It's no secret that a happy worker is a productive worker and a new analysis by scholars at The University of Texas at Dallas finds that family-friendly policies are beneficial for increasing productivity of employees. Yet the benefit for employers is unclear, since that may be offset by the same turnover rates.
Family-friendly policies are a big concern in science academia. Though free from the 'corporate' environment, most academic labs are a small business - they have a grant recipient who pays a small team. In a small business, every person is important so when it comes to family planning, no time is a good time. As the only gender that can have babies, that impacts women the most. For that reason, many have advocated being more like corporate science, with family-friendly workplace policies, and a paper in Public Personnel Management adds weight to the argument, using the Korea Workplace Panel Survey data from 2005 to 2009, consisting of 158 public organizations in South Korea.
South Korea has experienced a significant increase in female employees over the past 50 years. These workers, however, have remained economically inactive as a result of a male-centered workplace, cultural barriers, societal pressures and gender inequality, according to the report. Many women quit their jobs to focus on child care.
The South Korean government has recently encouraged efforts to promote family-friendly policies to help employees balance responsibilities at work and at home. After the government revised its labor laws, many organizations began to adopt these types of policies and they are a good model for science academia, which was likewise once male-centric but is balanced now, yet still has family policies based in the 1950s.
The study used a bundle of family-friendly policies stipulated by law, including maternity leave, child care leave, on-site child care, restriction of night duties and restriction of overtime work.
Kwang Bin Bae, public affairs doctoral candidate and lead author of the study, says they investigated the relationship between family-friendly policies and organizational performance, voluntary turnover rate and labor productivity, and found:
-Family-friendly policies have significant effects on increasing productivity.
-The number of family-friendly policies does not seem to decrease turnover rates.
-Unionization is related to decreased turnover rate and increased productivity.
-An increased proportion of female workers is related to higher turnover rates.
So why a lack of effect on turnover rates?
"One of the things we haven't been able to figure out yet is do these organizations have a high number of family-friendly policies because they employ a high percentage of women -- and are trying to stave turnover -- and the effects have not caught up yet," said Doug Goodman, associate professor of public affairs and director of the master in public affairs program, co-authored the paper, "or do these organizations have such a high percentage of females employed that the turnover rate is going to always be high, just because the women outnumber the men, no matter the number of family-friendly policies?"
The authors said further exploration is needed to assess the relative strength of each family-friendly policy. They also want to study the effects in other cultures.
"Because of the hierarchy culture in South Korea, many people hesitate to utilize family-friendly policies because of cultural reasons, including the attitudes toward female workers," Bae said. "Female workers who wish to use these policies are concerned about discrimination such as promotion or evaluation. Furthermore, female workers may find it difficult to assert their privileges in a hierarchical work environment."