Term Paper: Harmonizing Personal and Professional Balance

Pages: 35 (9493 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Economics  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Also the employers at the same time have recognized that given the current state of the labor market, with high unemployment, few shortages of labor and emergence of trade unions, they have to be strong and solid to handle the pressures to achieve a more flexible workforce.

The 1980s and 1990s exposed many employers to an increase in 'market pressure'. The employers during this period faced competition because of the increase in privatization, concentration and globalization. The customers now began to exercise choice more aggressively. Shareholders became increasingly impatient for their quick and profitable return on their investments. Now the focus of the organizations shifted towards ensuring the flexible delivery of goods and services onto the shoulders of their workforce.

The question was what kind of flexibility were these organizations demanding from their workforce? Since the 1980s there has been a lot of talk about flexibility. What does the term flexibility actually mean? It is an immensely complex and highly-debated topic. The term is used in a variety of overlapping senses. There are a number of classifications available for flexible work arrangements. The various types of flexible work arrangements are functional flexibility, numerical flexibility, temporal flexibility, locational flexibility, and financial flexibility. The table below classifies the various forms of flexibilities and explains the aims for each with examples.

Table 1.1

Type

Definition/Aims

Examples

Functional allows firms to allocate labor across traditional functional boundaries multi-skilling, cross-functional working, task flexibility

Numerical allows variation in the number of employees or workers used temporary, seasonal, casual, agency, fixed-term workers, outsourcing

Temporal

Represents variability of working hours, either in a regular or irregular pattern.

Part time, annual hours, shift, overtime, voluntary reduced hours, flextime, zero hours arrangements

Locational involves using employees outside the normal workplace including transfer of work to back offices

Home, mobile, tele/outworkers

Financial

Allows pay bill to rise and fall in line with corporate performance

Gain sharing, profit sharing, variable executive pay schemes, wage cutting deals

Functional flexibility is sought so that employees can be redeployed quickly and smoothly between activities and tasks. This might mean that deployment of multi-skilled craftsmen moving between mechanical and electrical and pneumatic jobs; it might mean moving workers between indirect and direct production of jobs; it might mean completely changing the form of the career. Functional flexibility means that as the products and the production methods change, functional flexibility implies that the same labour force changes with them, in both the short and medium term.

Numerical flexibility is sought so that the headcount can be easily increased or decreased in line with even short-term changes in the demand for labour. Implementation of the higher and fire policies becomes much easier and allows variation in the number of employees and workers used.

Temporal flexibility represents variability of working hours, either in a regular or irregular pattern and includes part-time, annual hours, shift, overtime, voluntary reduced hours, flextime, and zero hours arrangements.

Locational flexibility involves using employees outside the normal workplace including transfer of work to back offices.

Financial flexibility is sought to for two reasons. First, so that pay and other employment costs reflect the state of supply and demand in the external labour market. Its significance lies in the relativities and differentials between groups of worker than in an across-the-board push to reduce wages. Its implications include a continued shift to plant level bargaining and widening differentials between skilled and unskilled worker. Secondly pay flexibility means a shift to new pay and remuneration systems that facilitate either numerical or functional flexibility, such as assessment-based pay systems in place of rate -for-the-job systems.

The Flexible Firm

This is a model of organization that was developed by the former Institute of Manpower Studies in the U.K during the 1980s. It represents an organizational structure which many in the U.K are trying to introduce. The new structure involved the break-up of the labour force into increasingly peripheral and therefore numerically flexible groups of workers, clustered about a numerically stable core group which will conduct the organization's key, firm specific activities. Hence the workforce composed of 'Core' and 'Peripheral' workforces. Core workers were the full time permanent career employees having full range of benefits and job security, taking care of the organization's key functions. 'Peripheral workers' on the other hand were split into three categories a) Regular employees engaged in relatively low-skill, routine work (example: back office administration in banking). Fairly low pay and insecure - the next wave of technology can eliminate the need for these people.

A b) Contingent employees working on high-skill tasks, perhaps on short-term contracts or projects. High pay, no job security but this is compensated for by the freedom to pick and choose projects.

A c) Low-skill, low pay contract workers often provided by an agency for cleaning, routine security, catering, etc.

At the core the emphasis is on functional flexibility, shifting to the periphery, numerical flexibility becomes more important. As the market grows the periphery expands to take up the slack; as growth slows, the periphery contracts. At the core only the tasks and responsibilities change; workers here are insulated from medium term fluctuations of the market, where as those in the periphery are, more exposed to them. What is driving the demand for a flexible labour market? The changing business environment and changing social environment as well as the changing government policy environment is driving the demand for a flexible labor market.

Flexible working refers to work patterns and arrangements based on the need to optimize the organizational output and customer satisfaction and staff expertise and effectiveness. It is basically an employer driven agenda. According to the trends among the employers to provide family oriented benefits and policies, over the last few years it has been suggested that a good name for the 1990s could be the family friendly decade. Over the past decade, there has been an increasing interest shown by the firms to adopt family friendly employment and achieve work-life balance, and hence large number of organizations has taken action to develop policies which offer their employees more flexibility at work.

The policies typically offer some support to the employees at times of stress or pressure in combining employment with parental or caring responsibilities.My dissertation about specific kinds of flexibility, those which can be described as 'family friendly '. It is hence the family friendly working practices which is the main focus of this dissertation.

REVIEW OF BACKGROUND LITERATURE

Simkin and Hillage (1992, pp. 13) defined family-friendly policies as 'a formal or informal set of terms and conditions which are designed to enable an employee to combine family responsibilities with employment'.

Forth et al. (1997) extended this definition, making the point that it is possible to distinguish between a 'focused' and 'unfocussed' form of provision. A focused provision is directed towards helping the particular group of parents with young children while an unfocused provision could benefit a wider range of employees with different needs, including the fulfillment of care for elderly relatives (Forth et al., 1997, pp. 4-5). An abstract definition of family-friendly working offered by Hacker suggested that 'Family-friendly policies are about balance, synergy and equity for the employee' (Harker, 1996, p.47).

The conception of balance, synergy and equity is thought to be important (Donaldson, 1996). The terminology used to describe family-friendly working is now the subject of debate (Lewis and Lewis, 1996). According to Moss (1996), the term 'reconciliation' is more useful than 'family-friendly' as it encompasses the conflict of interests between the employer and the worker. To some extent, the terms family-friendly workplace and "family-friendly employer" refer to a workplace that acknowledges and responds to the work and personal/family responsibilities assumed by employees.

Strachan and Burgess (1998) note, 'family friendly workplace' is one which develops and implements policies that allow employees to simultaneously fulfill work and family responsibilities." (p. 251). The concept of a family-friendly workplace is mostly conceptualized as a continuum, rather than a dichotomous variable. Fletcher and Rapport (1996) prefer the term 'work-life initiative' derived from the American literature. The term 'family-friendly' is used throughout this paper. There is in the literature, therefore, a recognition that not all flexible-working arrangements will be genuinely friendly to families and that the introduction of flexible policies has been for a variety of motives.

Kingston (1990) states that the concept of family friendly arrangements, generally refers to 'two main types of personnel policy. He says on one hand they include additions to fringe benefits like child care arrangements or parental leave and on the other hand they include modifications in typical work schedules such as flexi time, part time work or job sharing.

According to Laura Den Duck, Anneke and Joop Schippers, (1999), Family friendly policies are defined as 'Facilities that intentionally as well as unintentionally, support the combination of paid work and family responsibilities'. There are four types of arrangements which are distinguished. First are the flexible working patterns like part time work, flexible working hours and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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