Company on the Lookout for Burnout

By Jessica Marquez

Sep. 26, 2008

One danger of being able to work anytime from anywhere is burn­out. Without having the traditional boundaries of home and office, many workers lose sight of the division, says Kathie Lingle, director of the Alliance for Work-Life Progress.

    To address this at Accenture, the company tries hard to address employees’ personal needs, as well as their professional ones, says Richard Westphal, director of Accenture’s U.S. Retain Talent group.

    A few years ago, when Westphal and his team began hearing that employees wanted the ability to take a sabbatical or extended vacation, executives came together to see what they could do.

    “Particularly younger employees were saying that they didn’t want to have to be here for 10 years before they could take several weeks at a time off,” he says. “So we held focus groups of employees and asked them if they would be willing to self-fund a sabbatical program.”

“[We asked employees] if they
would be willing to self-fund a sabbatical program.”
—Richard Westphal, director of Accenture’s U.S. Retain Talent group

    The answer was a resounding yes.

    In January, Accenture launched its Future Leave program. Through the program, U.S employees can arrange to have a portion of their paycheck set aside for future time off, which can be as long as three months.

    Employees who have been with the company for three consecutive years and have manager approval can apply for the program. For the first half of this year, 100 employees were participating.

    Accenture also gauges employees’ perceptions of how well work and life are balanced at the company through a personal engagement survey.

    While most employers ask employees to rate the company’s effectiveness in career or professional development, Accenture has started asking employees how well Accenture is doing in giving them a good quality of life. The company also asks them to rank quality-of-life issues compared with such elements as pay and benefits. Employees also rate Accenture’s performance in such areas as diversity and reputation, opportunities, work, competitive rewards and people. They rank these in order of personal importance as well.

    Supervisors use these personal engagement surveys with their direct reports. Career counselors use them as part of their annual midyear discussions with employees, says Jill Smart, chief human resources officer.

    “We recognize that not everyone wants the same thing, so this is a way for us to understand what employees want,” she says.

    Accenture is leading the way in bringing the personal-life discussions into performance management, Lingle says.

    “Too often companies make the discussions about employees’ personal goals as window dressing,” she says. “By having employees talk about their personal priorities for the upcoming year as well as their career goals, Accenture is really bringing together the personal and professional, which is almost unheard of today.”

Workforce Management, September 22, 2008, p. 24Subscribe Now!

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