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Facing the loss of a star worker, company owner did ‘180’
ago, when Dallas-based Ryan LLC’s new HR manager approached her CEO about
giving workers flexible work schedules, he balked.
after one employee with great potential—Kristi Bryant—said she had to resign because
she planned to start a family, the same CEO did “a complete 180,” said Delta Emerson, executive
vice president and chief of staff at Ryan LLC, a corporate tax advisory
“We credit her with
being the final straw,”
Emerson, who described Ryan’s transition to workplace flexibility during a
Monday session at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition.
January 2008, CEO G. Brint Ryan told Emerson that she could engineer a program
employees to work anywhere, anytime.
“Companies that cling to traditional approaches to
managing the workforce are behind the curve,” said Emerson, whose session was
titled “Pursuing Excellence: Abandoning
Face Time and Hours for a Result Focus.”“It is
a business imperative to break artificial, outdated workplace constraints and
to respect the needs of both the organization and the people” who work there.
Making It Work
had six months to create a program that would ensure that, in exchange for
flexibility and freedom, employees would be accountable for producing results.
got a laptop and the capability to log into the office network remotely. Exempt
employees were no longer asked to track their hours. Employees could work where
and when they felt they were most efficient and productive, but they also had
to be available and responsive to client needs.
the help of an in-house committee, Emerson designed a new metrics system that
no longer measured performance by the number of hours worked—which was Ryan’s
old model—but on client satisfaction scores, performance appraisal marks and
profitability, among other things. All metrics had to be quantifiable, weighted,
consistently updated and monitored, and consolidated in one place so they could
be easily viewed.
first, employees accustomed to rigid office hours had to
overcome the guilt they felt about rolling into the office at 11 a.m. because
they’d stayed up past midnight working on a project.
“It felt really weird,” said
Emerson, noting that employees worried they’d be judged for showing up late, or
not coming into the office at all some days. “But now, when someone comes in at
10:40 … it doesn’t even run through the mind.”
Ryan’s flexible-work program was in place, a 2008 survey showed that while employees
liked the company, their jobs and the CEO, only slightly more than half said
they wanted to work there a long time. Barely 2 in 5 said they felt the company
encouraged them to balance their work and personal lives.
more than 8 in 10 say they want to work at Ryan a long time. More than 9 in 10
say the company encourages them to balance their work and personal lives.
Ryan’s workforce has more than doubled, turnover has decreased by half—well
below financial services industry benchmarks, revenue has doubled, and client
satisfaction ratings are at an all-time high of 97.8 percent.
Bryant—the manager who planned to quit to start a family? She remains at Ryan,
has had two children, and was just promoted to a position as principal in the company.
Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for
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