Get Your Flex Plan a Fair Hearing and Prepare for ALL Outcomes

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When Sharlyn Lauby (a.k.a asked me to comment on “How to Handle Workplace Retaliation,” I presented my advice in the context of proposing a formal flex plan seeking to change how, when and/or where you work.  A very common concern that keeps people from asking for formal flexibility is the fear of manager retaliation.  This concern has grown since the start of the Recession.

You can go to the HRBartender post for more on workplace retaliation, but here are three ways to approach your formal flex plan to ensure it gets the most positive consideration and limits the chance of a negative reaction:

Step 1:  Make sure your formal flex plan clearly considers the needs of the business (MOST PEOPLE DON’T DO THIS-Go to “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” to learn how).  The quickest way to lose credibility with your manager and support for your plan is to ignore the day-to-day objectives of your job and the state of the business within which you work.

Present your plan as a proposal intended to initiate a conversation.  That way you signal to your manager that you are open to his or her input and that your proposal isn’t set in stone.  This gives the manager wiggle room.  He or she doesn’t feel cornered which is especially important if you manager isn’t used to employees working flexibly.

Step 2:  In many situations, if you are a solid performer, the answer will be “yes” to some version of a well-thought out plan for flexibility; however…

Step 3: What if the answer is “no” to your flex proposal? It’s okay to ask respectfully “why?” in order to determine if there’s a way to address the manager’s concerns.  Perhaps a 60-day trial period would help?

But what if the answer is still no?  You should prepare yourself in advance for what you will do if, even after your best effort to present a win-win plan, the outcome is not positive.   Sadly, it happens. Most importantly, make sure you don’t let that disappointment affect your performance on the job.

Sometimes what is seen by the employee as retaliation on the part of the manager for presenting a proposal is really a valid response to a decline in job performance after hearing “no.”   Go into the negotiation prepared to keep performing no matter what the outcome because your manager will be watching.

Especially if you are a solid, valued performer, your manager will know on some level that he or she should have found some way to make your well thoughtout plan work at least for a trial period.  As much as you may want to, don’t bad mouth your manager to colleagues.   There is a good possibility that he or she may come around with time and decide to give your plan a try; however, you don’t want to give them an excuse to question your commitment.

Even if you decide to look for another job that will give you more flexibility, don’t burn bridges with your manager.  You will want their recommendation.

While there is never a guarantee you will hear “yes,” when you present a formal flex plan, there are steps you can take to ensure you get the most positive consideration.  And, in case the answer is “no,” remain on good terms with your manager.  Whether or not you decide to look for more flexible alternative employment, it pays to stay friends.

Work-Sharing Policy as Flex Alternative to Layoffs Gains Steam, BUT Implement Strategically

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As long time readers know, I’ve been a loud proponent of using flexibility in the form of reduced schedules, furloughs, telecommuting, job sharing and flex scheduling to minimize layoffs since the beginning of the recession.  And since the recession started two years ago, some innovative employers have indeed incorporated this more flexible approach to managing costs and resources into their downsizing strategy.

But more employers haven’t followed their lead because there wasn’t the incentive to move beyond the knee-jerk “cut” response that is rewarded, at least in the short-term, by the market (here and here).

As the internationally recognized management expert, Jeffrey Pfeffer, pointed out in a recent Newsweek cover story, “The Case Against Layoffs,” unless your industry is disappearing, layoffs do much more harm than good.   Thankfully it looks like an incentive to seek an alternative to layoffs has arrived, and not a moment too soon as early indications are that mass layoffs may be inching up again after a brief hiatus.

According to an article in today’s USA Today entitled, “Work-share program that cuts hours vs. jobs could grow,” work-sharing legislation may expand to more than half the states by year-end and provide employers the incentive they need to think differently and more flexibly:

“Seventeen states already have programs in which employers can cut the hours of all or most employees in lieu of layoffs. The workers get jobless benefits to recover part of their lost wages.

Work-sharing lets employers avoid the costs of severance and of training new hires when the economy rebounds. For workers, it eliminates the trauma of layoffs and helps preserve morale.

The number of employers in the programs soared last year as the recession deepened and the jobless rate climbed to 10%. A record 166,000 jobs were saved in the 17 states that offer the option vs. 58,000 in 2008, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies…

The Gear Works of Seattle, which makes gears for wind turbines, sliced workers’ hours 20%, skirting layoffs for about 15 of 93 employees, says executive Mike Robison. Machinist Robert Foster, 38, who worked four-day weeks for 10 months, says, ‘I like it vs. the alternative.’”

And our research has confirmed that employees do prefer flexible downsizing to the alternative.  Most respondents to our nationally-representative 2009 Work+Life Fit Reality Check study said they would accept a change or reduction in schedule, or take a cut in pay to save their jobs.

Work-share legislation can provide the much-needed incentive, but for flexible downsizing to succeed it can’t be a one-off  “program.” To be a strategic lever for managing through the recession, it must be implemented, reviewed and revised as operating realities change.  Here are some important insights and resources to help the strategic implementation process taken from previous blog posts I’ve written on the subject:

As Recovery Simmers, Limit Lagging Layoffs with Flexible Downsizing (Not Just Furloughs)

One Year Later–Flexible Downsizing and Hard Choices Post-Recession, Pre-Recovery

Get Started Tips to Navigate Post-Recession, Pre-Recovery Flexible Downsizing.  Highlights of the advice include:

  1. Go back and assess where you are.  Know where you stand in the business.
  2. Once you have the facts on paper, reset the organization’s flexible response to match today’s realities.
  3. Reframe and communicate the business case behind either the continuation or discontinuation of any type of flexible downsizing in the post-recession, pre-recovery era.

Finally, to help leaders work through a cost-benefit analysis of layoffs versus a more flexible approach to downsizing, I joined with a team of work+life experts to develop a tool  entitled  “Flexible Rightsizing as a Cost-Effective Alternative to Layoffs.”

Today’s news that work-share legislation is gaining steam across the country is very welcome.  However, for organizations, leaders and employees to truly benefit from the more flexible approach to managing costs and resources it must be implemented, review and revised thoughtfully and strategically.

What do you think?  How important is this legislative incentive to encourage a more flexible alternative to job cuts?

My Post in “Top 10 for 2009” at Sloan Work and Family Network Blog!

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Judi Casey, Director of the Sloan Work and Family Network, just published the list of top 10 posts from their blog for 2009 and I am so honored that my “Work+Life Flexibility and the Recession: Core Business Strategy, Not Unaffordable ‘Perk'” was #5!

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the post, as well as a link to the entire list of Top 10 posts for 2009 from the always terrific Sloan Work and Family Network blog.  Thanks, Judi!

Work+Life Fit Ah-Ha’s of “Undercover Boss”

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I am not a huge follower of reality TV, though I am a fan of Oprah’s.  I sat down to watch an Oprah episode a couple of weeks ago, and she was talking about the new reality series, Undercover Boss. I almost turned it off, but I’m glad my kids stopped me.  Highlights from the series offered surprisingly important insights.  I was struck by the fortuitous relevance of the show as we make our way through this post-recession, pre-recovery period of uncertainty.

The interactions between the employees and their “undercover boss” showcased the sometimes painful disconnection between the work+life reality employees actually experience and what senior leader know or intend.  I decided to tune in when the series debuted following the Super Bowl, and wasn’t disappointed.

In the first episode, Larry O’Donnell, President & COO of Waste Management, goes undercover and poses as new front-line worker in different divisions of his organization.   Obviously, reality television is contrived by the sheer presence of a camera, but perhaps the followings insights from the show will spark reflection.  Specifically, what’s really happening on the line everyday and what needs to change so that employees and employers benefit.  Here are my takeaways:

American employees work hard…very hard. Often in difficult circumstances.   Productivity grew by 9.5% in the third quarter of 2009, the largest gain in 30 years.  But unit labor costs fell 3.6% in that same period, the largest decrease since 1948.  What this means is that in the second half of 2009, employees produced more work in fewer hours and made less money.

Undercover Boss gives you a sense of what that really looks like.  Whether sorting through a rapidly moving recycling conveyor belt, cleaning 15 port-a-johns in a day, or doing four different office management tasks at the same time, people are working very hard .  And they are often doing it while managing some sort of chronic illness.  In most cases, O’Donnell couldn’t complete the difficult tasks his employees had mastered.  He was visibly surprised and humbled, as he should have been.

Small adjustments in work+life fit reality make a big difference. So often we talk about the big, transformational changes we need to make to improve the way we work and live.  But as the undercover boss learned firsthand, tiny, easy, low-cost adjustments can do enormous good.  There were two small fixes identified by O’Donnell that would make a huge difference to the work+life fit reality of workers.

First, when he rode in the residential sanitation truck with a female driver, O’Donnell was shocked to learn that she goes to the bathroom in a can because there isn’t enough time for a bathroom stop.  At the end of the show, he’d committed to fixing that.

Second, when a worker in the recycling plant panicked and ran to make sure she didn’t clock back in even a minute late from lunch, he was appalled.  He knew this wasn’t the corporate policy, and made sure that rule was reexamined.

Yes, these two small changes, if completed, will have a big impact in terms of morale, commitment, engagement, and lower stress, but chances are they are not isolated.  O’Donnell needs to make identifying and fixing similar work+life fit related issues an ongoing priority.  They may seem insignificant from the executive suite and are easy to pass over and ignore.  Don’t.

Involve line level employees in the creating the solutions. What sounds like a great idea to fix a problem from 30,000 feet up at corporate headquarters may not make any sense on the ground.  I was glad to see that O’Donnell engaged the employees in resolving the issues he observed.  Whether determining when or how to build a bathroom break into the truck route, or how to motivate the people who clean the port-a-johns, he asked the individual employees to participate in the problem solving process.  As a result, there’s a greater likelihood the solutions will work.

Attitude is Makes a Difference. There is no doubt that times are tough today, but attitude goes a long way in determining how we feel about the way work fits into our lives.  While I am sure the employees profiled adapted their behavior for the camera, they exhibited positive attitudes in often difficult work circumstances.  You could tell that they consciously thought about how they approached their jobs.  For example:

  • A man laughs and smiles and describes his job cleaning 15 port-a-johns a day, “an adventure.”
  • A young female cancer survivor takes pride in juggling the responsibilities of one office and three generations of her family alone.
  • The garbage truck driver makes sure to stop and visit with her customers, one of whom is handicapped, along her route, and
  • The proud landfill supervisor marches tirelessly up and down the hills of garbage even though he is on dialysis three nights a week.

The influence of film crews aside, undercover boss O”Donnell was visibly moved by the integrity and dedication of these individuals.  Their attitude offers an object lesson for us all, but you have to wonder how long they can keep it up.  In fact, it turns out the gentleman who cleaned the port-a-johns with a smile had left the company for another job by the time the show aired.

The series continues for the next few weeks.  I will keep watching and sharing any new insights.  Although engineered to make the CEO look like a good guy, it’s fascinating to watch the leader become follower, and the followers become powerful teachers.   Have you been watching Undercover Boss? What’s your reaction?

Fast Company: Conundrum–One Person’s Flex Job is Another’s Underemployment

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Last week I co-presented a session at the Working Mother Flexibility Leadership Conference entitled, “Flexibility is the Answer When Rightsizing is the Question.”  We explained how to use strategic flexibility (e.g. flexible scheduling, reduced schedules, furloughs, compressed workweeks, telecommuting) to manage costs and minimize job cuts in response to a business downturn.

In the presentation, I emphasized that it was important to focus on all of the broad benefits of strategic flexibility beyond just minimizing layoffs and managing costs. This includes increased engagement, healthier employees, expanded global client coverage, improved sustainability, and individual work+life fit.  Why?  Because the reality is, depending upon your vantage point, the same flexibility can be seen either as a blessing or a curse.

One person’s reduced schedule that allows him to care for his aging parent is another individual’s bitter recession concession that keeps him from working full-time.  One person’s contract employment provides challenge and freedom, but to someone else it’s an endless series of “gigs” that they would trade in a minute for a full-time job with benefits

Employers and employees face a difficult conundrum.  In today’s global economy, rapid change is reality.  Business operating models need to respond more creatively and flexibly.  The same is true for individual employee work+life fit.  We need more flexibility to manage our work and lives but we also need to be agile in navigating a more flexible career path that could include periods of full-time employment, reduced hours, layoffs, contract work and career breaks.

How do we resolve the need for greater flexibility that both helps and hurts at the same time?

This stark dichotomy was presented in the recent BusinessWeek article, “The Disposable Worker.”  The article’s title sets the tone from the outset—flexibility is “bad.”  And for some of the people interviewed, it is negative.  They do feel disposable.  But for others, that same flexibility is what they want.  They don’t see themselves as disposable, but as a “Flexible Worker.”

There’s the contract-based call center employee who works out of her home.  She is paid by the minute and receives no benefits (bad), but is grateful for the opportunity because she lives in an area with high unemployment (bad or good?).  She also has a great deal of flexibility to care for her three children, one of whom is homeschooled (bad or good?).  Is she a disposable worker, or a flexible worker?  Depends upon the perspective.

We also meet two white collar, contract employees.  One is a marketing executive-for-hire who loves the challenge and flexibility of contract-based assignment work.  The other is an attorney taking on overflow projects from other firms as he struggles to start up his own business after being laid off.  He has no benefits and is not happy about his situation.  Two people, the same flexibility. One loves it.  One doesn’t…(Click here for more)

Fast Company: Dow 10,000 and 10% Unemployment: A Dangerous Reciprocity That Signals Need for Change

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Recently, both the Dow and the unemployment rate almost simultaneously broke historical milestones, one good (Dow 10,000) and one bad (unemployment 10%). The lock step ascent of these two metrics has continued since the beginning of the year:

Dow Jones Industrial Average


Unemployment Rate

(Source: BLS)

January, 2009 8,000 7.6
February, 2009 7,062 8.1
March, 2009 7,608 8.5
April, 2009 8,168 8.9
May, 2009 8,500 9.4
June, 2009 8,447 9.5
July, 2009 9,171 9.4
August, 2009 9,496 9.7
September, 2009 9,712 9.8
October, 2009 9,712 10.2
November, 2009 10,246 ?

How long can this reciprocal advance go on before it unleashes an “un”virtuous cycle of fear, decreased consumption, arrested innovation, less revenue, more cuts, more fear? A genie that, once set free, will be very hard to put back in the bottle.

Are We Falling Back on Out-dated Short-Term Strategies that Could Undermine the Fragile Recovery?

We are in the middle of the worst employment crisis in decades. Some economist are predicting that jobs won’t recover until 2013 and could climb as high as 12%-13%, and even 15%. I agree with former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, that “in the end, this is a self-defeating strategy.”

Early in the crisis, I started advocating a more flexible approach to cost-cutting that, wherever possible, minimizes the level of job cuts by finding alternative ways to manage labor and operating costs. A year later, a number of companies have incorporated many forms of flexibility in how, when and where work is done into their downsizing strategy.

Now they face new challenges in the gray post-recession/ pre-recovery zone. For the past three weeks, I’ve blogged about these new issues and how they can be addressed (here, here and here), but this time it’s different. There isn’t the same sense of urgency I felt at the height of the crisis around the subject of finding ways to keep as many people employed as possible.  This is unfortunate, because we are at a key point in the recovery where falling back on old, short-term ways of operating could undermine the fragile economic progress we’ve made.

But short-term thinking is deeply entrenched and rewarded by our system, so it’s not surprising that with the “crisis” over we’re falling back into old patterns. These patterns are reinforced by gatekeepers (e.g. leaders, analysts and investors) who favor quantitative metrics over qualitative “softer” levers like leadership, vision, employee engagement, discretionary effort, and innovation. Why? Drawing upon my years of experience as an analyst and as a graduate of a top MBA program, quantifiable outcomes are more easily understood, mastered and rewarded. The qualitative is tougher, and quite frankly, not well-understood or valued. Where’s the visible, predictable result? Where do “leadership” and “engagement” show up on the balance sheet or in the cash flow calculation?

It Began in Business School…

I was surprised to encounter this quant-primary focus first hand business school. After seven years of financial analysis as a banker, I went to business school to learn about the people-side of business. I naively assumed others shared my enthusiasm for the “harder” and “softer” aspects of management. I was thrilled when an Organizational Development/Leadership class was mixed in with the first year requirements of Finance, Marketing, and Cost Accounting. Let’s just say a number of my fellow classmates didn’t share my passion.

While I sat at the edge of my seat soaking in concepts of motivation, reward, and change management, others used the time to catch up on their work from other classes, read the newspaper, and good-naturedly rib me. They weren’t being disrespectful. They just didn’t think it was important. They were there to be brand managers, strategy consultants, stock analysts and investment bankers, and “HR will take care of the people stuff.”

I would politely push back, “Who do you think is going to help you execute your brand’s strategy, produce your stock analysis and close your deals? People. You have to understand how to lead and motivate them.” Response—smiles, shrugged shoulders, and a change of subject.

In fact, at one point during a case study about how to deal with striking workers, one of my classmates said at the beginning of the negotiation process, “We’re done negotiating. It’s a waste of time. Either go back to work or you’re fired.” I countered, “Okay, but how are you going to staff and train the replacement workers quickly enough to produce quality products to meet customer demand? What are you going to do to restore the lost goodwill and inspire the surviving employees to innovate, be creative, go the extra mile and dedicate themselves to making your company succeed?” Response—blank stare.

I don’t blame my classmates for their results-oriented, short-term focus. Employers weren’t looking for competencies in leadership, team development, employee engagement, vision creation, and motivation strategies. They wanted evidence of concrete results — the mastery of the Black-Scholes model, the development of a creative marketing plan, or the identification of an untapped market niche. The “soft stuff” wasn’t a part of the equation, most likely because, again, it’s too hard to measure and it takes too long to quantify.

The Aspen Institute Takes the Lead in the Shift to Long-Term Value Creation (Click here for more)

Fast Company: One Year Later–Flexible Downsizing and Hard Choices Post-Recession, Pre-Recovery

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A year ago, the economic downturn was in full gear.   As layoffs gained momentum, I loudly promoted a more flexible approach to downsizing as an alternative to knee jerk job cuts.  If executed correctly and strategically, compressed workweeks, telecommuting, reduced schedules, furloughs and sabbaticals improve productivity and reduce costs in numerous areas (e.g labor costs, real estate overheads, operating costs), therefore, limiting or avoiding layoffs.  Additionally, this very same flexibility simultaneously achieves other business objectives, such as disaster preparedness in response to the H1N1 virus, or expanded global client coverage to generate new business.

Over the past 12 months many people have said, “Thank you.  You made me think of other options and as a result we were more creative and flexible in how we managed through the crisis.”   But about three months ago, I noticed a shift.

With glimmers of a recovery finally on the horizon, flexible downsizing entered a new post-crisis, pre-recovery phase.  In this gray zone, a flexible approach to managing productivity and costs in all areas remains critical but involves a new set of choices:

  • What about businesses that did use flexible downsizing strategies, but a year later, aren’t starting to recover and may never recover?  Are more layoffs necessary?  If yes, how do you make those cuts without undoing the benefits realized from having taken a more flexible approach in the heat of the downturn?
  • How do you compensate and retain top performers who were willing to sacrifice in the thick of the crisis, but now see a recovery and want to be rewarded at pre-recession levels, even if the business hasn’t recovered and the money isn’t there?

Before we address the “how to” in this next phase, let’s take stock of where we actually are a year later: (Click here for more)

Relaunch Fast Company Blog–New Work+Life Flex Normal

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Last year an economic bomb detonated and laid to waste the rules and institutions that have guided our decisions related to work, life and business for generations.  Shell-shocked and disoriented, we’re starting to emerge slowly from the rubble wondering not only “What happened?” but “What’s next?   Welcome to the New Work+Life Flex Normal blog.

As the dust settles, it’s clear greater flexibility in work, life, career and business is here to stay.  Before the recession, a few fraying threads connected us to a work+life reality that was rapidly becoming obsolete for more than a decade. The downturn severed them:

  • Lifetime, stable employment with set hours, a clear career path and a consistent, always increasing pay check became a relic for workers at every level in every industry.
  • Traditional operating models that were too rigid to respond nimbly and flexibly were dismantled by the rapid change inherent in the global economy.
  • Full-time care giving and complete retirement for extended periods became non-viable for many, if not most, people because of economic necessity and demographic shifts.

Before the recession, enough parts of the old rule book worked for enough people—even until the banks started failing—that we avoided the difficult task of fundamentally rethinking the way we manage work, life and business to match reality.  No longer.  It’s officially a new work+life flex normal.

Flexibility in how, when and where work is done, life is managed and business operates is a strategic imperative.  As I wrote in May, the question is no longer “if” flexibility, but how to expand the “why” behind flexibility and determine “how” to make it work for everyone. To that end, here some of the angles and implications we will ponder and discuss: (Click here for more)

White House May Not Be “Family Friendly,” But It Is Work+Life Fit Aware

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You could read the recent New York Times article,“’Family Friendly’ White House Is Less So for Aides,” one of two ways.  As a commentary on the disconnect between what the Obamas say about managing work and life in the White House and what is actually happening.  Or, and perhaps more accurately, as an innovative case study on the possibilities and limits of flexibly managing your work+life fit in a high-pressure organization.  Here’s what I think the article has to tell all of us:

Our language needs to catch up with our present-day work+life reality if we are to avoid misunderstandings. Part of the problem with the Obama Administration’s efforts is the language they are using.  “Family friendly,” and “balance” are outdated terms that aren’t used by most work life experts because we’ve learned that they don’t accurately describe reality.  Think about it, what exactly does “family-friendly” mean?  Does it mean mothers, or all parents?  Does it include people with eldercare responsibilities?  And what about people who consider their pets to be members of their family?  And what exactly does “friendly” look like?  What looks friendly to me might look very unfriendly to you.

It is much clearer to talk about a flexible work environment that allows people to manage their work and life in a way that meets their needs as well as the needs of the business.  Notice I didn’t say “balance.”  There is no balance, especially not in a global, 24/7 organization like the White House that’s dealing with a major recession and two wars.   So instead of saying the White House is “family-friendly,” President and Mrs. Obama could say, “we support giving people the flexibility they need to manage their important jobs with their responsibilities at home in the context of what it means to work in the White House.”

A leader can set the tone, but he or she can’t give us the answer because our realities are completely different. Kudos to the Obamas for setting the cultural tone related to work+life issues.  They freely talk about how they try to manage their work+life fit, which makes it okay for us all to discuss.  They encourage the use of laptops to support flexibility (only for parents so far, however, I would advise expanding to everyone as soon as possible), and they walk the talk in a way that works for them.  Unlike other aides and staff members, President Obama works from home when he is in the country which does allow him greater, spontaneous access to his family.

While others are still trying to figure out their fit, they report a number of “small wins” such as accompanying a daughter on a field trip, or seeing soccer games.  If I could give them all expert advice, it would be to keep focusing on those small, flexible, day-to-day victories.  They make a huge difference.

Some are making adjustments to accommodate realities of their high-powered jobs that can’t be changed.  In-laws and spouses are taking on more.  Additional support is being hired.  Babysitters are bringing babies to work for a visit.  It might not sound appealing to everyone, but all that matters is it works for them.

Admittedly, there are those that still have a way to go in terms of finding their White House work+life fit.  Nighttime school visits and sightseeing aren’t going to work long-term.  But, it’s only been seven months, so testing the waters is to be expected; however…

This is a big job with long hours and sometimes it isn’t going to work for everyone. As the article noted, these are “prestigious posts that offer a chance to make an impact and unparalleled access to the President at time of recession and war.”   And the work is never, ever going to be done.

These are smart people.  They knew what they were getting into. The United States Government is a global, always on, always changing entity that’s currently guiding a country under great stress. Not surprisingly, a couple of staff members have already decided that it wasn’t going to work and have resigned.  Maybe they have a child or parent with an unexpected special need.  Maybe their partner got a new job.  Or, maybe it just wasn’t what they wanted after all.  They tried and realized it wasn’t for them, which shouldn’t be an indictment of the entire effort.

While it might not be everyone’s definition of “family-friendly,” there’s no doubt that this White House is much more work+life fit aware and supportive than previous administrations.  Is it perfect?  No.  Will they need to keep innovating?  Of course.  A year ago, would we have seen so many male senior administration officials talking openly about their work+life fit challenges?  I don’t think so.  That’s progress to celebrate.

The Administration is trying to create a culture that gives everyone as much flexibility as possible to manage their fit.  But in the end, they all still work for the White House.  And for some, that’s a fit that’s just not going to work.

What do you think?  Do you feel the White House work-life efforts are hypocritical, or do you see them as helping us all make the flexible management of our individual work+life fit part of the day-to-day operating model?

(Con’t) Work Life Legacy Award Dinner

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Ellen Galinsky–recounting the 20 year history of Families and Work Institute, she co-founded with Dana Friedman.  Now, Ted Childs the former Head of Diversity at IBM who helped create and support FWI from the beginning.  Urge us to ask the question–how does what we did stack up to what is possible?  Dreams are important.  Remembers advocating for IBM to be the founding member of FWI and initial funder of the National Study of Changing Workforce–right decision then, and right decision now.

Why have we not been more impatient for bold progress?  If that progress was our goal…life/work integration should be able to make more progress.   Lou Gerstner at the time said, “let’s focus on results…not face time”  people said that’s brilliant.  It was brilliant but it was a strategic mind who saw a need.

Now, Ted Childs sees two of six trends–1) ascendancy of women in labor force will be competitive advantage 2) work/life integration will define nations.   Shifting demographics will drive a response in public policy and business.  Companies still have control…but that is changing as governments recognize it in the country’s best interest to implement policies to address work/life issues.  Base line supports–child care, eldercare and flexibility–are now the baseline.

Leaders will have to look at game-changers that will make flexibility the way of operating/ change cultures.   Tool of effectiveness for workplaces that are able to compete.   Success will happen because of women.  Success will happen when reorient the workplace to make people successful; the people, not the leaders.

Ted is honoring Dana Friedman and Ellen Galinsky as co-founders of FWI (I am so proud at this moment to say I was a Senior Research Associate at FWI).  Now honoring the original founding board of directors of FWI.  Nine of original board members still serve today 20 years later.

Amazing to hear board member Dee Topel to talk about how new the industry of work and life was 20 years ago and how innovative FWI was at the time.  “Our baby reaches maturity.”  Looking back on FWI accomplishments, the creative  meaningful work of the field is even more important than ever.

Honorees tonight:  Michael Carey, former VP of HR for Johnson & Johnson and original FWI Board member.  Douglas R. Conant, CEO and President. Campbell Soup; James S. Turley, Chairman & CEO of Ernst & Young; Michael I. Roth, CEO and Chairman of Interpublic Group; and Willie A. Deese, EVP and President, Merck Manufacturing Division.

J&J employee shares her experience of work/life supports that helped her manage her work and life as part of her introduction of Michael Carey prior to his award.  Recounts how flexibility at J&J allowed her to work while her premature son was in the hospital in NYC.  Then when her son came home, and then J&J took an unpaid leave to care for son.  Then he was enrolled in the J&J child care center.   Then  three years later son diagnosed with a latex and food allergy, but the staff at the center he was able to  stay at center.   All these years later, the College Coach supports at J&J have helped her now grown son attend college in the Fall.

(Dinner so taking a break…)  Update: I had to leave before the final CEO panel started; however, I am told their message was clear: Work+life strategies will be mission-critical in the coming years.