Work-Life Balance: An Issue for Everyone

Woman working at desk holding baby girl (9-12 months), rear view
Woman working at desk holding baby girl (9-12 months), rear view

Management teams can help by providing mentorship programmes and support networks.

As one of the judges for the recent AmCham Women of Influence Conference & Awards - part of a committee tasked with selecting women who stood out in their industries in Hong Kong - I had the privilege to learn more about some very highly-qualified women working in a variety of businesses.

What I discovered didn't surprise me. They share similar traits to successful men: they work hard, stay focused and are determined to succeed.

How can management teams engender these traits in staff? By supporting work-life balance efforts, mentorship programmes and support networks, management can help ensure employees can keep their eye on the ball and maintain a passion for work.

Although "work-life balance" is often cast in light of a "woman's issue" it needs to shed that cloak because it's everyone's issue. If your staff can't find time for their life issues it's difficult to expect them to give 100 percent at work.

Figuring out how to do that can be made easier if they have role models. My experience is that most successful women have had more than one mentor, and they aren't always other women. Companies that partner people up, and create their own sponsorship programmes tend to have good track records in promoting diversity. But while this is a management issue, it's also an individual's responsibility. The successful men and women I have encountered over the years talk to a peer in another industry to see how they handle similar issues.

But while success is ultimately up to the individual, it helps if employees genuinely believe their company cares. Accenture employs more than 130,000 women and has pledged to grow the percentage of women it hires to at least 40 percent worldwide by 2017. We have made steady progress towards this goal. In fiscal year 2015 - the 12 months to the end of August - approximately 39 percent of the company's more than 100,000 new hires were women. Today, four of the 11 independent directors on Accenture's board - including its lead director - are women, and the company's global management committee, which has ultimate accountability for running the business, includes three women.

Management should focus on:

  • Mentoring and career development. (This includes groups for new entrants to the workforce but also experienced hires.)

  • Ensuring /life wellness. (This includes digitised insurance policies that promote healthy living.)
  • Creating flexible workplaces. (This includes leveraging technology enablers from Skype to video conferencing.)
  • Diversity: (This goes beyond hiring policies to include career counsellors, and cross-cultural sponsors for global companies.)
  • Management teams that take to heart supporting "support" for staff and genuinely establish an environment where employees can flourish will succeed. If you talk it but don't walk it, it won't work.

    The group of women I met during the AmCham conference and awards process may have all stood out on their own - they had a focus not just on work but also on contributing to society and a passion for what they believed in - but in order to nurture more employees like this we need to ensure an enabling workplace. And that starts with management.

    This content originally appeared in the South China Morning Post on November 27, 2015. View the original article here.