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"The compatibility of the family and a job should become a matter of course"

Audit job and family 

IAB is extending is family-friendly personnel policy by means of the "berufundfamilie" (job and family) audit

For parents – and especially for mothers – reconciling the family and one's job often means a daily balancing act between cooking and the conference room, between baby bottles and one's briefcase. Along with this, a person caring for a member of their family doesn't have an easy time of it remaining on the ball in his/her job. However, recently, more and more firms and institutions have begun to study intensively the issue of combining professional life and the family and now offer their staff, both male and female, extra support – this also applies to IAB.

At the Nuremberg Institute for Employment Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, IAB) a wide spectrum of family-friendly working conditions already exist. These include flexible working time without a core period, individual working models, telework, a good offer of places at the kindergarten, and a parent-child room. Now the research institute has decided to extend its family-friendly personnel policy even further and is taking on the so-called "Familien-TÜV", an official test of family-friendliness: in the same way as four other offices of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), the IAB has successfully taken part in the certification procedure for the audit "berufundfamilie". IAB received its basic certificate in February 2009, while the official presentation took place recently in Berlin.  

The auditing was carried out on the initiative of the Human Resources department at IAB in cooperation with the Equal Opportunities Officer, Dana Müller. "We are a young institute with a great many potential fathers and mothers, and parents with young children and/or school children," Dana Müller says, herself a researcher at IAB. During the "berufundfamilie" audit it is also a question of focussing on colleagues, male and female, who may have to care for family members at a later point in time. "Naturally, at the end of the day, it's up to the individual him- or herself – we can't remove the burden from them. But we can support them wherever possible and help contribute to improving the compatibility between family and one's job," she explains.

Personnel policies that are actively geared to supporting families and at the same time do justice to the enterprise concerned are an asset to employer and employee alike: "By reconciling family life and a profession, one is doing something that helps everybody get on," Dana Müller stresses, and cites the example of a better atmosphere at work.
Family-friendly working conditions improve the motivation and satisfaction of staff, increase their performance, and reduce both stress and stints of absence. "Even if you have a temporary working contract you can take the risk of starting a family because you're offered support," Dana Müller points out. Not least, the audit offers advantages in the battle for the most talented: "It is an instrument of human resources development aimed at retaining specialists and winning over qualified young members of staff," she explains. To clarify this further: "The compatibility of a family and a job should be a matter of course. For me it's not an issue that still needs to be discussed; now it's just a question of getting on with it!"

"Getting on with it" is exactly what the audit "berufundfamilie" is about. The standardised certification procedure takes place in accordance with the guidelines of the berufundfamilie gGmbH, an initiative of the non-profit-making Hertie Foundation. Under the guidance of an external auditor, the status quo of the offers at IAB to improve the compatibility of the family and one's job was ascertained. During a strategy and an auditing workshop, potential areas of development in eight fields of action were also determined (working time; organisation of work; duty station; information and communication policy; leadership competence; personnel development; matters of pay and payment in kind; service for families), and concrete goals and measures coordinated with one another. The aim of the project group was to find precise solutions for IAB that took the wishes and requirements of the staff of IAB and the possibilities of the Institute into account. "One can choose from a portfolio what is suitable for oneself," Dana Müller said.

The work, in the true sense of the word, is actually just starting. "We have three years to implement what we have planned to do," she explains. The project group, which constitutes a representative cross-section of the staff at IAB, will continue to monitor the process and review it internally. In addition to this, practical implementation will be assessed annually by the berufundfamilie gGmbH. This is followed by re-auditing. "After three years one can see what has been achieved and what has been taken over: 'Can we identify with it'? 'What should we do differently, or in addition?'," the Equal Opportunities Officer explains in more detail. The re-auditing takes place every three years. "This means that we are constantly being challenged and have to remain on the ball. It's a project which is intended to be long-term – and that's a good thing because then it will have the greatest effect."

For Dana Müller, one of the challenges in implementing the audit is carrying everyone else along at the same time – staff and management. "We have to sensitize everyone to the issue: 'It's your issue too, even if at this moment it doesn't affect you personally yet'. I am hoping that everyone will begin to live the issue and not to see it as an obstacle, but rather as an advantage through which to move further on," she comments. "We have to get away from the idea that one has to do one's work at one's duty station, and begin to see that it is unimportant where one's duty station is". She is promoting openness for creative solutions, courage to risk something new and try out new things, and to lose one's fear that this will lead to substantial upheavals. "One simply has to approach the issue in an easy-going manner."

 

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