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Workplace Flexibility Partnership to 'Move Work Forward'

By Stephen Miller  2/1/2011


The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the
Families and Work Institute (FWI) have joined in a major multiyear partnership called Moving Work Forward. A key aim: to transform the way organizations view and adopt workplace flexibility, helping them to become more competitive.

Press Conference

The partnership, announced Feb. 1, 2011, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., will share research and competitive practices showing how flexible workplaces can benefit employers and employees and help employers develop workplace cultures that fully embrace and implement strategies that will “move work forward.”

“The global marketplace is creating new demands on business to recruit top talent from around the world, to understand and navigate competing cultures, and to be flexible enough to respond to challenges and opportunities on a 24/7 schedule,” said Henry G. (Hank) Jackson, interim president and chief executive officer of SHRM. “That means creating more flexible work environments that give people greater autonomy to decide how, where and when they do their best work.”

He noted that "By focusing on results rather than hours worked, companies have increased output. By encouraging employees to develop their personal strengths, employee retention and loyalty have increased."

The partnership will build on FWI’s When Work Works, a nationwide initiative designed to share research on workplace effectiveness and flexibility, and SHRM’s We Know Next campaign, which aims to highlight the value of HR in business success.

“Through our research and our When Work Works initiative, we can now see that small, mid-sized and large employers that adopt effective workplace policies are succeeding,” said Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of FWI. “Not only do effective and flexible workplace practices improve the lives of employees, they enhance business’ competitive advantage in the 21st century. Flexibility works for both the employer and the employee.”

Added Jackson, "By partnering with FWI, SHRM will be combining the research and expertise of this widely respected think tank with the influence of SHRM's quarter million 'people strategists' and our nationwide network of 600 local chapters. This partnership is going to help change the way we think about work, the way we manage people—our most important asset—and the way we compete in the world."

Partnership Projects

The new partnership will focus on projects that include:

  • Developing educational materials and practical tools to help employers and HR professionals advocate for and implement effective and flexible workplace strategies.

  • Conducting and sharing research with employers on how effective and flexible workplaces can benefit employers and employees.

  • Host an annual thought leadership conference that brings together the best experts in the work/life field. The inaugural conference will be held November 2011, in Washington, D.C.

  • Continue to present the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility that have been offered nationwide since 2005. The Sloan Awards honor organizations that have made important advancements and, according to Jackson, "it's these best practices that have served as a catalyst and a blueprint for the private and public sectors."

"By highlighting what helps people do their best work, this partnership will promote flexible work arrangements that fit the 21st century workforce and create a new competitive advantage," said Shirley Davis, director of global diversity and inclusion at SHRM.

A Critical Need

Research by FWI and SHRM shows the importance of flexibility in the workplace and the critical need for increased action on the issue:

The best way to attract and retain the best people (even above compensation) is to provide flexible work arrangements, Challenges Facing Organizations and HR in the Next Ten Years, SHRM, 2010.

• A large majority of U.S. employees (87 percent) report that workplace flexibility would be "extremely" or "very" important in deciding whether to take a new job, Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work, FWI, 2009.

• Among HR professionals who reported that their organizations had formal flexible work arrangements, 89 percent said the arrangements positively affected retention, Workplace Flexibility in the 21st Century, SHRM, 2009.

• During the 2008-09 recession, 81 percent of U.S. employers maintained the workplace flexibility they offered, and 13 percent increased it, The Impact of the Recession on Employers, FWI, 2009.

• One in five U.S. employees currently provides elder care, and one in two employees expects to provide elder care within the next five years, The Elder Care Study, FWI, 2010.

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Thought Leaders Call Flexible Workplaces a 'Strategic Imperative,' SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, February 2011

SHRM: Flexibility Needed to Recruit, Retain Older Workers, HR News, November 2010 

SHRM Urges Employers to Embrace Workplace Flexibility, HR News, July 2010

Related Resources:

SHRM/FWI Partnership Announcement

SHRM Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

Work-Life Focus 2012 and Beyond Conference

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