When we lose and then replace customers, we call it
"churn," but when the same thing happens with our employees, we passively give
it the term "turnover."
Although turnover carries a less ominous connotation, its
effects are more pronounced on the success of our companies as we lose some of our best
and brightest resources.
Currently, employment rates are high, and employees have
the opportunity to be selective about their career choices and the industries in which
they work. Recent research indicates that the newest generation of workers not only wants,
but also expects, a better-balanced career and family life.
Our employees are no different, according to the Women in
Cable & Telecommunications Foundation's recently released book, Benefits of
Balance: Increasing Employee Productivity Through Work/Life Programs.
The foundation found that in order to attract and retain
the best workers, cable and telecommunications companies have to address the challenges of
achieving work/life balance, or they risk the health of their bottom lines.
Benefits of Balance is a follow-up to the
organization's 1997 Industry Resource Guide. In addition to the results of
surveys measuring worker attitudes in our industry, it includes a supplemental list of
companies successfully implementing these programs.
In the study, the WICT Foundation used findings from the
Families and Work Institute's "1997 National Study of the Changing Work
Force" and data from the 1997 and 1998 WICT Foundation's pay-equity studies to
research the similarities and differences between traditional and work/life benefits
within the cable and telecommunications industry and general business.
The cable and telecommunications industry leads the nation
in providing some work/life benefits, but it lags behind in others. While we consistently
outperform general business in providing traditional benefits, simply maintaining our
position is not enough.
Nationally, between 13 percent and 45 percent of employees
receive work/life benefits (flexibility; telecommuting; child-care assistance; child- and
elder-care resource and referral services; and job sharing), in comparison with cable and
telecommunications, where 8 percent to 42 percent of our employees receive them.
Many more find them important: Nearly 50 percent of those
cable and telecommunications employees who responded to the survey said they thought some
work/life benefits were important.
The study found that flexibility is one of the most
important work/life benefits to employees in the cable and telecommunications industry.
The industry is providing the benefit at a 42 percent rate, slightly under the 45 percent
provided by the general industry.
The industry is also providing child-care and various
child-care-assistance programs at an 18 percent rate, higher than the 13 percent found in
the general work force.
Our industry is just keeping pace with national trends in
work/life, but for us to remain competitive, we will need to do more. The "1998
Survey on Work/Life Initiatives" -- conducted by Bright Horizons Family Solutions and
William M. Mercer Inc. -- found that companies were implementing work/life programs for
the goals of retention (71 percent) and recruitment (38 percent).
Companies are competing for talent and, as they realize the
importance work/life issues play in recruiting and retaining skilled employees, they will
be more likely to implement these programs. We will need to do the same or risk losing our
employees to other industries.
The newest generation of workers expects to have work lives
and home lives, and they are knowledgeable about the different types of work/life benefits
programs. This generation is going to expect to have work/life benefits in the same manner
that the previous generation expected to receive traditional benefits.
The Hudson Institute's "Workforce 2020"
reports that there was an 11 percent drop in U.S. births between 1966 and 1985, which
means that there will be a smaller pool of workers from which to hire until at least 2004.
Skilled employees will take positions that offer the best compensation and benefits.
BALANCE MEANS A
BETTER BOTTOM LINE
All of the strong programming you can provide is useless if
employees are not utilizing the programs. Many current workers are hesitant to use
work/life productivity programs because they fear that it may hinder their career
If we want to remain competitive, we must eliminate that
Senior-management support for work/life productivity
programs is vital. Senior management has the power to create a corporate atmosphere where
employees know they can take advantage of work/life productivity programs without paying a
hefty price. Our leaders have the ability to set the policy and guidelines that will give
the cable and telecommunications industry an edge over other businesses.
If we want to reduce our employee "churn" rates,
we need to rise to the challenge and meet their needs, just like we meet the needs of our
customers. The WICT Foundation stands ready to help.
The foundation recommends that companies conduct employee
needs-assessment surveys to learn what types of work/life programs their employees need
and want to add balance to their lives. Each company will ultimately decide what policies
and programs are best-suited for its culture.
Human-resource professionals need to provide managers with
training on how to handle and monitor employee's work/life program requests. The
training will inform supervisors that these programs do not hinder productivity, but
increase it. Such an environment will encourage employees to discuss needs with their
supervisors and to find arrangements that meet everyone's expectations and
We all understand the importance of staying competitive.
It's the environment in which we thrive every day. Employees who know that their
company is dedicated to them will be loyal to their employer. When employees have
flexibility in their schedule or know that their child is well cared for, they are more
productive while they are at work.
Creating a corporate environment that actively supports
work/life balance for all employees will be a key factor for the bottom line. Work/life
programs produce higher employee morale, and higher morale leads to greater productivity.
Greater productivity leads to a better bottom line, and that is what we all want.
Colleen Abdoulah is executive vice president, wireline
services for AT&T Broadband & Internet Services, and she serves as chair of the
Women in Cable & Telecommunications Foundation.