Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Case Studies of Best Practices - Career Life Fit Programs

Annotation for Case Studies

The next four blog entries provide a review of four places of employment that have incorporated career life fit programs into their culture. I selected the four companies because each represents a different type of work environment. The first case features The MITRE Corporation, a global not-for-profit with locations in 60 countries. The second case presents the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, the largest chamber of commerce in the United States. The third case is the University of South Carolina, a large public educational institution and the fourth is a Florida area corporation called Tech Data, a global distributor of information technology, with over 90,000 customers and annual sales of over $21 million as of its last fiscal year.

The case studies for MITRE Corporation, The Detroit Chamber of Commerce and the University of South Carolina were compiled by the Sloan Work and Family Network, Boston College. The case study for Tech Data Corporation, is my independent work that involved contacting the company and interviewing people in the human resources department and employees who have accessed the resources available through the program.

Case Study - Flexible Work Arrangement – MITRE Corporation

Summary of the Problem
     MITRE formed in 1958, is a not-for-­profit organization provides high level professional services and research for government agencies. The roughly 6,000 employees at MITRE are all non unionized, two thirds male, and most all have advanced college degrees. When surveyed, the MITRE employees identified two barriers they felt challenged work and life balance. The first barrier was a requirement that employees work a minimum five day week. The second barrier was a requirement that forced employees to take a full­ day absence for a missed partial day of work even if they worked the equivalent of a full week the other four days of the week. For example, working ten hours over four days would total forty hours but absence would be charged if the employee missed any part of the fifth day.

MITRE’s Solution – Flexible Work Arrangement Program

     Since MITRE implemented the flexible work arrangement, employee retention has increased and employees rank flexibility as one of the top reasons to work at the company. In his Giglio note that “One of the things they like the most about flexibility at MITRE is the fact that the flexibility is flexible”(2). The employees are empowered to decide along with their manager’s approval, to work a shortened work week or choose an alternative hours schedule for a limited time as needed to accommodate their needs. As a result, employees report a greater feeling of having their work and their life in balance. In addition, employees say they enjoy an enhanced level of trust between staff and management due to MITRE’s flexibility opportunities. The case points to benefits for both the employee and the employer. There is a general feeling of increased trust between employees and management. Prior to the implementation of the flexible work arrangement program MITRE had a voluntary attrition rate of 8% and for certain employees with high demand skills the rate was even higher. In the five years following implementation of the program the voluntary attrition rate dropped to three percent and has since stabilized at four percent. In terms of worker productivity specific statistics were not compiled but the company feels that productivity has not suffered as a result of the program employee morale and job satisfaction has improved greatly. MITRE currently uses the flexible work feature of their company as a recruiting tool for new talent.
     Anecdotally, many employees tell managers that they feel they are more productive and that they work hard to support the company since it supported them in trying to achieve greater work/life balance. As pointed out by Rhonda Rapoport in Beyond Work-Family Balance, ”It is a fact of life the senior managers carry more weight than others”(160) and according the senior management at MITRE it is necessary to get top ­level support and involvement. They also noted that it is important to train both employees and managers up front, infuse effective communication, outline program expectations and be willing to make modifications along the way.
     I found this case interesting and the dual benefits to both employees and employers are admirable. One dynamic that I found interesting was the fact that the majority of the employees are male in mostly high level professional and technical positions. The case study does not differentiate between who was disappointed with the company’s original policy which was inflexible and punitive. Considering that MITRE fits the model of a corporation that originally was structured on the norm of white male gender bias, I wonder if the employees most impacted by the old system and the new flexible system are women. It appears that MITRE has continued to excel in work life programs as the company has received annual awards for eight years from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence (AWE). The AWE recognized companies for excellence in each of these categories:

  • Family and Employee Friendly Policies and Practices
  • Supportive Corporate Culture and Management Practices
  • Strong Employee Health and Wellness Initiatives
  • Comprehensive Growth and Learning Opportunities
  • Demonstrated Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Volunteerism
"Recognition by AWE means a great deal," said Bill Albright, director of MITRE's Quality of Work Life and Diversity division in the company's human resources organization. "We continually strive to provide employees with the tools needed to achieve work-life balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle. These goals have truly become part of MITRE's culture."

Case Study - Workplace Flexibility and Phased Retirement, The University of North Carolina

Summary of the Problem

The University of North Carolina, chartered in 1789, is the first public university in the United States. It has over 183,000 students spread across sixteen campuses.. UNC employs 36,000 fulltime employees of which 10,000 are fulltime faculty. A survey of tenured faculty revealed that a significant number of tenured faculty were nearing retirement age. The University realized there would be a significant knowledge and experience gap as large numbers of those eligible left the system. Among faculty responding to a university survey on the program, “the overwhelming majority were male, white and married, paralleling the broader demographic characteristics of senior faculty within UNC” (1). The mean age of respondents was 65 years; some 80 percent were male; nearly 93 percent were Caucasian; approximately 84 percent were married. In addition, 74 percent held the rank of professor before entering the program. Respondents had spent an average of 30 years in service at their current institution.

University of North Carolina’s Solution – Workplace Flexibility and Phased Retirement 

The UNC phased retirement program began as a trial in1998 and was approved as a continuing benefit for tenured faculty in 2001. The phased retirement program allows full­time faculty a voluntary opportunity to transition into retirement by retiring, giving up tenure and returning to work on a part­ time basis if they are at least 50 years old, with at least five years of full­time service at their current institution, and eligible to receive retirement benefits. Participants continue under contracts that can last from one to five years in length. Each faculty member negotiates their schedule and so far 524 faculty members have taken part. In fall 2004, the most recent semester for which statistics are available, 69 faculty members were actively participating. Which is fewer that the 208 participants in fall 2003. The university has considered expanding the program to include administrators within the faculty personnel system, but so far has not done so.

Obviously the faculty members benefited from the program which provided them with a choice to ease into the transition of retirement while providing the UNC the ability to systematically implement faculty succession planning. The majority of the participants said they were pleased with their decision to participate in the program and would recommend participation to a colleague. Since participants teach fewer classes and significantly reduce administrative responsibilities their non work time is used in a variety of ways, including self employment, volunteer activities and managing care giver responsibilities. The University feels that its phased retirement program is well­ designed and equitably applied, benefiting faculty as well as the university.

The University of North Carolina program is admirable because it recognizes the benefits of slowing the brain drain that takes place when a significant number of the best and brightest minds are forced to depart due to mandatory policies that do not reflect the work place of today. It is disappointing that the program has not
been extended to all levels of the employee base. Further it seems that the program could be expanded to
take into account the gender bias that exists along the tenure track that has prevented many women from
being able to achieve tenure at the same rate as their male counterparts should they elect to have children.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Case Study – Attracting and Retaining Top Talent -Tech Data Corporation

Summary of the Problem

Tech Data Corporation, founded in 1975, is an international IT distribution firm with 8,000 employees and annual sales of $22 billion during the most recent fiscal year. The Florida based corporation is challenged to attract and retain top talent in a constantly evolving industry. To that end, for as many as fifteen years the company has consistently developed and enhanced programs to support the health and well being of employees by introducing a variety of options to assist in creating work/life balance. Most of the benefits are not remarkable or particularly innovative in their attempt to address the provision of flexible work schedules for many employees. Most of the amenities are exclusive to the Clearwater, Florida location and include on site dry cleaning and laundry services, shoe repair services, an on-call automobile detailing cleaning service, a fitness center, basketball court, a learning library and stipends for use of an independent childcare facility located on the same campus as the head quarters. 

Recognizing Changing Employee Needs

The Flexible Work Arrangements, (FWA) program is aimed at addressing changing employee needs and attracting and retaining younger employees seeking incentives. The FWA has been in place for approximately three years, and provides the opportunity for some employees to request flexible work arrangements. Based on the business needs, not all positions are eligible for the FWA, and there are organizational guidelines around performance requirements for those who apply. Where applicable and approved, the employees can potentially apply for: 
  • 4/80 - Working 4 days a week, for total of 80 hours during a 2 week period 
  • 9/80, with every other week having a day off 
  • Work from home (depending on position, approval, performance and job role, can be eligible to work at home 1 day per week) 
The work from home option presents many variables including one day per week or one day every other week. The benefits from the array of programs for to employees include flexibility to schedule family appointments or to avoid the stress of traffic by working from home in a less stressful environment. The benefit to the company includes greater productivity from employees who are more relaxed, and less distracted which potentially leads to greater productivity. Tech Data also uses the FWA as a recruitment and retention tool particularly for Generation X and millennial candidates who seek employment that fits into their lifestyle rather than fitting their lifestyle into work. Unfortunately this benefit is currently only offered at the corporate location in Clearwater. 

Continuous Evolvement

Tech Data plans to offer self service kiosk sponsored by United Health Care, to provide employees at the corporate headquarters and each of the locations in the United States the ability to monitor vital health and wellness indicators. Employees will also have the option to record and track their blood pressure, heart rate, pulse, and weight online and update the information at will. There will also be a representative from UHC on site once each week to address questions from employees regarding healthy living and preventative actions.

Case Study – Flexible Work Schedules - The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce

Summary of the Problem 

The Detroit Regional Chamber is the largest chamber of commerce in the country, with more than 21,000 business members. The Chamber’s mission is to lead business growth and member success through business attraction efforts, public policy advocacy, strategic partnerships, and products and services for its members. The Chamber employs 88 people, 54 of whom are female, 34 of whom are male. The average age of its workers is 40, with the vast majority having worked at the Chamber for 15 years or less. Most of its workers have received a bachelor’s degree, with nearly one­ quarter having achieved a master’s degree or higher. The Detroit Regional Chamber’s main concern in considering a more flexible workplace was to find ways to recruit and retain top talent. Chamber leadership recognized than in order to attract and retain top talent flexibility was imperative. 

Creating A Flexible Workplace

As part of its effort to offer a flexible workplace, the Chamber works with its employees to produce a flexible schedule that is tailor­ made to meet the needs of both the Chamber and the individual employee. For instance, between10%­ and 15% of Chamber employees are engaged in a standard flexible schedule, whereby they come in earlier and leave the office earlier than they normally would. For others, it means a reduced lunch hour, allowing them to leave early. Others still telecommute from home 1­ to 2 days per week. The Chamber also has one long­time employee on a part­ year schedule. The key for the Chamber is to make sure that jobs are being done and objectives are being met by each employee. The Chamber’s chief financial officer lives and works in Japan, where her husband was transferred by his job. For the Chamber, flexibility also includes offering a variety of programs for its employees during work hours such as “lunch and learn” sessions, kick­boxing, aerobics and Pilates classes. The Chamber has come to believe that many employees would seek out these healthy options on their own, but time and convenience often prevent them from taking advantage. This way, the classes are convenient and the employees don’t have to sacrifice their own personal time to attend. As long as the employees get their work done, the Chamber is eager to arrange such options. It is incumbent upon the employee who desires a flexible schedule to speak with his or her supervisor about any such plans. Again, as long as individual work objectives are being met, the Chamber is happy to work with the employee on a flexibility plan. Providing flexible work schedule, telecommuting and access to programs that support a healthy lifestyle has increased employee retention as well as employee satisfaction. According to the Chamber, employee retention rates increased by 10% to 15% since the implementation of the flexibility program and its flexibility offerings, tend to attract and keep valued employees, making it a highly desirable place to work. The benefits to the employees include “a great sense of camaraderie and pride towards their coworkers and their job”(Giglio 2). Employees also report a strong sense of belonging and fulfillment from working in an environment in which employees are given so much flexibility. Recently, in a survey conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute for its 2005 “Best Small &Medium Companies to Work for in America”, Chamber staff responded 100% to the statement, “I am able to take time off from work when I think it’s necessary.” There are some positions, such as receptionist or switchboard, where certain types of flexibility are more difficult to accommodate. But, the company says such situations are covered in its employee manual and are often discussed in the interview process. Sometimes, it implements a probationary period to make sure a particular flexibility option will work within the confines of the job. 

     At the Detroit Regional Chamber, it appears that workplace flexibility is part of the culture. The majority of the employees at the Detroit Regional Chamber are female including most of the top management positions. I found this to be significant since the other company case studies were of companies that represent the traditional models.

Yb2 to Millennials-12-18-00-43_wmv.wmv

Talking About the Generations

Generations are defined by value shaping influences, family, education, morality, peers, spirituality and culture that impact their formative years (Espinoza). For the first time in American history, the workplace of today is occupied by four major generations, the traditional, the baby boomers, the Gen X and the millennial generations. Researchers and renowned organizations have confirmed that the transition of baby boomers out of the existing the workforce or a choice to remain beyond traditional retirement age will be one of the major redefining elements of the workplace. The sheer number of the millennial generation will make them the largest percentage of the workforce within the next decade, usurping the combined numbers of YB2 and Gen X.

Creating a sustainable succession plan requires all players develop an understanding of the generations transitioning out, remaining in place and the powerful emerging Millennial force.

Resources for Learning More About Multi Generations In the American Workplace

The generational diversity of the workplace reflects the aging of America and the choice or necessity for workers to remain active. Longley (2001) reports an increase in median age from 32.9 years in 1990 to 35.3 in 2000 which show a four percent decrease in the number of persons between 18 to 34 years old combined with a 28 percent increase in the population between 35 to 64 years of age.(1) This generational diversity coupled with a dynamic change in how businesses operate has created a challenge when workers with converging schools of thought on work ethic, employee/employer loyalty and work/life balance issues are brought to bear. The following suggested reference material provides perspective for greater understanding of the employee groups represented by four active worker generations.

Useful Websites

The Alfred P Sloan Centers for Work and Family Research Network ( – This network of sites is a superior resource for issues applicable to multiple generations, gender, and other issues of diversity in the work place. Information is relevant for employers, employees and researchers.

The American Association of Retired Persons ( Comprehensive site geared toward the older worker but with relevant information for multiple generations.

American Society of Quality Team and Workplace Excellence ( Excellent comprehensive site covering issues from multiple perspectives including employers, employees, providers.

The Alliance for Work/Life Progress ( - Alliance for Work-Life Progress is dedicated to advancing work-life as a business strategy integrating work, family and community. An entity of WorldatWork, AWLP defines and recognizes innovation and best practices, facilitates dialogue among various sectors and promotes work-life thought leadership.

Undress4Success ( This site addresses issues concerning Telework and provides resources for individuals, companies and researchers.

Society for Human Resources Management ( Professional site for human resource managers and consultants.

Corporate Voices for Working Families ( Excellence site for relevant issues regarding flexibility in the workplace and managing the aging workforce.

Working Mama ( – A specialized site for working mothers. “Working MAMA provides a platform for working women, as leaders in organizations and as mothers, to honor their career aspirations and achieve self-defined job success while experiencing satisfaction in their roles outside of work. “

Work Life Human Capital Solutions ( - A comprehensive site offering resources for employers wanting more flexible, effective and supportive work environments.

The Great Place to Work Institute ( – Discusses what makes a work place a great place to work.

My Life’s Work Coaching (www.mylifesworkcoaching) An employer resource for consulting services in the area of work life balance.

Useful Books

Martin, Carolyn A., and Bruce Tulgan. “Managing the Generation Mix from Urgency to Opportunity. HRD Press. Amherst, MA. 2006. Print

The authors have conducted research for twenty years to examine the challenges developing in the workplace as older workers remain and younger members arrive with attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from beliefs held by older generations as traditional. Generations are described as Schwarzopfer’s, those born before 1946; Woodstockers, born between 1946 and 1953; Young Boomers, born between 1954 and 1964; Generation X, born between 1965 and 1977; and Generation Y, born between 1978 and 1989. They find the attitudes and behaviors of generations are shaped by coming of age events and changes in the American economy. The varying attitude and behaviors of the different generations often put the groups at odds. The authors’ suggestions provide a level of understanding be achieved so that unique talents can be leveraged from all the generations.

Lancaster, Lynne C., and David Stillman. “When Generations Collide Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work.” HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. New York, NY. 2002. Print.

Provides a perspective through the use of examples of how each generation approaches various assignments. In this study the authors have defined the generations as Traditionalists, born 1900 to 1945; Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980; Millennials, born between 1981 and 1999. A series of poignant and humorous stories tie the strategies together for building more productive working relationships by acknowledging the differences between generational groups. The authors also recognize that many people are caught between two generational groups based on their birth year falling at the end or the beginning of a generational group. Also significant is those employees who manage to move seamlessly between each generational group and appear not be defined in their behavior by chronological age.

Gravett, Linda., and Robin Throckmorton, “Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve More”. The Career Press. Franklin Lakes, NJ. 2007. Print.

Discusses the challenges faced by business owners, project managers, and human resource professionals when problems arise in the areas of communication, employee team member conflict, and debates about ethics and loyalty when multiple generations are brought together in the workplace. Five generations are identified as participating in the workplace of today, Radio Babies (1930 -1945), Baby Boomers (1946 -1964), Generation X (1965 – 1976), Generation Y (1977 – 1991) and Millennials (1991 and later). Myths associated with each of the generations are discussed and case studies provide insightful perspectives on how the myths and misconceptions can be overcome. A series of exercises are presented to build understanding and trust among various work groups.

Espinoza, Chip., Mick Ukleja and Craig Rusch. “Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce”. John Wiley & Sons. Hoboken, NY. 2010. Print.

Espinoza, et al. claim three generations, (Builders; Baby Boomers, and Generation X) have worked according to established norms but the entry of Millennials into the workplace has caused many in these previous generations to question the motivation, work ethic, loyalty and commitment of the most recent employees to arrive in the workplace. Millennials born between 1978 and 1996 are the most socially and diversely tolerant generation ever, the most educated and technologically savvy and the most sheltered, structured and are often described with a sense of entitlement. However, with the 50% of the executives in America will be eligible for retirement in five years. The Line of succession is filled with other executives who are also Baby Boomers and they are eligible for retirement too. Described as the global aging phenomenon, the future of organizations depends on the ability to attract, retain, motivate, and develop Millennials so that the reigns can be turned over to perpetuate a new paradigm.

Strauss, William., Howe, Neil. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. Broadway Books, New York, NY. 1998. Print.

Excellent look at the change in generations and how history applies. The book needs to be updated to include more recent developments but this it is wonderful to read and many of the observations made by the authors have come to fruition.

Capelli, Peter, Novelli, Bill. Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare tof the New Organizational Order. Harvard Business Review. 2010. Print.

Capelli and Novelli examine the growing dynamic of older workers reporting to younger supervisors and managers.

Greenberg, Eric., Weber, Karl. Generation We: How Millennial Youth Are Taking Over America and Changing Our World Forever. Pachatusan. Emeryville, CA 2008. Print.

This book is a call to action for the Millennial generation. Eric Greenberg and Karl Weber are both Millennial generation members and provide an insightful and valuable look into what Millennials think.