Maybe it’s the seven years I spent as a banker in New York City working with business owners before b-school, but I believe that the only way to drive real and meaningful change related to work+life fit and flexibility is to consider the realities of the business.
That’s not always easy when you believe passionately that a new approach is the right thing to do to help people. Sometimes it’s hard to identify and address business conditions. At a human level, it shouldn’t be necessary.
House built on sand vs. an earthquake-proof building
Unfortunately, when you don’t make the case for work+life flexibility based on business realities, it’s like a house built on sand. The first storm, it’s gone. Perhaps not in name, but in practice. When business considerations are part of the process, however, it’s like an earthquake resistant building. As the tremors hit, the building moves and shifts, but continues to stand.
I’ve been thinking about this recently for a couple of reasons…
First, I’ve been following the issue of work+life supports for hourly workers. And, while the business benefits have been part of the discussion, more often than not the focus is on the needs of the individuals. This is wonderful (and right), but again, from my experience unless the realities of the businesses that employ low wage workers are front and center (eg. low margins and an excess of cheap labor domestically and abroad available to do the work) you may get compliance but not real buy-in and change.
Second, I just spent the weekend at my business school reunion. The two days convinced me that, more than ever, work+life flexibility is a strategic imperative if individuals and organizations are going to tackle 21st Century challenges and opportunities. However, I’m also equally convinced that the ability to make the case based on “the right thing to do” is over. As a senior Fortune 500 HR executive who shared a panel with me said, “We went from too much capital and not enough workers, to too many workers and not enough capital. And that is going to continue for some time.”
Therefore, for work+life flexibility to have credibility with leaders today, the following business realities need to be in the forefront: (Click here for more)