10/07/2010 02:03 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Re-Shuffling the Workplace

Having just survived a round of "child care shuffle" -- that unexpected change in your child care routine that leaves you in a state of work-life chaos -- I am reminded how fortunate I am, as both a professional and as a mother, to work for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

SHRM is an organization that champions workplace flexibility not as an employee benefit, but rather as a business imperative. We promote work-life balance among our 250,000 members and their organizations, and for our own employees because it helps workers be more productive, fosters greater employee engagement, and reduces the cost of turnover.
Had SHRM's flex options not been available to me, I would have been forced to choose between my work and family -- a choice no conscientious working woman or man should be forced to make.

As an employer, SHRM strives to lead by example when it comes to workplace flexibility. It offers a number of flexible work options, paid leave, and policies that convey a message to its employees that SHRM values and supports their life outside of work.

A significant number of our roughly 350 employees take advantage of compressed work weeks, flex scheduling, telecommuting options, and part-time work. I routinely use several of these flexible work arrangements, allowing me to be more engaged and productive in my work -- and to better navigate the "child care shuffle." Thankfully for me, my family, and my career, SHRM "gets it" -- it appreciates that a flexible workplace is a growing employee need and a business imperative.

SHRM members, those HR professionals working in leading corporations and organizations, also understand the growing importance of workplace flexibility. In the Global Firms in 2010 survey, commissioned by SHRM with The Economist Intelligence Unit, it was found that C-suite executives believe the two biggest challenges facing HR over the coming 10 years will be 1.) retaining and rewarding the best people, and 2.) attracting the best people to the organization.

SHRM then asked HR professionals for the best way to address these challenges--and compensation was not at the top of the list. Rather, 58 percent of HR professionals cited "providing flexibility to balance work and life" as the best tactic. In other words, the next business imperative is creating work environments that focus on results--rather than how, when and where people do their work.

As we welcome another "National Work and Family Month," it's an opportune time to recognize HR's critical role in transforming organizations into flexible, 21st Century workplaces.
In September, SHRM hosted an Executive Roundtable on Workplace Flexibility that brought together premier work-life thought leaders from the private sector, government, academia, think tanks, and foundations to discuss opportunities to make flexible workplaces the standard way of working in America.

In addition, SHRM sponsored the National Journal Group's Workforce of the Future conference, where we told business leaders, media and public policy influencers that to fully realize that workforce's potential, it must enjoy a flexible workplace. To drive home this "next" business imperative, SHRM also released a new workplace flexibility print ad that highlights how HR is driving new workplace flexibility initiatives in organizations and "helping employers and employees achieve greater success, productivity and balance."

As I write, the SHRM-sponsored Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit is about to conclude after an evening in which President Obama made a compelling case for a paradigm shift in the way workplaces operate, saying, "We must change the structure of our workplaces ... they must be flexible enough to give workers the ability to be productive." A lot of hard work has now elevated this issue to the highest level, but we still have work to do.

SHRM and our members are committed to the idea that the greatest way to get the most out of an organization is by getting the best out of its people. To achieve the structural change the President mentioned, we must rethink the way work is organized, managed, and rewarded. SHRM will continue to be a leading voice for our members as they cultivate and implement these changes to benefit both employees and employers.