Connecting Work/Life Balance to Turnover
More than one in four employees at organizations not perceived to support work/life balance plan to leave their employers within the next two years, compared to 17 percent of employees who feel supported, according to a study by the Philadelphia-based global management consulting firm Hay Group.
“Organizations across the globe continue to ask their employees to do more with less, leading to increasing dissatisfaction with work/life balance,” says Mark Royal, senior principal at Hay Group Insight.
The most recent figures in the firm’s annually updated database compared employee responses from the top- and bottom-performing companies ranked by effectiveness in helping employees manage work/life issues. The database is comprised of responses from more than five million employees and 400 organizations worldwide.
In addition to affecting turnover, the research showed that employees’ perceptions on the matter can affect how they feel about their compensation. Among employees in the bottom quartile, 36 percent said they would agree with the statement, “I believe I am paid fairly for what I do,” compared with 58 percent at the work/life balance-leading organizations.
The idea, Royal says, is about equity, so an employee working to the point of routinely missing important social or family events, is likely to wonder: “Does my compensation match what I’m giving up and putting in?”
Employers promoting work/life balance should focus less on offering traditional solutions, such as telecommuting or flexible schedules, and more on ensuring that employees are able to work productively, Royal says.
“You want to help create sustainable working patterns for employees,” he says. “On a broader front, many leaders are heavily focused on employee engagement, for good reasons … As a consequence of that, there has been a tendency to define performance in motivational terms. I’d offer this perspective: Employee engagement through motivation is important, but not sufficient. You also have to enable employees to get things done.
“You have to create the ‘want-to’ but also add the ‘can-do,’ ” he says.
Effective organizations, Royal says, manage a broad set of dynamics in their approach.
“For example, they do a better job of providing clear directions on organizational priorities. So, if an employees’ to-do lists are longer than their workday, that helps employees understand where they need to prioritize. They also rated higher for creating higher levels of teamwork and managing collective relationships. It’s all part and parcel of insuring that people have access to what they need to get their job done. They also approached training as a process, rather than an event.
“The work isn’t going away,” he says. “The real recipe for success is allowing people to be as efficient while at work as possible.”
Research from HR services provider Spherion, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., makes an explicit connection between formal work/life balance programs and employee retention: More than half (52 percent) of employees at companies that employ such programs are likely to stay with the company for five or more years, according to the firm’s 2012 Emerging Workforce study. The majority (60 percent) of 225 human resource managers surveyed in the study also reported their programs had positive impacts on retention.
Slightly more than half of the 2,035 workers surveyed indicated they primarily are seeking flextime to meet family and personal obligations, and 47 percent said the option to telecommute was most important.
Though questions have surfaced about the potential drawbacks for employers on telecommuting in light of Yahoo and Best Buy discontinuing remote-work arrangements, telecommuting — when implemented carefully — can benefit both sides, says Sandy Mazur, division president of license and franchise at Spherion.
“There should be no reason for concern among HR and company executives that employees working outside the office are any less productive than those who work in the office,” she says. “In fact, there is abundant research supporting the contrary. For example, in a recent study by the Computing Technology Industry Association, companies who offer employees telecommuting options find greater employee productivity, lower operating costs, improved employee health and higher retention rates.
The Spherion study also showed that 95 percent of traditional employees are “happiest” when an employer helps them meet family obligations.
“A regular 9-5 schedule just doesn’t cut it for everyone,” Mazur says. “A little bit of flexibility can go a long way in recruiting, engaging and retaining productive yet happy and balanced employees.”
Carol Sladek, work/life consulting lead at the HR consulting firm Aon Hewitt, says workplace flexibility and paid time off continue to garner the most interest among work/life initiatives at the companies she advises.
“These programs tend to reach a broad range of employee needs, while driving employer business results,” she says.