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Balance Work and Family Commitments

October 1, 1996
Related Topics: Behavioral Training, Work/Life Balance, Basic Skills Training, Featured Article
The Dilemma:
Recent announcements encouraging employees to take company-sponsored classes have Paul a little concerned. As an employee with a heavy workload, he can’t take time from work for training—and as a single dad, he’s resistant to giving up time with his daughter. Paul’s manager made it clear that he strongly supports the directive. Paul has come to you for advice. How do you respond?

Readers Respond:
Traditionally, HR has acted as the policeman—focusing more on consistency rather than what is right and fair. For an organization to evolve and be competitive, it must learn to work outside the box.

The organization should look into training alternatives for Paul. If an organization can focus on principles rather than past practice—assuming the intent remains nondiscriminatory—both the employee and the organization will be better off.
Michael A. Serchia
Director of Human Resources
Weber Distribution
Santa Fe Springs, California

In order to assist Paul, a program that makes him available for some training should be considered. His manager also should look at the workload in the group and evaluate the group’s performance. Maybe Paul is in need of training to assist in managing his workload. His problem may be his work and not his ability to take time to train. If HR is doing its job correctly, then this problem may not occur at all. Making sure that as the gatekeeper you allow the right people into the right jobs—and keep track of training in the groups—you’ll create a better company for all.
Kenneth Banks
Engineering Manager
Testware Inc.
Hudson, Massachusetts

If Paul’s training is "mandatory," the ownership is on the company to find solutions for Paul and others to attend the sessions. Why not have a brown-bag lunch training session? If it requires more than an hour, split it from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then noon until 1 p.m. You could also put together a Saturday seminar.

Human resources is the conscience of the company and therefore must come up with creative ways for all employees to take advantage of company-sponsored programs. We, as HR professionals, must meet the needs of an ever-growing diverse population.
Cynthia Paquette
Director Human Resources
Massachusetts Behavioral Health
Boston, Massachusetts

Paul is lucky his manager strongly supports his company’s training initiative. He should use that commitment to explore possible win-win solutions that would benefit himself, his manager and the company.

Paul should ask his manager to explain how the training would make him more effective. Understanding the potential gain might make Paul more willing to make the short-term time sacrifice. Paul could ask the manager to offload some of his work to other team members to free training time. He should be willing to return that support when it’s time for others to take training. Paul’s manager also could consider adjusting deadlines to free the necessary training time.

Flextime would allow Paul to adjust his work schedule to take the classes during the day. A correspondence or self-study program might also give him the necessary flexibility.

Showing a willingness to explore flexible options that benefit his manager and the company will give Paul a much better chance of getting the needed support to take the training on terms that address his concerns.
David Bainbridge
Human Resources Manager
Anchor Food Products Inc.
Appleton, Wisconsin

This is a non-issue to me. If the training is work-related and is intended to enhance work performance, the company should sponsor the training on company time. I recognize that Paul has a heavy workload, but if the training is worthwhile, it should result in a more productive employee. A small investment in enhancing employee skills will result in significant long-term benefits for this organization. Also, accomplishing this training on company time will send the message that this organization recognizes the importance of a quality home life.
Mike Gentry
Administrator Human Resources
McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Sys.
Phoenix, Arizona

Personnel Journal, October 1996, Vol. 75, No. 10, pp. 105-106.

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