Work-Life Balance: The Bottom Line

Today’s work force is riding a tidal wave of work-life trends as concepts like “mindfulness” and “nap rooms” become main stream. Many companies are redefining parental leave (for Dad’s, adopters, or non-birth parents), and volunteer days become the norm. The pattern here is making room for what happens in life and allowing for work-life balance, but three questions linger:

  1. “What do our employees really want?” (A lot)
  2. “How much is this going to cost me? (Not much)
  3. “Can employees doing ‘less work’ really get more done?” (No, but read on)

To begin, work-life balance is more than nap pods and personal days off. At its core, the notion of work-life balance reflects an employer’s support for their employees well-being and a respect for their life outside of work. It goes beyond policies; it really is about culture. We all know someone who has taken a job because of the great vacation package only to find they had no time to use it. In fact, almost half of Americans do not use all their vacation days!

Company cultures that support work-life balance project security to employees. It provides fulfillment for workers by allowing them to manage their personal lives so that they come to work focused and ready to perform.  Do you think an Assistant Manager who sent a sick child to school because he had no personal days is providing his full attention? Or that a project lead who commutes 2 hours each way every day (because there are no flexible work arrangements) has the focus to catch every mistake? According to most established behavioral science, the answer is a “not a freaking chance”.

We bring our whole selves to work (distractions of the morning last all day) and leading companies already recognize that. Those that have not, will find attracting new hires much harder. Getting top talent through the door requires real work-life balance options. Running existing employees in high gear for months is now a certifiable lose-lose situation. Productivity plummets after a 50 hour work week and, even worse, drive absenteeism and turnover. Employee ROI crumbles under the weight of overtime.

Solutions come in many forms. Part-time arrangements, job sharing, in-office perks. What is best for your bottom line?

STOP. Ask employees what they want first. Prioritize, start one-at-a time, and cut anything they don’t want. The best execution on increasing (actual and the perception of) work-life balance is a supportive culture from managers. Will you convince all managers this is a good idea? Maybe not. The alternative is losing another good employee.

Finally, your people will not likely get more work done. They will just get exactly the same amount done. And appreciate you for it.


Posted: 9/21/2015

The New Customer: Your Workforce

Pharmaceutical companies create consumer loyalty by promising to improve quality of life. The same approach is becoming adapted as one of the most effective workforce talent management strategies.

“Firms that do not align employee and firm needs increase the likelihood that employees will leave and leave less talented employees behind to finish the job.” –  Chason Hecht, President, Retensa

The greatest impact on the cost of doing business in the past 20 years has been employee turnover.  Losing top talent to the competition has pushed firms to dramatically restructure their hiring, on-boarding, and knowledge-sharing processes.  Most organizations are still struggling with what to provide to their employees to build loyalty.  In the 1980’s, employees looked for performance pay.  In the 1990’s, employees looked for job security.  Employees need change as society changes yet there has always been one common theme:  employees are always looking for something more out of their job.  Halfway through this decade, employees clearly want quality of work life.

At first glance, the term “quality of work life” may seem unclear.  But if you look closer, you may realize you already have the answer.  Improving the quality of life is a fundamental principle of the most successful pharmaceutical companies of our time.  In fact, customers’ “quality of life” is in the mission statements of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.  When thinking of retention, it is this same mission that transcends to your employees’ quality of work life.   When you think about improving the quality of life for your customers, what do you picture?  Someone who lives optimally, achieves their goals and reaches their full potential?  Now envision your employees in those terms.  Are your employees reaching their full potential?

From the job posting to the exit interview, there are a finite number of points of contact in the employee-firm relationship.  It is important to recognize that your company only has these points of contact to build a productive relationship with an employee. Not making this connection leaves the employee-firm relationship to chance where they may, or may not, be engaged by what they do and inspired by who they work for.  Employee turnover occurs over a series of breakdowns in the employee-firm relationship at these points of contact.  Fortunately there are hundreds, and so a company has ample opportunity to make up where they may have fallen behind.  With this new perspective the employee-firm relationship has new meaning, clear opportunities and unyielding strength.

Quality of work life is one key to unlocking the door to employee retention.  By improving the quality of work life, employee’s needs, wants, and expectations are aligned with the company’s. Firms that do not align employee and firm needs increase the likelihood that employees will leave and leave less talented employees behind to finish the job.

In the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, jobs have become more stressful and complicated.  Although the pharmaceutical industry has lower turnover rates compared to other industries, the cost of turnover is much greater.  With strict regulations and rigid timelines, a research specialist’s resignation leaves your company with a delay in product development and a loss of talent to competitors.  Additionally, when a pharmaceutical representative leaves, they take the company’s relationship capital with them.  These stringent regulations leave employee actions vulnerable to repercussions from their boss, the government, and sometimes even the media making retaining talented employees invaluable.  In order to retain your employees and combat turnover a proactive strategy is critical.    We cannot tell you what to do because every pharmaceutical firm is unique, but we can tell you how to do it.

The following is a guide on how to understand and capitalize on your employee-firm relationship.  First, we will begin by discussing the potential causes and signs of turnover.  Next, we will focus on key opportunities to build loyalty, then gathering feedback and finally, the forming of solutions. You might already address some of these issues, or you might have attempted to address these issues but did so without achieving results.  Regardless,  it is important to keep in mind that every time an employee leaves, estimated costs to your company can range from 50% – 300% of their annual salary to replace them.

Work/Life Initiatives Impact Employee Retention

“When organizations are establishing work/life programs, it is important to consider the purpose of the program and whom they serve.” – Nancy L. Lockwood, HR Magazine, Vol 48 No. 6

Work/life programs can be used as retention tools for organizations, but many miss out.

Sometimes it seems 24 hours per day is not enough to tackle work and personal tasks. Sound familiar? Both employees and employers realize that, in the modern lifestyle, work and family matters have converged. Many firms have instituted hotlines, programs, or even software to ensure that these conflicts do not diminish the quality and productivity of employees’ work. According to Lockwood’s “Work/life balance: Challenges and Solutions,” employers recognize the importance of employees’ needs to balance personal and professional responsibilities, but they are having difficulty integrating these programs into the corporate culture. Many employees worry that their career advancement will be hindered if they participate in these programs.

Often, the lack of employee acceptance is attributed to ineffective communication at the launch of the program. Rarely is the importance of work/life balance programs as a retention tool emphasized to managerial staff. Therefore, supervisors who have not bought-in to these programs are unaware that they can also enhance the quality of work, increase productivity, strengthen organizational commitment, decrease healthcare costs, and reduce absenteeism. According to recent research, published in Training & Development, 69% of absences are not due to illness, but occur because employees decide to attend to personal needs. This may cost an employer over $600 per absence. Burned-out, conflicted employees, who become detached from their work, are not as productive as those who have struck a balance between their professional and personal responsibilities. They also have more at-work conflicts. The financial health of a company is linked to the personal health of the human capital. By communicating the needs of the workforce, managers and executive can reap the financial benefits of work/life programs.

Integrating work/life balance in the organization’s culture will benefit all.

The consequences of not implementing work/life balance programs properly are the loss of (and potential disadvantage in attracting) talented human capital. Workforce planners, who clarify what type of alternative work arrangement is most appropriate for the differing roles of employees, help managers grasp how it can benefit their employees. Proactively instituting flexible work arrangements such as flextime, a compressed workweek, or telecommuting, signals trust and that you are empowering employees to “own” rather than be passive receptors of their work. Managers’ acceptance of flexible work arrangements is essential so that their direct reports will trust that their job security and career paths are not in jeopardy if they choose to take advantage of these programs.