HighChem Company’s Work-Life Balance Policy

Executive Summary

HighChem is a company that is in the business of manufacturing pharmaceutical products. Although it is based in Texas, its products are distributed around the globe. The company has experienced significant growth over the last 20 years of its operations. However, it has been experiencing mass exodus of its employees to other competing firms. Majority of those who leave seek career growth by enrolling to higher institutions of learning to further their skills. Others are only interested in securing part-time jobs. HighChem’s work environment is characterized by irregular shifts, high workloads, and large order queues, which prompt the organizational management to recall employees from their leaves and off-time. The company’s employees do not have time to advance their careers. Based on the nature of HighChem’s work environment, this paper recommends adopting policies for WLB to allow employees to have time to advance their careers as a professional management program, which can also increase their retention rates.

Recommendation

HighChem’s nature of work is unpredictable. Depending on the order deadlines, employees are more often required to work overtime and even recalled back to work during their leaves or during their free time. In some situations, the workload has to be increased to meet order deadlines. From the perspective of human resource management, increasing the workload implies that employees who are left when their workmates depart are likely to be lowly motivated due to the increased responsibilities, which they consider unfair. This situation may create imbalances between the employees’ life outside work, including time to advance one’s career and the job itself.

DiMeglio and Piatek (2010) find a single turnover as having the capacity to translate into multiple turnovers due to work-life imbalance of the remaining employees. The only most practical way to deal with this self-replicating problem is to seek mechanisms for employee retention. The realization of the need to retain employees within an organization prompts management scholars to explore various theories that can provide a guide on how to accomplish the task (Revels & Morrism, 2012). Some of these ways include fostering motivation, mentoring, and even choosing a balance between employees’ life and work. It is highly recommended that HighChem should look for strategies to enhance work-life balance since this move may also lead to increasing work motivation and satisfaction level and in turn lower turnover intentions and/or the actual turnover that is related to denial of time to invest in one’s career development and growth.

The company should commit $1, 000,000 in the recruitment of additional staff members. This figure is equivalent to 40% of the cost of managing current staff and carrying out employee training and development activities. This increment will ensure that the current employees have time to attend to their other life concerns, including self-career development. It will also eliminate conflicts between HighChem and people’s personal lives. The goal is to foster work-life balance to encourage people to participate in self-career development.

Justification in General Terms

The process of attracting and retaining top talent comprises a major priority for small, medium, and large organizations. Retaining employees determines the competitive advantage of an organization through increased productivity and management of customer relationships. Employee turnover increases the cost of recruitment and training of new employees to fill the gaps that are left by the outgoing employees. In their study on employee turnover, Cegarra-Leiva, Sanchez-Vidal, and Cegarra-Navaro (2012) contend that the process is one of the issues that organizations that wish to exploit cost competitiveness as a success strategy should address proactively. Considering the negative effects of high labor turnover, many organizations, including HighChem, look for ways of increasing employee retention levels.

Work-life balance constitutes a mechanism for increasing employee retention (Hayman, 2009; Lockwood, 2010). The recommendation to change organizational policies to encourage work-life balance as a program for ensuring career management at a HighChem is justified by the fact that career management is a lifelong and self-monitored process of planning one’s career through establishing and setting particular goals while at the same time developing strategies for realizing them. This goal cannot be actualized in a situation where HighChem’s work conflicts with its employees’ personal lives such that they cannot engage in self-career development.

The implication is that they do not acquire additional skills and knowledge by furthering their education. The unpredictability of the nature of work at HighChem only makes employees suspend their personal career future growth goals and objectives at the expense of the overloaded work where one can be recalled at any time. Commitment of funds to training and development as a way of preparing employees for higher roles through promotions encourages upward career mobility (Lewis & Heckman, 2006; McCauley & Wakefield, 2006). This plan will translate to high engagement levels and job satisfaction. The outcome is increased retention level.

Kramar and Syed (2012) studied Work-Life-Balance (WLB) by conducting interviews on participants who were drawn from Japan, South Africa, and India. The new economy emphasizes that work intensification is an emerging global phenomenon. Hence, working for long hours equates to employees’ commitment to an organization. For instance, one of the participants from South Africa informed Lewis and Heckman (2006) that working for long hours meant that one effectively contributed to creating organizational difference. According to the researchers, a management consultant in India also asserted that working for long hours “had become so entrenched, especially in the new economy where people have to work hard and literally give up their personal lives” (Kramar & Syed, 2012, p.388). This scenario creates a person-life conflict that is similar to what is experienced at HighChem. The conflict hinders career development.

Background

History of the Issue

To understand the history and situation of the company, this study sought the views of various workers who have had a first-hand experience with the issues the company has been facing. However, any participating workers had to fill a consent form (see Appendix 1) since the exercise was voluntary. Hence, this section presents the company based on the overall views of the respondents.

HighChem has been in the business of manufacturing pharmaceutical products for over 20 years. The company has grown from an organization that employed 30 people, when it started, to employing more than 1000 people. This improvement has occurred since the company grew from operating as a medium-sized enterprise operating only in Texas to a company that could receive orders across the globe. Its model of operation is based on ordering first and then manufacturing to meet the order deadlines. Due to the growing demand of the company’s products, in most situations, large queues of orders await fulfillment, despite the pressure from customers who want to have their goods delivered in time. Some of the ways of attending to queues in time include increasing the number of workers and/or expanding the company’s capacity. During its growth process, HighChem has explored these two opportunities. However, it recognizes that every business operation should remain profitable. Therefore, it emphasizes keeping its operational costs low.

HighChem only specializes in manufacturing few products. Hence, different work units are repetitive so that employees do not have to spend time adjusting to new operations. The company considers this plan important since employees do not have to ‘think hard’ when they become accustomed to the repetitive chores. However, after they have worked for one year while remaining at one job position, the company has noticed that their output level reduces to the extent that some workers seek job opportunities in competing organizations. Considering HighChem’s repetitive nature of the work units, the company finds no need to invest in training and development unless new technologies are introduced. Employees who receive promotion are those who have high experience in the firm’s operation. Typically, this promotion touches on employees who have worked with the company for than eight years and/or have shown high mastery of the company’s operations.

A recent internal survey shows that within two years, apart from workers in the management section, the company usually retains about 40% of male employees and 10% of female employees. About 70% of those who have left the organization usually enroll for higher education before seeking new job opportunities in the competing organizations. Nearly 70% of female employees who leave HighChem enroll for part-time jobs with competing organizations. This situation has made the management of the company’s human resource become intrigued on whether people prefer part-time jobs to fulltime jobs. Currently, the company is now becoming worried about the increasing budget for selection and recruitment. It requires $500,000 on a monthly basis.

Symptoms v. Causes

The section on the history of the issue evidences the symptoms of an organization that is collapsing due to human resource management problems. High turnover, the increasing cost of selection and recruitment, customer complaints concerning delays, and employee’s sub-optimal performance indicate symptoms of future operational problems in the organization (By, 2005). This case calls for a rapid action. The symptoms have appeared due to changes in various variables. There is an increasing number of employees who leave to further their education as a strategy for securing higher-position job in competing organizations. Others only enroll for only part-time jobs, yet they preferred fulltime jobs when they first came to HighChem. A third important variable is the inability of employees to complete a certain work in time.

Cost Implications

The recommendation to foster career development based on the concept of WLB has a cost implication for HighChem. Currently, the organization has a wage bill of $15 million annually. Increasing the number of employees by 40% translates to increasing the wage bill by $6 million. This increase is equivalent to annual expenses in the recruitment to replace the leaving employees. However, this cost is justifiable by accruing benefits in the long term. The fact that the budget for the HR will increase by $1 million implies that the total cost that is associated with the recommendation will be $7 million.

Compared to the current situation, the cost difference is one million. This amount cannot be equated to the annual benefits in terms of the increased workforce output and work motivation. Good customer reputation implies that the company can charge higher prices for its products, especially where urgent orders must be fulfilled using highly motivated and knowledgeable employees since they will have time to attend to their career development needs.

Legal Implications

The recommendation correlates with the best practices in labor relations. Employees have a right to annual leave and time off (Hausknecht, Hiller, & Vance, 2008). Therefore, the recommendation only enhances HighChem’s compliance to employee rights as enshrined in the law. This claim implies that no legal risk is anticipated upon the implementation of the recommendation.

Relationship Implications

Increasing WLB at HighChem to promote career development is positively welcomed by employees. Indeed, employees experience conflicts with the organizations because of the increased workload and irregular shifts. This situation perhaps reveals why employees also seek employment in organizations, which have more regular work schedules and flexible work times such as part-time jobs. Orientating the policies of HighChem to this practice can receive support from the employees, especially those who are interested in furthering their careers. The outcome is increased retention of such workers.

The recommendation underlines an organizational change. The change can help to induce wok engagement. Ledez (2008) supports this impact of change by claiming that “change is important in organizations to allow employees to learn new skills, explore new opportunities, and exercise their creativity in ways that ultimately benefit the organization through new ideas and increased commitment” (p.113).

Therefore, change is all about enhancing the performance of employees by putting in place mechanisms for enabling them achieve better outputs. In the case of HighChem, the proposed recommendation guarantees career development and hence high job mobility. The public can react to the new policy by seeking more job opportunities at HighChem. The only relationship problem emerges among people who are already occupying high job positions since they may feel that employees who progress in their career will threaten the less-learned workers’ job positions. Therefore, supervisors and managers are expected to reluctantly implement the new policy, practice, and procedures.

Other Company Practices

Other companies view inflexible work environments as having the capacity to increase employees’ decision to leave an organization voluntarily. For example, the Google Company regards changing workforce demographics as leading to changes in people’s inclination to different jobs. According to Moen, Kelly, and Huang (2008), Merrill’s 2005 survey revealed that roughly 20% of all baby boomers sort recreational jobs. Close to 45% of the total baby boomers preferred jobs that allowed room for leisure. This finding suggests an emerging workforce that values organizations, which provide flexible jobs to permit them to take charge of other equally important life aspects such as career development.

In a 2007 PEW research, 50% of all working mothers confirmed their full commitment to executing domestic chores while at the same time contributing to the family income kitty (Harzing & Pinnington, 2011). Similar to the case of HighChem, such women prefer working on part-time basis. An employee survey that was conducted within the organization as discussed in the history section indicates a negative perception of employees about a work environment that does not allow WLB to give them time to advance their career and/or carry out other personal life tasks. This finding is evidenced by the large number of employees who seek higher education opportunities before returning to the job market at higher work positions in relation to the situation at HighChem where a high number of female employees seek part-time jobs elsewhere.

Timing

Organizations can address an issue that prompts the necessity of change either in a pre-crisis period or after a crisis has already taken place. Although no crisis has occurred at HighChem, it is almost due. Indeed, organizations that can identify the need for changing their policies before factors that prompt the necessity of the change interfere with its operations have a better competitive advantage compared to those that adopt reactive approaches to change implementation (Waddell, Cummings, & Worley, 2011). New policies that are implemented following the occurrence of a crisis translate to high organizational costs with a high probability of recovering the lost competitive advantage (Amagoh, 2008).

The new policy to resolve the issues that ail HighChem needs to be formulated within the financial year 1st Jan-31st December 2015. It should be ready for implementation in the next fiscal year 1st Jan-31st December 2016. The timeframe for the implementation initiates with the formulation of the recommended policy (1 month), evaluation and analysis of the policy (2 month), implementation of the policy (1 month), and the review and evaluation of the implementation process (2 weeks). Hence, by March 2016, the company will have a working new policy that boosts employee career management through enhanced WLB.

Evaluation

Three important alternatives include maintaining the status quo, adopting the recommended policy that fosters career development through the creation of WLB structures, and automating most of its production processes to eliminate human decision makers. The appropriateness of any of these alternatives depends on the underlying merits and demerits.

Maintaining the Status Quo

Merits

  1. No money will be spend in employees career development programs

Demerits

  1. Expensive in the long-run since more money will be spent in the continuous selection and recruitment of new staff
  2. Employees will never get time to advance their careers. Thus, they will continue to be dissatisfied. Besides, the high labor turnover will continue
  3. Competing organizations that have programs, which foster upward employee career mobility, will continue to gain a competitive advantage. HighChem employees will continue transferring their creative and innovative capability to competitors.
  4. Inability to fulfill order deadlines will make clients sign contracts with the competitors. Therefore, HighChem will lose its business and finally collapse.

Automation

Merits

  1. Ensures standardized performance levels
  2. No need for spending money in career development program
  3. Machines can be programmed to work without leaves or time off

Demerits

  1. Machines cannot help in building customer relationships since this process requires the interaction between employees of an organization and customers
  2. Machines cannot make essential decisions
  3. 100% automation is impossible since machines experience breakdown and must be attended by people.
  4. High commitment of large sums of money to procuring new machines at once

Implementing the Recommend Policy

Merits

  1. Employees enjoy their full leaves and time offs. This situation eliminates any legal tussle that may involve violation of employees’ rights.
  2. HighChem acquires a work environment that recognizes the value of WLB
  3. WLB ensures that people can have time to attend to their personal lives and/or advance their career. This privilege not only makes them more creative and innovative but also increases their job satisfaction and organizational engagement such that they can be delegated more responsibilities (Kramar & Syed, 2012). This strategy has the implication of increasing their productivity and hence the competitive advantage of the organization.
  4. HighChem deals proactively with the threat of losing its creative and innovative personnel to competitors. Thus, it can reserve its knowledge bases
  5. Even where automation is deemed necessary, the organization rests assured that it has people who urgently attend to any breakdown to restore the situation in a speedy manner
  6. The organization retains highly motivated people who can help it to build strong customer relationships as the basis of increasing its competitive advantage.

Demerits

  1. Reluctance of the supervisors and the management personnel to embrace the new policy, as it threatens their job security
  2. More employees provide more social amenities to the organization. They increase the cost of running the company in the short run

Based on the merits and demerits, maintaining the status quo can only be allocated a value of 10 points on a scale of 1-100. Automation has a value of 30 points while the suggested recommendation has 60 points. In terms of disadvantages, the status quo has 40 points, automation 40 points, and the suggested recommendations 20 points. Desirable elements are those that produce positive impacts. This allocation is only possible by implementing the suggested recommendations (60-20=+40) since the status quo has (10-40=-30) while automation has (30-40=-10).

Implementation

To implement the policy, several actions are required. HighChem should allocate funds to the HR department to conduct recruitment. The HR should issue a memorandum notifying employees about the new change. It should explain to the supervisor and management that the change is not targeting their job security, but increasing the organizational capabilities. It needs to develop training and development programs in areas of employee weaknesses. The implementation timetable is shown below.

Activity Time Span Duration
Formulating the policy Oct 2015-Nov 2015 1 month
Evaluation and analysis of the policy Dec 2015-February 2016 2 months
Reformulating the policy Dec 2015-February 2016 2 month
Implementing the policy March 1st, 2016-March 15th, 2016 2 weeks
Review and evaluation of the implementation process March 1st, 2016-March 31th, 2016 1 month

Reference List

Amagoh, F. (2008). Perspectives in Organizations Change: Systems and Complexity Theories. The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 13(3), 1-14.

By, R. (2005). Organizational Change Management: A critical Review. Journal of Change Management, 5(4), 369-380.

Cegarra-Leiva, D., Sanchez-Vidal, E., & Cegarra-Navaro, G. (2012). Work Life Balance and Retention of Managers in Spanish SMEs. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(1), 91-108.

DiMeglio, P., & Piatek, C. (2010). Group cohesion and nurse satisfaction: Examination of a team building approach. Journal of Nursing Administration, 35(3), 110-120.

Harzing, A., & Pinnington, A. (2011). International Human Resource Management. London: Sage Publishers.

Hausknecht, P., Hiller, J., & Vance, J. (2008). Work-Unit Absenteeism: Effects of Satisfaction, Commitment, Labor Market Conditions, and Time. Academy of Management Journal, 51(6), 1223–1245.

Hayman, J. (2009). Flexible work arrangements: exploring the linkages between perceived usability of flexible work schedules and work/life balance. Community, Work & Family, 12(3), 327-338.

Kramar, R., & Syed, J. (2012). Human Resource Management in a Global Context. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ledez, E. (2008). Change Management in the Strategy Implementation Process. Intellectual Economics, 1(1), 111-119.

Lewis, R., & Heckman, J. (2006). Talent management: A critical review. Human Resource Management Review, 16(2),139-151.

Lockwood, N. (2010). Work Life Initiatives Impact Employee Retention. HR Magazine, 48(6), 29-30.

McCauley, C., & Wakefield, M. (2006). Talent Management in the 21st Century: Help Your Company Find, Develop, and Keep its Strongest Workers. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 29(4), 39-47.

Moen, P., Kelly, E., & Huang, R. (2008). Fit Inside the Work-Family Black Box: Ecology of the Life Course, Cycles of Control Reframing. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81(3), 411–433.

Revels, M., & Morris, M. (2012). Technology Impacts in Organizational Recruitment and Retention. Franklin Business and Law Journal, 3(1), 62-69.

Waddell, D., Cummings, T., & Worley, C. (2011). Organizational Change: Development and Transformation. Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.

Appendix

Consent Form

Company Name: _______________

Study Number: ________________

Respondent Number: ___________

Consent Form

Study Topic: __________

Researcher: ___________

I authenticate that I have read and understood the data form dated_________ for the above research whose study number is _______. I have been granted the chance to reflect on the information, inquire where I do not understand, and have had my queries responded to adequately.

I am aware that my involvement is deliberate and that I am free to pull out at any moment without providing any reason and without my legal privileges being infringed.

I agree to participate in the above research.