Boston College Global Workforce Roundtable–Launch, Mission and Impact

One of the many reasons I started this blog was to share the important and interesting work being done by the dedicated professionals in the Work-Life field. Unfortunately, much of this work is never covered by the mainstream media. Yet it ultimately influences how we collectively combine work and life. So I love passing it along!

One of the most innovative work-life think tanks in the field is the Center for Work and Family (CWF) at Boston College. Under its Director, Brad Harrington, the CWF oversees a number of innovative work-life research initiatives.

On September 26th, CWF launched their most recent innovation: the Boston College Global Workforce Roundtable (GWF). I recently spoke with CWF’s Kathy Lynch, the force behind the GWR, about the kick-off meeting in London which was hosted by GlaxoSmithKline. I asked her to share what she thought were the most interesting results of this meeting:

• The most significant thing about this meeting was simply that it happened. GWR creates a global forum that allows an equal platform for dialogue that isn’t dominated by the interests and perspectives of U.S. companies.

• Of the ten founding partner companies, five were non-U.S. —Cadbury Schweppes, Deutsche Bank, GlaxoSmithKline, Royal Dutch Shell, and Novartis.

• A survey was sent out prior to the meeting to determine what the group wanted to discuss. There was a great deal of interest in “talent management,” specifically the multi-cultural workforce, women, and aging populations.

• Some unique issues came up for particular countries. For example, the term “diversity” as defined in the West doesn’t translate for Korea. It may seem homogeneous, but diversity challenges appear in terms of age, gender, regional differences, and education. And the GWR discussed the fact that China has the largest percentage of working women in the world, it still has a great deal of gender discrimination

• There was tremendous resistance to the assumption that the Western Way is the right way, particularly in terms of how we address diversity.

• Some of the most thought-provoking quotes from event participants included:

“Not until full-time workers are allowed to work full-time, will we be able to crack this issue.”

“Not until we peel back the layers on metrics of ‘success’ within corporations, will we see that these metrics were defined by white men (e.g. performance metrics).”

Bottom line: The CWF’s Global Workforce Roundtable open an important pathway for dialogue across countries and cultures. In today’s 24/7 work reality created by advances in technology and globalization, how do we create new models of “work?” How do we accommodate international work teams working on a project so that one country isn’t constantly forced to adapt to the traditional schedule of another? How do we adapt and integrate the norms and values of all cultures into an overall work-life strategy that’s still contextualized for a particular country’s realities? The Global Workforce Roundtable is starting some important conversations.

Join me next week when I will talk to Kathy Lynch about her new job as the Director of Employer Engagement for the Center of Aging and Work at Boston College. Learn more about the concept of “Exceptional Caregiving,” which she developed with Linda Roundtree.