HR direct challenge: creating a flexible organization



HR directorchallenge: creating the flexible organization

You are the newly appointed HR director of a public sector utility organization.

One of your friendly policies in your last organization. As this is also one of the

major areas requiring attention in the organization, there are high expectations

that you will make positive changes. The part-time work policies require your

immediate attention.

The organization has a workforce in excess of 3000 people. It is male-dominated

(80% male) and 65 percent of the overall workforces are members of two main

unions. The average employee age is 44 years, with 72 percent of the workforce over

the age of 35 and an average length of service of 16 years. The biggest group of

female employees (23%) is 19–29 years old; by comparison, 8 percent of male

employees are in that age group. The second biggest group of female employees

is in the age bracket of 35–39 years (18.5%). From age 40 and up, women’s

representation falls below 15 percent. In contrast, the biggest groups of male

employees (22%) are over 55 years old.

Work organization reflects two distinct work cultures. The differences between

plant/blue-collar and managerial/white-collar workers are reinforced by

different conditions under different industrial arrangements, such as award and

non-award staff.

Work is mainly organized around an ‘ideal worker’ who is available to work full-

time, including overtime or long hours, on the basis that a partner at home is

primarily responsible for family or outside commitments. In the operational

areas, the ideal worker is explicitly seen as a male, full-time breadwinner who is

reliable because he has family responsibilities. In some of the white-collar areas,

the ideal worker is less gendered; he or she is seen as someone who has a can-do

attitude and is a go-getter, able to commit long hours to the company. One

manager also said, ‘face time is very important’.

The part-time work policy is set by company policy alone and is considered as

one of the organization’s flagship policies. The policy says that when

investigating the feasibility of job-sharing or part-time work arrangement the

the manager should consider:

1 the nature of the position in terms of its responsibilities and relationship

to other positions

2 the impact of the arrangement on other members of the workgroup

3 the extent to which tasks of the position can be separated

4 the skills of the respective employee(s)

5 an assessment of the likely longevity of the proposed arrangement

6 potential complications arising from the breaking of the arrangement.

It is the responsibility of the relevant manager to monitor the allocation of work

to part-time employees to ensure that the nature and volume of work is


Where part-time arrangements are made, the manager is to explain these

arrangements to the work unit. The impact of the arrangement on the flow of

work within the group should also be discussed.

As far as practicable, managers should take the hours and days worked by part-

time employees into account when arranging employee meetings and training


Although considerable interest in part-time work is expressed at both

managerial and non- managerial levels, only 3 percent of all employees accessed

part-time work arrangements, with the vast majority of these being female


Access to part-time employment takes place on a case-by-case discretionary

basis. A recent review revealed the following information.

1 In some divisions, there is evidence of overt and covert management

resistance to part-time work.

2 In cases where female employees worked full-time before the birth of their

child/children and then returned on a part-time basis, the lack of a formalized

process for managers and staff to deal with issues arising out of the extended

leave and changed employment patterns after leave was cause for significant

grief for some employees.

3 Part-time work was a critical factor in attracting and retaining not only

female employees but also employees with caring responsibilities and those

with extensive skills and organizational knowledge who were about to retire or

had recently retired.

4 For some, changing from full-time to part-time work brought about

specific concerns such as work intensification (e.g. ‘Some part-time jobs are

really just full-time workloads with a pay cut’). In these instances, the need for

part-time job designs and adjusted performance reviews was overlooked.

5 Some women employees reported that returning to work on a part-time

basis after maternity leave forced them to accept a position with less

responsibility and lower pay (on a pro-rata basis) than their original position,

despite this potentially contravening anti-discrimination laws.

6 Some part-timers complained that they did not have the same access to

and support from their managers in terms of training, development and

promotion opportunities as their full-time colleagues.

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