The basic reason for the diverse findings could refer to the following:
most studied have been conducted on a single organization the family-friendly policies are analyzed as a whole and therefore the efficiencies of a single program are neglected employees' answers are given in questioners and the workers have to rely on memory and personal perception most of the studies have no terms of comparison the studies generally measure satisfaction with the offered benefits, instead of job performance the studies only analyze the recipient of family-friendly programs, but should also question his team-mates, who interact with him and are able to measure the impact the studies are conducted over short periods of time the studies do not consider the "individual differences between employees, (the) social support in organizations, (the) job/organizational characteristics and uses of additional organizational level outcomes" (Kossek and Lambert, 2004)
The ethical implications of family-friendly programs are quite various, but a primary positive one is given by the promotion of gender equality. Most family-friendly programs have been aimed to support women develop their careers, while also being able to raise their children properly. "Several European governments have actively worked to increase women's equality in all areas of life, including employment. These governments have focused on initiatives such as changing societal attitudes toward cohabitation and childbirth outside of marriage; governmental provisions for maternity and child care leave for parents; direct monetary or tax credit support for child care facilities; taxation systems that favour, or at least don't penalize, married women who work; and legislated changes that promote equal opportunities" (Mainiero and Sullivan, 2006).
However in the past few decades the general tendency has been to improve and increase the number of family-friendly policies, an article in the U.S.A. Today in October 2003 announced the downsizing of the programs. "For the first time in years, companies are taking the axe to programs considered family friendly. Telecommuting, flexible schedules, job sharing and other programs long championed as critical for making companies responsive to family needs are being scaled back after years of steady gains" (Armour, 2003). The study was conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and it interviewed 600 companies of various sizes. The results indicated that approximately one third of the questioned organizations had let go some of their employees specializing in work-life benefits, and consequently the development and implementation of family-friendly programs. There are three primary reasons forwarded for the reduction in family-friendly programs:
Labor market - the unemployment rate has been increasing, now totalling 9 million unemployed; in these circumstances, organizations no longer need major incentives to hire and retain staff members. "Benefits went past what the market could bear, and now they're coming back into line" (Armour, 2003, quoting Jim Bird, President of WorkLifeBalance.com)
Productivity needs - it has been observed that the family-friendly programs cannot be applied to all positions and, in some cases, telecommuting has resulted in decreased performances and reduce productivity
Cost savings - today's organizations have to pay large sums of money into the medical coverage of their staff members and they look for ways to reducing the already high corporate costs; a means of achieving this is that of renouncing the non-essential benefits, such as adoption assistance, scholarships and child care services
Even though the downsizing strategies have retrieved the desired result, this is only valid for the short-term. On the long run, the renouncing of family-friendly programs could do more damage than good. To better understand, since the unemployment rate is high, it means that people will have fewer pretensions when getting a job and companies will hire easily. Then, the unemployment rate will once again decrease and the demands of employees will increase. Companies which do not promote the proper incentives will find it difficult to retain their staff. "The cutbacks could backfire if productivity gains suffer and could lead to retention problems as the jobless rate drops" (Armour, 2003).
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
The emergence of the family-friendly programs coincided with multiple changes in the social and business fields. Since after the Industrial Revolution, most households had both mother and father working, baring the responsibilities of home and work became more difficult. Employers came to the aid of their staff members by creating special programs, such as child support, education or company's kindergartens. The primary aim of these programs was to ease the mind of employees, who would better concentrate on their professional tasks, increase their performances and also reduce the turnover. The studies conducted along the years however, with their controversial results, fail to offer a clear insight regarding the true efficiencies of family-friendly programs. The latest tendencies even reveal that companies are beginning to renounce them.
The most important recommendation for managers is to continue the development and implementation of the family-friendly programs. However there may be times when costs will be large, the ultimate benefit will be for the organization. By implementing this proper code of conduct, organizations will offer their employees equal opportunities, creating as such a dynamic and friendly environment, opened to creativity, innovation and hard work. Employees will be free to express themselves and will be able to work at maximum capacity as they will not have to worry about their children being alone at home, or any other unresolved familial matters.
Then, the second recommendation is that the corporate officials not only continue to enforce these policies, but they also diversify them to meet other needs as well. Take for instance the case of a single, childless employee. The daycare accessible to his colleagues will not do him any good, but in order for him not to feel disadvantaged, the management should offer other benefits, such as nights out.
A third recommendation, this time a legal one, is for the authorities to better supervise the corporate actions relative to family-friendly programs. Also, they should develop and enforce a strict legislation. It would however be unfair for the government to make the family-friendly programs compulsory for each entity, but since an organization has chosen to offer them they should do so by meeting high standards.
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