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Friday, May 8, 2009

The First Lady Listens to Corporate Voices

I had the distinct honor yesterday of being invited to the Corporate Voices for Working Families Annual Meeting at the historic Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. McGladrey has been affiliated with this great organization for the past few years now, along with other companies including Accenture, Sodexo, PNC Financial and many more. Corporate Voices is a recognized leader in their support for Work-Life initiatives by providing research and data to support how those initiatives not only help workers, but also the bottom-lines of organizations. In addition to the annual meeting, this organization also offers it's corporate sponsors consulting assistance, benchmarking, and additional collaborative opportunities.

There were alot of great people at yesterday's meeting, but the guest-of-honor was none other than the First Lady herself, Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama has been a working mother herself, describing herself as a "120 percenter", so she understands firsthand the challenges that come along with working and raising a family. Mrs. Obama spoke to the group for about 10 minutes, expressing her knowledge of this issues, specifically her interest in discussing child care, child pick-ups, and paid leave for adoption. She also expressed a specific interest in using Corporate Voices research to advance the cause. More on her speech can be found at the Corporate Voices Blog. After Mrs. Obama's comments, she listened to leaders from Bright Horizons, H-E-B and Ethicon as they provided examples of how Work-Life initiatives in their organizations were having a profoundly positive effect. At the end of the session, I had the honor of shaking the First Lady's hand, a truly amazing moment for me personally.

The afternoon session continued the energy of the morning with a presentation by Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President. Mr. Bernstein leads the White House Middle Class Task Force, and indicated that Work-Life issues are very much on the task force's agenda. Following Mr. Bernstein's comments, he took questions from the audience, and it was clear that he and the Corporate Voices members were very much on the same page on a number of issues. After Mr. Bernstein left, the attendees were broken up into smaller working groups to brainstorm recommendations that the task force should focus on.

What a great event and what a great organization to be affiliated with! McGladrey is involved because our Work-Life initiatives are very much aligned with the ultimate goals of Corporate Voices, and as I learned in some cases, we are truly leading edge in some areas (Declaration for Work-Life Flexibility, Coach-on-Call). Our resident Work-Life expert, Teresa Hopke, is very much responsible for our great success in our Work-Life initiatives, and with our affiliation with Corporate Voices. I thank her again for the opportunity to attend and participate.

What I took away most from yesterday was an appreciation that the time has come for Corporate America to recognize the value of Work-Life initiatives. The First Lady gets it. The Middle Class Task Force gets it. Many great companies get it. McGladrey certainly gets it. Work-Life isn't just about making life easier for workers. The data proves that these initiatives can have a huge impact on reducing turnover, increasing productivity, reducing healthcare expenses, etc., and ultimately improving organizations bottom-lines. Yesterday was a great start to furthering this cause for the benefit of us all.

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