Category Archives: Families and Work Institute

From the Archives: In support of Marissa Mayer and Jackie Reses

This was the most popular of my blog posts so far in 2013. I was one of few bloggers in the HR space supporting Marissa Mayer and Jackie Reses when they eliminated telecommuting at Yahoo! Well, it’s 7 months later and guess what? Yahoo! is performing better on a whole host of KPIs. The Workflex movement is still alive and Mayer was just named #1 on FORTUNE’s 40 Under 40 list. Hmmm…

 

Freud with cigarSometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a policy change is just a policy change.  And to attribute larger societal meaning is misguided and, well, you know, not smart.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t a new skirmish in the “mommy war” as USA Today proclaims.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t a frontal attack on GenX and GenY as countless bloggers are screaming.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t a stake in the heart of workplace flexibility as SHRM believes.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! is a bold decision by a bold CEO trying to turn her business around.

I’m a business leader.  I get it.

I get it that when you’re turning around a business you frequently have to make decisions that are unpopular.

I get it that when you make decisions to support your strategic plan others will assign meaning that was never intended.

I get it that you may have to make decisions that will change the culture in big ways.Yahoo!

I get the panic stress you feel when you decide to that cultural change is required and that decision will potentially put good people at risk.

I’m a business leader. I get it.

Turning around a business isn’t for sissies of either sex.  Ask Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd and Meg Whitman.

The current brouhaha over Yahoo!’s decision to bring the field back home and end telecommuting is out of control.  The HR community, in particular, is totally wound around the crankshaft over this decision.  The cries of “foul!” are everywhere in the Twitterverse, the Blogosphere, old media and new media, radio and television.

And I understand the concern, although some of the hysteria is a little hard to take.  Workflex, as SHRM and the Families and Work Institute call it, is a boon for working mothers and fathers, a requirement – we’re told – for hiring and retaining GenX and GenY, and a central plank in improving engagement.  Their data is solid.  I get it.

Except when it isn’t working.  Except when management has lost line of sight into employee productivity.  Except when the culture of work and communication has gotten inefficient and lost its discipline and rigor. Except when out of sight truly is out of mind.

Marissa MayerI give Mayer and Reses big time credit for stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences.  I saw the memo.  It said that the time for focusing on speed, communication, collaboration and quality is at hand. And in the CEO’s judgment, that means being physically together in hallways, work spaces and cafeterias.

They’re turning a business around, people!  And that’s intense work.  It requires all hands on deck.  I think Mayer and Reses Jackie Reseswant – and need – to harness the talent in Yahoo! in ways that keep the focus and intensity high.  In an environment where leaders can be hands-on and where communication isn’t delayed one second by distance and physical separation.

Say what you will about the value of engaging your workforce by allowing flexible work arrangements:  doing things the way you’ve always done them and expecting a different outcome is, well, you know, not smart.  And no one ever called Mayer that.

Saving a business isn’t about comfort and preferences. It’s about rolling up sleeves and doing whatever it takes to emerge triumphant.  And if that means some long-term, previously engaged colleagues decide that the new requirements don’t fit their lifestyle, then they’ll make other plans.  That’s tough, for sure.  But it’s how things work sometimes.  Everyone has choices to make and consequences to manage. I think Mayer is making tough choices and I think she’s prepared for the consequences.

Is this a referendum on workflex? No

Is this an assault on working parents? No

Is Mayer betraying her gender and her generation? No

Will this change the talent management landscape overnight and around the world? No

Is this one CEO and CHRO working together to change a culture’s priorities and save a business?  Yes

I get it.  So should you.

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Filed under China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Families and Work Institute, FORTUNE Magazine, Jackie Reses, Marissa Mayer, SHRM, Telecommuting, Yahoo!

If They Want Cake…

data point tuesday_500

I was reading the results of the recent Making Smart Benefit Choices survey of workers by Mercer and was struck by the confluence of societal issues that are impacting the choices workers are making today.  The key insights from the survey results are these:

  • Workers desire benefits with a decidedly short-term benefit over those with longer-term value
  • Employers need to ramp up their workforce education efforts regarding balancing short- and long-term benefit choices

Employers are not Marie Antoinette.  “Let them eat cake” cannot be an appropriate response when surveys show that cake would be a more popular benefit than, say, fruit or broccoli.  (Mayor  Bloomberg’s foray into the regulation of food options notwithstanding.)

So in the age of disappearing and underfunded defined pension plans and the very real specter of a bankrupt Social Security system in the US (and similar situations in most developed nations), what are the responsibilities of employers to their employees when considering changes in benefit plans?  How much should employers take into account their employees’ preferences for short-term gain over long-term value?

It’s interesting to note this survey’s results.  In part, respondents were asked about their preferences in a trade-off (conjoint) analysis that allowed Mercer to rank 13 core benefits.  A salary increase of $500 was used as the benchmark variable against which to measure how benefits are valued by workers.  Here is the chart with the results:

Mercer Making Smart Benefit Choices 2

I’m fascinated that after a $500 salary increase, the next choice is one week of paid time off.  This certainly synchs with the data that SHRM and the Families and Work Institute are publishing that more flexibility over time is becoming a cultural imperative – and the financial value of a week off is greater than $500 if you’re making more than $26,000 per year.

But given the state of retirement benefits, Social Security, and the general lack of preparedness of the workforce for retirement, the short term focus of the respondents is arresting.

But then again, we live in a business world that measures organization success quarter by quarter, rather than year by year or through business cycles.  We live in a political world that brings the economy to “fiscal cliffs” with some regularity.  We live in a society that appears to value now in ways that leave us unprepared for tomorrow.

So I guess it really shouldn’t surprise us that workers focus on now rather than tomorrow even though an additional $500 402(k) increase would have much greater value over time.  What’s an employer to do in all good conscience?  Give more paid time off or ensure a little more retirement stability?  Give more paid time off or reduce employees’ share of health care costs?

This is a tough one with which HR and Benefits leaders in organizations of all sizes are wrestling.  Employers surely want benefits packages that attract and retain their best and brightest talent.  Employers surely want their employees to be better prepared for an uncertain financial future.  It seems as if these may be in conflict, based on this survey’s results.  So how to decide?

“Let them eat cake” is one way to go:  continue the focus on now and leave the future to the business and policy and political leaders of the future.

I think I’d rather use some of today’s resources to educate my workforce so that they’re making truly educated choices.  I think I’d rather use some of today’s influence to begin to leave behind the now focus for a future focus that might ensure a little more sustainability all around.

While I love cake – especially the chocolate kind – I think that employers have a responsibility to the economy and to the future as well as to the workforce.  What about you?  Are you a cake or a broccoli professional?

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Filed under China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Employee Benefits, Families and Work Institute, HR, Mercer, PTO, SHRM, Sustainability, Workflex