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A Work-Life Situation Not Many of Us Can Imagine

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Most working people think about work-life balance within a fairly narrow range of topics. No big surprise -- they think about topics related to their own personal need. Foremost in their mind is the need to care for an elderly parent or find a way to get the kids to swim practice (for many people, it's both the elderly parent and the kids -- and a lot more).

Even in today's incredibly diverse, four-generation workplace where employees can be found at virtually all stages of life, most smart employers have figured out a way to solve these "garden-variety" work-family dependent care issues because solving them creates greater employee loyalty, satisfaction and productivity. And, at its core, creating greater employee engagement and productivity is really what National Work and Family Month (October) is all about.

But what if you're the employer and the employee's work-life need is a little more exotic than elder or child care? For instance, what if the work-life need involves cupid? The typical human resources leader in a company today is tasked with the mission of creating a compelling employment value proposition that attracts, motivates and retains the very best workers. We know that money and pay are important in the employer-employee exchange, but, as the saying goes, "money can't buy love."

Imagine being a human resources professional trying create a compelling employment value proposition for a predominantly male worker in a remote geography that has more than 20 bachelors for each single woman. How do you attract and keep new workers in that situation? I imagine there are similar ratios in the Alaskan fishing industry, and I know from personal experience that many of the big U.S. ski resorts have an over-abundance of 20-something male workers.

The 20-1 bachelor-to-single woman ratio isn't in Alaska or Colorado, but it is what is facing the good folks for a mining company about 375 miles from Perth, Australia -- according to a recent piece in Bloomberg Businessweek.

In this particular "dusty" Australian mining town the miners' wages have risen 33 percent in the last five years. Pay is now more than double the Australian national average. But in a situation where pay is rising that fast across the board, it's pretty obvious that cash alone won't solve the problem. The employer has to do other things; the name of the game for the employers is to find other mechanisms to attract, motivate and retain workers. In a nutshell, they're looking for non-traditional perks and work-life solutions to alleviate loneliness and isolation.

In addition to the outstanding pay, one company is offering employees round trip flights every couple of weeks to cities up to seven hours away. At the end of the seven-hour flight comes a six-day weekend for the miner. When was the last time your company offered you that?

For the miners who are married, the mining companies routinely pay for satellite phones to keep the miners connected to their loved ones. One company is even flying in the entire family of some miners during the holidays in order to keep the worker sufficiently engaged and motivated.

This month, as you reflect on National Work and Family Month, stop and consider not just the great and perhaps unusual things your employer is doing in order to make you more productive in all aspects of your life, but also think about the human resources professional who is trying to make every one of his or her multi-generational workers a little more work-life effective.