This is a photo of me and Alison Kreviazuk, doing television commentary at the 2017 World Curling Championship. TV sports commentary is not my day job - it is something I do part time.
My employer (Belong) knows that I occasionally get asked to do TV sports commentary, and are totally supportive in making that possible for me to do.
For me, that’s a big part of what work/life balance is. Even though I’m unlikely to become a full-time sports commentator, the opportunity to do this part-time has become a big part of what fulfils me as a person. The fact that my employer is so supportive of this pursuit generates enormous positives in terms of how I think about my employer. Belong, even though we a small company, really walks the talk on work/life balance. I would run through brick walls for Belong as a result.
Work/life balance is an intensely personal thing, and it can mean very different things to different people. For some, it can mean flexibility around working hours, so they can manage child care.
For others, it can mean latitude to pursue something of personal interest. For some, it can be policies promoting family time or personal well-being.
What is absolutely undeniable is that work/life balance is the number one benefit sought by job seekers world-wide.
Research clearly backs this up. Seek Australia interviewed 4000 Australian and New Zealand job seekers. 35% cited ‘work/life balance’ as the most important factor when choosing a company to works for.
I just read a really interesting piece of research from Universum – the ‘World’s Most Attractive Employers 2017’ study. They surveyed over 290,000 university students in 12 countries. ‘Work/Life Balance’ came out on top as the most desired characteristic in relation to choosing an employer. 51% of your future employees named this as the most important thing they are looking for.
But that Universum research also had another really interesting insight in it. Students are also beginning to lean away from very large employers – as they believe that it will be harder to make a difference.
In my view, this is all very good news for small and medium size businesses. They now have some really strong cards to play as employers. There is no reason at all why a 15 person company can’t be the most attractive employer in the world!
While SMEs may struggle to compete with corporates and multinationals in terms of things like base salary and employer-funded perks and benefits, they can absolutely compete – and win - in terms of offering work/life balance to their employees. The great news is that smaller businesses are often in a much better position to deliver this to their employees than larger businesses.
SMEs can often be far more flexible than big companies in terms of working hours and time off arrangements. They can rally quickly behind worthy causes and community initiatives. They can make quick decisions. And because the teams are smaller, everything is very visible to the whole team, which reduces the risk of water-cooler whispers of uneven or unfair treatment of one person versus another. They can offer choice more easily to their people, as they are less likely to be encumbered by monolithic ‘employee engagement programs’ and practices.
In other words, they are very well placed to treat people like the individuals they are.
It is important however that smaller businesses learn to communicate this very valuable benefit to prospective candidates. Younger employees will form their opinions of you based on what they see on social media. If you tell genuine stories about your people, and how you support them to make a difference, you’ll start to compete with the corporates who can afford to visit university campuses and front at job fairs.
So even though salary will always enter the decision equation, remember that your prospective employee often values work/life balance, and the opportunity to make a difference, much more highly than the salary number. Don’t take the lazy way out and just have ‘a salary negotiation’. Take the time to understand the interests and aspirations of your people, look for ways you could support them, and all of a sudden the salary discussion becomes less of a barrier.
Employers who can offer choice and flexibility to their people, and who support them in achieving their life goals, will win the war for talent. It’s much more important to people than you think! I’m happy to be working for a company that truly believes in helping employees achieve their hopes and dreams.
So SMEs – take heart. You don’t have to outspend the Megacorps of the work in order to become the most attractive employer in the world. Just tell your story well about how you can help your people achieve all of their hopes and dreams – not just the work-related ones! You will be pleasantly surprised at how your team responds.