The “Work-life Balance” vs. “Work-life Integration” Debate – Part I

The once hot topic of “work-life balance” is losing support in favor of a theory that doesn’t sound all that different but is claimed to be not only better but more attainable.

The newer-kid-on-the-work/life/balance-block is work-life integration.

What are these two theories and how do they differ?

Kelsie Davis provides these basic definitions of each philosophy:

Work-life balance suggests “employees shouldn’t be entirely consumed by work responsibilities.  Companies who advocate balance “are more likely to have generous, but still defined, vacation policies” and “encourage employees to work a pretty normal schedule (9-5ish) with a little flexibility. They also discourage workaholics.” Companies support an approach that’s more of a “hard, defined line between work and life designed to keep one from encroaching on the other.”

Work-life integration suggests an incorporation of “work and life into one conglomerate, fulfilling purpose…” Supporting companies are likely to have an undefined vacation policy with the understanding that employees won’t abuse it. They are “more likely to have a ‘just get the job done’ attitude . . . not caring in which hours the work is getting done . . . creating a more blurred line between work and life (but ideally, employees don’t become overwhelmed by work or too consumed by life).”

As one would expect, each philosophy has it advocates and nay-sayers.

Team work-life balance maintains:

 People need a definite end to the work day.

  • This hard line protects them from being always “on call”.
  • Defined hours provide accountability.

Team work-life integration claims:

  • Allowing people to work when and where it best suits them is preferable.
  • Taking full advantage of the flexibility afforded by technology is a win-win situation—even at 10 pm.
  • People can “manage” themselves and be trusted to get the job done.

The advancements in technology have progressed to where being “always on” and “always connected” are considered the norm. Therefore, it’s easy to see how a hard line between work and life has become much more difficult to maintain and to some employees, is now seen as less desirable.

In today’s world and across many employment scenarios, life and work surely have meshed—a situation that more closely relates to “integration” than it does to the idea of “balance.”

While for some, the idea of after-hours work is at best unpleasant, at worst unthinkable, others see it as somewhere between a solution to a hectic schedule and the best possible scenario.

Personal preferences aside, work-life integration continues to gain traction as a more viable way to attain both the career achievements and the family/leisure life most people desire. In the next installment, we’ll delve further into the pros, cons and specifics that distinguish the two theories.

Loehr Staffing can offer you a career that fits the freedom and flexibility your lifestyle demands. We also offer a highly-competitive pay package along with a benefit program that includes portable medical insurance, a referral program, and skills enhancement training. Contact us today.

 

Economic Growth Causes Retention Crisis

b loehr - recruit retainIt’s a good news, bad news situation.
The good news: including figures through December 2015, the U.S. has experienced 69 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Yay!

The bad news: this trend, a major reversal from the financial crisis and recession period of 2007 to 2009, has created recruiting and retention challenges and even talent shortages in some areas of the workforce. Boo.

“It’s the No. 1 issue for H.R. professionals,” according to Chason Hecht, president of Retensa, an employee retention consulting firm. Hecht notes the problem is “pervasive across industries, but some are hit harder than others — like health care,” a sector scrambling to meet the demands of an aging population.

As the economy improves, and job options flourish, it causes employers concern about retaining their most valuable asset – a productive workforce.

So, what’s a business to do? Begin addressing the situation by grasping how the employee’s view of the entire employment picture has changed.

Past generations considered a lifetime position with one company the desired goal. A worker was likely to be content with whatever pay and benefits were offered because job security topped the list of employment aspirations.

Younger generations no longer hold to this way of thinking, a fact proven by how employees “shop” for jobs every few years in the same fashion they “shop” for a new car. The Internet has opened a plethora of doors to anyone seeking a job or simply checking in on “what’s out there.” There are more ways than ever before to “shop around” your skill set and qualifications.

Money still talks, but engagement often talks just as loudly. While a pay increase may head off an immediate departure, job engagement is where it’s at. Many employees will stick around – some even for less pay – if they truly love the position, feel valued by the company and believe they are an integral part of the “bigger picture.”

On the other hand, retirement concerns have begub to take center stage as traditional pensions have all but disappeared. For today’s employees, retirement confidence is strongly tied to their access to a retirement plan whether it be a defined contribution (DC) plan, a defined benefit (DB) plan, or an individual retirement account (IRA). The portability of 401(k)s are an added incentive to change jobs should the right opportunity present itself.

Communication and transparency are also keys to retaining employees. Workers want to know how the company is doing and receive explanations concerning the how and why of financial decisions that affect them and their pay. Being left in the dark suggests they are valued less to the company and will nudge them toward the door.

Considering all these factors, strategize with your management team about specific ways the company can actively seek to retain the trained workforce you’ve worked hard to assemble.

B. Loehr Staffing recognizes how the rapidly changing business environment can force quick, significant shifts in workforce requirements, and we offer a reliable resource to meet those needs. We will communicate clearly, frequently and honestly concerning your hiring needs. Contact us today.

Nurturing Your Employees Critical Thinking Skills

b loehr - critical thinkingFrom A to Z on your roster, every employee needs the ability to make decisions, use available resources effectively and to problem solve. Knowing when and how to ask the right questions, whether you’re the custodian or the CEO, is of tremendous value. This aptitude for “thinking on your feet” assists anyone and everyone in performing his/her duties and greatly benefits the overall success of the company.

But unlike technical qualifications that can be tested and confirmed, these critical thinking skills often have to be observed in action. Which may be why although Employee XYZ, whose education and training are second to none, hasn’t lived up to your expectations. Oh, he’s a good guy and all, but he’s lacking in initiative and can’t seem to think outside of narrow parameters.

While some people’s natural abilities fuel these critical thinking skills, others less inclined can still learn to utilize the variety of components that make up what we’ve come to describe as critical thinking skills.

You can assist your employees in developing these needed qualities and in making their usage a habit.

Get them thinking

Consider implementing something similar to the “bell ringer” concept utilized in many school classrooms across the country that encourages students to get their thought processes flowing the moment the bell rings for class to begin. In a central location, on paper or a whiteboard, present a problem/dilemma/opportunity that encourages individual brainstorming to find a solution. It can be something as simple as solving the traffic flow pattern to and from the supply closet. Or something as major as brainstorming themes for the next marketing campaign. The idea is to get everyone to think logically, to ask questions and to share ideas.

Encourage discussion and debate

Bring those individual ideas to a group setting to be hashed out. Foster an atmosphere that is accepting, even encouraging, of any constructive suggestions. Encourage the exploration of different points of view. Assist your employees in recognizing their biases and help them to view a situation from all perspectives. Settings that encourage creativity and “thinking outside the box” will reap a harvest of engaged, motivated workers who, when faced with a serious dilemma, will have the skills needed to find a solution.

 Make it okay to be wrong

It’s crucial to nurture an atmosphere that discourages the blame game. Seriously, how ridiculous it is to hear grown men and women engage in the Kindergarten ritual of blaming.

  • “It was his idea.”
  • “But you didn’t do your part.”
  • “The whole idea was stupid.”
  • “I can’t help it if my concept went over your head.”

All ideas are valuable. Not every idea is feasible. That’s okay. That where critical thinking enters, to weed out the suggestions that won’t translate into a feasible solution.

At B. Loehr Staffing we utilize critical thinking to find the best candidates to meet your staffing needs. By asking the right questions and thinking through logical solutions, we can meet your Flexible, Planned and Facility Staffing requirements. Contact us today. Discover how our technical and critical thinking skills have made us the staffing company that successful companies have relied on since 1898.

 

Why You Can’t Afford to Skip That Vacation

b loehr - vacationIf the promise of spring has you dreaming of a vacation, hold on to that dream—with both hands. Many people think of a vacation as a luxury, an extravagance that falls soundly into the “want” rather than “need” category.

“I’m an adult,” you insist, “with responsibilities and bills and a to-do list longer than my arm, and the kids—their schedules are crazy too. I just can’t . . .”

Well, you’ve just pinpointed the key reasons you need a vacation.

A friend recently shared that he’d taken only one or at the most two weeks of vacation each year when in fact he was entitled to four weeks. “Well, all that’s changing this year,” he announced to his family. Early in the year, they plotted a plan to use every bit of his well-deserved vacation time.

My friend is not alone. While most people earn a number of vacation days each year, a lot of us don’t take them – due to heavy workloads. In 2014, U.S. workers took only 51% of their allowed vacation days, with 15% taking no time off at all. Many cited worry about falling behind or losing out on promotions. Little do these hard workers know, but their thinking is flawed.

Here’s the simple reason you can’t afford to skip time off: vacation is as important as sleep.

Everyone knows that sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on . . . well, your whole life. Clear thinking and sound judgment are proven to suffer. A lack of sleep slows reflexes and hampers the body’s ability to fight off infection. The same goes for a lack of “play”.

Recreation deprivation can wreak as much havoc as sleep deprivation. For starters, it will do a number on your attitude and definitely will not earn you a “happy camper” award at home or on the job. And those minor annoyances (and people) found at every job? Your ability to cope may well fly out the window, resulting in unnecessary squabbles and added stress.

Here are a couple more reasons to put vacation planning on your to-do list today.

  • Time off is like medicine.

It appears vacations rank right up there with watching cholesterol and exercise as studies show an annual holiday can cut the heart attack risk by a whopping 30 percent in men and 50 percent of women. The devastating effects of stress can be halted by time away that allows emotional resources to be refueled.

  • Vacations ramp up productivity

 Time away refuels your ability to work by boosting energy reserves so that when you return, it takes less effort to get the job done. Vacationers report significantly higher job performance after the break.

“Counter to the prevailing bravado myth, productivity is not a function of how long or torturously you work,” states Work to Live author Joe Robinson.  “In the knowledge economy, the source of true productivity is a refreshed and energized mind.”

  • Closer family relationships

Family relationships get a shot in the arm when the family vacations together. Spending “down time” doing fun things or simply sharing the same space rather than going a hundred miles-per-hour in opposite directions boosts the sense of connection.

“Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work and so on) help to promote these positive ties,” writes Susan Krauss Whitbourne. “Though family vacations can have their share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks, even in families that are not particularly close.”

  • Vacations make you happier.

Well, I should hope so! But seriously, people who return from vacation tend to be more satisfied with their life in general. Research suggests post-vacationers are calmer, more energized and less stressed, and more likely to be in a good mood and report less tension.

You do no one a favor by working yourself to the brink of exhaustion or allowing stress to frazzle your nerves and damage your health. Take a break from the work-a-day world with a real, honest-to-goodness, unplugged-from-everyday-life vacation. Your co-workers, your family, and the post-vacation-you will all thank you profusely.

At B. Loehr Staffing we can offer you a career that fits your lifestyle. Whether you are looking for short term, long term, temp-to-hire, part-time or a full-time position, we can offer you the freedom and flexibility your lifestyle demands. Contact us today and discover why we are still in business after 118 years.

 

Maintaining Productivity While Encouraging Vacations

b loehr - vacation 2 Ah, vacations . . . The best way to relax and recharge the mind and body, to renew enthusiasm and motivation for life and work. A lengthy break from the daily grind makes for more productive, less stressed people who return to work better able to handle the day-to-day demands of the job.

You get that—that vacations are good a thing. You understand that time away provides a definite boost to a person’s overall well-being that translates into a huge positive for both their personal life as well as their work life.

Still, the $64,000 question is how to maintain productivity and ensure that business-as-usual doesn’t get interrupted by vacations. Operations must continue to run smoothly, and it’s important that the remaining staff not become overwhelmed.

The “how” to making all of that happen is planning.

  1. Maintain detailed, updated job descriptions

While at first glance, this may seem to have nothing to do with vacation-time-productivity, this crucial step can have a huge impact. For starters, responsibilities are easier to delegate when Employee XX takes his/her two-week vacation if Employee XX’s duties are accurately recorded. Insist on twice yearly reviews to keep job descriptions as current as possible. This will make the task less daunting.

  1. Claim vacations in advance

One of the best ways to keep vacations from wreaking havoc with the day-to-day operations is to require advanced notice for time-off. You want even the most devoted, committed employees to take vacations, but because it’s your job to ensure nothing falls through the cracks, a system needs to be established. Depending on the nature of the product/service you provide and the size of your staff, establish a process for requesting vacation time that includes an advance notice time frame.

  1. Create a calendar that everyone may access

Which means it’s not kept in a locked office or tucked in an individual’s desk drawer. Note all approved vacation dates here. It would be helpful as well to include major company happenings—conventions, trade shows, possibly even important project deadlines—on this calendar as well.

  1. Generate a “Vacation Planner” form

 No, this is not about the vacationer’s trip itinerary but rather a “road map” of what needs to happen in the days before the vacation time as well as while the employee is gone. This will be a great tool for working through the list of projects/tasks to be completed by said employee before departure—prepare the reports for the staff meeting, finish the quotes on the work order, etc. This form will also note those duties that will need to be covered by someone else—pick up the lunch order for the marketing meeting, figure the final head count for the upcoming networking event, etc. A copy of the completed form should be given to the immediate supervisor, and whoever will be covering the tasks noted on the form

Several strategies can assist in keeping all the bases covered while employees get some much deserved R& R.

  • Cross-train employees

Crossing training makes sense for so many reasons but can be particularly beneficial during vacation season as well as for covering sick days. While this principle may not work for highly skilled positions, it can be effective in a number of instances and should make things run a bit smoother.

  • Offer an incentive for picking up extra work

Whether for money or some other perk, many workers would be willing to pitch in to cover the responsibilities of a vacationing co-worker. Especially when everyone knows they too will have the opportunity to get away and would not want to return to a mountain of work, they’ll be willing to lend a hand.

  • Work with a Staffing Company

During the height of vacation season, it’s common to have one or more vacationing employee’s time-off occur in consecutive weeks. Employees from the staffing company, trained before vacation time, can step in and take up the slack for a number of weeks, preventing your employees from being overwhelmed.  If the vacationing employee’s duties are specialized, making it too time-consuming to train someone, use the staffing firm’s employee to perform the more administrative tasks of both the vacationing employee and another in-house employee, who will then have the time to cover the specialized duties of him/herself and the vacationing employee. In the event of a future medical leave or other unexpected time off, these already trained staffers can quickly fill in gaps.

A pro-active, established vacation procedure coupled with a vacation-friendly atmosphere will encourage your employees to get their earned vacation days and reap the benefits of a rest and relaxation while the company maintains productivity.

At B. Loehr Staffing, we understand the challenge to have the right number of people in the right places to get the work done on time and still keep your bottom line in the black. Through our specially designed Staffing Systems and Management Programs, you can be sure of finding the staffing solution that suits your organization’s specific needs. Contact us today

Why Critical Thinking Skills Are a Must

b loehr - critical thinkingYou probably heard the term “critical thinking skills” bandied about often. The fact is, mentions of “critical thinking” in job postings have doubled since 2009, according to an analysis by Indeed.com. But do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone.

“It’s one of those words – like diversity was, like big data is – where everyone talks about it but there are 50 different ways to define it,” says Dan Black, America’s director of recruiting at the accounting firm and consultancy EY.

Business consultant and author Steve Siebold defines critical thinking “as the ability to remove all emotion from an issue and observe the facts objectively to make a logical decision.”

Cognitive psychologist, Dr. Winston Sieck, notes this core set of critical thinking skills:

  • Suspending judgment to check the validity of a proposition or action
  • Taking into consideration multiple perspectives
  • Examining implications and consequences of a belief or action
  • Using reason and evidence to resolve disagreements
  • Re-evaluating a point of view in light of new information

In more casual terms, the HUB for Academic Literacy and Learning describes these intangible skills as:

  • Thinking beyond the immediate situation
  • Looking at the big picture and the context of a topic
  • Asking questions about different aspects of the topic – What? How? When? Who? Why? What if?
  • Looking at theory and asking how it relates to practice
  • Reading different viewpoints about issues and forming your conclusions
  • Reflecting on your work and deciding how to improve it in the future.

Of course, critical thinking skills aren’t a replacement for specialized hard skills and knowledge, but rather an enhancement. The combination will help you develop a stronger understanding and perform better in any field.

Even though difficult to define, employers know they want skills that go beyond educational degrees, certifications and licenses.  Those are the qualifications that make you eligible to apply for a job, but every boss knows it’s a melding of those qualifications with a mix of less tangible skills – the soft skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, etc. that leads to ultimate success in the workplace.

Key Findings from a National Survey of Business and Non-Profit Leaders report that more than 90% of leaders prioritize hiring college graduates who not only have achieved the required or, at least, preferred education but also exhibit the critical thinking skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.

Be prepared to answer interview questions designed to delve into your critical thinking skills. For instance, “In the past, how have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker?” or “Describe a time when you took the initiative to meet a challenge head-on.”  What the interviewer is hoping to discern is your ability to get from point A to point B when presented with any number of situations.

At B. Loehr Staffing we consider the whole picture -helping you focus on critical thinking skills as well as your education, experience, and other soft skills. We match that package with a position that best fits you. Contact us today to become part of our winning team.