That’s one of the first things Cathleen Benko said when she visited TIME today. And you’re going to want to hear why because
a) that’s Cathleen Benko, as in the vice chairman of Deloitte Touche, and
b) she’s just written a book (co-written by Anne Weisberg) that executives around the country are going to pore over, and
c) one of those executives could be your boss’s boss, and
d) her ideas might soon become your reality.
The book I speak of carries the god-awful title of Mass Career Customization: Aligining the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce. Gah–what a mouthful. But then again, this is not a book meant to jump off the shelf at B&N into the hands of a frustrated and resentful employee. That’s made even clearer by the cover art, which features what I think is a suit jacket mid-construction. Zzzzz.
But read on, because her message is important. Her point isn’t that workers don’t need more flexible schedules. We want them, we need them, we’re already demanding if not taking them. What she means is that employers must stop thinking of flex work as an accommodation but as a matter of course.
“The American worker’s career is no longer shaped like a ladder but like a lattice,” she says. What she means is that everybody’s career ebbs and flows–not just women but young singles, boomers, near-retirees. Everybody goes through periods in life when he or she can’t relocate overseas; can’t work overtime every day; can’t take on a maximum case load.
Typically, a worker who hits one of these stretches simply ups and quits. Deloitte wanted to change that. It wanted to hold onto valuable employees through the ebbs and flows, the dialing ups and the dialing downs. So how to inspire that commitment from workers, not to mention from their managers, all the while balancing work load among the whole team?
The solution is outlined in Benko’s book and on its web site. It involves a simple-looking little graph that scales your ebb and flow in four ways:
1. Pace: accelerated or decelerated?
2. Workload: full or reduced?
3. Location/schedule: restricted or not?
4. Role: leader or individual contributor?
At Deloitte, currently a quarter and soon 100% of its 42,000 U.S. employees will chart their work capacity. What that does is put your commitment and availability on the table, both for you and your manager.
So say I’ve just had a baby and I absolutely can not fathom a move to Korea. My manager would know because I’ve indicated so on my location/schedule level. Or say I’ve just had a baby and I absolutely want to be considered for a move to Korea. Look at my chart, boss.
Here’s the thing. This might all be well and good for a huge, rich and diverse employer like Deloitte. But I took issue with the word “mass” in the title because how possibly does one customize careers this way for all employees, let alone at one employer, let alone in a whole industry or economy? And these charts are largely self-reported. So at a hypercompetitive workplace like mine, wouldn’t everyone insist they were running full bore 100% of the time so as not to get left behind? And even if I say I’m currently feeling more like an individual contributor than a leader, who’s to say I wouldn’t consider the right management job should one come along?
But these are issues are above my pay grade. And I for one am pretty happy someone at Benko’s level is thinking about them.