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.