Driving Workplace Flexibility for All

Today, workplace flexibility is about helping everyone thrive and reach their full potential in a changing workplace and a changing world.

Weinberger, Tanden

The following column was written for and initially appeared in The Huffington Post on Monday, June 23, ahead of the White House Summit on Working Families. It is reprinted with permission from The Huffington Post, EY and the Center for American Progress.

By Mark Weinberger and Neera Tanden

Weinberger, Tanden

On Monday, we'll be participating in the White House Summit on Working Families, joining business leaders, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, and fellow citizens. We're meeting to answer a crucial question: How can we build a 21st century workplace that supports thriving employees, growing businesses, and healthy economies -- all at once?

It's a critical moment for this conversation, because in today's global economy, we can only succeed if we embrace people from every background and every experience. We can't afford to lose anyone's talent -- whether they're working mothers, working fathers, single parents, or anyone else. To stay competitive, we need to create diverse and inclusive cultures, then maintain them and reinforce them from the top.

One of the issues at the heart of this conversation is workplace flexibility. In other words, how do we create a flexible and inclusive work environment that enables employees to meet their responsibilities both at work and at home.

Not long ago this would have been a conversation exclusively focused on women. After all, many of our workplace flexibility journeys began when we witnessed women leaving the workforce at much higher rates than men. At EY, for instance, women were leaving at a rate that was 10 to 15 percentage points higher than men in the early 1990s. EY worked to build a flexible culture in response, and has nearly closed the gap in retention rates. In an economy where almost three-quarters of families have either two working parents or a single parent, families' success depends on maximum flexibility for all workers.

In tackling similar challenges, however, many businesses have learned a crucial lesson: when men are left out of the conversation about workplace flexibility, counterintuitively we actually hurt women's chances at achieving equality in the workplace. Today, workplace flexibility is about helping everyone thrive and reach their full potential in a changing workplace and a changing world.

This isn't just a nice thing to do -- it's the smart thing to do. Companies that welcome day-to-day flexibility are more likely to retain their employees. And Center for American Progress research has shown that replacing a worker can cost up to 20 percent of that employee's salary, while enabling flexibility can be implemented at little to no cost.

Reducing turnover doesn't just save companies money, either. It also ensures they keep talent. With the global competition for talent raging more fiercely than ever, no company can afford to lose its best people right now. We need to recruit the best, retain the best, and get the best out of them. That's why workplace flexibility is so important. Unfortunately, if workers feel like they need to choose between being good workers and good parents, they may exit the workforce in their prime.

Initiatives that support working families lead to more engaged and productive employees, while helping businesses attract and retain top-notch talent. A recent EY external study of more than 1,200 American cross-company professionals found that nearly one in five workers rank flexibility as the most important workplace perk, ahead of cash and benefits such as health care and retirement. The survey also revealed that while women across all generations valued flexibility slightly more than men, surprisingly men were more likely than women to say they would "walk away" from a job if day-to-day flexibility was not offered. We believe this is why many leading U.S. businesses have found that offering fully-paid parental leave helps recruit and retain talented employees of both genders.

Unfortunately, even with so much evidence that family-friendly policies confer a competitive advantage on businesses, many workplace initiatives have not kept pace. Families and Work Institute research revealed that while telecommuting and flexible start times have increased since 2008, more formal arrangements like job sharing and extended breaks away from work are down. In a tough economy, some employers are even tempted to cut back on workplace flexibility.

The impulse is understandable, but misguided. We've seen again and again that when employees succeed, businesses succeed. The more that flexibility is made available to everyone, the stronger our families, our businesses, and our economy will be.

As the leaders of our organizations, we have the ability to set workplace policies that empower all of our employees to succeed. But modernizing our workplaces is not just about putting new benefits on the books, whether at the national, state or business level. We must change the conversation -- and the culture -- to recognize that flexibility is not just a "women's issue." It's a family issue. It's also a business issue. All workers need flexibility to thrive in today's increasingly complex work world as they navigate their responsibilities at home and at work. Empowering everyone to participate fully in today's workforce and in today's families will boost businesses' bottom lines now, strengthen the next generation of talent, and ensure America's future competitiveness in a global economy.

Mark Weinberger is the Global Chairman & CEO of Ernst & Young Global Limited. Neera Tanden is the President of the Center for American Progress.

Middle-market Companies Seizing Growth by Embracing AI, Diverse Talent Pools and Sweeping Regulation Over Next 12 Months

EY survey shows 87% of middle-market companies plan revenue growth of more than 6% this year, significantly outpacing GDP forecasts

Originally Published by EY.

Middle-market companies across the globe are significantly more optimistic about business conditions and opportunities than last year, according to the findings of the annual EY Growth Barometer released at the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Forum. Growth prospects for all major economies are finally improving in 2018, with International Monetary Fund GDP forecasts currently at 3.9% for the year. Amid this positive background, business leaders are bullish about revenue growth.

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Regulatory Complexity is the Greatest Barrier to Widespread Blockchain Adoption, While Regulatory Changes are the Primary Driver of Broader Integration, According to EY Poll

Organizations are making an active effort to integrate blockchain into their business functions as they look to reap the benefits of the technology, with 60% expecting the financial/professional services industry to see the most blockchain breakthroughs in the next two years.

Originally Published by EY.

Regulatory complexity is having a significant impact on widespread blockchain adoption, according to an EY poll of senior professionals who attended the EY Global Blockchain Summit in New York. Sixty one percent see regulatory complexity as the biggest barrier to widespread adoption, followed by integration with legacy technology (51%) and a lack of general understanding of blockchain's capabilities (49%).

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Originally Published by National Organization on Disability.

On November 1st, the National Organization on Disability held our Corporate Leadership Council Fall Luncheon and Roundtable. Hosted at Sony's New York offices, the event centered on the topic of mental health in the workplace.

Members of our Board of Directors and executives from nearly 40 companies held a candid conversation, heard from business leaders, and participated in an insightful Q&A where successful strategies were discussed to accommodate and support employees with mental illness in the workplace.

"Mental illness is the single biggest cause of disability worldwide," said Craig Kramer, a panelist at the event and Chair of Johnson & Johnson's Global Campaign on Mental Health. "One out of four people will have a clinically diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives," he continued. Another 20 to 25% of the population will be caregivers to loved ones with a mental illness.

The costs are staggering. "In the coming decades, mental illness will account for more than half of the economic burden of all chronic diseases, more than cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases combined…. It's trillions of dollars," said Kramer.

From an employer's perspective, the need for a successful strategy to deal with mental illness in the workplace is clear. But what are the most effective ways to confront this challenge? Roundtable participants discussed a wide range of ideas and success stories aimed at de-stigmatizing mental health and incorporating the issue into wider conversations around talent, productivity, and inclusion.


  1. Be empathetic. "The most important workplace practice [with respect to mental health] is empathy," said NOD President Carol Glazer. Empathy is critical for normalizing conversations about mental health, but also for maximizing productivity. "A feeling of psychological safety is important," said Lori Golden, a panelist and Abilities Strategy Leader for Ernst & Young; and this sense of safety requires the empathy of colleagues to flourish.
  2. Tell stories. "Nothing is more activating of empathy than for people to share their powerful stories," said Dr. Ronald Copeland, NOD Board member and Senior Vice President of National Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Policy and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Kaiser Permanente. Copeland's organization partners with the renowned nonprofit, Story Corps, to capture the stories of Kaiser Permanente employees, and also provides a platform on the company intranet for employees to communicate in a safe space. Both Craig Kramer and Lori Golden also shared examples of how their companies provide opportunities to share their stories and "start the conversation, break the silence," as Kramer put it.
  3. Model from the top. Carol Glazer received a standing ovation at the luncheon for her account of her own experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This type of executive-level modeling sends a powerful message that a company is committed to improving mental health for all employees. Lori Golden shared how EY had experienced great success with a program where top-level managers host office-specific events and share stories of mental illness or addiction that they are personally connected to – either about their colleagues or loved ones or, in a surprisingly high number of instances, about themselves. Senior leadership setting the example conveys that this is a forum in which employees can feel comfortable sharing.
  4. Communicate peer-to-peer. "We all know that there's greater trust of our own peers than there is of the organization," said Lori Golden. So to build trust, EY "took it to the grass roots," creating formal opportunities for employees to have conversations about mental health and asking other ERGs to co-sponsor these events. Craig Kramer also noted that Johnson & Johnson had simply folded mental health issues into their global disability ERGs, eventually building the world's second-largest mental health ERG by piggy-backing on existing infrastructure and leveraging existing connections.
  5. Be flexible. Accommodating [the fact that people live busy, complex lives] gets you better buy-in…and keeps production pretty high," suggested Dr. Copeland. A representative from one Council company concurred, explaining how their company has recently instituted a new policy of paid time off for caregivers on top of federally-funded leave. "Being in a culture in which we measure what you produce and not whether you show up in person all day, every day, and where if you can't be there, you negotiate how the deliverables will get done and in what time frame…is immensely helpful to people who themselves have mental illness issues or addiction or are caring for those who do and may need some flexibility," summarized Lori Golden.
  6. Build a trustworthy Employee Action Plan. Many employees do not access or even trust their organization's internal resources. According to Craig Kramer, the percentage of calls placed to most company Employee Action Plans (EAPs) regarding mental health is "in the low single digits," while "if you look at your drug spend, you'll find that around 50% is [related to] mental health." The people answering those calls must be trained in mental health issues, and employees also need to be assured that EAPs are truly confidential.

While revealing and accommodating mental illness remains a massive challenge in the workplace and beyond, a number of successful strategies are emerging for tackling this challenge – many of them pioneered by companies in NOD's Corporate Leadership Council.

EY: Women CEOs’ Growth Ambitions Significantly Outpacing the Market, Despite Their Ongoing Challenges in Accessing Capital

The EY survey, based on views of CEOs from middle-market companies across the globe, showed that this optimism is in line with improving business conditions internationally.

Originally Published by EY.
  • 30% of female-led companies are targeting growth of more than 15% in next 12 months, compared with just 5% among rest of market
  • 52% of women-led companies have no access to external funding, compared to 30% of male-led companies
  • 17% of respondents think that access to capital is the biggest barrier to growth

Despite encountering more obstacles to accessing capital, female-run businesses are targeting more ambitious growth margins than male-led companies, according to the EY survey Is the x chromosome the x factor for business leadership?, unveiled at the EY Entrepreneurial Winning WomenTM Asia-Pacific and Japan conference this week in Tokyo. The survey, based on views of CEOs from middle-market companies across the globe, showed that this optimism is in line with improving business conditions internationally.

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