Human Resources With Regard to General Motors Corporation and Family-Work Practices

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Introduction

Majority of professionals in the field of human resource recognize that family responsive plans and strategies would be essential in attracting and retaining needed members of staff and to enhance competitive advantage. However, everyday, employed individuals are called to alternate between their work and their family. People play various roles: employee, boss, subordinate, spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend and community member. All of these roles impose duties on a person which require time, commitment and devotion to satisfy them. For example, the bus driver who has to take his children to childcare by five a.m. because he cannot be even two minutes late for his shift; the home health assistant who earns just above minimum income and cannot pay for quality childcare; the office assistant who cannot afford to take unpaid family leave to look after her critically sick parent. Work-family conflicts occurs when the cumulative demands of these many work and non-work life responsibilities are mismatched in some respect so that partaking in one responsibility is made difficult by involvement in the other role. Thus, one needs to set a satisfactory level of involvement or fit among the varied roles in one’s life (Wall and Jose 2004).

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Present workplace practices and public programs make it really difficult for employed individuals who need devotion and commitments to look after their families. Work and family concerns are progressively becoming more vital for companies. The underlying principle for organizational work-family policies lays upon four main demographic developments, which are, increasing involvement levels for employed women and employed mothers, the increase in dual-career partners, the growth in the number of single-parent families, and the growth in the aging working people.

At the heart of work-family programs should the necessities for these programs to assist working people balance the evolving work and family demands. As a result of these reasons, balancing work and family demands has been seen as a problem for many firms. Studies also show that conflict between work and family are linked to decreased output, lose of working time, job frustration, increased health risks for employed parents, lower undertaking of the parenting responsibilities, non-attendance, lack of drive, reduced life fulfilment, and gloominess. While work-family practices are commonly seen as women’s problems, more organizations are starting to see that both men and women feel the influence of work-family issues.

In a world filled with contending roles and dedications, at the organization and on the home front, the problem of work-family balance is going up to the top of consciousness of many employers and employees. Work-family issues are the dilemmas employees at all levels face in balancing the demands of career and family life. Given the nowadays fast-paced world, human resource experts look for alternatives to positively influence the objectives of their organizations, increase employee motivation, hold employees with important organizational information, and be in pace with work environment developments. Against this background, this paper focuses on the Work Family Practice and how do these practices affect the employees, and whether these practices positively or negatively affect the company on the example of General Motors and the work-family practices.

Literature and Theory

The relation between employee work demands and non-work demands has been examined from time to time. Nevertheless, the study by Greenhaus and Beutell (1985) suggests that one facet of the work and non-work balance, which merits more research consideration, is the conflict employees practice between work demands and non-work demands. Work-family conflict can be described as “a way of inter-demands conflict in that the demands from the work and family spheres are reciprocally exclusive in some manner, that is, involvement in the work/family roles is made more challenging by fact of involvement in the family/work roles.” Greenhaus and Beutell (1985) describe three main facets of work-family conflicts: (a) time-geared, (b) strain-geared, and (c) behaviour geared. They hold that work-family conflicts increase when the work and family demands are relevant or essential to the person’s self-concept and when dominant negative sanctions for non-compliance with responsibility pressures are unavoidable. Greenhaus and Beutell (1985) also suggest people need a better consideration of the interactive impacts of work and family responsibility demands.

Milliken, Martins and Morgan (1998) point out that human resource professionals influence organizational measures way before than the instance at which choices and options for replies are being developed and scrutinized and, thus, take a very vital role in shaping the probability and nature of a firm’s measures with respect to work-family practices. These authors mainly attribute the increase in the topic work-family issues to 1) global competition; 2) renewed interest in personal pursuits/family values; and 3) an aging work-force. Recent surveys reveal that a greater part of company managers believe that work family strategies would be very vital in time to come. Human resource experts would no reservation take a key responsibility in generating and employing work-family strategies.

A work-family practice research undertaken in 2002 by TrueCareers reveals that 70 percent of more than 1,500 interviewees responded they did not have an equilibrium balance between their personal life and work life (cited by Parker and Allen 2001). “Holding a Job, Having a Life: Strategies for Change” 2001 survey by the Work Institute of America shows that employee-oriented measures assist in reducing overtime, stress, and workloads, and enhance suppleness and family and relaxation time (Larsen 2004). Researchers argue that in reasonable levels stress can be good, even advantageous, and most individuals are trained to expect it and handle it. Nevertheless, mounting amounts of stress can hastily lead to low worker drive, low output, and declining work fulfilment. Some of the explicit indicators that are linked directly to performance in the workplace are abuse of sick-offs, deceitful, constant absenteeism, distrust, organizational interruption, gloominess, alcohol and drug indulgence, and employee burnout.

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Over time, the functional approach to the distinction of work and family has been rethought and its negative influences on the formation of family life and work life evaluated. Of specific concern to these examinations has been the increase of dual earners and single-parent families, cohabiting partners, and the extended families, which been left out in the legal and economic theorizations of family. The functional family ideology has been based on the nuclear family concept that consist of engaged hetero-sexual partner with children, which is an endangered institution given the current developments in industrialization and other reasons. In her study of working mothers in Malaysia, Ahmad (1995) reports “that the distinction of work and life along gender lines is no longer evident in many non-Western countries either. Thus, a broader variety of logic now operates in modern societies in the social formation of the family, which deems the definition of the family based on matrimony, economics, and social mores alone to be insufficient.” According to Ahmad, there are three fundamental facets of work-family issues:

  • Time balance; this concern total time taken on work and non-work demands,
  • Involvement balance; concerning the amount of psychological participation in, or dedication to, work and non-work demands, and
  • Satisfaction balance; or the extent of fulfilment with work and non-work demands.

This representation of work-family balance, with time, participation and fulfilment facets, gives a wider and more comprehensive photo to materialize. The author adds that though work-life balance has traditionally been assumed to include the commitment of equal amount of energy to paid work and non-paid work roles, it also includes the rate of performance of both the roles.

Why Should Employers care about Employees’ Work-family practices?

Many firms think that assisting their members of staff to cope with contending work and out-of-work demands is not their duty. Instead they follow a somewhat out-of-date opinion known as the “myth of separate worlds” which argues that work is work and life is life and that these realms do not overlie. These firms say that “it was the employee’s preference to have a family so matching the contending needs is their concern and there’s” (Glass & Estes 1997). These firms also contend that they are “in the business” of growing shareholders wealth and serving clients and not assisting members of staff to balance their roles. In other firms, members of staff lacking dependent care responsibilities infer “family friendly” as preferential treatment and argue that they are acting “unjustly” or lopsidedly. Such members of staff feel that their equals with child-care or elder-care roles are “getting away with less work” and that the demands of childless staff are being addressed. This reaction in opposition to “family friendly” makes it harder for firms which would like to attend the issue.

Several researches have come debunk the above presumptions and support that the failure to equilibrium work and family is “everyone’s concern.” High levels of work-life conflict unconstructively influence the employer, the employees’ co-worker, the member of staff, the employees’ family, and society in general. From the employer’s viewpoint, the failure to equilibrium work and family roles been associated to diminished work efficiency, increased non-attendance, increased return, decreased loyalty and lower self-drive. Work-family conflict has also been associated with output decrease associated with tardiness, impromptu days-off, emergency time-off, and wastage of organization resources, missed congregations, and problems concentrating on work. Conflict between work and family duties is also a challenge for staff and their family. Work-family balance plans are used as measures to manage these budding work-family conflicts (Drago and Hyatt 2003).

Methodology

This research is aimed at identifying the role of work-family practices in General Motors by means of assessing the work-family practices introduced in this company and the outcomes of such an intervention. As most researches have a research question and a hypothesis, it is necessary to outline the research with the help of limiting the research to one company and assessing the effectiveness of work-family policies’ incorporation with the help of the following research questions:

  1. How do work-family practices affect employees?
  2. What are positive and negative effects of the practices? Effect on employees and effect on the company and effectiveness of performance in terms of the turnover and position in the global market.
  3. How the actual effects viewed on the example of General Motors are related to the literature review? What common and different features can be found?

Basically, these are the key questions to be the basis of the research. So, it is necessary to create a questionnaire using these questions and making the research more in-depth and well-grounded.

As a pre-study has not been conducted, it is necessary to assess the relations between the theoretical and practical parts of the research. Age and marital status of respondents as well as their position in the company, field of duties and responsibilities, and a number of other facts should be reflected in the questionnaire. In addition, it is necessary to assess the overall income per family taking into account the employment and working hours of a husband/wife; the number of children in a family and the fact of taking care of elderly members of the family also should be indicated in the survey.

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Results

The results of the research show that General Motors is one of the most successful carmakers in the world; it implemented work-family practices in order to meet the family-related needs and expectations of their employees of different levels of subordination. This means that this company is rather effective in business taking into account the effectiveness of presentation and financial perspectives. Besides, it cooperates with other companies making them its partners worldwide. In other words, the company General Motors is a prosperous company that attracts other international companies for cooperation and mutual operation with regard to work-family policies’ implementation in all departments that work for GM. For instance, the effectiveness and credibility of these programs can be viewed from Agreement between General Motors Corporation and the UAW (Contract Documents) (1999) where such practices as work-family and orientation program as well as help to those who experienced drug-abuse and other problems related to health and resulting in lower performance can be seen. Besides, the employed women who have family responsibilities are more affected negatively from work-family conflicts due to their higher level of involvement (MacDermind et al., 2002).As all these practices are applied to the operation of one corporation, the evidence of its effectiveness can be supported with the help of the turnover and the number of applicants who are willing to work for GM Corporation.

Satisfaction received from performance of one’s duties and daily responsibilities can be beneficial for employees and the company. As suggested in the study by Osterman (1995), “at the core of the new systems are changes in how employees do their work” (p. 685). In other words, each employee regardless of the age and sex has a family or people to take care of; this means that some time should be spent on socializing with other family members and friends, taking children to school or to doctor’s. Every person that has a family can be more responsible in his/her professional duties if appropriate conditions are created. So, it is necessary to review effectiveness of such work-family practices and other policies aimed at establishing better relationships between the company and employees as mentioned in the Contract Documents (1999) “quality, teamwork, safety, and joint programs in addition to those items new employees must know to perform their jobs” (Doc. 38). Besides, it is necessary to analyse the roles of employees and width of their freedoms in term of the suggestions made for improvement of the corporation’s performance on different levels, and other useful measures.

Childcare as well as elder care resources are available at General Motors through work-family practices and other innovations aimed at improving the environment in the company and resulting in more effective performance. According to Contract Documents (1999), the following programmes are available at GM: “Employee Assistance Program, Child Care and Elder Care Resource and Referral, Childcare Consortiums, Workplace Violence Training, and Critical Incident Response” (Doc. 37). Every employee can benefit from using these programs as well as his/her family because all these work-family issues can distract employees from effective performance at work and adequate responsiveness at home leading to the work-family conflicts. As such, these conflicts can be reduced and sometimes eliminated with the help of the practices mentioned above. The more an employee can participate in the programmes, the more he/she can benefit from using other innovations implemented by the company to make the working environment healthier, friendlier, and less depressing. In the survey about 25 percent of the respondents had simultaneous childcare and eldercare family responsibilities commonly referred to as “sandwich generation”. This type generation has always faced work-family conflicts as they try to balance between family and work demands. As a result the performance of this type of family is usually low both towards their family and work responsibilities (Greenhaus, 1985).

Discussion

Human resources is one of the integral part of corporation management that also contributes positively the changes implemented by the company if prepared for the change and negatively if opposing the change. In other words, it is necessary to evaluate the existing personnel before implementation of innovations in the form of work-family practices and decide on the best practices to be used. The corporation of General Motors had implemented practices related to work-family issues and aimed at solving the problem of childcare and elder care resources with regard to increasing job responsibilities. Besides, the number of working women who have families to take care of and children to take to schools and health care institutions is rising as well as the unemployment rates in the international market; so, a healthier environment and appropriate conditions are beneficial for all parties concerned.

The work-family practices can be aimed at creating a healthier environment as well as ensuring more flexible working hours for those employees who should take care of children and elderly members of the family. According to Berg (2004), “Work-family policies and practices can be divided into two broad categories: care-giver replacement and flexible scheduling” (n. p.). In this respect, international companies should recognize the influence of the family and family relations of effectiveness of performance and overall losses experienced by the company without implementation of work-family practices. At the same time, it is possible to benefit from implementing orientation programs for new-comers who know little or nothing about safety measures, team work, and leadership strategies in the company as well as General Motors Corporation did.

Another positive aspect of work-family practices is that other companies can implement those without receiving permission from the General Motors Corporation because this international company has established these practices as a part of the agreement between the General Motors and the UAW (1999) which was aimed at ensuring the employees are secured in terms of their needs and working conditions. In addition, the benefits from implementation of such practices are demonstrated with the help of the sales rates, annual turnover, and other factors of performance that are usually treated as decisive. As such, employees should know about their rights and freedoms within the corporation and be able to evaluate working conditions and offer useful innovations with regard to the orientation programmes and other initiatives in the workplace.

Recommendations

The human resource department in an organization should have policies or frameworks that seek to address the work-family issues in a more comprehensive manner that takes into account different family structure and dynamics. This can be achieved by having cultural and structural changes within an organization as well as having an intervention mechanism to counteract any work-family conflicts. There are a number of ways through which these issues can be counteracted in an organization. The HR should implement work teams which will ensure that employees have a wide range of resources, ideas and the technical knowhow on how to go about certain problems or conflicts they may face in their work-family practice. Also, there should be work-family conflict training which will empower the human resource with the ability to tackle issues arising with different work-family problems (Frone, et al 1997).

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There should be efficient communication channels in the organization especially between the HR departments and the employees. Communication will serve better in identify problems and conflicts in employees and giving the necessary attention it deserves thus, solving them much more quicker. Other methods that can be used to mitigate the above problems include: Collaboration that happens on a one-on-one basis between the affected employee and the human resource department personnel, mediation, between the employee and other stakeholders in the presence of a mediator and finally team counselling, whereby families with the same family structures are grouped together and offered counselling together since they have similar problems and they can offer each other support whenever necessary without the intervention on the human resource department (Kossek et al., 1999). Thus, the HR should give ample attention to work-family practices and issues arising by having policies that are friendly and not bias on one family structure or gender in the organization. These policies and framework should take into factors all issues related to work-family practices and comprehensively balance the two.

Conclusion

From the study that has been conducted it is clear that work-family practices really do affect an organization. In a world filled with contending roles and dedications, at the organization and on the home front, the problem of work-family balance is a concern for every employer and employee. However, everyday, employed individuals are called to alternate between their work and their family giving a big dilemma to the employees at all levels face in balancing the demands of career and family life. To make thing worse, the modern workplace practices and public programs make it really difficult for employed individuals who need devotion and commitments to look after their families. Many firms think that assisting their members of staff to cope with contending work and out-of-work demands is not their duty. Instead they follow a somewhat out-of-date opinion that work is work and life is life and that these realms do not overlie and should not be mixed. As such, the General Motors Corporation implemented work-family practices to make the working environment healthier and performance more effective.

The change in the work environment and family structures has resulted in dynamic changes in work places, human resource and the organization as a whole. Due to changes in family structures and the economy, tradition concepts in family life have been affected as people adopt more into the working culture while at the same time remaining responsible for dependants at home. Finding a balance between this two has always been difficult thus resulting in a lot of negative issues arising. This paper has analyzed the work-family practices in-depth in a conducting a survey in organizations, human resource reports and from individual employees affected by the work-family conflict. Therefore from the survey, human resource should come up with policies that seek to address the issue since as observed there are several negative issues arising out of it resulting in poor performance of individual employees and also affecting the mental health of the employees.

References

Agreement between General Motors Corporation and the UAW (Contract Documents). (1999). Interpretations, statements, letters and the memorandum of understanding on health and safety: Documents 37-39. Web.

Ahmad, A. (1995). Work-family conflict and coping behaviour among married working women. Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, 3(2): 1-10.

Berg, P. (2004). International perspectives on organizational performance. Encyclopaedia. Web.

Drago, R. and Hyatt, D. (2003). Symposium: the effect of work-family policies on employees and employers. Industrial Relations, 42(2): 139-144.

Frone, M. Yardley, J. K., & Markel, K. S. (1997). Developing and testing an integrative model of the work–family interface. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 50, 145–167.

Glass, J. L. & Estes, S. B. (1997). The family responsive workplace. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 289-313.

Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76-88.

Kossek, E., Noe, R. & DeMarr, B. (1999). Work family role synthesis: Individual and organization determinants. International Journal of Conflict Management (1997-2002), 10(2): 102-129.

Larsen, T. P. (2004). Work and care strategies of European families: similarities or national differences. Social Policy and Administration, 38(6): 654-677.

MacDermind, S. M., Seery, B. L., & Weiss, H. H. (2002). An emotional examination of the work-family interface. In N. Schmitt (Series Ed.) & R. G. Lord, R. J. Klimoski & R. K. Kanfer (Vol. Eds.), The Organizational Frontier Series,16, 15-98.

Milliken, F. J., Martins, L. L., & Morgan, H. (1998). Explaining organizational responsiveness to work-family issues: The role of human resource executives as issue interpreters. Academy of Management Journal, 41(5): 580-592.

Osterman, P. (1995). Work/family programs and the employment relationship. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 681-700.

Parker, L. B. and Allen, T. D. (2001). Work/family benefits: Variables related to employees’ fairness perceptions. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 58, 453-468.

Wall, K. and Jose, J. S. (2004). Managing work and care: a difficult challenge for immigrant families. Social Policy and Administration, 38(6): 591-621.

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