Three (Working Mother) Resolutions for the New Year

If you’ve downloaded the Working Mother 100 Best Companies application and it’s moved from your inbox to the center of your desk, you may be fighting rising panic just about now. All those questions! All that data! How will you match the titles and job categories used at your organization with the titles and categories used in the application? How will you calculate spending for your work-life programs? Who can you ask about the history of succession planning at your firm?

And then there are the really tough questions. How many employees are telecommuting? How many use flextime? How many men vs. women participated in mentoring last year? What about affinity groups? How many dependents used back-up child care?

For some organizations, the heartsick feeling as you look at these questions will be about how you will gather these numbers. For others, it may be about what these numbers look like; despite your best efforts, participation hasn’t always been what you’d hoped.

So, since it’s that time of year, why not resolve to make this the last year you have to face this? Allow me to suggest three New Year’s Resolutions worth sticking to:

1. Start tracking. Or at least get the systems in place so you can start the tracking soon. There are all sorts of ways to do this; your solution will depend quite a bit on your organization’s size, structure and culture. You can make it a part of managers’ jobs to collect data. You can build tracking into the flexible work proposal  process. You can even hire out for help. One consultant that has recently added a customized tracking tool to his resources is Rupert and Company.

Tracking usage of all sorts of programs—not just flexible work arrangements—sends a message that you take these programs seriously. It also helps you build your business case for maintaining and growing programs and policies. That’s one of the reasons the folks at Working Mother ask for all this data. One of their stated goals is to: “challenge corporate America to better serve its working mothers.” You can’t manage what you can’t measure, as they say.

2. Promote, promote, promote. Like everyone else on the planet, your employees have got too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Like most of us, they delete a lot of email unread, sort through interoffice deliveries faster than you can say “recycle bin” and routinely ignore fliers and posters. When it comes to certain HR and work-life programs, you’ve got the added problem that they don’t need the resource you’re  promoting—until they do. 

All this means that the adage about saying it, saying it again, and saying it a third time  is even more true when it comes to communicating what your organization has to offer in the way of work-life programs and benefits. Resolve now not only to keep the communications coming, but to keep them creative. One organization posts entertaining intranet profiles of employees making dramatic use of flexible work arrangements. Another has a running soap opera featuring characters who take advantage of the company’s programs and policies to support them in their over-the-top life crises. Consider applying some tricks of the marketplace, too, like the company that periodically offers no-copay months for its back-up dependent care program.

3. Collect stories. Unlike some of the other “best employer” applications out there, Working Mother doesn’t go directly to your employees to ask them what they think. That means, you’ve got to do it for them. Telling a story about how one of your programs or policies made a difference in an employee’s life paints a picture like no amount of data can do. Quoting a satisfied customer makes your claims credible. Gathering stories can also be a handy evaluation tool, providing you with insight into what’s most useful in your offerings—and how, in turn, you can do a better job promoting them. (See above.)

So resolve now to turn your attention to collecting stories. Set up an online forum. Design a survey. Distribute flip cameras to local HR managers. Have a contest. Yes, you’re looking for true stories, but that shouldn’t stop you from applying all your creativity to gathering them.

Questions? Need some help with the Working Mother application process—or with your Working Mother-related New Year’s Resolutions? Let me know how I can help.*  And check back for upcoming blogs with more tips.

*If you tried to contact me through a link like this in my previous blog—my apologies. A technical glitch ate all such comments. I promise to get back to you this time.

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