Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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."


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