On September 16, 2014, Cielo hosted the Talent Activation Index LIVE! in Chicago, the first in a series of upcoming roundtable events, that brought together an intimate group of senior HR leadership for collaboration, benchmarking and dynamic conversation.
With findings from the Cielo Talent Activation Index (our global research study of more than 750 talent executives) as the conversation starter, attendees delved into key talent challenges in 2014, how leading organizations are best responding and, with talent strategies directly correlating to business performance, the undeniable need to differentiate.
During the event, a key theme emerged: today, it’s all about work-life integration and alignment.
Attendees agreed on the importance of enabling employee engagement and job satisfaction while also driving the business forward—often deemed “work-life balance.” However, work-life balance might be on its way out. As one leader explained, “As important as our talent is, we don’t talk about work-life balance. We talk about aligning work-style and life-style. Really, it’s about what the employee is trying to achieve in their personal and professional lives.”
Another attendee echoed this cause, “We’re migrating to calling it ‘work-life integration.’ That is, as the employer, meeting the demands of employees’ personal lives—families, relationships, health, values and finances.”
Work-life balance, as a term, tends to pit the two words against each other. As noted in the above quotes and further discussed during the roundtable, companies are trending away from this and finding ways to support their employees in aligning work and life needs. Work can be a healthy and enjoyable part of employees’ lives, support their personal aspirations, and many employers believe they play a role in helping employees find holistic alignment/integration of work and life—rather than looking at these two aspects as polar opposites.
Examining 3 Work-Life Alignment Strategies:
- For one IT company in attendance, more than 60% of the organization is virtual. As the leader noted, the organization’s work-life strategies include four weeks of paid time off (PTO) the moment an employee begins. Employees in this industry are vital and expected to be highly productive, and the company strives to ensure job satisfaction, retention and productivity by providing ample time-off. Another organization with significant time-off for employees has mandated that all workers take two weeks off consecutively at some point during the calendar year. “It was a big shock when we introduced this PTO policy, but it gives people that ever-important reset.”
- For another global organization, considered highly decentralized, leaders close the corporate office during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s. This policy is in addition to employees’ personal PTO. Employees are expected to check email and make certain important tasks are completed or covered, but there is no in-office requirement during this period. The leader in attendance also noted they have other, similar policies in European locations. “In Europe, many employees take off the entire month of August to go on holiday. We encourage that."
- However, the conversation did not revolve solely around PTO strategies. Several leaders in attendance discussed how work-life balance/integration/alignment is not simply about giving employees time away from their work. “Some organizations cannot afford to give that much time off, so they compete with higher compensation, valuable health and other benefits, schedule flexibility, etc. Companies in each industry and region are so different, and not all employees are driven by time off.” Further, the aforementioned highly remote organization noted that all remote employees can expense one day of housekeeping expenses per month, reducing household work, stress and giving employees more free time outside of their work.
Though not all attendees agreed on the best work-life strategies, there was consensus on the importance of culture and how developing work-life strategies should be employee-centric—for example, “peel back the surface-level layers and find out what most impacts each employee.” Another leader followed up, “Too often we stereotype generations or regions. Get to know your people. Once you truly know your work population, then you can develop strategies that best suit their work-life needs.”
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