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At Prudential: Family Flex-Time
You won’t find clockwatchers at Prudential, and the
reason is simple. Employees make their own hours or work from home.
Not the kind of lax system you would expect from the world’s largest
insurance company, but since Debbie Gingher
for policy and strategy, helped implement flex-time and other
arrangements, Prudential has seen worker morale soar. Earlier this
year, Working Mother magazine recognized Prudential as one of the
"Top 10 Best Companies to Work For" in 1999.
That’s the kind of accolade a company needs in a tough job market,
says Gingher (U.S. 1, November 3, 1999). "There’s a war for
she says. "There are more jobs then there are talented employees,
so in order to attract talent, you have to offer choice and different
ways of doing things."
When CEO Art Ryan
company beefed up its staff to create a new human resource strategy.
"Part of my charge was to figure out what makes sense in the new
world," says Gingher, who holds a BS from SUNY Oneonta, Class
of 1976, and has been in human resources for 20 years.
That new world, says Gingher, is comprised largely of Generation
working mothers, and single mothers. An office-wide survey revealed
that 48 percent of Prudential’s employees are female, 60 percent are
under the age of 35, and many are raising children. With that
in hand, Gingher went to senior management to make a case for
personnel policies — flexible schedules, telecommuting, even
These are the key to higher morale, and higher morale "translates
into dollars. Every time you lose a high skilled employee, take their
compensation and multiply it by 1.5, and that’s what you spend
them. That’s a pretty big business case."
Flex-time and other work arrangements are the way of the future, but
the 9 to 5 institution can’t be changed overnight. Take it slow, says
Gingher, and observe:
out who your employees are and what they want. Gingher discovered,
to her surprise, that some Prudential employees preferred services
like back-up daycare, take-home dinners, or dry-cleaning over flexible
was an all or nothing approach," recalls Gingher. But when
insisted on a trial run instead, the company was able to learn more
about how to train managers and identify problems.
is not sameness" principle. Not every job can be done from home.
employees to set their own schedules is to keep morale high and keep
the best workers in the company. If turnover rate is low, retention
rate high, that’s a good indication that you don’t need to implement
a new policy.
to do," says Gingher. "We had an unbelievable number of
from telecommuters saying `I’m more productive now because I’m not
sitting in traffic everyday.’"
Mom is a corporate executive in a high-tech company.
Dad is an engineer. Who takes care of baby?
"The entire thing is a balancing act and you have to make use
of opportunities at work to make it happen," says Diana
(U.S. 1, July 28, 1999), a senior location executive with IBM who
is concerned that the demanding pace of technical careers may keep
women from entering the field. "It seems one of their biggest
fears and excuses in not accepting a technical career is fear of not
being able to have a family, but many times you can overcome those
She did. In typical supermom fashion, Bendz stayed up late to
bottles, brought the kids on business trips in the family motor home,
and packed Friday’s lunch on Sunday. Things didn’t always go as
One time Bendz made 15 lunches on Sunday night to feed three kids
for the entire week. "I thought I was doing a great job,"
she says, "but finally one came to me and said `do you have any
idea what that Thursday lunch was like?’ It’s humorous in some cases,
but not all."
Working moms may be far from perfect, but they can still be important
role models. Bendz’s daughter, Kathrina, says that having a mom who
works in high-tech gave her the incentive to stick with her favorite
subject: biology. "I’ve always been scientifically guided, but
other girls would just give up from the beginning," she says.
The maturity kids with working parents gain early on is something
that can benefit both parent and child. "They have to learn to
think for themselves," says Bendz, who has a BS in polymer
and works out of IBM’s Endicott, New York, office. With the invaluable
input from her kids, Bendz offers some creative ways to close the
gap between family and career:
today than ever before.
an IBM engineer, adopted their first child early on in their marriage.
"The key is we had no choice, and it forced us to find
says Bendz."One mistake that mothers and fathers make is they
look at the whole picture and they see a huge task in front of you
and get discouraged. We were impulsive and solved problems along the
"Sometimes the guilt makes you do something that makes them feel
more appreciated than normal behavior," she says.
make events, is certain that the legacies will outlast the memory
of a few soggy lunches.
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