Archive for June, 2011

How to Use the Manager Flexibility Buy-In Curve to Your Advantage

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(Did you receive our How-to “Make Flexibility Real” e-newsletter this week via email?  If you did, the article below would have shown you how to leverage the Manager Flexibility Buy-In Curve.  Plus we shared a case study that’s exclusive to the enewsletter. Click here to sign up!)

Sixteen years of anecdotal evidence gathered from helping organizations of all sizes launch flexibility strategies shows that manager support for flexibility tends to fall somewhere along a bell curve:

What Does Support Look Like in Each Segment?

Managers who “Really Get It” do one or all of the following:

  • When they find out that the organization is taking a more strategic look at flexibility, they respond, “Why? I already do that.”
  • They don’t call what they are doing flexibility, they call it, “Getting the job done.”  Interestingly, this can make identifying these innovative applications of flexibility in the business more difficult.
  • Intuitively engage in an ongoing problem-solving dialogue with their team to create win-win flexible solutions.
  • When asked, “Where do you see flexibility in five years?” The response is, “There will only be more of it and here’s how the business will change and benefit…”

Managers who “Sort of Get it, but Aren’t Sure” do one of more of the following:

  • They willingly participate in the discussion regarding flexibility but initially think it’s nice thing to do on a limited basis perhaps for women, particularly mothers.
  • Will cautiously respond to possible business applications and benefits of flexibility such as expanded global client coverage, staying open in bad weather, real estate cost savings, etc. with “yeah, but…”.
  • Look to “the policy” for the rules instead of seeing flexibility as an ongoing conversation within the team.

Managers who “Don’t Get or Actively Oppose It” do one or more of the following:

  • Refuse to participate in any part of the flexibility strategy development process.
  • Make comments such as, “How do I know people are working if I can’t see them?  I need people here,” “If I give it to one person, everyone will want it and then I’ll be left with all of the work,” or “I didn’t have flexibility when I had kids and I survived. They can find another job if they don’t like it.”
  • Challenge peers offering more flexibility, and question their management capabilities.

How Do You Leverage Managers in Each Segment to Increase Broad Buy-In?

Use managers who “Really Get It” as your flexibility evangelists. They will have the most influence over their peers, especially those who sort of get it but are on the fence. As the organization creates a shared vision for “why” flexibility and “what” it will look like, have these managers tell their stories of how flexibility helps them manage their businesses.  Get them to patiently address the “yeah, but..” concerns. Their insights will have the most credibility within the culture.

Use managers who “Sort of Get It” to identify the potential cultural and operational roadblocks that can derail a flexibility strategy unless addressed upfront.  Those “yeah, but…” concerns are red flags that there might be a misalignment between cultural expectations.  For example, “yeah but, the senior leaders walk around at 8:00 am to see who is here.”  Or there might be a mismatch in operating procedures, such as “yeah but, below a certain level we don’t get smart phones which makes working remotely tough.”

Use managers who “Don’t Get or Actively Oppose It” as your biggest champions, or as an example of money left on the table. Every now and then, the most vocal naysayer can turn into an ardent champion of flexibility.  This happens if you can find a way to engage him/her in the change process.  Get them to see the strength of the shared vision, the mutual responsibility of the employee and manager, and the win-win for the business and the individual.

If that doesn’t work, the other alternative is to use their resistance as an example of money left on the table because of inflexible work practices. The best way to do that is to conduct a survey, cross-tab flexibility and engagement data and then compare different groups.  Inevitably the group with flexibility will report higher levels of engagement than those with less.  Again, money being left on the table.

Join us on Friday, July 8th from 12 pm to 1pm EST when we will consider these and other key issues related to How to Make Managers Fall Deeply in Love with Flexibility (or at Least Like It).  (Sold Out–join us for the next webinar in Sept.)

What is your experience with the different levels of manager buy-in to and support for flexibility? How have you leveraged it?

If you liked this article, I invite you to sign up to receive our e-newsletter via email, which will include a how-to “Make Flexibility Real” article as well as a case study of success.  Also, be sure to join us on Twitter @caliyost and at our FastCompany blog.

Pull the Profit Lever, Make Workplace Flexible

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The Wall Street Journal’s MarkeWatch Radio conducted a great interview with me about how to “Pull the Profit Lever, and Make Workplace Flexible,” highlighting the results of the 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check: “Workplace flexibility has not only survived the recession, but thrived, according to a national survey. Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Work+Life Fit, Inc., says one big reason is that it helps boost the bottom line.”  Click here to listen.

For more 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check Survey:

WEBINAR–How to Make Managers Fall Madly In Love with Flexibility (or at Least Like it More!)

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How to Get Line Managers to Fall Madly in Love with Flexibility  (or at Least Like it More)

DATE: Friday, July 8th
TIME:
12 pm EST

73% of the 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check survey respondents answered “True” when asked, “Work life flexibility is only possible if your employer and/or boss provide it.”  In other words, most of us believe that without the support from our bosses, greater flexibility in how, when and where work is done is out of reach.  Their support is critical to the success of flexibility, but often elusive and inconsistent.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve watched line managers fall in love with flexibility, as they recognize that its a powerful lever for running their business, and for helping their people manage their work+life fit better and smarter.

Join us for this value-packed webinar and we’ll show you how!

Some of the insights we’ll share include:

  • What’s the most important question to ask a manager if you want their support?
  • What’s the role managers dislike the most, and often makes them hate flexibility?
  • What are the three most common manager fears that, if addressed directly, remove all roadblocks?
  • What is the best way to involve line managers in the flexibility strategy development process to maximize buy-in and support?

If you are interested, click here to learn more!  Hope to see you there. SOLD OUT

Work+Life Fit Blog “Top 100 Sites for Women” by Forbes.com

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We’re thrilled and honored that, for the second year in a row, the Work+Life Fit blog has been named one of the ‘Top 100 Sites for Women” by the readers and editors of Forbes.com!

While our intention continues to be that our content helps everyone manage their work+life “fit” better and smarter, being a recognized resource for women is special.

We’ve come a long way from 2006 when my husband, best friend and mom read the blog, and my mom left comments like, “Excellent point, honey!” not understanding the concept of “public.”  Thank you, Forbes!

There are many ways that you can connect with the Work+Life Fit / Flex+Strategy Group community:

NEW 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check Survey (4th Edition) Results Released

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DESPITE RECENT RECESSION, NEW RESEARCH FINDS FINANCIAL & JOB INSECURITIES NOT THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES TO WORK LIFE FLEXIBILITY

Time & Workload are the Problem in 4th Edition of Work+Life Fit Reality Check; Survey Shows Notable Shifts in Work Life Flexibility Concerns, Satisfaction and Use over Five Year Period

June 9, 2011 – Just as employees have gotten comfortable with the idea of work life flexibility, worrying less about the impact it has on their paychecks or careers, new research shows increased workloads or no time are now the biggest obstacles.  The finding is from the 2011 Work+Life Fit™ Reality Check, a telephone survey of a national probability sample of 637 full-time employed adults, sponsored by Work+Life Fit, Inc. and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation March 3 – 7, 2011.

The current Work+Life Fit Reality Check, first conducted in 2006, has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent and also found:

  • During the recession, about nine out of ten respondents said that their use of work life flexibility either increased (11%) or stayed the same (76%).
  • While in the recovery, nine out of ten felt their level of use of work life flexibility would increase (10%) or stay the same (82%).
  • Compared to this time last year, more than eight out of ten report they have the same (66%) or an increased amount (17%) of work life flexibility.
  • Without work life flexibility, 66% believe the business suffers with employee health, morale and productivity as the most affected areas.
  • Looking for a new job is the plan for more than one-third (35%); 33% of those cite a more flexible schedule and 25% the ability to telework as a reason.  (Job search questions sponsored by CareerOwners.com.)

“Whatever flexibility there was before the downturn survived, indicating it is here to stay in good times and bad.  Work life flexibility withstood its toughest test and continues to grow,” said Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Work+Life Fit, Inc.  “But – just when employees start to worry less about using flexibility – now they think they’re too busy to do so.  Clearly, both organizations and employees struggle with how to make flexibility work as a meaningful and deliberate part of the way we manage our business, work and lives.”

Yost will discuss the findings at a free webinar Tuesday, June 14 at 1 p.m. EST. Register at http://bit.ly/myQLyR.

Obstacles Evolve and Put Organizations at Risk

Fewer respondents report obstacles to using or improving their work life flexibility, 61% in 2011 compared to 76% in 2006.  The most cited (29%) obstacle in 2011 was “increased workload or no time for flexibility.”  But, despite going through one of the worst economic recessions ever, financial and perception worries have progressively become less problematic.

  • You might make less money:  21% in 2011 versus 45% in 2006
  • You might lose your job:  16% in 2011 versus 28% in 2006
  • Others will think you don’t work hard:  11% in 2011 versus 39% in 2006
  • You worry that your boss would  say “no”:  13% in 2011 versus 32% in 2006

“These findings are proof that the workplace has become more comfortable with flexibility.  The challenge is to continue to address roadblocks that often unnecessarily hinder how we optimize and benefit from flexibility personally and organizationally,” Yost said.  “Flexibility should be used to manage increased workflows and dwindling resources, not be avoided because of them.”

Otherwise, 66% of those surveyed indicated the possible risks that result from a lack of work life flexibility.

  • Health is affected—you’re stressed or lack time for exercise: 48%
  • Morale is affected—you don’t feel good about working at your company or organization: 41%
  • Productivity is affected—you can’t get your work done as fast as you like: 36%
  • Focus and attention, or engagement, is affected—you can’t concentrate the way you would like to on your work: 34%
  • Loyalty is affected—you’re not as committed to your employer and/or boss: 34%
  • Creativity is affected—you have a harder time problem solving or coming up with new ideas: 31%

“Organizations and employees must move forward together taking a hard look at what, how, when and where work is best performed; how technology can support – not overwhelm – that work; and why they should champion flexibility as an operational and financial tool.  The time has passed for seeing flexibility simply as a perk offered at certain ideal times,” Yost explained.

Get the complete Executive Summary of 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check survey

Get Takeaway Tips for Employers from the survey findings

Get Takeaway Tips for Individuals from the survey findings

Connect with @caliyost on Twitter, and in the “Make Flexibility Real” LinkedIn group.

Why Meredith Vieira’s a Work Life Rock Star

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes.com; I am reposting here today to honor Meredith Vieira’s last day on the Today Show)

Meredith Vieira’s a rock star when it comes to managing the way work fits into her life, and there’s a lot her journey can teach all of us. Since 1991 when she was fired from 60 Minutes after requesting to work part-time, I’ve watched her make bold, often unconventional choices with a mix of curiosity and admiration.

In honor of her most recent decision to leave NBC’s Today Show at the top of her game “for more time with my family,” I want to give her a well-deserved public shout out. Like any rock star, her high profile and financial resources make her situation unique. But there are lessons in her story that apply to us all. They can teach us how to more deliberately and consciously manage our own work+life fit:

Lesson 1: When your priorities change, don’t wait until circumstances force you to make a choice.  Make a decision on your own terms, no matter what others say.

When I watch Meredith Vieira make her choices it’s clear she doesn’t really care about what other people think she “should” or “can” do.

In 1991, when she wanted to reduce her workload and hours at 60 Minutes, few people even thought about non-traditional schedules. Her proposal was almost unheard of. I’m sure everyone told her she was crazy, but she tried. And, yes, she was fired.

But the point is that she listened to herself, bucked conventional wisdom of what was “possible” and gave it a shot. Then she didn’t go quietly into the night of obscurity when it didn’t work out (more on that in a minute). She controlled her choices.

Letting go of her Today Show post at the pinnacle of success is an equally bold decision when you consider how many in her position would do just the opposite. Often we hang on to jobs that no longer fit our goals until the choice is forced upon us. This was the case with Christina Norman, the OWN Network’s newly-departed CEO, and Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen.  (Click HERE for more)

I invite you visit my Fast Company blog and to join me on Twitter @caliyost.  Also, if you are interested in How-To “Make Flexibility Real” sign up to receive our monthly value-packed newsletter and join our new LinkedIn group.

Ask Your Way To a Better Work-Life and Maternity Leave Terms

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(I am pleased to welcome a long-time, veteran, work-life colleague, Pat Katepoo, founder of WorkOptions.com, as guest blogger. Online since 1997, Pat has equipped thousands of working mothers and others to request a flexible work arrangement at their current job.  Today, Pat is sharing strategies to help new moms maximize their maternity leave.)

Suppose some friends have invited you to join them for dinner at a casual restaurant. The menu is varied and has some acceptable choices, but nothing particularly appealing to you.

Then you spot a menu item that would suit your appetite perfectly if there was one ingredient switch.

Would you ask for the change? Or would you simply settle for something listed on the menu, as is?

If you’re a woman, more than likely you would settle for “as is.”

That’s not a statement of stereotype; it’s backed by ample studies which reveal women are far less likely than men to ask for what they want–or even recognize the options available to them.

In the book, Women Don’t Ask, authors Linda Babock and Sara Laschever do an extensive review of the empirical evidence which exposes dramatic gender-based differences in negotiating behavior.

They conclude that, as a “result of powerful social influences,” women have an “impaired sense of entitlement.” They often “assume that they are stuck with their circumstances” and refrain from asking for what they want.

Sound familiar? And it’s not age-related; younger women are impacted as much as older ones.

ASKING BEHAVIOR AND WORK-LIFE FIT

Over the years, I’ve observed a persistent pattern of nervousness about negotiating among the many women I’ve helped to propose a flexible work arrangement to their manager.

In the early years, I was baffled by this; here were highly accomplished career professionals expressing fear about asking for flexibility, as well as strong doubts about getting management approval.

They were in a strong position to ask, (AKA having high leverage), yet they often needed negotiation coaching and a confidence boost. Why?

The “why” became clear when I read Women Don’t Ask. The fear of asking, the low expectations, the safe targets, and the social drivers behind it all, explained a lot of what I saw.

I still see women’s “asking behavior” as a barrier to getting the work+life fit they need and want. Without prompting or guidance, many women simply won’t make the request.

It’s why Cali’s thorough treatment of “seeing the possibilities” and “asking and getting to yes” in the early chapters of her Work+Life book is so critical to fostering a desired outcome. And of immense more importance to one’s quality of life than switching out the grilled chicken for shrimp at dinner!

OPTIONS ARE WIDE OPEN FOR MATERNITY LEAVE

Focusing on possibilities sheds some positive light on an otherwise dim picture of maternity leave benefits in America.

What are the options for asking when the current maternity leave menu for most pregnant working women is lukewarm hodgepodge stew? (The recipe being a confusing mix of paid and unpaid time off– and not enough of it.)

In a perfect world, public policy and employer practices would drive better choices. Meanwhile, as with a flexible work-life fit, there are possibilities for something more than what’s offered IF women recognize their options, prepare their case, and present it in a professional manner–including a written proposal–then ASK for it.

That’s the purpose behind giving away free copies of Max Maternity Leave Proposal Template & Negotiation Guide.

In the 2011 version, I recommend a three-step strategy for getting a better-than-standard maternity leave. The third step is this: negotiate for leave terms that surpass the policy, whether there is one or not. Put another way, the given maternity leave menu options should be seen as the starting point. Asking for more expands the menu.

It might sound gutsy, but Max Maternity Leave provides a tactical framework that lays a strong foundation for asking for desired terms with confidence. At the same time, it provides a path to knowing, expanding and creating better options. Following is an example of each.

KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

There is a little-known provision under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that allows new moms to return to work part-time after maternity leave.

“Reduced leave schedule” as it’s called, is a hugely helpful phase-back-to-work option for those who can’t afford a full 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave, but who can afford a temporary part-time schedule.

The arrangement requires the employer’s agreement; from what I’ve seen, the woman who asks as part of her well-crafted maternity leave proposal usually gets it. (Dads can do this, too.)

EXPAND YOUR OPTIONS
A typical maternity leave menu choice is six to 12 weeks. But a strategic request for additional leave that’s not on the menu can deliver surprising results. Here’s how one woman’s request played out:

“I am a Director at a large health plan [employer] that I would not call flexible. I was prepared to take the standard 12 week leave, but I really wanted to take an extra month for a total of four months. Based upon your [strategies in Max Maternity Leave], I went for broke and asked for five months, hoping I could negotiate to four. The entire five months’ leave was approved and I’m thrilled!”

(Pages 5 and 6 of the free Max Maternity Leave guide outline the strategy for getting “supplemental leave.”)

CREATE YOUR OPTIONS

What about paid maternity leave? Understanding the conditions which foster getting paid maternity leave (beyond accumulated paid time off), having a strategy, then presenting a professional proposal, can have surprising payoffs. No guarantees, but worth the initiative.

While one to three extra paid weeks is a reasonable expectation, I’ve received some reports of approval for four to six weeks of paid maternity leave where the policy (if there was one) did not offer it. Unusual, but possible.

Know, expand or create your options–and ask for them. With a solid strategy, careful preparation and a detailed proposal, requesting something that’s not on the work-life or maternity leave menu can bring satiating results.

(For more, request a downloadable free copy of the Max Maternity Leave Proposal Template & Negotiation Guide from Pat’s new complimentary maternity leave advice service website, Maternity Leave Mentor.)