06/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Three Hottest Innovations in Work-Life Effectiveness

Hospital Corporation of America, the Clerk & Comptroller's Office of Palm Beach County and the U.S. Navy have at least one thing in common: all three are innovators when it comes to responding to the work-life needs of their employees. And because of that, they have been named recipients of the 2010 AWLP Work-Life Innovative Excellence Award.

What is work-life innovation and how do we know it when we see it? For the past 15 years, Alliance for Work-Life Progress has dedicated itself to this challenge, defining and measuring what is fresh, new and unique in work-life practice. At its simplest, we define innovation as either a new practice or method, (something we haven't seen before) or a creative, new application of an existing approach (something we have seen before, but turned on its head in some forward-looking way that provides new direction, inspiration and utility). Additional criteria include evidence of:

  • Reciprocity - Impact on more than one organizational stakeholder, especially the quality of life experienced by employees, their families, and/or communities
  • Positive, measurable impact on business goals and/or outcomes (using a blend of quantitative and qualitative results); clarity of vision that supports the organization's mission and goals
  • Potential for the initiative to be shared, replicated or disseminated across other organizations
  • Sustainability - evidence that the initiative has been or can be modified/adapted over time based on continuous feedback and evaluation data

Let me introduce you to this year's winners who have met these high standards of work-life innovative excellence. The themes of reciprocity and respect are especially pervasive -- these organizations have all established initiatives that work well for employee and employer alike, even, in one case, where the story involves the unwelcome task of laying off a number of highly dedicated public servants. In a year as difficult as this past one, sometimes excellence cannot be described by what you do but how you do it.

Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) is being recognized for its "Caring for the Community" program, which engages employees by encouraging their charitable passions. An HCA employee may take up to 24 hours of paid volunteer leave each year. When that employee adds just one more hour of personal time, HCA will contribute $500 to the charitable organization. HCA has even sweetened the pot, making it possible for up to $2,000 of personal and corporate giving to be made to the charity of choice. There is encouragement and even grant money to serve on non-profit boards, as well as using service days as a team-building exercise. With 89% participation, it is having an impact on engagement, not to mention community relations. It's the latest offering in a long tradition of community involvement by HCA.

The Clerk & Comptroller's Office in Palm Beach County is being recognized for going the extra mile during tough times. The Palm Beach County department was forced to slash millions from its budget and cut its workforce by more than 100 employees. It developed the "We're All in This Together" transition program, designed to minimize the impact on the careers and financial future of the departing employees while shoring up the morale of the survivors. It included an on-site job fair and transition workshops for separated employees, and cross-training and a recognition program for retained employees. Communication has been maintained with the departed employees, including celebrating their success at locating new jobs, which provides a boost to those who remain. One measure of success has been surprisingly s high marks for the organization in its first post-layoff employee survey. It is hoped that this rare but stellar example of how to say goodbye to good people with the utmost of respect and supportiveness will be emulated by the 66 other Clerk & Comptroller's offices throughout Florida, who are facing similar tough choices.

The U.S. Navy has been facing a shrinking skilled labor market, led by an unacceptably high turnover rate among women, as well as changing generational attitudes about work. Its response has been the development of the "Task Force Life/Work" initiative, leading to greater flexibility and balance between life and work. The program includes career off- and on-ramp options, teleworking, flexible and compressed schedules, and e-mentoring opportunities, positioning the Navy as a "Top 50" employer. To illustrate the radical nature of the culture change that the Navy has launched with this complex initiative, for the first time in American military history, women will apparently be permitted to work on submarines. What's especially impressive about what's going on at the Navy is that each major change proposed requires an act of Congress. Slowly but pervasively, they are serving as a unique work-life advance unit, forging significant policy changes that are not escaping the attention as a role model to the other branches of the military. We are proud to bring their extraordinary efforts to the attention of corporate America as well.

Kudos to all three organizations on winning the 2010 Work-Life Innovative Excellence Award, the highest honor granted by Alliance for Work-Life Progress! AWLP, a part of WorldatWork, is dedicated to advancing work-life as a business strategy integrating work, family and community. The awards will be handed out at the annual WorldatWork Total Rewards conference, May 18 in Grapevine, TX.

For more information about AWLP's Work-Life Innovative Excellence Award and previous winners back to 1996, visit Another resource is the AWLP/WorldatWork publication Innovative Excellence: Leading Ideas in Work-Life Programs.