How To Make Family-Friendly Changes in Your Workplace
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1. DETERMINE YOUR GOAL
What is the benefit to your organization to become more family-friendly? Is there a problem that needs solving? If so, use this problem as a starting point. You may also consider other changes as you continue the process. Family-friendly practices will be more sustainable if they are grounded in your business strategy. Remember that family-friendly strategies are proven to contribute to employee recruitment, retention, and engagement when determining your goal.
2. PULL TOGETHER YOUR TEAM
A representative team or task force will provide more complete information and will help create buy-in. The team should be representative of your workforce today and the workforce you seek to recruit. It should represent all departments and employment levels or job functions (when feasible). Create a job description for the team so members understand their roles and commitment to the process.
Demonstrate your commitment to this process by including senior management on the team. These managers should be engaged while giving the team the freedom to express their opinions and identify employee needs. Make sure the expected outcome is clear and that the team feels confident that the work they do and the suggestions they make will be valued and implemented.
3. COMPLETE AN ASSESSMENT
WHAT IS CURRENTLY IN PLACE?
Through a partnership with Health Links, Early Matters Greater Austin offers regional businesses access to an interactive Family Friendly Workplace Assessment. This online survey is a tool for business executives and human resource professionals to measure the "family-friendliness" of their workplace. It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete and upon completing the assessment, an individualized impact card is generated, scoring results by section and providing suggestions for additional resources. Early Matters Greater Austin can work with employers to review their individualized Impact Card.
WHAT ARE EMPLOYEE NEEDS?
Determine what your team needs to know to move forward. If you identified a specific problem in the first step (Determine Your Goal), the team will need to gather data related to this question. For example, if management is concerned about turnover, the team will gather data on employee satisfaction and reasons for leaving.
Ask employees what their challenges are and what would help them. People may be more candid on an anonymous survey. If you already conduct surveys or have existing anonymous feedback methods, use these. In small- to mid-size organizations (fewer than 50 employees), it may be difficult for information to be truly anonymous. Even asking about the ages of children may make survey respondents identifiable to others. If your organization can afford it, you should consider bringing in a third party to conduct the survey.
PRIORITIZE ISSUES AND RESEARCH POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Use our Family-Friendly Toolkit as a starting point to explore options in more depth. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Also, consider look at offerings by competitor organizations and industry benchmarks.
Determine a set of criteria for how your organization will prioritize issues and recommendations. For example, one hospital system chose to divide their recommendations into three categories:
Celebrate - Strong practices that can be celebrated
Promote - Under-utilized practices that can be promoted
Review - Review current practices in the context of employee needs and best practice evaluations
Think long and hard prior to implementation about the sustainability of the work-life offerings. Will it be something your organization can support in the long-term? Negative impacts such as turnover or decreased engagement may arise if the offering is receded. Make sure not to raise hopes by offering a potential solution publicly that leadership hasn’t approved.
Consider the core values of your organization along with the business goals you developed when you started this process.
4. CREATE A PLAN
Agree on what to implement and create a realistic timeline that focuses on high priorities and low-hanging fruit.
Consider categorizing recommendations into a cost/impact grid. The low-cost/high-impact recommendations are likely to come first, while high-cost/low-impact ideas may be tabled as unattainable. Determine how you will implement the new program or policy. Depending on what you are trying to implement, you might consider a pilot phase and then evaluate effectiveness and costs prior to full implementation. Having a high work-life support culture is more important than a high number of offerings
Calculate ROI. Implementation and utilization costs are often cited as a major consideration factor and barrier for offering benefits. However most organizations do not measure outcomes of benefits or know that family-friendly benefits pay for themselves. Citing costs as a limitation to benefit implementation without knowing how to measure outcomes or understanding where your costs lie is a missed opportunity to actually demonstrate and determine ROI in attracting and retaining employees. The Society for Human Resource Management hosts a free, online calculator that allows employers to calculate absenteeism or turnover costs for free. This “Investing In People Calculator” also estimates how much might be saved by implementing a specific work-life program. You can find the calculator at www.hrcosting.com/hr/.
Plans should include:
Your implementation plan will need to include steps for communicating or marketing to employees and decision-makers.
Communicate the offering on the intranet, internet, and through information sessions for your employees. A benefit or policy can only be utilized and enjoyed if your employees know about it.
Ensure that recruiters and hiring managers are aware of the details surrounding the new offerings. Encourage them to communicate these benefits and policies to all applicants and new hires.
Be transparent with all stakeholders about the costs and expectations of the offering.
Communicate benefits equitably across corporate and remote locations throughout the year. Employees may not focus on the benefit until they run into a situation which they need the support; ensuring benefits are top of mind is important.
Build evaluation into your implementation plan. Monitoring and periodic evaluation provide an opportunity to tailor a policy or program and gives you the greatest chance for sustained success. (For example, if you want to see the impact of back-up child care on absenteeism, measure absenteeism pre-implementation and measure again after an appropriate period has passed.
Collaborate with others in your organization who routinely work with data, such as those in finance or R&D.
Work with business leaders to identify their most important metrics, and then actually use those metrics.
Search for industry benchmarks to understand how the measured outcomes fare against others.
Seek out qualitative data. Interviews with employees about their experiences are a valuable way to gather feedback.
Make ongoing improvements to the offerings based on the data collected, if needed.
Remember to use your communication plan and collect key data as you go, that way you’ll be able to evaluate and ground your policy/program with examples of success. A few key reminders, whether you are rolling out a pilot concept or a complete program:
Provide Employees and Managers with Support
Create and foster a culture of promoting benefit use to maximize utilization.
Communicate expectations of how best to use the offered benefits to your employees.
Offer employees training on how to best maximize the benefit. In many cases, it may not be enough to give an employee the option to work from home without training on how to best manage their time. Not all employees are self-directed and excel at time management.
Train managers on the details and expectations of the benefits and policy offerings.
Survey employee needs regularly and listen to their feedback to ensure the new policy/ program is working for all employees.
Communicate options to employees on a regular basis to ensure awareness of your family friendly workplace options.
Participation and modeling from senior leadership is crucial. A family-friendly boss serves as a role-model. If employees see leadership occasionally shifting hours or using technology to work remotely, they may feel more comfortable asking to do the same.
Be sure to follow through with evaluation plans.