The Goal Is Building A Better Workplace

April 11, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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" align=right border=0>GRAND RAPIDS — Later this month The Women’s Resource Center will honor three local employers with the 2002 Employer Recognition Awards.

Deloitte & Touche, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP and Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center will be honored at a luncheon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel next Wednesday, March 20, 2002 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Deloitte & Touche is receiving the award for advancing women in leadership, Warner Norcross & Judd will be honored for workplace strategies that focus on work and life benefits and Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center will receive an award for workplace strategies that focus on work environment.

“The winners have shown that building a winning workplace culture will improve employee recruitment and retention and facilitate advancement of women in the workplace,” said Deb Bloom, business and community liaison at the Women’s Resource Center. “Women are expected to make up 48 percent of the labor force by 2008. These strategies are good for women and good for business and this year each company had a unique aspect that caused it to stand out from the rest.”

Each year the Women’s Resource Center accepts nominations and Bloom said they come in forms of nominations from within the company and outside the company. This year, a selection committee comprised of Women’s Resource Center staff and members of the community reviewed 13 nominations.

The local office of Deloitte & Touche has proved that it can continue the national initiative of the retention and advancement of women. 30 percent of the firm’s local partners are women. Not only does the firm’s percentage of women in upper management exceed industry averages, but two of its women were promoted to partnership while on flexible work arrangements.

Deloitte & Touche has created a culture that is open, inclusive and flexible. In addition to a formal mentoring program, the managing partner initiated organizing an informal group of women in the office. The purpose is to share successes and challenges in a safe environment and to develop stronger networks and mentoring relationships for its female employees.

“To have an established, formal mentoring program in the workplace is still quite a minority for employers,’ said Bloom. “And to also see that women have moved into positions of leadership because of it really demonstrates that the program is working.”

Warner Norcross & Judd made a firm commitment in 2000 in its strategic plan to “sustain relationships with family and friends” by providing opportunities to enhance the quality of life for its attorneys and staff. The goal was to create a flexible environment that promoted employee personal and professional goals while still meeting the firm’s business goals.

The firm has also invested heavily in technology necessary to facilitate telecommuting, which is available to selected attorneys, legal assistants and support staff. This makes it possible for mothers, or stay-at-home fathers to be able to be with their families while still working from home and communicating with work from home. One mother of four small children works from home three days per week.

“The emergence of childcare is still another minority with employers but to see Warner Norcross put in an emergency childcare system is coming a long way,” Bloom admitted.

The firm’s technology also allows for temporary communicating in instances of family illness, travel or childcare. Other benefits offered include paid time off for maternity leave, banked sick time to use for elder care and other family wellness issues, adoption benefits, lactation room, supplemental pay and subsidized benefits for military leave, weight loss programs, “lunch and learns,” and a career development program.

Saint Mary’s won its award because of a goal to ensure that its employees find a balance between work life and personal life. Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center’s mission includes healing mind, body and spirit and is carried into the work environment with its commitment to care for its workers personally, physically and mentally.

In addition to offering flexibility in its work schedules, Saint Mary’s offers numerous mind, body and spirit therapies at no charge or discounted rates to accommodate work schedules, such as meditation classes, drumming, acupuncture and massage therapy.

“I think that the aspect of Saint Mary’s looking at the whole person, mind, body and spirit really impressed the committee this year,” Bloom said. “It is more than just the benefits they offer, it is looking at the person and what it will take to make them the best employees and the best people.”

In a society that places a great deal of stress on working women today, Saint Mary’s has worked diligently to find balance for their employees and promote family first. The health organization provides a number of benefits and programs that help employees balance work and life, such as self-scheduling and flexible staffing shift lengths.

“The theme that came across this year in the three winners was workplace culture,” Bloom said. “It is not just about putting in small policies, practices and programs, it is the idea that it is really adopted from the top and it then becomes a part of workplace culture. That is what makes them distinctive.”

The luncheon is open to the public and will be preceded with a conference moderated by author Connie Glaser, she will also be the keynote speaker for the luncheon. Tickets are available through the Women’s Resource Center as well as at the door.

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