By Michael Gunther

I recently discovered an article in Human Resource Management Journal titled, Explaining Organizational Responsiveness to Work-Life Balance Issues by Jing Wang and Anil Verma. This article focused on evaluating the implementation of Work-Life Balance programs in organizations and industries. The researchers defined organizations as either ‘cost strategy’ organizations or ‘product strategy’ organizations. Cost strategy firms focus on cost reductions as their main business strategy – how can you get higher utilization and production at the lowest cost? Product strategy firms focus on differentiation as their central concentration to assess innovation, discovery and flexibility.

Along with the core strategy methodologies, the research team evaluated the presence of high-performance work systems. High-performing management practices include skill development, employee involvement, team engagement, and industry concentration.

The firms with a ‘product strategy’ focus that had high-performance work systems in place not only encouraged work-life balance programs, but those programs had positive impact on their culture and the profit of those firms. There was a consistent trend of outperforming their competitors and staying ahead of industry trends and changes. Turnover was minimal as well as a significant increase of individuals wanting to be a part of these firms. One firm had over 1,400 people apply for 49 positions – this same firm had very little turnover compared to their industry.

Work-life balance programs tied in with high-performance work programs and a ‘product strategy’ focus can truly give an organization a competitive edge. This competitive advantage was only present where the senior management teams truly embraced and supported their organization’s work-life balance programs. The leadership teams may or may not participate themselves, but they support their employees that take advantage of the work-life balance philosophy. Interestingly, the majority of the employees valued these programs, but only about a third of the employees actually participated in them.

In contrast, the firms with a ‘cost strategy’ approach may or may not offer wellness programs. The leadership teams at these firms didn’t believe work-life balance programs had a positive impact to the bottom line; therefore, the programs were rarely supported by leadership and not very successful. In my mind, it is almost like putting lipstick on a pig.

Bottom Line

As a leadership team, it is not enough just to have a work-life balance philosophy or programs. If the leadership of the organization doesn’t truly support or apply these concepts themselves, the value of these programs in terms of benefiting the bottom line and the overall company will fall to the way side.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family and his belief in creating a growth company with a work-to-live mentality has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. 

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