their work and life. And she honestly addressed the common roadblocks that get in the way. But then …
  2. I thought “Are we still having this same conversation 15 years later?!” You see, I could dig back through my files and probably find a similar article making many of the same arguments from 1990.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the power of parenthood alone to catalyze a radical change in the way business, individuals and government approach work and life is limited.

No matter how many smart people, like Meers or Vice President Biden, join in the conversation, no matter how many pieces of research objectively state the need and benefits, we just can’t seem to move the needle.

We need a game changer. We need something that breaks us out of the rut we’ve been stuck in for 20 years and takes the debate to the next level. We need an issue that drives home the reality that finding new and better work+life strategies is not optional, or a “nice thing to do in good times.”

We need … to include the aging population. Why? It’s one of the greatest challenges both those who are aging and their caregivers (and, in turn, employers) are going to face in terms of the sheer number of people affected. Turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Last week in The New York Times, David Brooks ranked “the aging population” first in the list of “deep fundamental problems” we are facing as a county.

As the parent of two beautiful children and as someone who can recite the bottom line benefits of work+life strategies in her sleep, am I frustrated that the argument for supporting parents hasn’t been enough to make more meaningful change happen? Yes, very.

But I’m also a realist who knows that at the end of the day change happens when people understand the “WIFM” or what’s-in-it-for-me. Adding the challenges of an aging population to the argument expands the base of people who “get it” and who are, therefore, invested in seeking solutions.

Here are some of the reasons I believe the work+life debate will finally get teeth if we add the challenges of aging. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well: (Click here for more)