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
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
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.