Saturday, May 29, 2010

The cost by not offering Gen Y the Work/life balance

New surveys from Universum conducted around the globe shows again that work/life balance has become a common expectation of working life. Gen Y expects companies to offer work conditions that make it easier to balance professional and personal lives. A growing labor shortage in the future within several occupations also means that employees can demand more from their employer, and not only higher salaries, but also demands for working conditions that fit in with their lifestyles. At the same time, I have seen that an increasing number of employers put a lot of effort into marketing their work/life balance initiatives to attract and recruit talent.

As I see it, there are several drivers behind why work/life balance has become more important for Gen Y. Firstly, an overall labour shortage within highly attractive occupational groups implies that employees can set the tone and demand more from their employers. Secondly, values have become more important for the choice of employer. The young people of today, Gen Y, compared with earlier decades, are more loyal to themselves. Many employees identify themselves with their job, but also with what they do on their spare time. Life outside of work has simply become more important for peoples’ self-image. Another driving force behind the increasing focus on the work/life balance is the changing conditions of working life. Globalization, new information technology, the 24/7 society, less hierarchical organizations and constant change hugely increase the pressure on individuals and their ability to adapt to new conditions. And to cope with these challenges employees need opportunities for relaxation and recovery to stay productive.

Work/life balance has therefore become a business imperative for companies as they have noticed that they are fighting a losing battle on the talent market if they are not able to offer the talent what they are asking for. Many companies have also started calculating the benefits of work/life balance – and the costs of failing in this area. A stressful working life is expensive. For companies, costs include high employee turnover, increased burnout and sick leave, failed change initiatives, reduced commitment and difficulties in recruiting the talent that the company needs. Poor work/life balance conditions may have negative effects on the employer brand and in the long term the company will face serious difficulties when it comes to sourcing human capital.

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