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August 2012

Take a Win Win Approach to Employee Relations

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“While flexible, family-friendly policies take some effort to develop and implement, they are already the best practices for employers.”

In an ideal world, the goals of your employees would be perfectly aligned with the goals of your business. In the real world, this happens less often. People play many different roles as they progress through various stages of their lives. Whether you are an employer or an employee, you may also be a spouse, a parent, a neighbor and a friend. Additionally, you may be a community volunteer or the caregiver for an elderly relative. On top of it all, you need time to take care of your own physical and mental well-being. Achieving balance among these competing priorities is a challenge for most people.

Employee relations issues can result when employees feel overwhelmed by this challenge. Work-life conflict is sometimes a root cause of employee absenteeism, lateness and distractedness. Over time, such conflict may move beyond being a source of stress for the employee and an annoyance to the employer, to threatening the very employment relationship itself. For employers, one of the best ways to break the impasse and keep team members engaged is to think beyond corrective action and traditional disciplinary processes. Instead, focus on creating win-win situations.

If you have an employee who seems to be struggling with maintaining a full-time job, an opportunity to consider a voluntary schedule change or reduction in work hours may be welcome. The options you offer could be virtually any variation of the hours of work, including working family shifts or fewer days per week.

Family shifts allow parents to start later in the morning after the children leave for school, and to leave earlier to pick them up. The family time a parent gains and the money saved by not having to pay for children’s after-school care may more than offset the income loss associated with reduced work hours. The result is a win-win for the employer, the employee, and the family, and may possibly result in the creation of a new part-time opportunity for somebody else.

Working fewer days per week can be a good option for an older employee who wants or needs to slow down. This kind of arrangement can start anywhere from one year to five years prior to the person’s planned retirement date. Achieving a win-win in this case might be to allow the older employee to work fewer days per week, yet retain his or her medical, dental and drug benefits. Such a solution not only accommodates the aging employee’s personal energy level, it allows your business to keep benefitting from that person’s expertise, and might even create an opportunity for a younger employee to develop through mentorship by the person transitioning to retirement.

If you decide to explore these types of changes in your workplace, be sure to consider the fine details, such as how your company’s current policies, employment agreements and benefits may be affected. You may also need to review the allocation of job duties and any impact there could be on current pension and retirement plans, or on time-off provisions such as vacation. A Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) can help. While flexible, family-friendly policies take some effort to develop and implement, they are already the best practices for employers. Adopting such policies not only recognizes the complexities of modern life, which helps to attract the best people, it inspires the highest levels of employee loyalty and commitment, creating a true win-win for both your employees and your business.