I am a student of difference and of its value in today’s workplace. I consider myself an expert on two areas of difference in particular, gender and generational differences. Far-sighted leaders are challenged to engage and retain women and are both puzzled and challenged by the question of how to engage and retain members of Generation X and Millennials. The good news is that there is overlap in the needs and values of women and post-Boomer generations—and that steps to increase the retention of one of these groups can pay dividends in retention overall. One example is in the demand for flexible work arrangements.
Because of their social roles and natural role as mothers, many women have, for decades, juggled the demands of work and family. This balancing act is more and more shared by men of the Gen X and Millennial generations. Men in these generations play a greater role in parenting and so share the challenge of balancing “life and work.” Equally important, members of Generation X do not operate under the old contract with employers. They saw their Baby Boomer parents (who popularized the two-career family and divorce) put more emphasis on career than family—and rejected this balance. They want “life/work balance.” Early Millennials are becoming parents but the entire techno-savvy generation values individualization of the workplace policies, working virtually and being valued for results rather than “face time.” AND late career Baby Boomers who are reluctant to retire completely also seek new forms of life/work balance!
So now a huge portion of the average workplace shares a need for flexibility at work. What was a demand by one sector of the workforce is now a chorus. An organization or leader who understands this sees the leverage to be gained by opening to creative work arrangements.
Some organizations are way ahead on this—e.g., Deloitte LLC has a model women’s initiative that works for men as well as women. http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/About/Womens-Initiative/index.htm Some continue to measure “face time” and hold to tenets that worked when the workplace was made up primarily of men who had wives handling family responsibilities. Businesses who experiment with flexible work arrangements (that bear no stigma or unfair price) will have an advantage in attracting, engaging and retaining a growing portion of their talent pool.
Please share how your workplace has experimented with and successfully implemented flexibility programs. Have they worked for men as well as women? How have morale and turnover been affected by flexible vs. inflexible workplace cultures.