Human Resource Management Lesson 8
Q: With reference to your own experience, critically evaluate the idea that there is a business case for family friendly working practices
Late 1980-ies brought significant changes in the way the old Personnel departments were transformed into Human Resource Departments. The reason for this was deregulation and ever increasing competition in the market.
Family friendly working practices in most companies may be seen in both external and internal context. The external context determines the broader political and economical environment that has direct influence on how companies operate. In my experience the general state of the economy and the political environment will have direct influence on the way we are conducting business with IBM or the other companies that I've worked for. Therefore, the appropriate behavior in economically favorable times is not as accepted in times of recession. Another important factor for family friendly working practices is the Legal context in which the company is operating. Many important aspects of employment are determined by broader legislation which may be National- and/or European. The unemployment rates and the general condition of the labor market will also have a significant impact on family friendly working practices. From my experience from working in the Nordics I would also like to add the cultural context that may differ from country to country.
The internal context covers the company's internal structure and management practices. In the Joint Venture that I work for there is a strong ethical framework for equality and equal opportunity for all employees. Regulations regarding equal opportunities regardless of race, gender, sex, disability and national origin are strongly encouraged and all eventual deviations are promptly addressed. There is an extensive framework in line with Dickens (1994) that presents a business case with benefits for the organisation through promotion of diversity. All first line managers are instructed in observing these and actively working on implementation of these in their teams. Besides company regulations in the Nordics there is a strong Trade Union involvement regarding the prevention of discrimination and promotion of equality in the working place.
At the same time there are some improvements to be made regarding the possibility for employees to work part time and to have a greater number of employees with disabilities. There are still relatively few female managers although this partly may be explained by the fact that the IT business in largely male dominated. In our Joint Venture there is a great stress on work-life balance and the importance of this balance for job satisfaction. This varies somewhat from country to country in the Nordics, but generally both women and men enjoy extensive welfare benefits connected to child-birth and in case of disease in family. Another notable benefit are the shorter working hours compared to most other countries, which on one side give more spare time to employees but on the other increase efficiency and motivation at work. Contrary to many beliefs the efficiency in the Nordic countries are among the highest in the World even though the working hours are generally shorter than in many other countries. There is also extensively used possibility to work from the home office which is widely used by all employees including managers. This is also supportive of the business case that such family friendly working practices are beneficial to company’s long term goals and its ultimate success in the marketplace.