Companies that Do It Right

Two Companies where Flexibility is an Employee-Employer Partnership

This week I had the privilege of working with two of the most forward-thinking organizations in terms of work+life flexibility, one is a large investment bank, and the other is one of the Big Four accounting firms. Both organizations have flexibility strategies that are far along the innovation curve. They don’t see flexibility as a policy or a benefit managed and implemented from the top-down. Rather, they see it as a mutually-beneficial process where both the organization and the individual play an active role.

The SVP of Global Diversity and Inclusion in charge of flexibility at the investment bank and I partnered to conduct a teleseminar for some of the top Fortune 500 HR executives as part of BizSummit.com’s speakers series. We presented the model for how we work together to create that employee-employer partnership within the firm.

My presentation at the Big Four accounting firm was to approximately 300 junior level associates, one to four years out of college. It was part of a week long training program focusing on the technical and career management skills they need to succeed.

We hear a lot about what companies aren’t doing to help their employees manage their work+life “fit” in today’s 24/7 work reality, but it’s important to recognize organizations that see flexibility as a strategic business imperative critical to their success in the 21st Century. Here are some examples of what they are doing:

Senior Managers Publicly Encourage the Conversation

  • The head of flexibility for the investment bank opened her part of the presentation to the HR professionals with a quote from the firm’s CEO. The quote affirmed that the organization recognizes and supports the need for employees to manage the often competing demands of work and personal life. Although simple, his statement of support opens the door for the conversation to move forward within the firm. It doesn’t promise anything, it doesn’t provide each person with a solution, but it makes the topic a valid part of the dialogue between employees and managers.
  • At the accounting firm, the Operating Managing Partner for the region introduced me by candidly sharing her own work+life “fit” strategy for managing a very responsible job, along with her role as a mother of a 9 year old. She clearly reinforced the firm’s commitment that each person should feel that they can come to the table and present a mutually-beneficial plan for flexibility.Her introduction gave the junior associates in the audience permission to view the information I presented as important to their success at the firm and in life. And they immediately began to think creatively about how they might use flexibility–primarily informal, day-to-day flexibility at this stage in their careers–to achieve their unique work+life “fit” goals. The managing partner’s story also provided them with a glimpse into the future of how flexibility adapts and changes as you advance in your job and your realities change.

It’s About Getting the Work Done

  • The investment bank doesn’t require a reason to present a flexibility proposal. It’s about getting the work done. As long as that happens, then it doesn’t matter why you want to change your fit. In setting this precedent, the firm has taken a big step in moving flexibility beyond a “mothers only” accommodation, to a day-to-day management strategy for achieving the objectives of the business.
  • By presenting the strategic use of flexibility to manage work+life as part of their general training, the accounting firm sends a powerful message to its junior associates. Flexibility isn’t just a nice thing we offer that’s “over there” for a particular sub-section of the workforce, it’s an ongoing partnership that we support and encourage for getting the work done.

Having laid the foundation of flexibility as a critical strategy for success, these two forward-thinking organizations will reap the benefits as the old work+life paradigms become increasingly obsolete in the face of globalization and technology.

Having laid the foundation of flexibility as a critical strategy for success, these two forward-thinking organizations will reap the benefits as the old work+life paradigms become increasingly obsolete in the face of globalization and technology.

For these future managers, flexibility will be second nature. Just one of the may ways work gets done.

Join me on May 30th for the next Work+Life “Fit” Blog!


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