Project Management Institute

More creative than cash





WHETHER MEASURED IN CURRENCY, TIME OR OVERHEAD, every employee benefit has an associated cost. However, fattening paychecks and distributing cash are not the only, or even the most plausible, ways to show employees they are valued. In fact, many employees seek paths for career advancement and a sense of work-life balance more aggressively than a pay raise. A survey of almost 1,000 professionals conducted by Woodcliff Lake, N.J., USA-based career management consultant Lee Hecht Harrison found that 96 percent would either definitely accept or strongly consider a job that paid less and offered fewer benefits if it provided better corporate culture, work-life balance and career/leadership development.

“People want more out of work than getting paid,” says Fumiko Kondo, managing director of service automation consultancy Intellilink Solutions Inc., New York, N.Y., USA. “Employees are spending a lot of time at work, and work is great only if your life is great. With too many constraints, people just aren't as creative or productive. Quality and efficiency actually go up when a company has an employee-focused philosophy.”

imagesAs a starting point, employers can offer incentives based simply on the schedule of an individual employee or the entire operation. In companies where workers are paid based on billable time, employees can use ordinary downtime as a supplement to vacation time. Intellilink's 12 consultants are encouraged to take time off in the lull between their projects, and Ms. Kondo says this option is a win for the employer because it's not paying for vacation time.

Conversely, when things are busy and stressful at Roseland, N.J., USA-based human resources, benefits and outsourcing service provider Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s (ADP®), Employer Services division, the company holds various fun activities to keep employees in high spirits. From October through January—ADP’s busiest period—each project manager in ADP’s East National Service Center (ENSC), Clifton, N.J., USA, was assigned a day to execute a “food-based project,” which ranged from cooking breakfast for their teams to bringing in bagels. “There is a little friendly competition among the project managers, as the teams will vote for the most creative activity,” says Nick Maniaci, ENSC vice president of Implementation Services. “These activities take some of the edge off of late nights and weekend work.”

For a client that had 12,000 IT workers who barely knew one another, Intellilink suggested periodic project manager conference calls and a monthly project management community brown bag lunch as part of its knowledge automation solution so employees could glean career development tips from one another and, more simply, have the opportunity to meet other project managers.


images Employers should consider their employees’ work duties to provide supplementary benefits, such as additional time-off or mentoring opportunities.

images  Project managers often see career advancement as the ultimate employee benefit, and employers should provide them with training and educational opportunities.

images  Work-life balance is the barometer of a healthy, well-functioning workplace and companies must provide ways to make work-life balance possible.

“A lot of the time, project managers simply want a way to network and talk to one another,” Ms. Kondo says. “Companies that sponsor interaction and learning have more people who want to stay with the company.”

Mentoring programs also are an easy way to facilitate employee engagement and gain loyalty. To grow project managers internally at ADP, high-performance, high-potential associates are identified and subsequently placed in a project management mentoring program which helps them develop. “Each mentee is evaluated periodically and provided with feedback on what they can do to improve their performance,” Mr. Maniaci says.

Training Focus …

Named to's “10 Hottest Certifications for 2005,” the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential is a high-impact way for employers to provide their workers with a training opportunity that is on the global radar. Providing PMP exam prep courses is a nonmonetary incentive that can yield real business benefits for a company; the PMP credential is acknowledged as the modern-day equivalent of what the MBA was in the 1980s, according to a report from IT and business professional portal

Companies that
sponsor interaction and
learning have more
people who want to
stay with the company.

imagesAt ADP, PMPs receive an increase in compensation. But Mr. Maniaci believes that ADP employees’ motivation to pursue such training has less to do with the financial consideration and is more about individual career development and growth. Muhammad Aslam Mirza, founder of Integrated Management Solutions, Karachi, Pakistan, agrees that career development opportunities are the prime motivating factor for the project managers he encounters. He persuades his clients’ human resources departments to provide a plethora of educational opportunities—from PMP preparation classes to courses intended to improve project management techniques, communication skills and emotional intelligence—for project managers. Such programs inspire project managers to take more ownership of their projects, he says.

“All project managers need a broader base of knowledge,” Mr. Mirza says. “Project managers need creativity and innovation in dealing with challenges, and that knowledge is only gained in training workshops where different perspectives are presented on a given problem. Experiential learning carries weight and a lasting impact: Project managers working on projects are reduced to tunnel vision, and training programs bring fresh ideas.”



“Work-life balance was coined in 1986 in reaction to the unhealthy choice many [U.S. residents] were making in favor of the workplace, as they opted to neglect family, friends and leisure activities in pursuit of corporate goals,” according to the Work Life Balance Centre, a Newton Burgoland, Leicestershire, U.K.-based think tank and council dedicated to helping workers gain control of their workloads.

Since the late 1980s, achieving work-life balance has become a concern and goal for businesses, industry and governments worldwide. “There is significant evidence that work-life balance policies can have positive benefits for companies in terms of enhancing productivity and competitiveness,” says Willy Buschak, acting director of the Dublin, Ireland-based European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. For example, 310 Australian companies reported a 4.5 percent reduction in turnover, a 3.5 percent reduction in absenteeism and an 11 percent increase in employee satisfaction, according to Roseville, Australia-based Managing Work|Life Balance International’s 2004 annual survey, “Work Life Initiatives—TheWay Ahead.”

But for every company that reports results, another sees work-life balance as a theory. “Balance is a fleeting phenomenon of a closed, industrial economy that doesn't apply in a global, knowledge-based world; it's an unattainable pipe dream that offers mostly rhetorical solutions to problems of logistics and economics,” according to an October 2004 FastCompany cover story, “Balance is Bunk!” Whether you see these issues in relation to work culture or logistics, the work-life movement has gained steam worldwide—here are some areas where work-life advocates believe organizations can or have begun to effect real change:


Canada’s Labour Program released, “Voices of Canadians: Seeking Work-Life Balance,” in January 2003, an extensive study and survey of 31,571 Canadian employees. Respondents recommended that employers address manager expectations, daycare options, the availability of fitness facilities and the overall organizational support of families as the key areas to improving work-life balance.

The New Zealand government's Department of Labour founded the Work-Life Balance Project in 2003. Among its numerous findings, the July 2004 closing report, “Achieving Balanced Lives and Employment,” suggested that employers can bring about work-life balance by improving staffing levels, changing workforce culture to ensure families (parents specifically) are supported and embraced, and possibly reducing the work week to four days.

Of 183 Singapore-based companies polled in a 2004 Watson Wyatt survey, 7 percent of employees who vacated their jobs did so to achieve better work-life balance, which was defined as a job with shorter or more flexible working hours or one deemed less stressful by the individual.

In the United Kingdom, organizations such as the London-based The Work-Life Balance Trust and Employers for Work-Life Balance influence public policy and create business cases to further work-life balance initiatives, respectively. The latter organization cites the Department of Trade and Industry's 2003 mandate that organizations must consider flexible working requests from parents with children under the age of 6 or with disabled children under the age of 18 as a recent milestone in accommodating work-life balance issues.

Mr. Mirza recently suggested that his client send two top-performing project managers to a seminar in Malaysia because he believed the application of project management there is, comparatively, more robust. Had he proposed this idea three years ago, he believes he would have met reluctance and resistance; today, he is able to get such requests approved because the organization has undergone a culture shift that aligns such training initiatives with an overall human resource management approach. Once his client viewed the purpose and desired results of its projects in the context of team member performance, career development and work-life balance became priorities supported from the top-down.


ADP is refining its employee satisfaction and work-life data by having employees rate these 12 questions—none of which are related to pay—on a scale of 1 to 5. Employers and employees alike can use these same questions to determine whether the job environment provides the personal satisfaction necessary to realize work-life balance initiatives successfully.

Do you know what is expected of you at work?

Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?

At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

At work, do your opinions seem to count?

Does the mission or purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?

Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?

Do you have a best friend at work?

In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Source: “Feedback for Real,” The Gallup Management Journal, 2001.

“Human resource organizations should hold training regularly, because the workers who are productive and have a clear path to career advancement aren't overburdened by additional work,” he says. “There are no fire-fighting situations at the office, and then they have equal amounts of time for their family and other personal interests.”

…But at What Cost?

There are obvious organizational costs associated with such training programs. Intellilink allocates approximately $2,000 annually for training per individual. ADP’s goal is for employees to receive 40 hours of training each year, and it also offers associates a tuition reimbursement program and management and leadership courses through ADP University. Mr. Mirza's client must cover the travel expenses of the employees who went to Malaysia.


Because of the costs associated with these nonmonetary incentives, companies run the risk of investing in employees who then resign. Even if employees are required to stay with the company for a predetermined amount of time after utilizing a company-assisted education program, a company will never recoup the full investment if the employee leaves.

“There is a risk with these programs, but the risk of not doing them is equally great,” Mr. Maniaci says. “We have been very fortunate that associate retention has been in excess of 90 percent for the past five years. Our project manager tenure also is significant, averaging around 10-plus years with ADP. I think these initiatives are paying off.”

Based on the feedback he gets from his clients, Mr. Mirza believes the benefits of training actually outweigh the risk. “For project managers, it is a strong motivating factor when an organization supports training programs. When project managers are trained beyond the market need, that additional competence brings a competitive edge, and I believe that talent stays with the organization for future projects.”

The Impact of Flexibility

imagesFlexibility in the workplace has the most impact of any nonmonetary program, says Annette Byrd, manager for the Research Triangle Park, N.C., USA-based Work Life Support/Solutions group for the U.S. divisions of pharmaceutical company Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK).

GSK’s dedicated work-life group was founded four years ago when the company merged with GlaxoWellcome and SmithKlineBeecham. It focuses on four strata: flexible working arrangements, dependent care, dependent education and factors it dubs “everyday issues.” The division also launched a personal resilience initiative aimed at providing human resources staff and managers across GSK locations with online coaching and survey tools to assess the flexibility and resilience of teams and individuals.

For example, if team members are asked to complete an online assessment, the program compiles the results and generates an aggregate group report that can be used to generate a dialog about working conditions. Collaborative action plans then are generated, with the first priority being “quick and easy wins,” such as two new computers or the option for one team member to work flexible hours; more complicated or costly interventions receive longer-term planning.

With regard to dependent care, GSK offers adoption reimbursement, on-site child care centers and lactation rooms in its larger locations and child care discounts across its U.S. locations, to its 24,000 U.S. employees, more than half of whom are women. The company provides college entrance examination prep courses and summer camps at larger locations, and all employees’ college-bound dependents are eligible for academic and financial assistance. Online and telephonic concierge and consultation services help employees shop or find necessary services in their home area.

“Because we want GSK to be a great place to work and to attract and retain a diverse, talented workforce, strong work/life solutions are critical to our business,” Ms. Byrd says. Based on employee surveys GSK has conducted over the last four years, she says these services have been pinpointed by employees as factors in their high commitment levels (or “their willingness to go the extra mile”) and comfort level with referring a friend or family member for employment at GSK.

“To be totally focused on their jobs, employees need to have energy left to spend with their families at the end of the day,” she says. “We no longer have an 8 to 5 culture, but you can't ask people to work 24/7. The most value you can offer an employee is accommodating family and making work more conducive to their everyday way of life.” PM

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