Call to Action—Alternative Work Arrangements

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We’ve heard the statistics about 78 million boomers all being 55 and older 11 years from now, and the predictions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about 30 million U.S. jobs that will go unfilled by 2022, and every analysis of Gen Y saying they’re not going to "live to work" the way that boomers and Gen Xers have done. If you couple all of that information with the additional complication that boomers and Gen X workers are going to increasingly be asked to take on the care (or at least care management) of aging family members…how will this nation’s work get done? Not by traditional methods, that’s for sure.

At the very least, the structure of jobs for knowledge workers must take on a new look. A sincere new look and intention—not just a politically correct foray or a trendy attempt—needs to happen. Traditional job-sharing and flex-time initiatives have been the kiss of death to many a career woman and have not even been considered by men. If you look at Fortune magazine’s "100 Best Companies to Work For," many of the companies have initiated work-life programs, but there has been little chatter in the field on how they’re really meeting the needs of the workforce.

The most well thought-out, well documented and compelling program seems to be the one developed at Deloitte. Cathleen Benko and Anne Weisberg wrote a book about it called Mass Career Customization and have a cool Web site at

Their alternative work arrangements and discussion of a career lattice rather than a career ladder were probably directed more at the acquisition and retention of Gen Y talent and the retention of Gen X talent than boomers, but the models are equally spot-on for all three generations. They liken the tuning of your work-life balance to the tuning of your sound system with controls for Pace, Workload, Location/Schedule and Role rather than Bass, Treble, Balance and Volume. Aggressive new hires might have an accelerated pace, a full workload and have no restrictions for their location and schedule but be limited in the scope of their positions because of inexperience. Experienced workers who have to manage children or ill family members might want to dial it down a few notches in the first three areas, but be critical to the company in the scope of their position. When the responsibilities lessen, those workers could dial it up again in the areas of their choice.

The question becomes, how in the heck do you figure all that out on a work team or in a larger corporate environment? The answers aren’t easy, but to even start you’ll need the commitment from the very top of your organization that if you want the best people and you don’t want to be a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand "short," you’d better do it. It’s all about attracting talent, retaining talent and aligning the workplace to the workforce, rather than the other way around.