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After my appointment as HR director in a public sector utility organization, I was given a task to implement family friendly working policies within the organization. One of my immediate concerns was establishing effective part-time policies. This would result in the change of organizational culture. Currently part-time workers are viewed as junior staff and are feeling marginalized within the organization. They are subjected to different working conditions in comparison to other workers who work on the full-time basis.
The organization views the full-time worker as an ideal worker. An ideal worker is viewed as the one who can work long hours or even work overtime. The ideal worker, therefore, has to be available to work when he/she is needed. The organization, therefore, targets individuals who do not have many outside commitments e. g. family responsibilities. When analyzing workforce composition of this organization, the culture of hiring individuals perceived to be “ideal workers” is evident. Women who are viewed by the society as having the biggest responsibility of bringing up children and being more involved in family duties are the minority in this organization. They form 20% of the entire workforce. This is an indication that recruitment department within the organization has been targeting men who have fewer roles outside the work commitment. Women may also have been discouraged from applying for positions in this organization due to poor family friendly policies. The average age of organization's employee, which is 44 years, explains whom the organization views as the “ideal worker”. These are men, who do not have many responsibilities apart from providing for their families. Men above 55 years form the biggest portion of the workforce.
Part-time policies in the organization are not effective. Cases of managers resisting introduction of policies in their departments have been occasioned. When these policies were implemented, employees felt that they were not beneficial. They felt that these policies were discriminatory and resulted in poor working conditions and poor pay. Workers felt that working part-time was like being demoted. Women who switched from full-time to part-time work in order to have time to cater for family responsibilities felt that the change caused them to experience significant stress. Those returning from maternity leave were forced to accept positions with less responsibility and a lower pay.
People working on part-time basis also complained about discrimination. The management did not offer them equal access to support from the management team as it was offered to full-time workers. They were also denied training, development, and promotion opportunities. Some people working part-time complained that their responsibilities required them to work full-time or overtime at times, however they were not compensated for that. They, however, endured the poor working conditions in order to maintain their jobs.
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The aim of this report is to show how the expression “ideal worker” in the organization is limiting its effectiveness. I also examines ways of correcting this expression in order to make the organization run effectively. This will be done by looking at human resource management policies that could be implemented within the organization. The policies that will be proposed should be instrumental in implementing successful part-time policies in the organization. This will create a flexible work-life policy that will improve productivity within the organization.
2. The ideal worker
The myth about the ideal worker seems to form the basis of an ideal worker within this organization. According to Aguilar (2012), an ideal worker gets up at 6:30 am and gets prepared for wok. He eats breakfast at home and leaves his family to go to work. During the day he is focused on work. He is always committed to his task, he is available to stay late or to go on a business trip when required. After working for a whole day, he goes back to his family. “The ideal worker is perpetually available, has no outside responsibilities or interests, rarely gets sick, and priorities work above all else.” This is the exact depiction of an ideal worker in this organization. The mythical expression of an ideal worker has resulted to men's domination of the workforce that accounts for 80%. According to the organization, an ideal worker should be focused to performing organizational task and responsibilities.
This image of the ideal worker is, however, disputed by current human resource management professionals. Hoopes (2012) refuted Aguilar's view of the ideal worker. She says that the description of the “ideal worker’ as a man prepared to work at 6:30 am, who takes his breakfast from home on his way to work where he spends the whole day is not a true representation of an ideal worker. According to her, this description best fits a male workaholic who has no time for human activities in his life. This description fits a man who neglects his family in order to please his employer. Though the aspect of having no time for family life is outdated, expectations of an employer from an ideal worker have common features with traditional expectations. The employer, for example, requires the worker to be "perpetually available, has no outside responsibilities or interests, rarely gets sick, and prioritizes work above all else" (Hoops 2012).
Employer's expectations of an ideal worker form the basis of employer’s definition of the “ideal worker”. Each organization, therefore, has its own specification of an ideal worker depending on what they expect from their workforce. An ideal worker in each and every organization is expected to have some specific characteristics. These characteristics include: positive attitude, dependability, willingness to work, productive use of time, and honesty. These modern descriptions and expectations of a modern worker show that the organization should stress the input that the employee makes to the organization rather than the number of hours he is at work (Lambert & Waxman 2005). Lack of these characteristics in an ideal worker may cause low productivity compared to the number of hours spent at work. For example, when an employee is dishonest or has no integrity, he/she might work slower than the standard pace. He may also ask coworkers to cover them when they are late. Others may also take extended breaks or rest-room visits (Inglish 2009). This, therefore, stresses the importance of changing the view of an ideal worker. It is more important to focus on the achievements of an individual worker rather than on the time he spent at work. Productivity in our organization should be based on pro-rata basis. This will help increase the effectiveness of the organization. This will reduce instances of dissatisfied employees who are working without enjoying what they do. The policies of the organization greatly affected the effectiveness as various members have aired their concerns and dissatisfaction with the way they are being treated. Some have complained about poor treatment after returning from maternity leave, while another person complains about being paid as low as a part-time worker while she has to work overtime.
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3. Part-time work policies
When developing and implementing flexible workplace policies, one should take into consideration employees' requirements as well the needs of the organization. A flexible organization or part-time policy should take care of the two main drivers of productivity: the worker and organization's goals and needs (Aguilar 2012). Looking at the diverse workforce at our organization and their involvement in two unions, it should be my goal as HR director to ensure that workers are comfortable with their working conditions. This will minimize conflicts between the organization and the two unions representing 60% of its workforce. A good work-life balance in our organization is one area that needs to be addressed to avoid such conflict. This is because all unions aim to ensure that their members are treated fairly and are given a chance to work without having to compromise their family commitments and wellbeing (UNISON 2008). Organization's description of its “ideal worker” and the way women returning from maternity leave are treated need to be changed.
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The organization should understand that people come from different backgrounds and should be given the right to be involved in their social life without a feeling of being discriminated at the work place. In this organization, the following procedures should be used to ensure flexibility and progression.
3.1. Identifying the problem.
One of the best ways to identify the problem is to perform a pay equity audit within the organization. This will show how many employees are working on the part-time basis or any other flexible working arrangement. The audit should take into consideration gender composition of part-time workers as well as distribution of part-time workers in different departments within the organization. The audit will help identify the barriers to a successful implementation of a flexible work force (Aguilar 2012).
3.2. Providing flexible working options.
Employees will opt for different working schedules based on their commitments and family responsibilities. To be a flexible working organization, options should be offered to employees without compromising productivity and goals of the organization. Family commitments and responsibilities of a worker should not be compromised as well. Flexible options should, therefore, aim at addressing the needs of organizations and the worker.
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4. Flexibility policy options
4.1. Part-time working.
This is a situation where an organization gives an employee the opportunity to work for few days or hours a week or where an employee is allowed to share a job with another employee. Part-time is aimed at reducing the workload of an employee. In most organizations, part-time is described as working for less than 35-40 hours per week. Part-time workers are mostly women who are estimated to represent about 70% of all part-time workers. Most women (about 45 % of them) want to work on a part-time basis in order to have a work-life balance. On the other hand, men choose to work part-time in order to have time to enhance their skills. Part-time is also appealing to people with “white collar’ occupations more than to their less educated and skilled “blue collar” workers (Harrington 2007).
4.2. Flexible time-table.
This allows workers to change the start and end of their working days. This can be done by making sure that an individual can chose time to work. The individual has to ensure that he works for as many hours as employer needs him to (Aguilar 2012).
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4.3. Home-based work.
This is also called telecommuting or teleworking. This is an arrangement where an employee works from home either full time, part-time, permanently, or on temporary basis (Mor Barak 2005).
4.4. Job sharing.
This is a situation where workers share job responsibilities amongst themselves. People sharing the job also share the pay that is allocated for the position (Aguilar 2012).
4.5. Compressed hours.
This allows a worker to choose how to meet the hourly requirement of his job. For example if he/she is required to work for 40 hours in one week, he may have the option of working 8 hours each day for five days or work 10 hours for four days. This allows the worker some time off during the week without getting a pay cut (Mor Barak 2005).
4.6. Term-time working.
The policy allows workers to work based on the contracted hours over a period of time. It can be availed to both full time and part-time workers.
5. Issues to address while implementing flexible work options
It is important to establish clear strategy and rules concerning the policies (Hopkins 2005). The organization should set up clear procedures and policies relating to part-time and flexible working arrangements. These procedures and principles should be made available to the entire workforce and administrators. The criteria of applying for part-time policies should also be open to all and be understood by all.
It is also important to ensure efficient communication. The staff should be informed about the policy and various options available at a time. New employees should also be provided with the information regarding the policies.
It is necessary to implement a culture that supports flexibility (Hopkins 2005). The management should be committed to supporting, managing, and implementing these policies. Sufficient resources needed to implement the policies should also be put in place. Such resources include the ones required for trainings and for educating the staff.
Employees and managers should also be able to work on mutual trust and respect. This will be vital in eliminating discrimination. It also helps make those working on full time respect other workers who work on part-time basis.
The organization's view of an ideal worker has limited its effectiveness. Most workers, especially those working on part-time basis, feel discriminated against. Some feel that they work for long hours without getting enough compensation for the work they do. Lack of effective flexible working policies and organization's view of the ideal worker can be credited for the high numbers of male workers as compared to the number of female workers.
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Effective part-time policies need to be put in place within the organization for all employees to achieve some part of organization's goals. The culture of the organization also needs to change in line with the current view of an ideal worker. Organizational culture should ensure that workers and the management have a good part-time policy that will increase effectiveness of the organization and minimize conflicts between workers and between the organization and the two unions representing the workers.
The organization should first conduct an audit to establish the performance of flexible policies that are currently used by the organization. The report of the audit should form the basis of implementing part-time policies and other flexible working policies. Since the workforce has expressed dissatisfaction with current part-time policies, the management should try to improve the policy. The following steps should be taken when implementing the policies:
- Establishing clear strategy and rules concerning the policies;
- Ensuring effective communication;
- Implementing a culture that supports flexibility.
The organization should also consider all rules and regulations concerning part-time policies in order to avoid legal battles with dissatisfied workers.
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