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WHAT’S THE BEST REASON FOR FLEXIBILITY?

If you’d like more flexibility for all generations in work arrangements and the criteria for how work is evaluated, raise your hand.  OK – I see you out there.

A recent national survey of 1,000 employers by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute found that while progress is being made in flexibility, facetime still counts for a lot in internal dynamics and perceptions of productivity.

The study found that organizations offer flexibility arrangements motivated by a variety of reasons:

  • 35% for employee retention
  • 14% for recruitment
  • 12% to increase productivity
  • 11% because “it’s the right thing to do”
  • 10% to support worker morale and job satisfaction.

In your opinion, what’s the best reason?

WILL MORE FLEXIBILITY BE COMING FOR GEN Y AND GEN X WORKERS?

The work flexibility movement has taken steps backward since the recent recession took hold.  New research from the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 1051 employers on 18 different flextime options and considered which were increasing and decreasing in implementation and use. Overall in less formal ways or one-offs, flexibility has increased. For example, two-thirds of responding organizations allow occasional work from home, up from 50% in 2008, and 38% allow working from home regularly, up from 23% in 2008.

But when viewed by individual options, the findings are the reverse. Compared with 2008:

  • Job sharing is down from 29% to 18%
  • Sabbaticals decreased from 38% to 28%
  • Only 2% of U.S. employers offer any kind of voucher or subsidy for child care, down from 5%

The survey also looked at phased retirement, parental leave, ability to switch shifts, control over time of meal and bathroom breaks, health insurance coverage and other policies.

While workers’ stress has been increasing, employers during the recession and since have felt the need to reduce personnel and costs, which limits ability to be flexible.

So the question is whether as the labor market tightens and talent wars resume (if they do) the younger workers will see work/life flexibility on the upswing and benefit. Will more companies see the value of being perceived as a "best place to work"? Will workers finally experience work arrangements more in tune with their values and their ideas on how, where and when work should be done?

Please comment and add your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

10 PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT DESIGN OF WORK

Each generation’s view of work and how it will best engage them and motivate them to be most productive has changed. But the design of work and work processes has not changed adequately with the times. From surveys, observations and discussions, here are the key issues I see:

  • Neglecting to make work continually perceived as meaningful to workers.
  • Not providing opportunities for all to learn and grow.
  • Recognition and feedback not closely timed and aligned to the event.
  • Metrics that are counter to goals and motivation, e.g., time-based rather than results-based.
  • Uniform facetime demands without rational reasons for them.
  • People showing lack of respect or not understanding what respect of others requires.
  • Differing and unclear definitions of professionalism.
  • Not encouraging input on work design and process from all participants: generations and levels.
  • Hierarchical titles that divide rather than include and encourage collaboration.
  • Not considering who wants and who doesn’t want more challenge and increased responsibility in their work so they are appropriately motivated.

In future posts I will suggest strategies and steps to redesign work so it will work better for all generations.

Please add or comment on other problems you see – or those above that you don’t think are problems. Let’s have a conversation on this significant issue ripe for change.

TRANSITIONING PARENTING ROLES AND WORKPLACE ACCEPTANCE

The articles keep piling on: Just this week the New York Times Sunday Styles section (August 12, 2012) big feature on the changing attitudes about stay-at-home dads; and sports pages in many newspapers and electronic media on professional athletes’ fatherly devotion (e.g., Eli Manning, elite quarterback, said he thinks he’s an “elite dad”). I wrote about this trend in sports several years ago, and I’m delighted to see young fathers in other occupations not only expanding their parenting roles, but also speaking publicly about it.

My big questions are:

1-    How much have attitudes in the workplace (not the sports arena) changed toward part-time worker/dads and stay-at-home dads?

2-    Will elimination of stigmas regarding work/life flexibility for men accelerate acceptance and new flexibility for everyone and help women in the workplace as well?

3-    Are the more open attitudes a generational thing, more prevalent with Gen X and Gen Y/Millennials?

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

PERSONAL FREEDOM'S KEYWORDS

As we celebrate our nation’s founding and freedom and our own personal freedom, I have been reflecting on some of the keywords of our personal and intellectual freedom and what they can mean. Here are a few that can affect our sense of purpose regarding our work and our lives.

  • Too many choices
  • Shifting priorities
  • Blooming creativity
  • Resisting the mundane
  • Losing track of the abundance
  • Too much clutter
  • Too many things started and still unfinished
  • Keeping in touch with others

Freedom requires discipline and accountability – to one’s self as well as to others. Usually accountability to oneself is the hardest.

Do you relate?  What are your personal freedom keywords?

Looking forward to your comments.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot

GEN Y JUGGLERS: A TOUGH TRANSITION FROM COLLEGE TO CAREER

Recently I read a thought-provoking story – front page of the New York Times Sunday Business section (June 26, 2011) – “Job Jugglers, Walking on the Tightrope” by Hannah Seligman. On the one hand, it is very sad to see that a significant number of Gen Y/Millennials are working three or four part-time job and often still not meeting basic expenses. These are college grads hit by a deeply “recessionary” job market.

We hear so much about the unemployed, and we hear so much talk about that generation’s entitlement mentality. As I enjoy seeing myths debunked, it is gratifying to see the resilience and the dedication of the twenty-somethings to leading self-sufficient lives with a strong work ethic, flexibility and energy.

For all their pluck and long days, this is an untenable situation: stressful, always worrying about money, no benefits and rarely providing entre to a full-time job, and no way of paying off education debt. This is now known as “mal-employment.” (Federal data reports 1.9 million graduates were mal-employed, up 17% from 2007.)

It does demonstrate this generation’s multi-tasking ability, underlying optimism and personal organizational skills and even desire to acquire new skills.

What will be the long-term effects? Too much multi-tasking leading to difficulty focusing on big, long-term goals? Permanent salary lag? Burnout and exhaustion? Further putting off commitments?

Some do make the multi-part-time juggling work style a matter of choice. For some Gen Yers (as with previous generations), flexibility and freedom equals happiness when contrasted with a full-time office job. Does this harken back to the “freelance mentality” the Gen Xers were known for in the 1980s and 1990s? Will it be an extension of Gen Y’s desire for multiple careers and having options? How will job-juggling work when the desire for family piles on additional responsibilities?

Please comment and add your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com

 

TRANSITIONS GEN Y WILL DRIVE

A question that came to me after a webinar I led on April 14th warranted a longer and widely distributed answer. While the question was focused on law firms, I believe it applies to other types of firms of professionals and knowledge workers as well.

Q: What key changes do you think Gen Y/ Milleninals (same generation) will drive in terms of how law firms operate (e.g. changes to law firm structure and process, changes to hourly rate billing model)?

This is a juicy question to speculate about.  My answer, admittedly, is a combination of realistic trendwatching, projection of typical Gen Y/Millennial traits, and a bit of wishful thinking. Here goes:

I think we will see influenced by the Gen Yers, more flexibility, more demand and existence of diversity and inclusion of all kinds and more representation of Gen Ys (and later generations) in the strategic direction and governance of firms.

Facetime will be demanded to a lesser degree as a daily expectation (appealing because that can reduce real estate costs for firms). Both Gen Y and X will push this through their savvy use of technology and social networks. However, human nature won’t change radically as to the importance of keeping top-of-mind through in-person visibility and interaction and the significance of non-verbal cues in communication. Skype and other video communication from mobile apps will help to change attitudes about non-essential in-person facetime.

Some of these changes will come about more quickly, not because of Millennial demands in general, but because the male Millennials are speaking up publicly - unlike most of the men in prior generations - to admit they want changes in the flexibility and structure that women have been more vocal about. When it’s obvious that the workplace needs to be structured to make it work better for everyone and their clients of all generations and levels (my mission for the last dozen years), change has to come.

We will see more regular collaboration among firm colleagues and with clients. Again, that is happening already. The key to this is the willingness to change compensation systems that often reward lone ranger behaviors rather than the behaviors desired to enable maximizing collaboration and helping others. That means financial incentives for transitioning clients and roles, mentoring, coaching and enabling the best person for both billable and non-billable work to be selected and accept the role 

Billing models have been changing slowly for some time, and not from Gen Y influence. Clients will always be the most important influence and driver of change regarding billing models. Another driver is the success of alternate firm models, including virtual firms that can operate at lower costs and do equivalent quality work. Those firms are being started primarily by the younger half of the Boomers and Gen Xers.

Please chime in with your thoughts, comments, positive and negative and keep a dialogue going. It’s up to all of us, Millennial or not, to help determine the future and use our influence.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot       www.pdcounsel.com 

 

 

 

MORE ON REINVENTION OF THE EMPLOYMENT DEAL AND BOOSTING ENGAGEMENT

CFOs were asked, "What perks, if any, is your company offering or planning to offer in 2011 in an effort to attract and retain employees?" (Multiple responses were allowed.)

Results of the survey during the 4th quarter of 2011 of over 1,400 CFOs of firms with at least 20 employees by Accountemps, a specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals, indicated that they offered or were planning to offer the following perks 

Subsidized training/education – 29%

Flexible work hours or telecommuting – 24%

Mentoring programs – 24%

Matching gift programs – 13%

Free or subsidized lunch or snacks – 11%

On-site perks such as childcare, dry cleaning, fitness center, cafeteria – 11%

Subsidized transportation – 10%

Subsidized gym membership – 9%

Sabbaticals – 8%

Housing or relocation assistance – 7%

 The focus is on training to increase employee competence – good for the companies and enabling people to be more marketable at the same time – as well as adding convenience to make their lives more manageable, It’s good to see those are high priorities, and it would be even better if the percentages of firms offering these items were higher. We can hope they will rise as they feel more secure about the economy and feel the threat of increased employee mobility.

The Professional Employment Report has the comprehensive results.

Keeping desired employees engaged at any time, and especially when they have more job and career options, will mean in addition to perks, offering what they want the most after reasonable compensation – meaningful and challenging work and fair treatment with opportunity to grow. Employers should not take their eye off that ball.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot 

 

HOW DEEP ARE INTER-GENERATIONAL RESENTMENTS?

An ABA Journal online article (8/27/10) on how Gen X can bridge the gap and bring work-life balance to work unleashed a torrent of anger among three generations with accusations hurled back and forth in the Comments posted. The comments hardly even touched on the original subject of the article. In the attempt to express some rationality from a cooler head, here is what I posted:

If the anger in these comments is any indication of the generational divides in law firms and other organizations of lawyers, the profession is in big trouble. It seems the role of adversarial advocate has taken hold, and a lot of dialogue and conflict resolution is needed to not only settle the case but also build a strong foundation for multi-generational teams to enable continuing success for the long-term. If angry lawyers hold the same views about clients of another generation as they do of their other-generation colleagues, they will never be able to serve them well or retain client relationships.

For the most part, only the Traditionalists received any favorable comments from the Xer generation. Representatives of the other three generations hurled invective at each other. If this is all we knew of life in law firms, as both co-workers and clients we would waste no time in turning and running.

Perhaps it’s largely the strain of the terrible economy and either not having enough to do or being overworked as a survivor of lay-offs. In any case, it this outburst has brought such strong feelings to the surface, firms and other organizations need to address generational differences and conflicts ASAP if they expect to retain clients of various generations and serve them with high performing multi-generational teams.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com   

EMPATHY IN THE WORKPLACE

I was recently asked to give my opinion about the findings of a University of Michigan study reported in ScienceDaily(May 29, 2010) concluding that American college students don't have as much empathy as students before 2000 did. The series of 72 studies was conducted between 1979 and 2009. Did the findings ring true? What might be the reasons for the notable decrease in empathy? Here are my thoughts.

My personal experience with the college students I know and/or mentor is not the same as the study’s findings, but my pool is much smaller, so I have no scientific basis upon which to refute the findings. As a workplace inter-generational relations expert, I mostly deal with Gen Yers already out of school. I think many of them get an undeserved negative reputation. I have found them to be eager to learn, open, hardworking, ambitious and fun in general.

 

My speculation concerning the lack of empathy shown would be a sort of numbness from the trauma of 9/11 at an impressionable age (yes, I’m a New Yorker) and being served a constant menu of violence in media of all sorts. (I would say these factors influence the younger Gen Xers, say under age 35, as well.)  Also, the pressure in school and to get into schools and to deal with constant messaging from many sources has left many of them with little time to reflect outside of themselves. Yet, Gen Yers are big into community service and concern for social problems, which indicates empathy.

 

The study findings lead me to ask these questions:

  • What does this lack of empathy finding mean for their relations with colleagues in the workplace?
  • Will they be willng to pitch in and compensate for colleagues who need flexible time off?
  • Will they continue to collaborate if they don’t get as much recognition as they want and somebody else does get the recognition?
  • Will they have the necessary empathy for clients and customers to provide the outstanding service that is demanded in these competitive times to succeed in business?

 These are crucial business questions, and we need to instill the importance of empathy.

 

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com  

 

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