Anna Meller has spent the last 20 years making work-life integration her business. A successful consultant, thought leader, researcher and author, Anna’s accessible approach is both evidence based and pragmatic.
Interesting article Ruth.
One thing we need to remember is how much workplace change the feminists of the 1960s and 70s pioneered. They entered organisations with strict male cultures, designed for men and slowly changed things. It's no coincidence that the 25% of the workforce which currently works less than full time is mostly female.
It seems to me that the workplace revolution has stalled because, whether they agree or not, many younger women are taking for granted the concessions already won and not continuing the effort.
To change organisational cultures we need to nurture a new generation of pioneers willing to re-negotiate working arrangements at senior levels so they benefit women (and men) with caring responsibilities. HR certainly needs to play a much stronger part in this, but it's also down to individual ambitious women elsewhere in organisations to take action; and this time round, hopefully we will have a generation of men who will more readily support them.
Thanks for your positive comments Lawrence.
While it's true some people prefer to keep work and other aspects of their life separate, there are those who prefer to integrate the two. Work-Life Balance researcher Dr Ellen Ernst Kossek has actually identified three distinct managing strategies - Separation, Integration and Cycling.
To celebrate the start of this year's Work-Life Week, the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology working group on work-life balance will be holding an afternoon seminar exploring the benefits of identifying individual coping strategies. More details can be found here.
I'm watching discussions about gamification and HR with interest. My own observation is that the vast majority of online gamers are teenage boys and young men and I would be curious to know how many women participate. Is there a risk that men will enter the workforce more prepared for this type of collaboration (having already set the ground rules through online gaming) and that once more we will have an inherent bias working against women?
Your circumstances don't come as a surprise to me, Ben. In my experience HR tends to feel uncomfortable with mavericks - a bit of an irony for the profession in charge of recruiting and developing the people who are key to most organisations' success. The HR profession has been going through an long period of evolution, without much revolution - the only revolutionary step as far as I'm aware has been the idea of the Business Partner role and that came from an academic!
You're absolutely right to recognise the need to rebrand HR for the 21st Century, and you clearly have the skills to do it. If you haven't yet contacted the Interim Agencies I would suggest you do so. As you've already discovered with your first foray into HR it's often easier to get into an organisation through a "temporary" route. Good luck, and I look forward to hearing more about your HR successes in the future.
Some very useful suggestions from Karen, but she's missed the simplest step of all - make work-life balance part of the company culture at all levels. The stark reality is that women all too frequently select themselves out of senior jobs as they cannot see a way to balance work and home responsibilities. Organisational cultures continue to collude with the myth that the ideal worker is one who gives 110% to their work (and usually has no other life!). Until we make the cultural shift to one where employees are assessed on outputs and contribution rather than number of hours in the workplace, women will continue to struggle.
About 18 months ago I was so concerned by the rising number of young "neets" that I posted a question on the CIPD communities asking what members felt they could do to ease the situation. As I'm self-employed myself, I was hoping to start a discussion about how those of us in corporate jobs, and those of us who freelance, could get involved. The number of responses to my query was in single figures, and all but one said it was not part of their job to concern themselves with this sort of issue!
A few years ago I was sitting at a Business Link seminar next to an interesting woman from a small consultancy. She told me she advised retailers on their customers' "shopping experience". Rather more than just a "secret shopper", her aim was to make sure that every aspect of shopping with a retailer, whether in a shop, through a catalogue or online was a positive experience.
Which got me thinking about whether HR needs to creat a new role called "Head of the Employee Experience" tasked with ensuring that all employees and potential employees have a positive experience with their organisation from the point of adverising an initial vacancy to the moment they resign. After all, recruitment is as much about marketing as it is about finding the right people; while the right people are an organisation's best ambassadors.
Talking with managers of potential Home Workers is a good place to start developing a policy. Ulitmately all home working is based on some element of trust and this must be achieved if the process is to be successful.
However, employers often overlook two other "key players" when developing Home Working Policies - their Facilities Management and IT Support people. Since most Home Working depends at least in part on access to the right technology, and since employers still retain Health & Safety responsibility for their workers, the positive support of these two groups is crucial.
Supporting Home Workers requires a change in working practices for IT Sujpport and FM staff too. Unless they're willing to make the changes, policies can become hard to support in practice.
Derek mentions the debate around the need for 'official' HR qualifications and quotes Benjamin Franklin's view on experience and theory. I'm sure this is an acceptable outlook for our hobbies and pastimes, although even there, we often want to follow experience with theory. It's not acceptable for a 21st Century profession with a growing body of knowledge around how people perform.
When I first started in HR I came across a number of people in the role simply because they were "good with people". Things have moved on significantly since then. I wouldn't hire an accountant simply because she's good with numbers, or an electrician simply because he's got years of wiring experience. We need to be proud of the theoretical knowledge on which we base our skills, and CIPD is absolutely right in upgrading this.