Working Innovations News

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Businesses Scale Back Holiday Festivities, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 6, 2008

By Joel Dresang,

Excerpted article:
Sharon Lerman, president of Working Innovation Inc., a Milwaukee work culture consultancy, sees the downturn accelerating an existing trend of companies scaling back on holiday fringes. But while cutting back might be dollar-wise, Lerman cautions against completely quashing the revelry.

“I think people need to come together because there needs to be some sense of community in the workplace, that people can gather and celebrate,” Lerman said. “That’s a very important component in creating a sense of morale within a work place. People need to be enjoying each other as well as working well together.”

Nurturing Creativity in the Workplace

by Julie Fanselow, January 2, 2008,

A wide range of neighborhood businesses and organizations were on hand for the recent kickoff of the Accelerate Employment Circles in Milwaukee. One such organization is Bucketworks, a community center located two-and-a-half blocks from Manpower. Bucketworks was represented by executive director James Carlson and Sharon Lerman, who provides consultation on work-life concerns for companies including General Electric through her company Working Innovations.

Bucketworks describes itself as “a health and fitness club for the brain.” Through focusing on the arts and technology, Bucketworks aims to be a place where diverse people “can grow their businesses and grow their passions. We’re really excited about being in the neighborhood,” said Lerman. Business owners big and small need incentives to provide the sort of flexibility employees need, she added, and workers want a chance to share information.

“When people get into circles and tell their stories and experiences, they see each other as human beings struggling for solutions like everyone else,” Lerman says. Through networking events, circle work, and a website, Bucketworks hopes to highlight businesses that do the right thing for their employees, as well as workers whose flexible jobs create greater workplace loyalty and satisfaction – a win-win situation for employers and employees alike.

Flexibility Key to Providing Family-friendly Environment

By Georgia Pabst - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept. 30, 2007

Excerpted article:
Sharon Lerman thought she could work full time and be a great mom when she first had children. Then reality hit. “Before you have kids, it’s hard to know how difficult it will be to meet the demands of the workplace and have the flexibility to provide for the needs of children,” she said. So Lerman worked part time until her oldest child, who is now 21, was in high school.

Like so many other working moms, the Milwaukeean was not surprised to learn that 60 percent of working mothers in a Pew Research Center study said that working part time outside the home would be the ideal. That’s up from 48 percent in 1997.

Lerman, who has master’s degrees in counseling and business, runs Working Innovations, a firm that works with employers and employees on these issues. She said it was more challenging these days to get companies to think about providing more flexible options, and many employees fear that asking for flexibility or part-time work will indicate a lack of commitment to the workplace.

“Flexibility creates a sense of trust, and trust is one of the most important aspects of a successful workplace. But many organizations don’t quite understand that,” she said.

Speaking Presentations

Sharon Lerman was a panelist at The Masters in Human Resources and Labor Relations 2007 Spring Forum, entitled “Striking A Balance: Work and Family”. The guest speaker at the forum was Robert Drago, Professor of Labor Studies, from the Center for Work and Family Research, Pennsylvania State University.

Sharon spoke about work and family initiatives within local corporations. The forum took place on Thursday, April 19, 2007.

Press release

To The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, dated 3–4−07, by Sharon Lerman

I read with great interest the article from the first of a year-long series addressing the quality of life in Milwaukee. CEO’s were invited to a roundtable to discuss “What can business do?” Jill Morin addressed an issue that I’d like to expand upon, as it is something that the people at the roundtable and business leaders throughout Milwaukee can do to impact positive change within our city, one company at a time.

In order to attract and retain talent, the workplace must foster a culture that values the creativity and innovation of its people. This includes providing learning opportunities and challenges on the job, autonomy that is based on trust, manager support for employee success, employee input in management decision making, community engagement, and finally, flexibility that gives employees more control over when and where they work. Such a culture does not happen by itself. It takes leadership that embraces such values and continually communicates and rewards these values through policies and action.

I’d like to expand a bit on the flexibility piece of these recommendations. Management often takes flexibility for granted, simply because they have it. But for most of the workforce, such flexibility is not available. Having more control over where and when one works impacts quality of life. Some jobs have obvious restrictions on such control, yet when flexibility is possible, it goes a long way towards improving the employee’s ability to balance work and home life. Research reveals that flexibility is linked to engagement, retention, job satisfaction, and employee well-being. Here’s some bottom line results: Fortune Magazine’s 2006 Best Companies to Work For included higher than ever reports of flexible schedules and telecommuting in its list of benefits. Those companies also returned a total of 18.1 percent to shareholders over the last three years, while the S&P notched only 10.5 percent. Corporate Voices for Working Families 2005 Study of 29 US companies found that in every company flexibility was linked to increased revenue generation, had positive effects on cycle time, client service and talent management, and was shown to save millions of dollars by preventing turnover. Watson Wyatt Worldwide’s 2002 Human Capitol Index Study found that companies that promoted a collegial and flexible workplace produced a 9% increase in shareholder value.

So what does this mean for Milwaukee businesses? Each and every business leader has the capability of moving the culture within his or her company to a higher level of valuing, trusting and respecting the people who work there. I do not intend to minimize the other important initiatives that need to be addressed. Yet if businesses start the momentum by promoting healthier work cultures within their own organizations, they will reap financial benefits, while our community experiences a step-up in the quality of life.


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