Work-life programs enhances employee retention

Bachelor Thesis 2011 57 Pages

Business economics - Business Management, Corporate Governance


Table of Contents


Chapter 1
Definition of the problem
Objectives of the research
Limitations and Delimitations
Assumption of the study
Definition of Terms

Chapter 2
Literature review
What is work life program?
Employee retention
Work-life and employee retention
Improved job-related attitudes
Work-life programs and improved recruitment and retention
Present challenges

Chapter 3
Rationale for the selected methodology

Chapter 4
Data analysis
Recommend the company to their friends as a good company to work for
What is the main reason why you remain at the company?
Additional questions
What is your level of satisfaction with your challenge and responsibility?
What is your satisfaction level with Career Development?
Level of satisfaction with current work-life program
Why do you suppose people leave your company and, how should the company handle this?
Discussion of the results

Chapter 5
Summary Conclusions and Recommendations
Put more emphasis on work-life program
Create a management and climate that is supportive to work-life programs
Ensure that employees share the vision of the organization
Provide a chance for more responsibility and career development


Further research




There is no one agreeable definition of work-life balance program, it varies from one person to another. Work-life balance is achieved in varied ways for each person and differs in purpose. Whereas some may require work-life balance to care for their children, others require it because they need flexile work hours to attend to other activities. According to Schieman, McBrier and Gundy (2003), “work-life balance is the satisfactory level of participation between the many responsibilities in an individual’s life.” In the recent past, competing demands brought about by work and family have taken increased importance for employees. This has been attributed to factors such as increasing numbers of women taking up employment, aging population, increased working hours, and innovative communication technology allowing near regular contact with the workplace. To respond to these new realities and the challenges they present among the many roles that an individual play, companies are increasingly pressured to adopt work practices meant to promote employees’ efforts to accomplish both their work-place and individual responsibilities (Perry-Smith and Blum, 2000)

Whereas there are several definitions of work-life program, the term as explained by Batt and Valcour (2003) means, ‘practices by an organization meant to support dependent care, family or personal leave and flexible work options”. Thus, these practices entail flexible working hours, which allow employees to differ their start and end times so long as they maintain particular number of hours; compressed work week, where employees work more hours in four

days to cover a week’s work hours and have an extra day for off; tele-working, where an employee work from home; family leave; sharing a full-time period among two employees; and financial help with childcare or eldercare.

Over the last twenty years, the results of these work-life programs have been examined in literatures representing different academic fields, including economics ( Johnson and Provan, 1995), family studies ( see Raabe, 1990), industrial relations (Batt and Valcour, 2003), gender studies ( see Wayne & Cordeiro, 2003), management ( see, Konrad & Mangl, 2000), information systems (see Wilkes & Urwiler, 1993), sociology (see, Glass & Estes, 1997), and social psychology ( see Hegtvedt, Clay-Warner & Ferrigno, 2002). In all these literatures, the most prevalent method is to examine work-life programs ‘through business viewpoint’. This means that through provision of these programs, companies are able to attract new employees and reduce cases of work-life disagreements among the existing employees, thus improving recruitment and reducing employee turnover, hence enhancing employee retention.

However, not all past literature agrees with this connection between work-life program and employee retention. Some of the studies examining the results of work-life programs do not evaluate work-life conflict, and therefore fail to support this suggest mediated connection (Eby et al., 2005). Still, there are a number of studies for example Hegtvedt, Clay-Warner & Ferrigno (2002) that have found a positive correlation between work-life programs and employee retention.

This present paper examines the past literature to establish the different ways in which work-life programs can enhance employee retention. Using different past studies from various fields, the empirical support existing for the connection between work-life programs and employee retention. Incorporating the past literature in this manner offers crucial new insights concerning possible mediators of the connection between work-life programs and employee retention, and elicits new research questions that could better understanding of this connection. The second way will be through primary research where interviews will be conducted directly to obtain first-hand information about work-life programs.

Chapter 1

Definition of the problem

The purpose of this research was to examine how work-life programs enhance employee retention. Many companies are presently initiating work-life programs as way of improving their working conditions, and attracting or retaining their employees. Many companies have realized that employees need more flexible working conditions to successfully manage work related issues and family issues, and with the global recession many companies suffered financially and can no longer continue to offer financial compensation. However, with increased rate of employee turnover in many companies, work-life is used to develop loyalty and enhance employee retention. This study used both primary and secondary research methodology. Primary research involved an interview of 55 employees. The employees selected were from different organizations, but below management level. Secondary research entailed literature review from previous studies on the same subject.

Objectives of the research

The main objective of this study is to examine how work-life programs enhance employee retention. Other objectives included:

i. To establish how work-life programs reduce employee turnover
ii. Establish what kind of work-life programs are implemented by organizations
iii. Determine the main reason why employees remain at their organization
iv. Establish reasons for employee turnover.

Limitations and Delimitations

The limitation of this research is the sample population. The 55 participants used in this survey is a small sample to establish accurate results. Certainly the study would have been more accurate with a big and diverse representative sample. In addition, the questionnaire used could be improved through additional questions based on effectiveness of current work-life programs.

The delimitation of the study is on work-life programs impact on employee retention in organizations.

Assumption of the study

This study assumes that availability of work-life programs will increase employee retention by reduce the rate of employee turnover.

Definition of Terms

In this study, the terms work-life program or work-life balance are used to mean practices by an organization meant to support dependent care, family or personal leave and flexible work options.

Employee retention is used to mean the duration an employee stays in an organization, before leaving the organization.

Chapter 2
Literature review

What is work life program?

A lot of people assume that work-life program is a system that a company initiates for its employees. Nonetheless, work-life balance has a double approach. The first one is what the company initiates, while the second, and which is many people overlook, concerns to what employees do for themselves. Thus, Glass & Estes (1997) define work-life program as a meaningful accomplishment and enjoyment in daily life. The main strategy that companies use to facilitate work-life programs for their workers is by implementing work-life practices and training. Glass & Estes (1997) argue that accomplishment and enjoyment at the workplace is an important part of anyone’s work-life balance. In addition, accomplishment and enjoyment in the three aspects of family, friends and self is also important. However, according to Arthur &Cook (2004), work-life programs are any initiatives adopted by an organization aimed at reducing the conflicts facing employees as they attempt to balance work and family duties. They further explain that, these initiatives include but are not limited to programs such as shorter working days, flex-time, job sharing, extra leave duration and childcare plans (Arthur & Cook, 2004). Rogier & Padgett (2004) reports that Society of Human Resource Management Benefits, in 2001 carried out a survey that established that 58% of surveyed companies provided their employees with flexible work programs, while 37% provided employees with the choice of tele-working through available technology. Certainly, work-life initiatives are increasing in popularity, though there are some issues that still face them to be full accepted by some companies.

Employee retention

Employee retention is an important aspect for organizations owing to the fact that recruiting qualified employees is imperative for an organization; however, their retention is more imperative than recruitment. As noted by Anderson, Coffey & Byerly (2002) companies use huge sums on orienting and training new employees. Studies have established that the cost involved in replacement of old employees is approximately double the employee yearly wage (Anderson, Coffey & Byerly, 2002). When an employee leaves his organization, the organization looses the employee, some of his customers who are loyal to that employee, skills of production, present assignments and competitor history.

Organizations invest huge amounts in their skilled employees and go to great lengths to keep them in the organization. According to Perry-Smith & Blum (2000), in the present business environment to attract and retain well qualified employees in an organization, high salaries are not enough; other favourable factors at the workplace have to be in place. Work-life programs have been established as one of the factors that enhance employee retention.

Turnover in organizations has been addressed by several researchers for example Richer, Blnchard & Vallerandi (2002). On his part West (2007) argues that turnover is unavoidable. Hammer, Bauer & Grandey (2003) viewed increased working hours as one of the cause of work stress and consequently turnover. Likewise West (2007) established that long term effect of turnover could be very costly in different ways. Richer, Blnchard & Vallerandi (2002) view turnover as a critical issue that face organization. In their study Greenberger, et al. (1989) failed to establish any major relationship between work-life conflict and turnover. However, many organizations are looking for policies to reduce the rate of turnover. According to West (2007) more flexibility at the work-place can be used to address the issue. Improvement of role conflict is the objective of flexible work programs and these flexible schedules as well strike employees particularly those who face challenging demands.

In a survey carried out by Hammer, Bauer & Grandey (2003) where they examined withdrawal behaviours in relation to work-to-family conflict. Their study established a considerable significant level and crossover impact for work-to-life conflict and withdrawal behaviour. The findings in this research can be applied to offer help in evaluating the crossover impact of work-to-family conflict as a source of stress in expectant mothers working. The study established that doing away with work family conflict among the expectant mothers was a possible way of reducing employee departure. This established that work-family conflict results in employee turnover, for organizations to retain their employees, they need to reduce work-family conflict (West, 2007).

Work-life and employee retention

Work-life balance is usually applied to refer to a more comprehensive term to explain initiatives that that were in past referred to as “family-friendly”, nonetheless, they are presently offered beyond the level of the family. Accordingly, work-life balance is used to refer to the flexible working conditions that permit employees a working arrangement that allow them to balance between their work and personal responsibilities. Glass & Estes (1997) explains that the term work-life balance is commonly used because it covers the experiences and wishes of all employees, and it is a more progressive academic structure in which to reflect on new satisfactory approaches of living and working.

Interference created between work and non-work duties results in various negative consequences that have been clearly documented in past literatures. Regarding job attitudes, Kossek & Ozeki (1998) points out that, workers who report high levels of work-to life as well as life-to work conflicts seem to show reduced levels of job satisfaction and commitment to their organization. Kossek & Ozeki (1998) further adds that behavioural results of both directions of conflicts entail reduced work effort, lower performance and high cases of absenteeism and employee turnover (Frone, Yardley & Markel 1997; Baines & Gelder, 2003). According to Anderson, Coffey & Byerly (2002) both work-to life and life-to-work conflicts have as well been linked with high levels of stress and burnout, cognitive complications, for example lack of concentration and alertness. In a related study by MacEwen & Barling (1994) they established that work-to life and life-to-work crush leads to low levels of normal health and strength.

Whereas the majority of work-life programs studies focuses on employee’ family duties, there are as well some studies that acknowledge commitments to friends as well as community groups, thus increasing the affected people to nearly all employees (Hamilton, et al, 2006). The need or organization is apparent, work-life conflicts can result in negative outcomes for employee retention.

Based on business case as promoted by numerous organizations and government institutions, these costs to firms can be avoided through implementation of programs to assist employees manage these disagreements, a view held by European Network for Workplace Health Promotion. According to this view, work-life programs help employees to balance their work and family needs, which can the result to enhanced employee retention and considerable organization improvements and cost savings. By allowing employees to plan their time to enable them balance the competing demands of work and family, and by assisting employee get third-party help with care-giving duties, these practices are meant to lower or end levels of work-life conflict, thus the augment that it will enhance employee retention.

However, there is varying support in the available literature for this augment. In a research carried by Judge, Boudreau & Bretz (1994) on male executive regarding work-family guidelines or policies given o this employees, they established that more comprehensive gains were linked to lower work-to -life disagreement, but not life-to-work disagreement . Similarly, Batt & Valcour (2003) as well established considerable negative connection between the existing work-life policies and work-to-life conflict. On their part, Frye & Breaugh (2004) found a negative connection between views of the importance of organizational work-life programs and work-to-life conflict. Anderson, Coffey & Byerly (2002) and other researchers have established that application of flexible working hours is linked with reduced work-to-life disagreements.

On the contra, research done by Galinsky & Morris (1993), did not find any impacts of work-life programs on worker’s work-life conflict levels. Likewise Glass & Estes (1997) failed to establish any relationship between offering onsite childcare and degrees of work-life disagreements. Offering work-life programs does not essentially imply a decline in levels of employee work-life conflict. However, even where such findings have been obtained, there is a lack of research examining the mediating function of work-life conflict in the connection between work-life program availability and organizational efficiency. More so, many of these studies grouped various work-life programs together when comparing their provision to behavioural or attitudinal results. Thus, this obscures the issues of how such different work-life programs can give same results. Anderson, Coffey & Byerly (2002) studies on boundary concept and role transition proposes that since employees have varied preference for integration against segmentation of work as well as family roles, some work-life programs may be unsuccessful in lowering inter-role conflicts supposing they do not put in consideration employee’s specific values, demands, or preference for managing several roles. For instance, taking part in telework programs has been established to be beneficial for some employees, while for others, specifically those huge family duties, it seems to cloud the limits between work and family (Wayne & Cordeiro, 2003).

Another aspect with the available research suggests that presence of work-life programs is usually measured, instead of the real application of these practices. This, nonetheless, leads us to another possible explanation for the connection between work-life program and employee retention. Even in cases where the programs are not applied and thus no decline in work-life conflict is attained, the fact that such programs can impact several beneficial results to the firms regarding positive job related behaviours.

Studies show that the presence of work-life programs for example flex-time, alternative working schedules among others in an organization has considerable impact on employee retention of skilled employees (Anderson, Coffey & Byerly, 2002). A study by Arthur, & Cook (2004) also acknowledges that organization who assist their employees in balancing family and work responsibilities reduce the possibility of employee having intentions to leave his/her job. Wayne & Cordeiro (2003) claim that women in the labor market have to make many changes, and therefore more concerned with work-life programs so as to retain them. He further observes that a turnover tendency emerging economies is that women are resigning from big companies to smaller ones because of need for flexible working conditions.

Likewise Arthur & Cook (2004) found that flexible work and job sharing as very critical aspect of work family assistance that contributes immensely to employee retention. In a related study by Thompson & Prottas (2005) where they evaluated the link between employee turnover and organization practices of work-life programs, they also found concurring results. They reached a conclusion that organization support for work-life programs lowered employee turnover but increased employee retention. Yanadoria & Katob (2010) recently examine the work-life initiatives effect on employees and established that importance of work-life balance programs and employee retention. Their research acknowledged that implementation of work-life programs within an organization lower the turnover intent and assist in the retention of skilled employees within the organization.

Improved job-related attitudes

In relation to job attitudes and satisfaction with work program, flexibility has been linked with enhanced organizational commitment and low turnover intentions (Thompson & Prottas, 2005), whereas voluntary less hours has been associated with increased job satisfaction, organizational commitment and dedication (Kossek & Ozeki, 1998). Several studies have established that employees who receive childcare services and other family supportive programs show higher degree of commitment to their organizations (Goldberg, et al. 1989). In their study, Baltes, et al. (1999) established that flexible work programs resulted in a positive impact on job satisfaction as well as satisfaction with work programs. Similarly, Callentine (1995) carried a study named ‘ virtual office’ ; found that participants reported increased job satisfaction when the level of flexibility increased. Tele-workers in a study of Kossek & Ozeki, 1998) as well reported increased level of job satisfaction.



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Title: Work-life programs enhances employee retention