Human resources evolution.
Stretching is painful until you limber up. Social movements are especially tough because they get us where we live, How we already are seems more right and reasonable than how we might be. Still, our roles and expectations as men and women have made gymnastic leaps and transpositions in this half-century, if not without plenty of complaining muscles.
And now we're stretching where we work, too. As the sexes approach equilibrium-men and women finding it more acceptable to do what only the other used to-what they want from a job and an employer shifts as well. Employers may be distressed to find the second half of the baby boom wearing a lot more spandex.
Association human resource managers report "evolution, not revolution," as consultant Sandy Grogan Dresser, of Williams, Thacher & Rand, Bethesda, Maryland, puts it, in the way they respond to new work force needs and the cost of answering them.
"Employers have to realize you get the whole employee when you hire," asserts Melanie Klooz, director of human resources at the National Association of College Stores, Oberlin, Ohio. We each come with a life and a family." Alternative work arrangements and flexible benefit options answer dilemmas experienced by two-career couples, parents, and people with aging relatives-the boomers in their 30s and 40s who fill the middle ranks of most associations. And while employers initially may balk at allowing staffers' personal lives to impinge on the workplace, the results so far say flexibility helps more than hurts.
Tales from the front
Retention. Nicky Linck has managed human resources for four years at the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS), Falls Church, Virginia. The association offers attractive benefits: Somewhat flexible work hours range from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; vacation and sick leave each start at three weeks per year and may be used by mothers or fathers for parental leave. Linck isn't worried about recruitment. She's worried about retention.
With more women in the work force, work and family are going to be big issues," she affirms. Of 76 APICS staffers, 51 are women; the CEO is a man, and three of four directors are women. We have a lot of women coming in at all levels," Linck says.
"Twenty people had kids in the last few years, 10 just last year. That's a great thing," Linck says warmly, but "child care seems to be a big issue." Like many other organizations, APICS considered and rejected on-site care. "The up-front cost is around a quarter of a million because of the insurance and code requirements. We even looked into a consortium with businesses in Falls Church, but we didn't get much response.
"But we need to be more responsive to employee needs," Linck says emphatically. She believes people will leave or turn down positions because of the day care dilemma. Adding Internal Revenue Code Section 125 spending accounts for dependent care (see "Flexible Spending Accounts," September 1991) and a wellness program would make APICS'S package ideal," Linck thinks.
Her CEO'S response to that has been favorable, but I can't get a yes or no on 125 or wellness. I think we'll probably see [these programs] in 1992."
Now needs. Today is the first time a male employee has taken leave," notes Diane L. Keith, director of operations/ personnel at the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, Alexandria, Virginia. Family leave, that is. Keith was reviewing PIA'S maternity leave policy a year and a half ago when an employee said in passing, "'You ought to look at paternity leave.' I scoffed," she says, "but when I went home I thought about it. I realized that paternity leave is actually family sick leave." PIA expanded its policy.
Other changes may be percolating. We had a preponderance of young, single employees for a long time. Now there's an influx of marriages and babies," Keith says. Eight people were married last summer, and 52 percent of the staff is married now. "Until two years ago a pregnant staffer was a rarity. Then we had about 10.' Why? "The time just came.
PIA has offered a full cafeteria benefits plan since 1987, when staff were first asked to pay part of health insurance costs. The Section 125 health care spending account has 60 percent participation, and half of eligible parents use the dependent care spending account. Keith gathers staff input from a formal monthly focus group and says changes are open for discussion.
Despite strong empathy with parents on staff, she downplays prospects for alternatives like working at home. "I'm flabbergasted that mothers are able to work, because of the cost of child care," Keith remarks. Long commutes in the metropolitan area add stress. "Some mothers who live way out bring their child care to Alexandria,- she says, "because otherwise they can't be sure they'll make it before [the day care facility] closes.
"I can relate." Keith worked while raising two daughters. However, "I can't see upper management allowing mothers to work at home. The off-site employee issue raises questions not only about workers' comp and disability but salary and job equity. I think it's possible, but it would be difficult to monitor."
Generational shift. Melanie Klooz doesn't think so. She has directed human resources at the National Association of College Stores (NACS) for five years, and "I believe in that stuff," she affirms. "Sometimes you have to convince managers: These are the 90s, and the work force has changed.
Women around my age-29-40made their careers first. Now they're going back and making decisions about children," Klooz says. Women make up 70 percent of NACS staff, and not many are older than 45. Nine staffers or their spouses were pregnant in 1991.
Klooz says senior management, including a woman in the number three spot, is young and "absolutely into family. They bring their kids to the office and take off for parent meetings at school. There are a lot of good-old-boy organizations; this isn't one of them."
NACS has a progressive spirit, and Klooz works at making benefits fair and valuable to all staff. Currently maternity leave is taken from accrued sick and annual leave; Klooz sees the policy unfairly working against nonsalaried employees," because sick and medical leave apply differently to them. And maternity isn't available for fathers. We've planted the idea of parental leave," she says, and we'll let it grow."
The more radical tool in Klooz's repertoire is arranging work at home. NACS controls scope of work and time spent by writing contracts (see "Good Ideas" in this issue). Klooz negotiated a contract with a woman in her department last year, and "did lunch runs to see the baby and drop off work." Another manager, she says, "has lots of staff having babies-it's just that time-and he's very good at contracting." Contract projects are arranged for nonpregnancy medical leave as well. "If there's enough work for eight hours, people are paid as usual. If it's an hourly worker, he or she keeps track. We're pretty trusting," Klooz says, "and it has worked out very well." Incremental change. Looking to save money, manage creatively, and keep staff happy, associations of many sizes and states have adopted elements of family-friendly benefits programs. Few seem to think of themselves as particularly progressive, but consider three examples:
The Public Risk Management Association, Arlington, Virginia, has 13 staffers. The workday is moderately flexible; core hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The personnel policy guide is very out of date, seven years old," says jane Fort, PRIMA'S manager of administration and finance. So special needs for child care leave are negotiated case by case with the executive director. "One new parent was granted eight weeks leave without pay. She was able to work at home and kept track of her time and was paid for two weeks," Fort says. She and the executive staff are revising the policy guide, and Fort intends to keep the manual flexible so we can add new ideas."
Carol Wilmes, employee benefits specialist at the Association of Washington Cities, Olympia, spends about eight hours a month coordinating benefits for AWC'S 25 staffers. A few employees take advantage of working at homr," Wilmes says, "but they don't have carte blanche." One woman went to three-quarter time to be with her kids; she takes a shorter lunch and leaves early. AWC uses a portion of her full salary to pay a consultant for specific projects in her area.
The 60 staff members of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison, are six months into a menu of schedule options that includes part-time employment, job sharing, telecommuting (home work), and a compressed workweek. Close to half of staff have young children, and Administrative Director Patrick G. Kelley says he saw a need to be flexible to keep people, to make the environment friendlier, and to allow for child care." The new programs were developed by a staff committee and have helped staff morale, Kelley says. "Productivity hasn't fallen off, there are no real negatives."
Will it hurt?
Understandably, not everyone sees it that way. Milton M. Singleton, treasurer of the National Cutting Horse Association, Fort Worth, Texas, says the average age of NCHA'S 26 staffers is "late 30s, early 40s, " although he is older, and just more than half are women. Human resource issues aren't pressing: Staff offers little input, and Singleton spends very little time" on personnel matters. He believes NCHA'S CEO Would make any change that's good for the employees," but would not be open to a father taking leave for a child. I wouldn't want it," he says. "I'm just not used to it."
Stretching to grasp generational differences can be uncomfortable, but what's really hurting association employers now is the cost of health care. Some have discovered that satisfying staff interest in greater flexibility can work in tandem with controlling benefit costs.
Saving money. "My three biggest human resource issues are money, money, and money," says Kathyann Bosak without a trace of humor. But as director of finance and administration at the North American Telecommunications Association (NATA), Washington, D.C., Bosak restructured employee benefits to be both more beneficial and more equitable-and saved money. "I'm not spending any more now on health care than we did five years ago," she says.
Bosak persuaded NATA'S CEO to buy into a benefits program that includes a full cafeteria plan, flexible spending accounts, parental and maternity leave, and self-funded short-term disability for 22 staff people working with a $3.2 million budget. Employees actually receive cash amounts when they opt out of benefits they don't need. "Convincing the president to give cash to employees was hard,' Bosak says. "But I showed him the bottom line, which was that we would save money."
NATA saves $9,000 a year, for example, by allowing employees covered by a spouse's policy to opt out of family health coverage; each receives the amount NATA would pay for single coverage as a cash benefit. Bosak also saved NATA money by switching to a health maintenance organization. "But with the HMO I worried about employee satisfaction," she says, "so they can keep Blue Cross and pay for the difference" between the indemnity plan and the HMO.
The benefit program design is all Bosak's, from choosing to give every employee $980 a year for transportation to accepting that families receive more in health benefits than single people. "I got some flak for not getting employee input," she admits, although I didn't create it out of nothing."
Bosak believes associations can avoid benefit cuts and provide the best possible employee program without spending more money. "It takes thought and effort, and you have to be willing to do it yourself-I couldn't have paid anyone to do what I did," she quips. "But really, you can't go to your boss and say, 'I think I can save $5,000, but I need $10,000 to find out.' "
Being fair. At the American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, Virginia, Director of Human Resources Jan Taylor organized pretax spending accounts for dependent care and health insurance premiums two years ago. This January, APTA planned to add a health care spending account and other cafeteria menu options. Taylor says deciding how to revamp benefits was hard "because you want to be equitable with employees."
Paying a percentage of coverage, as APTA did until this year, means the parent with "lower income ends up being subsidized by the association and getting much more than one with no children," Taylor points out. "But if you provide a flat dollar amount per person, that prices out the single parent at the support level altogether.
A cafeteria plan is more equitable," Taylor concludes, "but not necessarily more compassionate. In an ideal world, it wouldn't be a major concern who pays for child care; it just isn't possible for an employee making $22,000 to pay another $200 a month for insurance." Taylor thinks APTA will continue to subsidize dependent health coverage.
Other managers agree progressive and alternative programs have a "downside," as Frank M. Doyle, manager of human resources at the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., notes. "Take a sick leave bank. Who decides who gets to use it?" Doyle asks. "Divisiveness defeats the purpose."
One answer is to accept inequality. "Suppose you take time off to care for your aging mother, and I don't because I don't have an aging mother," suggests Norma B. Goldsmith, director of personnel at the National Council of jewish Women (NCJW), New York City. "How are we going to compromise? The life cycle is there in everybody's life; if you don't need that time today, you will in five years.
And life isn't equal," Goldsmith says. "Executives are treated differently from support staff, and rightly so. This is a humanitarian situation: To keep the work force happy, we have to make some accommodations. Not 100 percent of what they ask, but what's reasonable." Goldsmith is surveying NCJW'S 80 staffers now to see what that is.
A small stretch
Size doesn't count. "It's clear that issues of work and family have been sanctioned by the business community," declares Dana Friedman, co-president of the Families and Work Institute, New York City. The institute researches and publishes data on child and elder care, wellness, gender equality, and other issues. Founded in 1989, it grew out of an information center at the Conference Board, another New York City research group.
The business community paying most attention to work and family issues is big business, but the argument from Friedman and many others is size makes little difference. Referring to results of a recent Small Business Administration study, Friedman asks, What are the characteristics of small firms providing child care support? They have progressive management in a tight labor market, the same as large companies. You can't excuse small business. They don't have big human resource departments and budgets, but they have an advantage in being in touch with employee needs. They're in the best position to offer flexibility."
The equation for employers seems straightforward: Family issues distract employees from work, and more workplace support results in more productive staff. Friedman (with co-author Wendy B. Gray in the 1989 Conference Board publication A Life Cycle Approach to Family Benefits and Policies) says, Workers with child care or elder care responsibilities are three to six times as likely to experience difficulty combining work and family responsibilities .... Most studies indicate that parents are absent about five days each year as a result of sick children. Elder care concerns lead to similar results."
A study by the National Council of jewish Women's Center for the Child, on the other hand, finds when employers are more accommodating of pregnancy, women take fewer sick days, are more likely to work outside regular hours without extra compensation, and work later into pregnancy.
Mandated benefits. Should government require flexibility? Some associations-the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., and the Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, Virginia, for example-say no. They lobby against federally mandated family leave, arguing it would limit employer ability to offer different benefits as needed. In Congressional hearings last summer, opponents said the cost of mandated leave would put firms out of business.
That makes Friedman angry. "Senator Chris Dodd [D-CT] asked the U.S. Chamber to show him one company that went out of business because of state mandated leave,' she says. "They couldn't." The Families and Work Institute studied the impact of parental leave laws in four states and found
* implementation was easy for 91 percent of employers;
* most employers did not report substantial costs;
* only 6 percent reduced health benefits in response; and
* small companies had no more difficulty or increased cost complying with the leave law.
Consultant Sandy Dresser thinks "family leave will be a national priority. The problem with [Washington] D.C.'s law [passed last year] is it's poorly conceived," she explains. The definition of dependent is quite generous, and employers will vote with their feet if it doesn't get modified."
At the National Restaurant Association, Frank Doyle isn't worried about it. No one at NRA has used it yet.
"My wife and I both work in associations," Doyle says, "and I think working at home and taking leave is good." Both took time off when their daughter was born. When she's sick, who stays home with her depends on who has more important personnel interviews that day.
You need strong leadership for that to work," Doyle says. "Associations are driving the train out of the old school of management. I attribute that in part to strong women in management, but it's also because associations don't have to answer to the almighty dollar on the bottom line."
"I wish it would just be an issue of conscience," says Melanie Klooz, at the National Association of College Stores, "but probably we'll have to have laws to mandate leave. It should be a no-brainer: If an employee asks for time, just say to yourself, What would I want to do in that situation?' "
Sources of information and help with benefits, alternative schedules, employee assistance programs, wellness programs, and related issues are too numerous to list. Ask the organizations below to refer you for other specific needs.
The Department of Labor Women's Bureau has a data base on employer sponsored child and elder care called CHOICES. Call (800) 827-5335 weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. or write to 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20210.
The Familes and Work Institute conducts research and advises businesses and organizations. For a publications list, write to 330 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10001; (212) 465-2044; fax (212) 465-8637.
The National Council of Jewish Women Work/family Project has current studies of employer options. For a publications list, write to 53 West 23rd St., New York, NY 10010; (212) 645-4048.
The Notional Resource Center on Worksite Health Promotion operates a data base to help plan and implement programs. For information, write to 777 North Capitol St., N.E., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002; (202) 408-9320; TDD (202) 408-9333; fax (202) 408-9332.
The American Association of Re. tired Persons has information on hiring retirees and developing part-time positions. Contact the Worker Equity Department, 601 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20049; (202) 434-2300.
Handling Family Matters
With a staff of 225 in Princeton, the New jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) and its service subsidiaries are challenged to recruit and retain employees in a highly competitive labor market. In 1987 we studied local demographics, our own work force, and the various human resource options available to maintain a superior staff. Our results led us to establish a work and family life program called Family Matters.
Information for the internal study came from personnel files, employee questionnaires, and some individual interviews. The data were recorded on a grid showing age, sex, salary, marital status, care giver status children or not, other dependents or not), other workers in household, and type of position (management, technical, or nonexempt). The average employee in 1987 was a 37-year-old female, married and with children, who had 4.6 years of service and an average salary of $31,627.
Employee focus groups discussed key issues employees face in their lives as workers, homemakers, and care givers. For example, most people don't have the flexibility or autonomy to suit their schedules to those of other family members, day care facilities, and other services. The groups developed recommendations on child care, new or revised benefits, and alternative workplace arrangements that became the core of the final report for senior management.
NJHA adopted a work and family life program for five reasons:
* The employee complement had changed.
* Employees were advocating more employer support for family problems.
* Family benefits would be a successful recruitment and retention tool.
* We expected improved productivity.
* An association's success is directly related to its work force and the quality of services and products its employees deliver.
Now, Family Matters is a multifaceted program. Following are its basic elements.
Alternative work arrangements. We regularly review positions to determine their suitability for flexible hours, job sharing, or other arrangements. Job sharing, for example, works for the association and the employee. A full-time receptionist makes $8.04 an hour or $14,638 annually based on a 35-hour workweek. With benefits at 22 percent, this position would cost NJHA $17,852 a year.
But we have a regular part-time employee working 8:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Since we provide benefits for regular part-time employees who work a minimum of 20 hours a week, this employee is paid $8.04 an hour plus benefits. A cooperative education student from a local school works from 1:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., and is paid $6.25 an hour with no benefits. NJHA saves $700 a year and has two happy employees.
Telecommuting. NJHA helps supervisors and employees preparing for medical leave arrange a work-at-home and step-back program. Employees return to work gradually, increasing the number of hours worked as they recuperate. NJHA provides a personal computer and modem, sets measurable objectives, and arranges work pickup and delivery. Employees maintain a role in operations and NJHA uses fewer temps. Telecommuting arrangements have successfully drawn new mothers back into the work force.
* family leave. Employees may combine sick leave with medical and/ or personal leave for sick child care, family illness, and other family problems. Under New Jersey's Family Leave Act, additional leave is available for a child's birth or adoption and for family illness.
Flexible spending accounts. Through payroll deductions, employees may set aside pretax dollars to pay for certain expenses. The dependent care account is used to pay for care of a child or dependent adult. The medical account may be used to pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance, including deductibles. Most employees realize some tax savings as well.
* insurance and other assistance. Employees choose medical, dental, life, and long-term care insurance from a menu to suit family needs. NJHA also provides references to child care and sick child care services, an employee assistance program, family-centered seminars, special events that include families, and a community volunteer program.
You'll need strategies for both developing and selling a work and family life program. Here are six ideas to start with.
1. Study your association's work force demographics. Know who your average employee is today, who it was five years ago, and who it will be five years from now.
2. Understand what employ"$' issues are. Using employee focus groups, discuss common work and family problems. Identify critical issues in the workplace. Determine which employee benefits meet needs and which do not and identify benefits employees believe would work better. Have focus group members help develop program and benefit recommendations.
3. Develop a proposal. Include recommended work and family life philosophy, benefit and policy changes, implementation strategies, time line, and cost analysis.
4. Sell the program with facts. Cite statistics from successful programs that have reduced absenteeism and tardiness and improved morale (see "Resources' sidebar). Quantify anticipated annual and long-term benefits savings. Cite labor market trends and recruitment costs.
5. Prove your point early on. First set up one or two cornerstone programs that are easy and inexpensive. Flexible spending accounts, family-oriented employee activities, and employee assistance programs are examples. Note these successes when proposing new components for the program.
6. Be democratic. Don't let work and family issues become women's issues. Involve as many people as possible in planning and identify key supporters among leadership and management to help sell your proposal. Promote your program to membership as a model with tangible benefits for their employees.
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|Title Annotation:||includes article on employee management programs in the New Jersey Hospital Association|
|Author:||DeCicco, Anne L.|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1992|
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