Meeting of May 23, 2007 - Achieving Work/Family Balance: Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities
Good morning Madame Chair, Vice-Chair, and Commissioners Ishimaru and Griffin. It is my pleasure to be with you today. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the meeting today on "Achieving Work/Family Balance: Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities.”
I am Cornelia Gamlem, and I appear today on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM” or “the Society”). I am a long-time member of SHRM and President of GEMS Group, Ltd. a management-consulting firm that offers Human Resources solutions. I have held numerous leadership positions with SHRM, including serving on its Board of Directors in 2000 and 2001, and chairing SHRM’s Workplace Diversity Committee. Additionally, I have authored articles and white papers for SHRM and other professional and industry publications, as well as presented at conferences sponsored by SHRM, the American Bar Association, and other national organizations on a variety of HR-related issues. I currently serve on SHRM’s Workplace Diversity Special Expertise Panel.
The Society for Human Resource Management is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 217,000 individual members, the Society's mission is to serve the needs of HR professionals by providing the most essential and comprehensive resources available. As an influential voice, the Society's mission is also to advance the human resource profession to ensure that HR is recognized as an essential partner in developing and executing organizational strategy. Founded in 1948, SHRM currently has more than 550 affiliated chapters within the United States and members in more than 100 countries.
SHRM has always been supportive of assisting employees with balancing work and family life. SHRM understands the challenges employees face in balancing work and family demands and their desire to feel secure in their jobs, should they need to be absent to care for a parent, spouse, or child. SHRM also understands the challenges that employers face in ensuring that organizations have adequate staff to ensure productive and seamless operations. Thus, in order to develop and implement successful programs that help achieve work/family balance, employers and employees must work together to find a mutually satisfactory method of balancing employees’ family needs with employers’ operational needs. Even before the recent emphasis of work/family balance, we believe that most employers worked in concert with their employees to achieve family-friendly programs by providing benefit policies including time off and leaves of absence.
SHRM members have reported numerous best practices for promoting work/family balance. These include nontraditional scheduling options, childcare and eldercare benefits, assistance with non work-related activities, and other options. Today, I will highlight what employers are doing to help employees who serve in a caregiving capacity achieve work-life balance. I will also discuss how SHRM assists its members to promote and establish work-life policies for their employers. Finally, I will address training initiatives and what HR professionals can do to raise awareness of workplace flexibility issues and create respectful workplace practices.
Since 1996, the SHRM Research department has conducted the annual SHRM Benefits Survey. The survey highlights numerous benefits offered to employees. The roster of benefits has grown substantially since the first survey, and among the family-friendly benefits offered, many companies include nontraditional scheduling options, childcare and elder care benefits and other services.
Nontraditional Scheduling Options
Many companies offer flexible scheduling options to employees to help them balance their work and personal lives.1 According to the SHRM survey results, 57% of HR professionals indicated that their companies offer flextime by allowing employees to choose their work hours within limits established by the employer. In addition to flextime, 51% of human resource professionals indicated that their employers offered some form of telecommuting. SHRM members also reported that their employers offer another nontraditional scheduling option – compressed workweeks, in which full-time employees work longer days for part of the week or pay period in exchange for shorter days or a day off during that week or pay period. SHRM members also reported “job sharing” as a nontraditional scheduling option. Job sharing occurs where two employees share the responsibilities, accountability, and compensation of one full-time job. SHRM believes that offering nontraditional scheduling options for employees not only improves work-life balance for the employees, but it also allows organizations to recruit and retain motivated workers who may not be able or willing to work a traditional nine-to-five schedule.
Childcare and Eldercare Benefits
A significant number of employees are responsible for caring for their children, parents, or both children and parents. Thus, childcare benefits play an important role in recruiting and retaining working parents. SHRM recognizes the challenges of employees who serve as caregivers, especially those individuals who are part of the “sandwich” generation and must care for their young children and aging parents. As a benefit to these employees, SHRM members have reported that their organizations permit employees to bring their children to work in an emergency and also offer a childcare referral service. With respect to eldercare, SHRM’s 2006 Benefits Survey reported that 26% of HR professionals offered an eldercare referral service to employees at their organizations, and 5% indicated that their employees offered emergency eldercare.2
Work-life Balance Benefits
SHRM believes that employers should promote workplace policies to help employees who serve as caregivers balance work and family responsibilities. However, SHRM also recognizes the work contributions of employees who may not serve in a caregiving capacity, but have other valued responsibilities outside of the workplace. In SHRM’s 2006 Benefits Survey, SHRM members reported several benefits that companies offer to help employees balance their work and home lives by assisting with non-work-related activities. While these services may benefit employees with caregiving responsibilities, they may also benefit employees who do not serve as caregivers. These services would be particularly beneficial for employees who are required to work long 12-14 hour workdays. Some of these benefits are designed to save employees the time and energy of having to schedule such everyday tasks as going to the post office (23% of organizations offered postal services), taking clothes and other items to the dry cleaners (13% of organizations offered dry cleaning services), or preparing meals (22% offered food services or a subsidized cafeteria and 3% offered prepared take-home meals).3
Other Family-Friendly Benefits
In addition to nontraditional scheduling options and assistance with childcare and eldercare benefits, SHRM members also reported other benefits, including lactation programs, adoption assistance, and foster care. 4
SHRM values the importance of innovative work-life balance programs, and annually recognizes those organizations that have implemented successful programs to assist employees achieve work-life balance. When employers learn of best practices conducted by other organizations, they are often motivated to evaluate their internal policies and develop innovative programs to assist their employees. Every year, SHRM publishes model companies in HR Magazine’s issue on the “50 Best Small and Medium Places to Work.” Small companies refer to organizations with 50-250 employees, and medium companies refer to organizations with 251-999 employees. The Great Place to Work Institute, which is responsible for selecting and ranking the companies, selects the “best companies” based on their employees’ responses to the Great Place to Work® Trust Index and Great Place to Work® Culture Audit©. The trust index includes 57 statements that cover credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie; and the culture audit evaluates the companies’ employee demographics, benefits and perks, and other aspects of the work culture. Two-thirds of the score is based on the answers given by employees and the remaining one-third is based on responses from employers. The 2006 results noted several family-friendly policies, including: providing new mothers (including adoptive mothers) with six weeks of paid leave and $800 for nursing and cleaning services; offering unlimited bereavement leave, and extending the employer’s “Take Your Child to Work” program for an entire work week.5
In addition to SHRM’s research and awards, SHRM members have also provided examples of innovative programs they have used to assist employees achieve work/family balance. For example, in law firm culture, attorneys may be required to work very long workweeks. In order to assist employees with family concerns, one law firm implemented a “nannies on call” program. Another firm has created a program that permits employees to transition into other job opportunities at the same firm. This practice allows the attorneys to continue to contribute to the firm’s client and business needs, while meeting family obligations.
SHRM members have reported numerous best practices that are used to assist caregivers in achieving work-life balance. As the leading HR association, SHRM plays a critical role in ensuring that its members are aware of the federal and state EEO laws, and that they have access to the appropriate resources to go beyond compliance, and develop and implement innovative workplace programs.
When SHRM members contact SHRM’s Knowledge Center, the members first ask if they are in compliance with the applicable laws. Members then inquire about the norm and typical practices offered by other employers. SHRM has provided its members with information on work-life balance programs via print and online publications and a work-life balance toolkit. In the work-life balance toolkit, SHRM outlines a series of steps that an organization should take to develop work-life initiatives.6 First, SHRM recommends that the organization set a roadmap, based on the following: the organization’s vision for work-life balance; the policies, programs, and processes to achieve the organization’s vision; networks; resources; and the standards used to measure the success of a company’s work-life initiative.
After the company has developed a roadmap, SHRM recommends that its members benchmark similarly-situated companies in the same industry and in the same geographic location. It is also beneficial to benchmark work-life initiatives by organization staff size. For example, in SHRM’s 2006 Benefits Survey, large organizations were most likely to offer many family friendly benefits, compared to small and medium organizations.7 SHRM also recommends that an employer consider other steps. These include obtaining employee input on work-life programs that the organization is considering, conducting employee attitude surveys, and communicating an organization’s work-life policies to the employees.
SHRM recognizes the importance of training and believes that a comprehensive training program makes a significant difference in ensuring that all employees, including HR professionals and people managers, are aware of respectful workplace practices. SHRM also recognizes the importance of going beyond “compliance training” and considering inclusiveness and diversity issues in any organization’s work-life programs. Diversity is a broad concept that goes beyond EEO/Affirmative Action and an organizations’ training. SHRM believes that when training HR professionals and people managers on work-life policies, the training must include dimensions of diversity beyond mandated protections. These include education experience, geographic/regional experiences (domestic and international), socio-economic status, marital/family/parental status, military experience; work experience, work/communication style, diversity of thought, and cultural variables. The training must encourage managers to be more open and look at issues in a different way.
Organizations focus diversity initiatives and training on principles of inclusion and respect – valuing each individual for the unique qualities he/she contributes. Training objectives often include: raising awareness about the dimensions of diversity and their relationship to the workplace; recognizing and practicing workplace behavior that demonstrates respect; and challenging assumptions.
SHRM appreciates the opportunity to be here today to provide comments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on "Achieving Work/Family Balance: Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities." Again, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this meeting. I will be happy to address any questions you may have.
1 SHRM Research 2006 Benefits Survey Report, p. 2 (1996).
2 SHRM Research 2006 Benefits Survey Report, p. 5 (1996).
3 SHRM Research 2006 Benefits Survey Report, p. 12 (1996).
4 SHRM Research 2006 Benefits Survey Report, p. 5 (1996).
5 Ann Pomeroy, 50 Best Small and Medium Places to Work, HR Magazine, July 2006
6 SHRM Work/Life Balance Toolkit, available at http://www.shrm.org/diversity/worklife/initiatives.asp. (last visited May 17, 2007).
7 SHRM Research 2006 Benefits Survey Report, pp.5-6 (1996).
This page was last modified on May 23, 2007.
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