By Allison O'Kelly
Earlier this week, I read an article by Associated Press employment and economy reporter, Chris Rugaber, reporting on the "Temporary jobs rise amid economic uncertainty." An interesting, factual piece, but he throws quite a lot of shade on temporary, freelance and contract work citing the "negative effects" it has on both the economy and the professionals working in those positions. While he makes a case to stigmatize temps in some ways, I would like to supplement his piece with a different perspective and the positive side of what we're seeing in regards to an increasing temporary workforce.
Mr. Rugaber is correct in that we are moving to a more "just in time" or free-agent workforce, but it isn't just the economy and business driving this. In our work with professionals and organizations nationally at Mom Corps, an increased preference for contract work, part-time gigs and even temporary roles is also being driven by professionals and job hunters. Leading talent and high-level project specialists are seeking out this type of work at greater numbers for all kinds of reasons.
While roughly 46 percent of spending on temps could be considered "non-professional," largely in the manufacturing/warehouse and office/clerical industries, the more than 50 percent remaining are considered professional positions -- nurses, IT professionals, engineers, etc. My take, and what caught my attention reading this piece, is that Mr. Rugaber presents just one view of what temporary work has the potential to be. Through his examples, he seems to further classify temporary work as "shift work" and reject the idea that it can be an entirely positive, fulfilling and mutually beneficial work situation. Where are the positive stories?
Companies hire temporary workers in an uncertain economy as a way to streamline workforces and maximize efficiencies. That's a good thing. Temporary work situations also make sense for many professionals, and I counter the notion that, as a whole, these jobs are a losing proposition to professionals and the economy. We see these jobs as sometimes the difference for someone being able to feed their family or not, or get a foot back in the door after time out of the workforce, or as the
best option for someone having to spend time caring for a loved one for an extended period.
The reality is that many smart, accomplished, hard-working professionals are seeking this flexible, free-agent way to work. The temporary workforce has afforded so many the opportunity to have a rewarding career that can be shaped to fit their lives and choices.
Both domestically and overseas, workplace survey after workplace survey has found that professionals hold flexibility in the highest regard and in some cases, even higher than salary. Our latest Mom Corps survey found that nearly one in two working adults are willing to give up a percentage of their salary for more flexibility at work. On average, employees are willing to relinquish nearly 10 percent of their salary for the adaptive environment they desire.
There is a need for temporary work and it benefits organizations immensely by allowing more flexibility in a changing economy. It also allows professionals looking for alternative ways to go to work, the opportunity to work in the manner, industry, and area of expertise they choose, while building their resume and an impressive and specialized skill set in the process. Through temporary positions, many professionals are afforded the ideal job situation, as they are able to move with ease from one work opportunity to another.
What's your opinion of temporary work? Would you consider working in this capacity?
As originally published on our Huffington Post blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-okelly/temp-work_b_3570754.html
Follow Allison O'Kelly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AllisonOKelly
By Allison O’Kelly, CEO of Mom Corps
“The End of the Office as we Know It” is a great article by David Gee at StaffingTalk.com—while it is true that the office as we know it is undergoing changes in order to adapt to the needs of a more flexible workforce, the physical office is not actually disappearing any time soon. We still need interaction, common ground and the shared workplace gadgets and gizmos. The office is not going away, but rather downsizing by shifting to smaller offices, implementing desk sharing and other efficiency increasing models.
The growing demand for workplace flexibility is the driving force behind these changes, and as flexible work options become mainstream, no longer will the traditional “9 to 5” confines of the office be the norm. The article lists three transformative changes taking place including how we work, where we work and who is performing the work. These changes reflect the way in which Mom Corps re-defines flexibility: time, place and duration.
How we work will begin to change as modified hours, condensed workweeks, job sharing and part-time positions are being offered at a higher rate. Where we work will become less centralized and more mobile as we begin to implement office sharing, telecommuting and virtual workplaces. In addition, preferences such as shorter commutes and no required travel will play into this area. Who is performing the work will shift greatly, as we make way for the contingent workforce made up of permanent hires, temporary workers, project-based workers, contractors, seasonal employees, freelancers, etc.
As many companies are already modifying their business models to fit these changes, the discussion progresses to how we evolve as business leaders to best manage a more flexible and virtual staff. Three trending areas of improvement stand out:
- Talent: It is easy to get distracted while working from home or another remote location, so one way to ensure this model works affectively is to build a team of self-motivated leaders. Executives must define each employee’s role and responsibilities, communicate them to the management team, and then teach them to manage their employees according to those outcomes.
- Communication: This key skill can either make or break a company’s progressive work program. A predetermined, pre-tested communications plan must be implemented in order to keep employees productive and engaged with co-workers and managers. Because staff is no longer in the same physical office each day, it is helpful for all employees to identify set times when they are available so managers can coordinate schedules accordingly.
- Trust: A results-only work environment (ROWE) is a management strategy focusing primarily on the produced work and employee performance. With this approach, employees have the flexibility and freedom to work whenever and however they choose, as long as they meet their requirements. While some executives worry about losing control over employees in a virtual or partially virtual workplace (Best Buy, for example), ROWE allows employees to be more in control of their schedule while still being held accountable for results.
While I appreciate David’s view in this article and agree with his points, I believe the “death of the office” is reaching a bit. However, we can expect to see changes in the near future as flexibility motivates the integration of smaller offices, remote working options, desk sharing and other models in order to make the most of their employees’ strengths. With various percentages of employees working in the office, working off site and working both in and out of the office, companies are beginning to test out these models and are finding success. The take home point: this is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The key is to find the right formula that works for your company and employees and tweak it (in Cali Yost’s terms) until you get it right.
As originally published on our Huffington Post Blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-okelly/what-are-your-metrics_b_3437706.html
This past week, I tuned into the "Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power," a conference hosted by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski with the goal of empowering women and men "to redefine success to include well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder and our ability to make a difference in the world."
With the influx of media coverage and national dialogue over the past year on work, life, women, leaning out and leaning in (I could go on and on), I'm grateful for these types of forums that work to empower professionals to find their own version of success. The Third Metric did just that. It brought prominence to the importance of looking at life in a more holistic way. As women and professionals, it is important to take into account the many aspects in the quest for finding a happier and more meaningful life: our health, desire for meaningful relationships and for giving back, meeting professional and personal goals, and the like. When any one of those aspects is out of sync, everything else will just be off.
As I watched the dialogue over the Third Metric unfold, there were a couple points that stood out to me as possibly misaligned with the messages being emphasized. First, the audience and speakers were almost exclusively people generally acknowledged to possess both wealth and power -- and deservedly so. Their message was that money and power were of minimal importance to overall happiness. I found that to be intriguing, and can't help but wonder: Is it easier to focus less on money and power if you already have it? Here is a parallel: It's easier to take for granted gainful employment when you already have a job. You show up to work, day after day. But, for someone who's out of work, finding a job will likely become the singular focus of their days.
All of these types of situations are relative. When I talk to colleagues, friends and even my children, I notice a tendency across all ages and life situations to simply want (or think we need) the things we don't have. That could be a lake house or a candy bar in the grocery aisle. It's human nature to continue to strive to be better versions of ourselves. And the things that lay in front of us, or just out of our reach, are what we tend to work the hardest towards -- a promotion, a bigger house, a nicer car. So, to politely disagree with some of the content of the Third Metric, for some of us, money and power are at least of some import to our overall happiness.
Secondly, to follow-up on the first point, the individuals presenting said that success should be measured not just by money and power, but also by a third metric -- giving back, happiness, etc. But, who is defining this success and based on what measurement? For your own life and choices to truly be meaningful and contribute to your overall happiness, your own idea of what that looks like should be the only real metric. Here's a good perspective produced from the Third Metric conversation on one woman's journey in finding her own success.
You have to ask yourself the questions -- How much money do I need to live a life that will fulfill me? How much power or influence do I want to feel a sense of meaning in my job? What do I have to do to really feel that I have accomplished what I want to personally and professionally? Maybe travelling the world gives you the most satisfaction, but that takes a significant amount of money. Or maybe you just like to work as little as possible so that you can spend time with your family, and you aren't striving for that management role. Or, maybe you don't want to volunteer, but you find your greatest level of contentedness mentoring younger professionals at work.
All of these preferences are perfectly acceptable. If I may state the obvious -- we're all different. And I've said before, but it's worth underscoring again: Women can and should feel comfortable with the fact that there is no "correct" or "proper" work, life, personal or professional situation.
What a valuable experience it was tuning into the Third Metric. With all of the exciting dialogue being shared, my one hope is that this visibility being provided by successful women like Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer doesn't compromise or create out-of line-expectations for the "every-woman." Let's recognize that even if we aren't leading at the very top of our industries, we live lives of meaning, purpose and fulfillment on our own terms. Please share... what defines your happiness?
Allison O'Kelly is founder/CEO of Mom Corps, a national professional staffing firm with a focus on flexible work. Launched in 2005, Mom Corps has helped champion the view that flexibility is a benefit to not only professionals but to the companies that employ them. Follow us at @MomCorps and @AllisonOKelly.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
A diversity talent strategy is important for innovation and critical for becoming successful on a global scale. According to this Forbes Insight piece, executives are more frequently recognizing that “a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas.” When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, many agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.
At Mom Corps, our clients have had great success in increasing the diversity within their organizations because of their progressive attitude toward alternative work arrangements. As a company, we operate 100 percent virtually and therefore we have the ability to build a diverse team, as we can recruit professionals from all over the country. This also means that circumstances other than skill and workplace culture, such as location or the amount of time employees can be in-office, do not have to play a role in the hiring decision.
Being labeled a “diverse company” is highly sought after in today’s business climate. Therefore, it is important to stay competitive. According to JSOnline, to do so businesses often will employ a diversity officer to create diversity awareness, recruit women and minorities, promote the idea of a diverse workforce and ensure that the organization operates within all applicable Equal Opportunity Laws.
For businesses that currently do not offer alternative work options such as remote working, increasing workplace diversity might not be as easy, but is still a priority. To navigate these waters, many companies hire a head of diversity to help them recruit the type of talent they’re seeking for their workplace culture. Facebook, for example, strives to recruit people from different backgrounds in order to foster creativity, so they created a position entitled “global head of diversity.” According to Facebook spokesman Slater Tow, “We’ve always focused on recruiting the very best and brightest. We are big believers that creativity happens with people who have different perspectives and backgrounds.”
Of course, there are additional benefits to hiring diversely, as a diverse workforce enhances businesses in ways that all industries can benefit from. Equality Magazines illustrates a few ways here:
- Connecting with diverse customers: The US is often nicknamed a “melting pot” or a “salad bowl” due to the fact that our country is made up of varied groups, cultures and backgrounds. The needs of diverse customers need to be understood; therefore, it is smart for companies to be equally as diverse.
- Higher employee innovation: A work environment that is both open to diversity and comprised of diverse professionals remains flexible and favorable to employee innovation, or as Facebook would say, creativity.
- Employee recruitment and retention: Businesses who adopt a people-first mentality are more likely to attract top talent. Furthermore, a workplace that displays interest and concern for its employees is more likely to retain its staff.
Cisco System’s CEO John Chambers offers his insight to the conversation and works to implement his initiatives into the company’s development plan, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. In regards to how these considerations have affected Chambers, he stated, “my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven’t made in the last decade.” If in the beginning stages of building a more diverse workforce and you don’t know where to start, an interesting piece of advice can be implemented from The Wall Street Journal—“First identify what your needs are. Does your workforce resemble the communities that you operate in? Do they match the demographic that you serve or want to serve? If not, develop a hiring strategy to increase workforce diversity.”
Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” has recently stirred an interesting debate on whether or not women are working to raise the bar to their best abilities in the leadership realm. The general consensus is yes, there has been progress, but not to the level of acceptance. We’re slowly seeing small spikes in movement in different sectors. Government for one. According to NPR, women are said to be changing the Senate tone and leadership altogether. During last November’s election, the number of females in the U.S. Senate rose to 20, setting a new record. In addition, for the first time in history, women are maintaining an unprecedented number of leadership positions in the Armed Service and the Appropriations and Budget subcommittees.
This isn’t just a conversation we’re having here at home. This is an international topic of conversation. Here is a brief round-up of where professional women stand globally according to a 2013 report by the audit, tax and advisory organization, Grant Thornton:
- 7% of senior corporate leaders in Japan are women
- 19% of senior corporate leaders in the United Kingdom are women
- 20% of senior corporate leaders in the U.S. are women
- 32% of senior corporate leaders in the Botswana are women
- 33% of senior corporate leaders in the Vietnam are women
- 40% of senior corporate leaders in the Estonia are women
- Over 50% of corporate leaders in China are women
Clearly the U.S. is behind. We read about these statistics all the time, but what are we really doing as a country to progress women in the workforce? This recent Seattle Times piece highlighted others’ views on America’s headway when a group of political leaders from South and Central Asia visited the States and “took Americans to task for not having made more progress.” The writer offers, “Good for them. We haven’t lived up to the promise of 1992.”
Erica O’Malley, a partner at Grant Thornton, suggests that our country doesn’t respond well to changing the status quo. “American’s second industrial revolution was fueled by steel, coal, and oil and designed by men. The world has since changed, but cultural norms stick around long after they're relevant, especially given the tendency of people in power to surround themselves with people who think like them.”
In a recent article, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman asked professor, Anne-Marie Slaughter (who’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” cover story in The Atlantic spurred its own debate), “These issues were basically put on the table 40 years ago. Why are we still having this conversation?” in regards to the feminist movement.
Slaughter’s response, "Because we have not fixed it. We don't have male-female equality and we won't have until we have, what I think of as, the next wave of the revolution. We need the next wave of an equal rights revolution."
It’s all about the mindset. We’re not asking companies to employ women in senior leadership positions because they are women. We simply want to level the playing field; judge them on their work potential, not their gender.
As published by The Huffington Post here.
The media landscape has been covered to saturation with the perceived controversy, societal ills, and limitations of women, specifically mothers, in the workplace. It is clearly a polarizing and subjective topic, and one that breeds frustration for me because I think we’re missing an important part of the perpetual debate that is relevant to a majority of professional women. Sheryl Sandberg tells us to “lean in” if we want to find success. But what if we have leaned in so far we’re about to face-plant? I don’t disagree with the concept as a whole; it’s how I started my career and found early success – as I defined it then. What I didn’t realize was that my notion of success would change significantly as I progressed through many different life stages.
Perhaps we have misdiagnosed the obstacle. Professionally-destined women don’t generally lack ambition. We might not aspire to be a high-ranking CEO, in fact many of us don’t, but we’ve found success and contentment in many other ways. Even if we started out on an executive career track, somewhere along that trajectory we changed our mind and began a quest for more sustainable work life satisfaction. Aghast!
I take absolutely no issue with the notion of encouraging girls and young women to be ambitious and “getting rid of internal barriers.” What many of us are left wanting, though, are the messages for experienced women professionals beginning to see life differently. Ideas like, changing your mind is okay. Career and life realignment is okay. Not reaching the top office is okay. Not working outside the home is okay. It’s actually better than okay, it’s perfectly acceptable and natural.
In fact, most women are content to "lean in" only marginally because they aren’t living to work, rather they are working to live. We don’t all have to fixate or strive to meet the same goals and ambitions. If you want to reach the C-suite, you will likely have to sacrifice family time. If you want to focus on family, you will likely not reach as high of a position professionally. But both of those options are truly commendable.
The solution—and there is one—is to be realistic and okay (there’s that word again) in your own skin. There is no such thing as balance, at least as it is traditionally defined, and no set definition of “having it all.” Allowing work to dictate your life doesn’t buy you anything but stress. The answer to our work-life tug of war lies somewhere in the middle. Here are a couple thoughts …
Know what you’re getting into and know that you can get out. Some jobs are more intense and time-consuming. If that’s what you want, go for it; if you change your mind along the way, that’s fine too. Michael Winerip posits in his NYT article, He Hasn’t Had It All Either, “The core problem isn’t the workplace, it’s work. Those jobs that refuse to be friendly are often the hardest, most time-consuming, most unpredictable, require the most personal sacrifice and, to me, deserve the best compensation and most corporate status. Which does not mean that these are the people whom I admire most or want to spend my time with”.
Recognize when it’s time to make a change. Whether you are thinking about changing to a more manageable career or work environment, taking time off to raise children or care for a loved one, or are ready to ramp up that career again, be clear on your current priorities for any scenario. A life of satisfaction and fulfillment is an evolving objective that shifts as your family, work and pursuits change. By periodically examining what’s important and making the necessary changes, you will remain on a sustainable course.
The middle road is the critical piece of the debate that is being under represented. It is off the mark to constrict the work/life discussion to one view or the other, or one idea, or one course of action. Or to think that once you’ve chosen your path, you can’t alter it to meet new needs and desires. While these ideas may have validity in certain circumstances, times or conditions, any sweeping statements are amiss. We all have different priorities, circumstances and goals, so there are almost as many solutions as there are working adults. Find something that works for you and make adjustments along the way.
By Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO of Mom Corps, @AllisonOKelly
As published by The Huffington Post here.
I did not see this coming. Workplace flexibility programs being dumped in the name of better productivity and “all hands on deck” agendas? I have to think that the leaders making these decisions aren’t entirely informed. That their pursuit of short-term results is overshadowing their view of enduring success of not just the bottom line, but their most important asset: human capital.
Two particular announcements in the past couple weeks gave way to some head scratching and reactions of a much more pronounced fashion – Yahoo and Best Buy cutting their progressive work programs. While I am not a “Yahoo”, I do take issue with the larger premise that corporate CEOs are viewing alternative work solutions so myopically. Stopping all remote work is not the solution for bringing a company together. Roaming the halls and meeting at the cafeteria aren’t specifically paths to collaboration since an engaged workforce is not about physicality but about appropriate management and empowered communication initiatives.
To say “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home” seems entirely baseless, as countless workplace studies have proven the opposite. Perhaps the demise of Yahoos being allowed to work from home is a result of little understanding on management's part as to how to get the best work out of employees, regardless of their location. Managing to results and fostering collaboration is a supervisory function. Yes, making time in the office together is a good practice to keep everyone understanding the big picture and new strategic direction, but sweeping mandates like this one are a step backward.
Now, Best Buy seems to be the latest in a rash of, well, seemingly rash decisions to comprehensively cut alternative work programs by announcing the end of its ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) program. For a program that has been lauded and held as an example over the years, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly made it clear that he never really bought into the idea. Earlier this year, he described ROWE as “fundamentally flawed from a leadership standpoint” in that it effectively assumed the only acceptable way to lead is by delegating.
That’s not the point at all. ROWE is about empowering employees to succeed, not about a style of leadership. This is where uninformed executives who don’t understand programs like these – nor care to learn them – begin to fear lack of control. And when companies like Best Buy and Yahoo are in trouble and turn-around executives are brought in, it’s all about shifting that control. Last November, three months after his appointment, Joly told the press that he intended to restore accountability to the company’s culture. “You need to feel disposable as opposed to indispensable.” There’s the root of poor decision making right there.
The fate of any business is decided by the decision-making ability of its leadership, and every important decision inevitably involves a trade-off. So which trade-offs are acceptable and which are losing propositions? Inevitably, if a company begins to see employee satisfaction, engagement and loyalty as a trade-off, it is not headed in the right direction.
David Ingram wrote that there are five steps to making an ethical business decision. This one in particular seemed relevant:
Consider the effects of your decisions on all stakeholders. Decisions are often made to address one or a small number of issues, such as revenue growth, cost control or client-specific issues, but it is important to realize the wider implications of your decisions on everyone affected. Business decisions made in the best interest of stockholders, for example, can have effects on employees, clients, suppliers, people living and working near your operations, the natural environment and even future generations of people. Consider how stakeholders will be affected if the decision turns out the way you plan, and how they will be affected if things go wrong.
Historically, companies tend to make short-sighted business decisions in tough economic times. I think that's what we are seeing here as organizations work toward solving the wrong problems. The validity of flexible work options has been proven time and again. What I fear these kinds of discussions will do is stall the positive momentum we have around bringing our workforce to modern standards. Do you agree?
By Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO of Mom Corps, @AllisonOKelly
By Nicole Siokis, President of Mom Corps Atlanta
My friend and former colleague, Randy Hain, has just released his latest book called “Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life.” It is a thoughtful work on the journey that most professionals will arrive at one day where they desire to do something more, rather than simply make a living. Discussing our opinions on the subject over the occasional coffee and sharing a common view on the components that go into a meaningful life, I am honored and pleased to be a part of this book. Finding meaning in what we do is an important topic as we focus on defining what the future of work and family will look like.
As a former Army officer, it has always been my nature to consider the larger perspective and innate design of things around me. After my military career, I worked in Corporate America and for a while was content. I had a rewarding job, loving family and dear friends. And while work was good, it was just something we did as the natural progression of things. I didn’t much consider it beyond that. When my daughter was born a few years later, I began a little soul searching and asked myself questions like, “Who am I?” and “What is truly important to me?”
Here’s an excerpt from Randy’s book that is a Q&A with me in one of the chapters:
What advice would you offer other professionals who may feel trapped in their jobs who are longing to do more, give more and achieve more in life?
“First take time to really find out what is missing in your life and what you want and need to feel more fulfilled (i.e. more volunteer time, more flex time, etc.). Second, seek out role models who do the things you want to do as well. Set up time to meet with people and learn what they do and how they make it work. If what you are looking for requires time away from work, prepare for a discussion with your boss and be prepared to offer alternative solutions based on the research you have done. Many companies are beginning to embrace flex time or volunteer time and do not necessarily expect a trade off in work hours. Unfortunately many employees are not even aware of these options until they ask.”
Nicole, do you believe that pursuing a life filled with meaning and purpose is achievable for everyone? If so, what are the obstacles holding so many people back?
“I do actually. I think fear is the biggest deterrent (‘nobody else has done this so I doubt they would make an exception for me’, is an example of a work related fear). I think it is also very easy for people to get caught up in the day to day and spend very little time reflecting inward. Some of the most successful people I know have developed a personal mission statement and actually schedule time, first thing in the morning or throughout the day, to reflect on the things they have done or plan to do and ask ‘is this contributing to my personal mission statement’? It can be really hard to do, but once it becomes habit, it can keep you focused on the life you want to live.”
I am grateful to be a part of this book and possibly help encourage and inspire those on similar journeys. It is a true labor of love for Randy that reflects his compassionate spirit and sincere desire to support and inspire professionals in their search of a more meaningful life. I think you will enjoy all the insight, ideas and opinions of professionals with a similar quest that can be found on the pages of Something More.
From randyhain.com: “Something More” is ideal for any business person from new college graduate to retiree. The book is accessible, practical, authentic and filled with wisdom. Anyone seeking more out of life than simply their job will find the book helpful, engaging and inspirational.
Snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or a flu epidemic—what do all these things have in common? The potential to stall your business for days or even weeks.
We’ve discussed at length the reasons why a remote work policy is a viable business strategy. Here’s a great article by Ron Thomas at TLNT.com with a refresher as it relates to the recent snowstorm in the Northeast. But what about the roadblocks that are preventing otherwise smart organizations from embracing work alternatives? I covered these points in a blog for Huffington Post, but here I want to focus on the idea of control and the role it plays in preventing us from embracing remote work options.
Having “control” over your employees isn’t a good thing. That is a word construed as demoralizing, uninspiring and dispiriting. Equipping them to do their best work is altogether different. Giving employees autonomy means relinquishing control over the minutiae of where, when and how they work. Here is a good piece from Entrepreneur about How to Give Employees Independence Without Losing Control.
As founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher states: “Be there when [employees are] having problems, and stay out of their way when things are going well.” He has a pretty good track record. Recognizing that professionals will likely behave accordingly when given the chance, we give them room to breathe … and succeed.
Personally, I struggled with the idea of how to “control” my team when I started Mom Corps. I assumed that is what I would need to do as head of an entirely remote workforce. I’m as big an advocate for flexibility as anyone, but I was still nervous. That was in 2005. What changed? Shifting my attitude of control to accountability. I can’t say it has worked all the time. Some hires didn’t function well in this environment, but in all, we’ve been highly successful and learned best practices along the way.
Understandably a 100% remote work environment isn’t possible or even right for most organizations. But the collective we don’t lose anything by introducing a policy that allows for the occasional remote workday. By having the infrastructure in place, the company isn’t completely immobilized when employees literally can’t dig their way out of their driveways to make it to the office thanks to a pop-up blizzard. Major weather events aren’t a regular occurrence? Agreed. But think about all the other life events that take place over the course of a week or month throughout your workforce and how productivity rates go up by making accommodations for working remotely sometimes.
A recent study showed that the average cost of absenteeism for a company of 150 employees is $208,000 per year. So if implementing a remote policy decreased absenteeism by as much as 17.5%, it could save a company $36,400 per year.
I can’t help but wonder—when will companies catch on? Allowing professionals to work remotely from time to time just makes sense. And sometimes, it’s our only option. Just remember, in the case of managing a smart workforce, you have to give up a little control to gain accountability.
Have stories to share about giving up control? I would love to hear them.
As published by The Huffington Post here.
Sometimes I think we read about and discuss workforce trends and challenges through a myopic lens. For example, a company is launching a particular initiative which may serve as an interesting anecdote, but doesn't address the issue at large or the way the issue is perceived by the general population. By expanding the scope of a challenge, we can often identify better solutions.
This week, Leslie Kwoh of the Wall Street Journal wrote this piece about McKinsey and the other big consulting firms and their endeavors to recruit "mothers who left the fold." It is interesting if perhaps lacking in some detail, but it just strikes me as such a small part of the issue of professionals returning to work and having conditions available so they don't leave in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I follow Leslie's great writing regularly on workplace issues and working mothers in particular. I just don't think she was given much to work with here.
Points like "staying in touch with female alumni" and focusing "heavily on recruiting and retaining women" are nice, but really worthy of mention? How about instead sharing information on their re-entry programs or outreach so that we may all push forward best practices for the common good. Or what of the bit about having "more than 100 women" return to the firm over the last 13 years, most (not all) of them mothers? Again, good to note, but where does this fall in line with the company's employment of and the retention or attrition of women who become mothers during their tenure? Surely they have ascertained something interesting to share from their program ... or is it really smoke and mirrors? Have they pushed the needle forward?
The fact that Big Consulting wants to open the doors for professional mothers to return is not surprising. It is the right path as part of a larger talent strategy. These women have proven themselves and, assuming they haven't been out of the workplace for many years, can likely ramp up fairly quickly. But companies, just like working mothers, need to be honest about what they are coming back to. Like it or not, things have changed and priorities have shifted.
I'm well aware that high-level consulting and executive leadership don't mesh easily with professional women who are also moms. Equipped with a Harvard MBA, I started with one of the Big Four accounting firms, then transitioned to management at a global retailer. Soon after, I had children. I found myself unsatisfied with the results of trying to do both my job and my parenting to perfection. And, more importantly the sheer fact that working flexibly made people doubt my ambition and commitment even though I was probably working harder than many of my colleagues. So I started consulting and eventually started a company that specifically addresses the need and desire for professional mothers to get back to work, and helping companies tap into this talent pool in a way that works for both parties.
But I continue to voice that a return to the workforce and how we structure the workplace is not just about working mothers. Professional men who have been out of the workforce due to recession layoffs, stay-at-home dads making their own professional come-back, veterans back from deployment, returning retirees worth their weight in industry intelligence gold, are also looking for employment after time out of the workforce. Many of the same re-entry issues apply to them as well as working mothers. Phase back programs, flexibility options, skills training, and mentor relationships are applicable to anyone returning to work. By broadening the conversation, we can work through best practices to a larger degree and see more significant end results.
We might also get away from the thinking that this is a "mommy issue" and actually make changes that will positively impact professionals and their employers. I don't believe Anne-Marie Slaughter's mantra of "you can't have it all," or Rosabeth Moss Kantor's running a family doesn't help you in business, or the Carol Fishman Cohen idea of internships for proven professionals. We need to realize that it can work, and it does work when companies embrace a few small changes. As Cali Yost would say, companies can "Tweak it" too. We need to stop being so dramatic and just start making changes that are possible for today and for our future.
As organizations, we benefit by spending time and resources on initiatives that move our businesses forward. By adjusting our position on outdated work models, we alleviate the very real and hidden costs of employee turnover, and succeed in not only attracting but retaining top talent through their various life stages. Employees aren't sticking around for the Rolex or gold-plated Timex at 65 these days, but they will be loyal to the company that understands and attends to their personal as well as professional aspirations.
I appreciate Leslie Kwoh's reporting on the issue and have high regard for her insight; from here I think we have a very tangible opportunity to build upon her findings and work towards solutions.
By Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO of Mom Corps, @AllisonOKelly