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Pilot Program Ties Flexibility to Productivity

Chubb, Gannett, Pitney Bowes and Pepsico are among the guinea pigs.

July 28, 2005
Related Topics: Work/Life Balance, Compensation, Benefits
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When John Finnegan, chairman, president and CEO of the Chubb Corp., was first approached with the idea of establishing a workplace flexibility pilot project, he was leery about potential damage to productivity and customer service.

    But flexibility was tied to improved business results, so Finnegan signed up Chubb for a 90-day program involving 17 employees at the property and casualty insurance company’s Western claims service center in Phoenix. The workers were placed in three teams that were responsible for formulating their schedules and performance goals.

    Now Chubb is reaping the benefits--an 18 percent increase in the number of claim files handled and 4 percent growth in claim payment processing.

    "This isn’t just an employee satisfaction thing," Finnegan says. "This is also something that should improve quality and productivity as well as advance employee satisfaction." Finnegan released Chubb’s results at a National Press Club event in Washington in July.

    Gannett Co. reported gains after implementing a flexibility pilot project for 18 engineering services employees and 16 mail workers. The publisher reduced its engineering project backlog 71 percent in January and 81 percent in February compared with a year earlier. In mail services, unscheduled leave dropped 72 percent.

    The experiments were sponsored by Business Opportunities for Leadership Diversity, a nonprofit organization that promotes women and minorities in the workplace. Since 2003, the initiative has received more than $700,000 in funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

    In addition to Chubb and Gannett, seven other companies set up pilot programs, including Johnson & Johnson, Macy’s Northwest, Pepsico, Pitney Bowes, Prudential Financial, Puget Sound Energy and Weyerhaeuser.

    Satisfied that flexibility produced quantifiable results, Finnegan is eager to move forward. "Now I think we know it’s applicable to a broad range of claims people," he says. "Then you have got to say after that, ‘All right, is it applicable to areas with less metrics?’ So you keep going at it."

    The BOLD initiative has been persistent in trying to increase the numbers of women and minorities in management, asserting that changing the structure of the workplace is required.

    "We don’t want people to feel guilty about having considerations of family, child care, health care or health issues," says Karen-Hastie Williams, BOLD chairwoman. "We want all of the talent that is available to be available to our corporations," she says. Flexibility "is one way we can garner additional talent into the corporate pool."

Workforce Management, August 2005,  p. 22 --Subscribe Now!

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