Author is Michael Coates, president and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Americas. This article was first published on The Huffington Post.
The search for work-life balance — a quest for many in the workplace — is a mythical search for that perfect line separating how much we work from how much time we spend on personal activities. While making sure to give time for yourself and family is the right motivation behind the division, this strict differentiation between “work” and “life” wrongly treats them as separate entities.
The reality is that work is very much a part of life. We spend more than 50 per cent of our waking time working, so instead of looking for a “balance,” companies need to strive for policies that help employees better blend the two and move seamlessly between work and life and back again.
When we asked our employees what we can do to support them, the idea of “work-life blend” really resonated. Our employees are dedicated to providing excellent client service, which they know can require their focus and attention outside of traditional business hours. So a traditional approach to work-life wasn’t a feasible solution for us or for them.
“Traditional” wasn’t enough when it came to policies designed for working families, either. A new generation has made its values known in our workforce, with more men and women leaning in to their jobs and their families, and more working parents filling our leadership ranks. We knew we could do more to help our people be there for their clients and colleagues and still attend doctor’s appointments, soccer games and school visits.
That’s why we moved forward in 2014 with what we call H+K Inside and H+K Outside — a set of policy commitments to our people to support them inside our walls and help them have time for what’s important to them outside those walls.
Our Inside policies focus on things like training, mentoring, office exploration opportunities and recognizing strong performance. Our Outside policies focus on things like fitness reimbursements, an expanded holiday calendar, flexible work schedules and the ability for all employees to work remotely one day a week.
One particularly notable element of our Outside: Kids commitment is an industry-leading parental leave policy that gives 16 fully paid weeks of leave for birth moms and 10 for all parents — dads, partners and adoptive parents — with none of it coming from sick leave or vacation time.
Our efforts to better blend work and life were welcomed by our employees — but would turnover, one of the perpetual challenges facing large PR firms, change? After looking at the data from the first full year of these policies, I am happy to say that it has.
Our employee-retention rate jumped five points from 2014 to 2015. And we saw double-digit jumps in the rate of employees who said they would recommend Hill+Knowlton Strategies as a good place to work, who feel valued as employees and who are proud to work here.
The importance of our employees’ happiness and engagement cannot be overstated. In the communications industry in particular, we provide not only our services but also the creativity, ingenuity and insights of our staff. The more we can do to help our people be at their best, the more our clients benefit, and the more stability and consistency we all enjoy.
We’re already celebrating the business impact of this initiative. And now that human resources authority WorldatWork has recognized Hill+Knowlton Strategies U.S. with its Work-Life Seal of Distinction for 2016, we have even more cause for celebration.
Companies that still consider people-first policies as simply perks or as pandering to a millennial mindset would be wise to take a look at the business impact data. We’re certainly pleased with ours.