Coordinating work and family

People at thyssenkrupp | Finding a work/life balance is of primary importance to many employees. Companies failing to address this risk losing talented people. That’s the reason behind a whole package of measures currently being implemented at thyssenkrupp System Engineering, as HR manager Mömke Rockmann reports in this interview.

Even people who love their work don’t live for work alone. Juggling a job with family responsibilities or voluntary work is part of everyday life for many employees – and it can be very stressful. Employers have long known that employees who feel work gets in the way of their private commitments don’t give 100% in their jobs. That’s why employees and managers at thyssenkrupp System Engineering have developed a whole package of concrete targets and measures to position the company as family-conscious. As a result the company has now received a “berufundfamilie” (work and family) audit certificate from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Family Affairs and Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. We spoke to Mömke Rockmann, who is responsible for cross-site coordination of the measures.

Ms. Rockmann, why is it important to be a family-conscious company?

People like to dismiss this as a women’s issue, which is of course nonsense. Even System Engineering with a workforce comprising over 80 percent men needs to be family-conscious. The days when only the mother was responsible for the children are over. Today men have to coordinate work and family commitments too. Besides, we use the term “family-conscious” to refer not just to employees with children but to everyone trying to find a work/life balance. For instance someone who does voluntary work or cares for a relative needs flexible working hours just as much as a dad who has to collect his toddler from kindergarten.

Where do you see need for improvement at your company?

Altogether we identified 33 targets with the auditors which we want to achieve within three years. They can be divided into categories such as working hours, work organization, place of work, information and communication, leadership, family, and pay. At the moment we are focusing on working from home, childcare during the summer vacation, and care pilot training for employees. So initially the certificate is awarded for a declaration of intent: But we have to document our progress in detail and submit to a new audit every three years. Our next audit is in March 2017. Up to then employees at all sites will work on areas where we aim to improve. On this basis our management will then develop future target agreements with the auditor.

What are the advantages of the certificate for System Engineering?
Firstly the “audit berufundfamile” certificate is an advertisement within the company: The aim is for employees to see System Engineering as a good employer and feel appreciated. Secondly we will feature it in our job advertisements. The certificate also appears in the careers section of our website. It’s a mark of quality, like the TÜV symbol on a product.

Do job interviewees ask specifically about working from home or childcare?
Yes, they do. For many people finding a job that will not cut into their private lives too much is a key priority. If we can’t accommodate that, these applicants will turn us down – and we risk not getting people with the skills we need.

How is childcare in the summer vacation period organized?
Practically every site has a different solution. Our summer programs are aimed at children aged between six and twelve. Not many parents can manage six weeks’ holiday. We fill the gap, either through reserved places at private childcare centers or by hiring providers who then use space and facilities on our sites. Sometimes that can mean children will be seen playing in the canteen at lunchtime. Last summer this service was used by 160 boys and girls across all sites.

What do care pilots do?
They advise employees when a member of their family suddenly becomes care-dependent. Which authorities do they have to go to, which applications and forms do they need to fill out? Not many people are prepared when this happens. Care pilots can provide addresses and advice. We’re currently training employee volunteers for the role.

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