The Society of Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute launched a new partnership called "Moving Work Forward," which hopes to increase the number of employers implementing flexible-workplace arrangements.

"If you think that workplace flexibility is just a nice thing to do for over-stressed employees, then I would ask you to rethink your conclusion, because we believe workplace flexibility is the next big business imperative," said Henry G. Jackson, interim president and chief executive officer of SHRM, during a press briefing yesterday at the National Press Club.

The partnership between SHRM and FWI will provide employers with research, best practices and other resources to help them transform the way they view and implement workplace flexibility. The initiative combines research and resources from both organizations.

According to a 2010 SHRM survey, 58% of employers said that workplace flexibility is the most effective way to recruit and maintain top talent, even more effective than compensation.

"There is little resemblance between the 21st century workforce and the 20th century workforce. It’s not our mother’s or father’s workplace and neither is the business environment in which companies operate," said Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of FWI at the Washington, D.C. event.

"In this 24/7, fast-paced and highly competitive global economy, it’s no wonder that our study finds the health of the American workforce is declining and stress is increasing and employees are experiencing a very serious time famine," Galinsky added. In a 2008 survey, about 87% of U.S. workers report that workplace flexibility would be extremely or very important to them if they were looking for a new job.

Under the partnership, employers will have access to the following:

Practical tools: The partnership will develop educational materials and practical tools to help employers and human resource professionals advocate for and implement effective and flexible workplace strategies.

Research: The partnership will conduct and share research with employers on how effective and flexible workplaces can benefit employers and employees.

Work-life conference: The partnership will host a unique work-life conference, which will engage human resource thought leaders from the areas of work-life, talent management, diversity and inclusion, and workplace effectiveness.

Awards: The partnership will continue to offer the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility that have been offered nationwide since 2005.

Workplace flexibility "is the next revolution to boosting productivity, because empowering people to do their best at all stages of their lives, regardless of their industry, background or culture, leads to innovation, a high-quality work, and stronger employee commitment," said Jackson. Flexible-work arrangements have been shown to reduce business cost in turnover, training, time away from the office and overhead, he added.

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