Human resource (HR) department has noble obligations to reduce employee turnover in an organisation. A decline of employee turnover requires HR to deploy appropriate strategies to enhance employee retention. High retention of employees means a reduction of recruitment together with training costs (Beechler & Woodward, 2009: 273).
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This has the effect of reducing the overall costs encountered by organisations. Since costs are inversely related to the profit levels for an organisation in a fiscal year, strategies to retain employees are directly correlated to organisational profitability (Cegarra-Leiva, 2012: 93).
According to Beechler and Woodward (2009), profit-making organisations deploy profitability levels as measures of their performance (275). This implies that workforce retention strategies are also directly correlated with organisational performance.
Realisation of this relationship makes organisations across all industries seek mechanisms of retention of employees including deployment of WLB (work-life balance) initiatives to enhance employee job satisfaction (Cegarra-Leiva, 2012: 95).
This effort is based on the theoretical hypothesis that satisfied employees are less likely to leave organisations. From this fundamental background, the focus of this paper is to discuss whether the work-life balance initiatives improve employee retention and organisational performance.
Relationship between work-life balance initiatives, employee retention, and organisational performance
While operating in a knowledge-based economy, organisations encounter the challenges of retaining employees as one of the major strategies of workforce management. Addressing this challenge is essential to enhance competitive advantage for an organisation (Camuffo and Comacchio, 2005: 364).
In this effort, satisfaction of employees is essential. In the literature on WLB and retention of employees, WLB is defined as “individual’s ability, irrespective of age and gender, to find a life rhythm that allows individuals to combine their work with other responsibilities, activities, or aspirations” (Feldstead, Jewson, Phisacklea & Walter, 2002: 58).
The fundamental argument behind the significance of deployment of WLB approaches within an organisation is that incidences of personal conflicts arise in situations where there is no balance between non-working and the working life of employees. Moen, Kelly, and Huang (2008) define this conflict as family roles and interference with work life creating challenges or tensions for employees (413).
This suggests that such conflicts create incompatibilities between individual life and family life of employees with work pressures. Personal conflicts related to WLB challenges within an organisation create organisational and workforce psychological distresses (Lourel et al., 2009: 443)
Cegarra-Leiva et al. (2012) examined whether initiatives of WLB have indirect impacts on the retention of employees in an organisation through stimulation of high work satisfaction for employees in SME settings. The study recommended the improvement of satisfaction of employees in the SME sector in the effort to increase their retention (Cegarra-Leiva, 2012: 103).
For this to happen, research findings indicated, “the existence of a WLB culture in the organisation will increase job satisfaction and that it is essential for the managerial team to support a person-friendly organisation” (Cegarra-Leiva, 2012: 103). This recommendation is essential while establishing the roles played by WLB to enhance the performance of an organisation through workforce satisfaction.
However, the deployed empirical approach introduces a limitation to the study and hence the reliability of its finding in HR studies. The study assumed that respondents knew well about the mechanism of their organisational operations. It also used self-reports, which may have the implication of attracting biased findings.
HR studies on employee retention through satisfaction have the perspectives of WLB embedded in them. For instance, Cegarra, Dewhurst, and Eldridge (2010) argue that turnover is an essential variable that is directly correlated to poor job satisfaction (390). Based on this assertion, the current HR practices that are helpful in enhancing job satisfaction are rested on platforms of WLB.
According to Lambert (2007), such practices “help to foster employees’ quality of life and, as a consequence, workers will be more satisfied, motivated, and committed to a firm” (13). The existence of scholarly evidence on the value of WLB in enhancing job satisfaction and retention of employees within an organisation does not imply the nonexistence of scholarly literature presenting converse findings.
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For instance, Poelmans et al. (2003) argue that deployment of WLB best practices within an organisation is not adequate (137). Rather, organisations also need to consider the creation of a culture that supports WLB approaches (Fleetwood, 2007: 356).
This suggests that WLB is not just an organisational performance enhancing a set of the best practices deployable by any organisation without establishment of a means of enhancing its effectiveness in the realisation of the desired goals.
Upon considering the roles of WLB in enhancing job satisfaction together with workforce retention, as argued above, implementation of such practices within an organisation falls in the hands of the HR. This mandate is derived from the definition of human resource.
According to Matusik and Hill (1998), HR management is “the process of attracting, developing, and maintaining a talented and energetic workforce to support organisational mission, objectives, and strategies” (693). In fact, several scholars such as Fleetwood (2007) consider WLBs as some of the best HR practices in the modern organisational workforce management approaches (353).
Upon inferring from the scholarly evidence on the connection between WLB and job satisfaction, it is probable that a connection between job satisfaction and retention of employees indicates the existence of a direct relationship between WLB and retention of employees.
HR management literature such as Crede et al. (2010) also indicate that satisfied employees are more likely to execute their roles within an organisation better than dissatisfied employees. Indeed, job satisfaction is related to the motivation of employees (248).
According to Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008), employee motivation and job satisfaction are both essential components for enhancing organisational performance (1235). This suggests probabilities for existence of a relationship of WLB with organisational performance. Crede et al. (2010) define job satisfaction as “pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job experience” (246).
This definition articulates job satisfaction with employees’ positive emotional reaction. Organisations attempt to measure qualitatively and quantitatively the levels of job satisfaction to help in the prediction of crucial organisational behaviours such as the capability to retain employees (Nyberg, 2010) and organisational performance (Crede et al., 2010).
Job satisfaction plays central roles in reducing the costs affecting the performance of an organisation such as “turnover costs, absenteeism expenses, and tasks associated errors”.
Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) support this line of argument by claiming that management theorists are incredibly interested with the strategies of boosting job satisfaction since it leads to good employees’ life quality together with good health (1232).
These factors are essential in enhancing productivity and hence the performance of an organisation. Drawing from the work of Cegarra-Leiva (2012), WLB practices are important in enhancing job satisfaction. Upon combining this evidence with the evidence on the direct relationship between job satisfaction and performance, WLB practices are related directly to organisational performance.
WLB best practices take various aspects. One of such aspects is flexible work arrangement. The work of Hayman (2005) evidences positive impacts of flexible work arrangements on non-work together with work attitudes of employees (86).
Nevertheless, this work is not supported by empirical evidence. While focusing on empirical evidence, Hill, Miller, Weiner, and Colihan (1998) concluded that some initiatives of flexible work arrangement might have limited impacts on the attitude of employees towards their work.
Since positive attitude is an essential factor in determining the levels of task errors, it is also an essential factor influencing the performance of an organisation. By inferring from the work of Hill, Miller, Weiner, and Colihan (1998), flexible work arrangements may have limited impacts on the performance of an organisation.
Attitude to work is also an essential element for employee turnover. Therefore, the work of Hill, Miller, Weiner, and Colihan (1998) suggests that flexible work arrangements have a little implication on the retention of employees.
In the light of the above criticism, there is a growing scholarly consensus that WLB practices are significant in enhancing organisational performance. For instance, in an empirical research seeking to relate WLB and the variables of job characteristics, Hayman (2009) found out that flexible work schedules have a direct relationship with individual life balance.
The study deduced that providing flexible work schedules play central roles in integrating individual and family life with work. The applicability of Hayman’s (2009) findings to all organisations has limitations. The study only drew 56 percent participants from the administrative staff in a single university.
The variables used in the study were also not exhaustive. This means that some essential variables that may contribute to the found relationships may have not been reflected in the results of the empirical study.
Building in the above arguments, Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) argue that employees are discontented with an organisation when their work life is not balanced. The researchers further emphasise the importance of ensuring that employees are maintained happy claiming that WLB can be an instrumental tool for enhancing the satisfaction of employees (Hausknecht, Hiller & Vance, 2008: 1225).
This implies that unsatisfied employees are incapable of delivering their tasks within an organisation in an effective and efficient way, thus making it experience crisis in terms of performance.
Directly congruent with this argument, Hausknecht, Hiller, and Vance (2008) suggest that an organisation encountering problems in the implementation of WLB experiences a vicious cycle of organisational crises starting with the unbalancing of the work life of employees, which leads to discontentment. Discontentment leads to poor employee performance, which in turn results in organisational crisis in terms of productivity.
Organisations seek strategies to improve their performance. Inferring from a wide body of literature of WLB, the paper argued that WLB is related to workers’ satisfaction, motivation, and retention.
However, these three factors have relationships with the performance of employees in different tasks allocated to them in organisations. Successful and timely execution of tasks allocated to employees is one of the indicators of the performance of organisations. Satisfaction, as an indicator of retention of employees, which is related to WLB, helps in creating a positive work attitude.
This results in reduced turnover and absenteeism cases, which affect the productivity of an organisation. Thus, organisations are recommended to implement WLB practices in the effort to facilitate the retention of employees together with increasing their performance.
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