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10 Tips to Launch a Work Life Program

10 Tips to Launch a Work Life Program

Q&A with Teresa Hopke,  Former Director of Talent Management
RSM McGladrey

(Update: Hopke joined Life Meets Work in June 2011.  Please read the Teresa Hopke press release for more information.)

Hopke oversaw career development, employee engagement and WorkLife initiatives at RSM McGladrey.  She talked with LMW to share her insight on work life concerns. Her 10 tips to launch a work life program are listed at the end.

Tell us about the history and progression of work/life at RSM McGladrey?

In the fall of 2003 we pulled together a team of highly influential leaders from across the firm to serve on our first WorkLife advisory team and hired WFD consulting to help us develop a strategy. By early 2004 we had our team in place, our current state data gathered, our three year strategy set, and were on our way to implementing some of the low hanging fruit programmatic solutions identified by the team.

Over the next few years we went on to implement programmatic solutions like adoption leave, paternity leave, adoption subsidy, domestic partner benefits, concierge services, etc. In addition, we focused a lot on cultural change efforts such as WorkLife goal setting as part of our performance management process, coach-on-call & new parent coach programs, a new business-based approach to flexibility, WorkLife communications, etc.

All of these efforts have blended nicely to gain us both external PR and recognition as well as internal validation from employees that we are doing the right things.

How has your role evolved over time?

I started out as the Director of WorkLife Strategies, hired under our Women’s Initiative. While it was important to get traction for our WorkLife efforts by positioning them under the Women’s Initiative, within a matter of months I was able to move WorkLife from under that umbrella and make it more of a broad people/HR issue. I then focused on WorkLife efforts for about three years before assuming the role I’m in today as the Director of Talent Management.

Of all of the work you’ve done on work/life balance, what are you most proud of?

Hands down it is our Coach-on-Call program because it doesn’t just provide a service, but rather empowers employees to think and act differently. Getting people to change their thoughts, decisions & behaviors is the real key to helping them achieve WorkLife success.

Our COC program provides employees with free 1:1 access with a professional coach to discuss and develop an action plan for any work and/or life issue. The service is always booked out a month in advance and employees who have used the program say it has had life-changing impact on them.

I know that our COC program has helped employees prevent burnout, save marriages, create stronger families & relationships and help employees be healthier both mentally & physically – beyond that what more could I ask for from a WL program?!

What advice do you have for companies looking to implement work/life programs?

I’ve learned so much along the way that it is difficult to know where to start with advice. Some of my tips include:

  1. Surround yourself with the right internal AND external people to enable your success
  2. Learn as much as you can from those who have “gone before you” (people in the WorkLife field are so gracious & willing to share)
  3. Don’t try to get everyone on board with your ideas but rather find a willing person or team to try it out, learn from their experiences, modify as needed and then start growing it organically if it is a feasible idea
  4. Ask your employees what they want/need and then engage them in creating the right solutions – some of our best programs have come from our employees’ ideas
  5. Take a dualistic approach to WorkLife (focus on programmatic as well as cultural solutions)
  6. Whatever you do, do it for the right reason (the employee & firm needs should be the driving factor, not the desire to make a “Best List” or keep up with the “Joneses”)
  7. Pilot, pilot, pilot – it is a great way to get leadership agree to try out new & innovative ideas/programs without having to twist their arm for budget or commitment
  8. Be creative & don’t feel constrained by scarce resources – some of the best ideas for us have been those that cost little to nothing at all
  9. Be a good WL role model because people within your organization will look to you both personally & professionally to guide the way around this important area
  10. Have fun! What better job could there be than the opportunity to have a positive impact on someone’s WorkLife success??


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