2012 'Bold New Ideas' Guide Highlights Workplace Flex Success

Practices by award-winning companies influenced by recession and aided by technology; special focus on meeting military families' needs

By SHRM Online staff Nov 9, 2011

Fueled by technology and the recession, leading companies are focusing on their employees' measurable work results rather than face time in the office, according to the newly released 2012 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work.

The 2012 Guide, published by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM),highlights the practices of the winners of the 2011 Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility—from Turner Construction Co.’s “TurnerTalk” project management software that allows employees to use flexible work arrangements, to McGladrey’s “Declaration of Flexibility” that guarantees flexible work options such as FlexYear, which permits employees to work a schedule similar to a teacher’s.

The Sloan Award is part of When Work Works, a research-based initiative by FWI and SHRM to highlight the effectiveness of workplace flexibility. The 2012 Guide features 450 award-winning worksites representing a variety of industries across the U.S. To be selected as a winner, applicants had to score in the top 20 percent of employers nationally. Two-thirds of the score comes from employees, who are surveyed as a part of the process.

The 2012 Guide was released at the SHRM-FWI Work-Life Focus: 2012 and Beyond conference Nov. 8-10, 2011, in Washington, D.C., and is available for purchase from the SHRMStore.

“Workplace flexibility practices are becoming more widespread, but they aren’t one-size-fits-all,” said Ellen Galinsky, FWI’s president. “This year’s Sloan winners show that companies are embracing ‘flexible flexibility,’ respecting employees to get work done where and when they choose.”

Savvy Use of Technology

Technology was cited by almost every company profiled in the 2012 Guide as a tool that allows them to focus on employees’ results. Best tech practices included enabling more employees to work from home by distributing more laptops and software for remote access; using electronic scheduling software to assist managers, supervisors and employees with flexible scheduling (for example, enabling employees to self-schedule and request days off remotely); and allowing routine administrative paperwork to be handled remotely.

Thriving in Tough Times

The move toward more adaptable flexibility has been fueled in part by the recession, the 2012 Guide shows. “Flexibility is a business strategy that has helped save jobs, diminished work pressures for employees, and improved employee morale and engagement during turbulent times," commented SHRM President and CEO Henry G. “Hank” Jackson, who added, "These Sloan Award-winning companies are thriving more than most.”

Meeting Veterans' Needs

Despite their skills sets and confidence in their ability to put their military experience to good use in civilian jobs, many U.S. veterans are unemployed. According to news reports, unemployment among recent veterans grew to 13.3 percent by June 2011, more than 4 percentage points higher than the national average in the U.S.

For the first time, in 2011 applicants for the Sloan Award were asked how they were meeting the needs of military veterans and their families. The 2012 Guide details how some employers responded with innovative and generous initiatives. Among the practices shared, employers:

  • Helped veterans identify marketable job skills they have developed in the military and conduct searches for civilian jobs that require their most advanced skills.
  • Provided reduced hours for employees with disabilities and returning veterans to help accommodate personal needs and ease return-to-work transitional issues.
  • Offered financial counseling, educational support, mentoring and wellness services for returning veterans and support for military families.
  • Allowed leave for employees who needed to care for family members who had incurred serious injury or illness in the line of duty or who had other urgent needs.
  • Provided administrative support to help veterans and their families file necessary paperwork to apply for grants, benefits or services from other organizations.

New Report on Support for Service Members and Families

Also to be released at the Work-Life Focus: 2012 and Beyond conference is a new SHRM-FWI report, Employer Support for the Military Community. The report highlights in greater detail many of the best practices of the Sloan Award winners regarding active service members, returning veterans and military families. In addition, it provides a review of federal laws that establish a national base line of support that most U.S. employers are required to offer—including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—and notes how some employers allow employees and their families to continue accessing benefits and services, such as health insurance or child care, after the period covered by these laws has expired.

The report encourages employees to consider integrating the protections and supports they offer (legally mandated and voluntary) into their benefits policies and employee handbooks, as "this creates a single, coherent explanation of the options available to the military community at each workplace and avoids the confusion of trying to integrate multiple documents, laws and precedents during a stressful event. It also helps civilian co-workers and managers to better understand the system their military peers are working with to avoid miscommunication and enhance their support for their military co-workers."

Related Article:

Colonel Urges Employers to Embrace Veterans; Report Details Innovative Ways, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, November 2011

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits Discipline

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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