Work/Life Issues


Corporate Voices for Working Families’ 2013 Annual Partners Meeting put the spotlight last week  on corporate leadership beyond the workplace, providing presentations rich in content, lively discussions and opportunities for attendees to network with other business leaders and policymakers.

The meeting provided a forum to examine and discuss a host of critical workforce readiness and work/life issues that are critically important to Corporate Voices’ partner companies. These included how employment pathways for younger workers just entering the world of work can benefit employees and employers; the opportunities and challenges in employer engagement in higher education; how demographic changes are reshaping the economic and political landscapes; new thinking in workplace diversity and corporate wellness; and how responsible corporate leaders can – and must – engage in national efforts to foster job creation and stronger economic growth.

ImageJim Quigley, CEO Emeritus of Deloitte, gave one of the keynote presentations, demonstrating how critical it is for business leaders to lead by example and foster a culture of values and respect. Quigley, co-author of As One: Individual Action, Collective Power, led the audience on a “conversation on leadership.”

“As leaders I would challenge you to consider whether the conditions for success are in place,” he said. “Have we created clarity about our key goals? Can we communicate these ideas in a way that we can be successful?”

Dr. Michael Dimock, Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, led the second keynote presentation. He engaged the audience with a discussion of values, demographics, generations and technology, highlighting how policymakers need to forge Imagesolutions to the significant problems facing our nation and working families – while spotlighting the importance for business leaders, and the businesses they represent, to engage in a manner that fosters job creation and stronger economic growth.

Among the takeaways from Dimock’s presentation was a point relevant to public policy work: Pew research indicates that American public opinion on values hasn’t changed over the years, but the extent of political partisanship has changed significantly.

One of the many highlights of the Annual Meeting was a 90-minute briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building that was organized exclusively for Corporate Voices by the White House staff. During the briefing, members of the Obama Administration shared their insights and perspectives on current and planned initiatives involving the jobs, training, education, economic and health and wellness issues of interest to our partner companies.

During the briefing, Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, said, “From the start of this Administration, Corporate Voices for Working Families has been a great partner on important issues.”

Corporate Voices’ Annual Partners Meeting – with generous sponsorship provided by Baxter International, KPMG, The TJX Companies, Johnson & Johnson, Ryan and SelectPlus — was held March 20-22, at the Loews Madison Hotel, Washington, D.C.

To view all presentations from this year’s Annual Meeting, please click here.

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Yahoo!The decision by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to end the option for Yahoo! employees to work at home should matter to all working families and businesses. In one move by a highly visible executive and company, the decision threatens advances made over the last several decades in the workplace that have benefited working families and strengthened the competitiveness of American businesses. At the same time, Mayer’s decision underscores that workplace flexibility works when employers and workers benefit – and if it isn’t working for one side, flexibility may not be right for that company.

Both extensive Corporate Voices for Working Families’ research and the policies of our best-practice companies point to the fact that workplace flexibility options make a big difference for employees and their families and for the businesses that adopt these policies as a strategic management imperative. When companies provide options that help employees strike a balance between work and family, morale and productivity increases – and businesses benefit from less turnover and a more dedicated and productive workforce. Likewise, businesses find that these policies are critical management tools that enhance recruitment, retention, engagement, cost control, productivity, and ultimately, financial performance.

Businesses, working on behalf of all stakeholders, must continue to take the lead to promote and implement programs and policies that improve the lives of working families, while making our economy more vigorous and our nation more prosperous. When a prominent company such as Yahoo! turns back the clock on a flexible work option like working from home (that we know benefits working families and the business bottom line), it helps to create an environment ripe for new federal and state government employer mandates. That’s a setback for those businesses that strategically manage their organizations in the best interests of their employees and their own profitability and competitiveness.

Yahoo! is in a tough business, and the company’s stated desire to foster greater innovation and teamwork across its workforce is certainly laudable. Yet in our view, Mayer didn’t have to pick between telecommuting and better performance, when a management strategy promoting workplace flexibility would have given her both outcomes.

Corporate Voices’ research studies and best-practice case studies concerning flexible work options are available at http://www.cvworkingfamilies.org/publications/workplaceflex

Across corporate America, workplace wellness efforts are increasingly recognized as smart business investments.  And for some companies, health and wellness includes helping employees nurture healthy family relationships at home.

Is your company among them?  Corporate Voices is leading a research project on the role businesses can play in promoting healthy relationships and the potential benefits associated with these efforts in the workplace.  We would love to know more about your company’s practices.  Please assist us by answering a few brief questions by clicking the link below.

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e6x8e1iehc10swk2/start

Your responses are strictly confidential, and will help advance new research in this field. Thank you for your valuable input.

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week and Corporate Voices wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the work we have done in this area.  With recent changes in federal laws surrounding breastfeeding in the workplace, Corporate Voices worked with Abbott Nutrition and Working Mother Media to develop the Workplace Lactation Toolkit. It gives employers high-quality resources and tools to comply with this new federal requirement, and to help them establish successful workplace lactation programs that work for all workers, including lower-wage and hourly employees. You can access the toolkit here: http://corporatevoices.org/lactation

And keep a look out for a new lactation toolkit from Corporate Voices and Abbott for military families: the Military Lactation Toolkit, which will have specific information for each branch of the military regarding breastfeeding and pumping policies.

Best Companies for Hourly Workers

Corporate Voices is delighted by the news that four of its partner companies were honored with Working Mother Media’s Best Companies for Hourly Workers Award at the 2012 National Conference Supporting Hourly Workers on May 18.  We applaud Bon Secours Virginia Health System,  Capital OneMarriott International and Sodexo for their outstanding work, which has resulted in this honor.  Our partner companies are joined by this year’s other honorees: Best Buy, Cricket Communications, Hilton Worldwide, Pet Smart, Target, University of New Mexico Hospitals, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and Valassis Communications.

At last week’s conference, Peggy Walton, Senior Director, Workforce Readiness, facilitated a breakout working group that discussed flex solutions for education, training and development.  Highlighted in the session were two Best Companies for Hourly Workers awardees, Valassis and University of New Mexico Hospitals, both of which have best-practice programs that support education attainment and talent development.

When Corporate Voices initiated the Best Companies for Hourly Workers recognition in partnership with Working Mother Media, the goal was to highlight those companies that set the standard for best practices for hourly workers.  Clearly, these winning organizations do just that.  They offer hourly workers benefits such as health insurance and company-matching 401(k)s, as well as paid vacation and sick days, tuition assistance, flexible spending accounts and flexible work schedules.

Over the course of the last quarter century, the dialogue about opportunity and social mobility in America has fundamentally changed. Now, the dialogue centers not on opportunities for upward social mobility, but on consequences and how certain groups are experiencing downward mobility from the middle class. This is the main subject of a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts called, “Downward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking Up from the American Dream.”

The study finds that a third of Americans who were raised in the middle class have fallen down the income ladder as adults. This downward social mobility is driven by factors such as education, marital status, test scores, drug use, gender and race. Namely, those most likely to experience downward mobility are:

  • Men and women who are divorced or never married;
  • Men and women who do not obtain education beyond high school;
  • Those who receive low scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT); and
  • Those engaged in heavy drug use.

Among white men and women, women were more likely to be downwardly mobile than men, and African-American men raised in middle class families were 17 percentage points more likely to fall from the middle class than white men raised in the middle.

The survey tracked Americans from youth into adulthood—the data focused on people who were middle-class teenagers in 1979 and who were between 39 and 44 years old in 2004 and 2006. It defined people as middle-class if they fell between the 30th and 70th percentiles in income distribution. For a family of four, that’s between $32,900 and $64,000 a year in 2010 dollars. If people fell below the 30th percentile in income, they were considered downwardly mobile.

Noteworthy is that the most important factor accounting for racial differences in the mobility gap were average test scores, highlighting the importance of education and the link between education and economic stability.

As the Pew study notes,

 “A key element of the American Dream is that each generation will exceed the living standards and economic position of the one that came before it. At the very least, parents want to ensure that their own economic position will transfer to their children.”

The findings of the Pew study, however, upend that dream, and shed light on the sober reality that many Americans are experiencing: it is becoming increasingly more difficult to enter and stay in the middle class. This downward mobility, and the “unraveling” of the middle class, is a trend that other studies, such as one published by the national policy group Demos, are confirming.

As more Americans find themselves falling down the income ladder, businesses can play a positive role in helping lower-wage workers maintain economic stability. By educating workers about tax credits and other benefits that they have earned, supporting low-wage workers in managing their work-life balance, and by supporting nursing mothers at work, employers can help lower-income workers retain more of their income and improve their quality of life.

Corporate Voices for Working Families has published practical toolkits to help employers, in turn, help their hourly workers, recognizing that policies and practices to do so positively affect the business bottom-line. In fact, the following toolkits published by Corporate Voices help businesses improve their recruitment and retention rates, employee productivity and engagement levels and help lower health care costs.

  • The 2010 Employer Guide: this guide provides businesses with practical tools, like paycheck stuffers, posters and a guidebook that provides information about the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Medicaid and other benefits.
  • Healthy Babies Make Happy Moms, and Excellent Employees!: This online workplace lactation toolkit gives employers practical information about new federal workplace lactation provisions, and how they can implement lactation programs to support nursing mothers in hourly positions. Including things like employer talking points, a lactation room checklist and breastfeeding resources for new moms, this toolkit supports a mother’s choice to breastfeed while also helps businesses engage a key segment of the labor force.
  • Workplace Flexibility Toolkits for Hourly Employees and Managers: This set of toolkits help managers effectively implement flexible work arrangements (FWAs) for hourly workers. They also help workers assess what kind of flexibility they need and give them useful tips on how to request an FWA.

At a time when the middle class is struggling with the challenges of high unemployment, the rising costs of health care, child care and college tuition, and when many Americans are finding themselves sliding out of the middle class, it is helpful to remember ways that businesses can play a role in improving the lives of working families.

Note: Corporate Voices encourages employers to use its toolkits free of charge. Re-branding opportunities, however, are only available to Corporate Voices partner companies.

Obama Administration proposes new jobs initiative for veterans, including tax credits for employers.

Overshadowed by the recent heated negotiations over America’s debt-ceiling and deficit reduction measures, over the past weeks a litany of reports announcing critical economic indicators have painted a grim picture of our fragile economic recovery. The Commerce Department reported that GDP growth in the second quarter of 2011 was only 1.3 percent, while first quarter growth was revised down to 0.4 percent. At the same time, consumer spending—which fuels over half of our economic growth—fell in June for the first time in two years. The July jobs report, released Friday, showed lackluster growth in the jobs market, reporting that only 117,000 jobs were created last month. This is a fraction of the number needed on a monthly basis to significantly reduce unemployment to pre-recession levels.

Amidst these alarming indicators, the Obama administration is swiftly pivoting to the key issue of job creation. At the Washington Navy Yard on Friday, President Obama announced a series of measures to spur job creation for America’s veterans—a segment of the population that faces unique challenges re-integrating into civilian life and the workforce. There are approximately one million unemployed veterans today, with the jobless rate for post 9/11 veterans at 13.3 percent, higher than the national average. Matt Flavin, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and current Director of the White House Veterans, Military Families and Wounded Warrior Task Force said in a blog post last week,

“We have an obligation to make sure our veterans are able to navigate this difficult labor market and success in the civilian workforce.”

That is why President Obama announced his targeted plan to help ensure that veterans have a place in the workforce, and that employers understand the value of hiring veterans. The plan builds on Joining Forces, the national initiative to support military families spearheaded by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden, and proposes the following business incentives:

  • A new Returning Heroes Tax Credit for 2012 and 2013 for hiring unemployed veterans, with a maximum of $2,400 for every unemployed veteran hired and a maximum of $4,800 for hiring a veteran  who has been unemployed for six months or longer; and
  • A two-year extension of a Wounded Warrior Tax Credit that gives businesses a credit for hiring veterans with service-related disabilities (maximum of $4,800 per veteran), and increases the credit for firms that hire veterans with service-related disabilities who have been unemployed for six months or longer (maximum credit of $9,600). This credit currently exists within the framework of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program.

A number of Corporate Voices’ partner companies, including AlliedBarton, Bank of America, Citi, CVS Caremark, TJX and Verizon Wireless already have existing hiring initiatives for military spouses and veterans. Best practice companies such as these serve as models for the wider business community and are testimony to the value of hiring highly skilled veterans.

As President Obama announced this jobs initiative, he said,

“Today we’re saying to our veterans: You fought for us, and now we’re fighting for you—for the jobs and the opportunities that you need to keep your families strong, and to keep America competitive in the 21st century.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a recipient of Corporate Voices’ 2010 Best of Congress Award, is sponsoring a similar bill that has companion legislation in the House, signaling that this initiative has bi-partisan support. Corporate Voices will continue to monitor progress on this hiring initiative for veterans and what it may mean for your business.

If you are a corporate partner of Corporate Voices and have a hiring initiative for veterans but were not mentioned in this post, please let us know so we can highlight your leadership in the future.

Read more about President Obama’s jobs initiative for veterans, including a challenge to the private sector and government-wide efforts to improve career training and education for veterans transitioning back into civilian life on the White House blog.

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