Workflex Conference: Just Do It!

We’re live-blogging from the Workflex Conference today.

“Our role in HR is find a way to say yes,” said Lora Geiger, director of human resources at TURCK Inc., an industrial automation manufacturer and winner of the Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.

Geiger spoke during the Workflex Conference’s session titled “Flexibility: A Critical Component in Becoming an Employer of Choice” and shared some of the secrets that got her employer the honor.

Finding a way to say yes to workplace flexibility in manufacturing isn’t as easy as offering telecommuting, for example, because many employees have to be onsite in order to do their jobs.

But you have to find ways to provide workers workflex, Geiger stressed, including offerings such as compressed work weeks, job sharing, even just adjusting stop and start times

Being creative is key. One example of TURCK’s creativity was a workflex option the company decided to give its workforce, including warehouse workers, who speak 30 different languages. Many of those workers wanted to visit families abroad but long journey would be difficult with limited amounts of vacation. Geiger said the company now offers extended sabbaticals to address their needs.

Another industry that poses challenges when it comes to workflex is healthcare, a problem Linda Martin, administrative director of Bon Secours Virginia Health Systems, also a Sloan winner, knows to well.

Operating room nurses are hard to find, she explained, and the average age of such workers is about 50. If they want flexibility you have to figure out how to make it work, she stressed.

Getting supervisors to buy in is one of the biggest challenges.

At Bon Secours there is some supervisor workplace flexibility fear factor. Managers know work needs to be done, she noted, and they want to know how as a team do you make it work?

One option the hospital system now offers nurses is the ability to retire but continue to work, if they choose, as much as they want.

Workplace initiatives at Bon Secours and TURCK have helped both employer cut employee turnover, and also boost employee engagement.

Geiger and Martin both offered some advice to employees looking to adopt new workplace programs or breathe life into existing ones.

Martin:

“Definitely having executives on board is critical to success on this. Do a lot of talking. Find somewhere where they’re willing to test it. Once you’ve done that, testimonials are important. When you can get the stories of people who had that opportunity and what it did for them. That really gets people interested. Managers are more willing to buy into it when they hear about successes.”

Geiger:

“Do a lot of listening to get the support, with the leaders as well. Consider the manager, they’re employees too. They feel the strain of doing more with less. Do this for yourself; you’re an employee trying to do this. Lead by example. If you’re taking care of yourself and able to show this is OK, more people will start doing this as well and you’ll be a better leader.

“Listen to managers and employees, especially with those people you know would be so critical if you lose them. They want to give their all. What can you do to eliminate the barriers that are getting in the way?”

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