Saturday, February 28, 2015

Work / Life Balance Keeps Your Organization Strong

Have you heard?  The OECD Better Life Index ranks America low in terms of work / life balance. This is no surprise to many.  Currently, close to 30% of Americans work weekends.  We also tend to work longer hours than employees in many other advanced countries. So what does this mean to Human Resources?  Plenty.
Improper balance between work and life can only lead to one thing… workplace stress. For Human Resources, workplace stress means dealing with a host of employee issues, namely:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Decreased productivity
  • Underperformance in work
  •  Low job satisfaction, resulting in low employee commitment notes that with easy access to work, with our smartphones and laptops, unfortunately it is easy for employees to become overworked. Personal and work lives blend together, instead of ideally being isolated. So what is an employer to do? How does Human Resources promote effective work / life balance, for engaged, dedicated employees?

Some organizations have taken non-traditional measures. For instance, Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, promotes a “freedom and responsibility” culture within his company. A facet of this culture is its vacation policy…which doesn’t exist. “We focus on what people get done, not on how many days they work,” Hastings said in a Bloomberg Business Online article. “Prior to 2004 we had the standard vacation model, until we realized no one was tracking how many hours in a day they worked. Why were we tracking whether someone takes two weeks or four weeks of vacation?” Hastings noted that this tracking attitude developed, and has been maintained to this day, from the industrial era.

Perhaps, he is correct. IBM is another company who is well known for having an unconventional vacation policy. In particular, employees are allowed three or more weeks of vacation, but IBM doesn’t keep track of who takes how much time or when. Employees at all levels make informal time off arrangements with their direct supervisors.  The overall arbiter is if the employee can handle getting his / her work done on time with the time off.  If a workplace emergency occurs, there is usually a form of contact available. This contact aspect of the vacation plan does add pressure to some employees. A 2007 New York Times article notes that employees will sometimes feel peer pressure to check their e-mail and voicemail messages while on vacation.  Supervisors can sometimes ask subordinates to cancel days off to meet deadlines. Like Netflix, however, the real consideration for IBM’s vacation policy is whether the employees can handle the workloads they have, despite the time they take off.

How about you? What policy or plans does your organization have to promote a healthy work / life balance? Is it an area of consideration in your human resource strategy? Let us know and we’ll gladly share your thoughts here at Astronology.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

What’s Happening with Employment in 2015

While it’s been over five years since the Great Recession, a continuing aftershock from 2009’s economic struggles includes the thinking pattern of potential employees.  A 2012 Forbes online article mentioned the number of temporary or contract positions available was up 6% from 2011’s figures. In this same article it was noted that over 40% more people held temp jobs in 2012 than in 2009. What does this all point to? There is the possibility that candidates have moved from looking for a career and to looking strictly for jobs.  According to Jennifer Loftus, National Director of Astron Solutions, “this switch from careers to jobs signals challenges for employers.  We expect employee engagement levels to potentially decline, as employees move into a more transient mindset vis-à-vis their employers.”

An August 2014 Fortune online article highlighted that 86% of job seekers who are currently employed are looking for work outside their current occupations. The article quoted Tara Sinclair, an economist, saying, “We expect to see that as the economy improves, more job hunters will try to move into something that’s closer to their ‘dream job’.” Another concern to keep in mind is that millennials continue to enter the workforce. The trend is for 91% of millennials to stay less than three years in a job, with 54% wanting to start their own business – and many have already have done so. So what does this mean for Human Resources?

Quite possibly the dreaded three words: high turnover rates.  On the NBC news online economy watch page, Joel Naroff, President of Naroff Economic Advisors, mentioned, “Once job growth picks up and the unemployment rate comes down, it’s ‘Take this job and shove it’ time and the turnover is going to be massive because everybody has been dumped on for the last five years. For those businesses (in which) turnover matters, it’s going to kill them.”

What are some organizations doing to combat the possibility of waves of turnover? The short answer: money. Tara Sinclair mentioned in’s research, “As a rule, our research showed that people who are already in highly paid occupations want to stay in their current fields…money isn’t usually what attracts people to a job, according to our findings, but it can be very useful for retention.”

Another option is flexibility. “Highly skilled employees, such as in tech and mathematics, are especially interested in flexibility…even those who are employed full-time right now are searching our site for part-time jobs, and for companies that allowed flexible arrangements like job-sharing,” according to Sinclair.  Millennials are another group that considers flexibility important. Roughly 45% of Millennials will choose flexibility over pay when selecting between employment offers.

Has your organization observed a spike in turnover? Have you noticed other trends as an aftershock from the 2009 Recession? Has your organization found solutions to these HR challenges? Please share with us! We’d love to feature you in a future issue of Astronology!

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