Has your family supported your professional endeavors?


Prof. Dr. Artur Wollert

A “family-conscious personnel policy” takes into account that the employees not only bear responsibility in the company, but that they also face a wide range of responsibilities in their private sphere of life. This is especially true with regard to their family ties. The traditional care marriage - the man is responsible for production (earning money), the woman is responsible for reproduction (regeneration of the man, bringing up the children) - is outdated. Two reasons for this are probably that you can neither rely on the long-term stability of private relationships nor with one hundred percent certainty on the professional security of your partner - will not become unemployed. It makes more sense to stand on your own two feet. This realization, the increased level of education of women, their desire to implement what they have learned and, ultimately, the pressure to “earn extra” have led to more and more women pushing their way into working life. Efforts to persuade her to return to the home stove either with additional financial incentives - as they are currently being discussed not least because of the relevant ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court - or with appeals to her - it is assumed - with a guilty conscience, are unethical, societal outdated, economically counterproductive and politically unenforceable.

The economy needs women. She cannot do without fifty percent of the potential of society “just” because it is about women. And just as women are indispensable for the economy, jobs in companies are necessary for women. The equality in education will be followed by equality of opportunity in development and pay in the economy. Everyone, whether man or woman, has the right to shape their life on their own responsibility.

One aspect of this development is the search for a better work-life balance. In our society, families currently have to adapt to the demands of working life. Since time and need structures in the private sector do not follow the rationality of companies, there are constant conflicts. Kaufmann speaks of the "structural ruthlessness"1 towards families. Solving these problems is primarily the task of women today. You have a double duty of loyalty. Seen in this way, the professional emancipation of women has worsened their equality in the last few decades, since men did not turn to family obligations to the same extent as women penetrated into working life - the original domain of men.

In any case, the economy usually does not accept responsibility towards the family as being equivalent to professional obligations. When companies help their employees to reconcile work and family, this support is usually classified as a social measure. There is a lack of a holistic concept of the compatibility of work and family. So far, this topic has not been a direct policy field of HR work, let alone one

corporate policy objectives. One of the great challenges of the next few years is to find solutions that serve the interests of the employees and increase the benefits of the company.

The question of the compatibility of work and family is therefore by no means to be seen as a mere appendage to the traditional gender equality debate, but is aimed in principle at all employees, perhaps even especially at men. The basis is - as already written - the assumption that employees have a responsibility in their private life in addition to their professional responsibility and that they try to meet the requirements of both areas. Equality aims to give women and men equal opportunities in the world of work.

Family-conscious personnel policy, on the other hand, works to ensure that both genders find a balance between the world of work and the family. Occasionally, the appearance of some successful women is worrying in this context. Some strongly imitate the traditional male ideals of life, rely entirely on their job and consider partnerships and children to be “secondary theaters of war”. On the surface, this may be welcomed from the company's point of view. The majority of female executives are actually "free", have no children, all of their energy is available to the company. But that is not the goal of family-conscious personnel policy.

Although no one doubts the correctness of the adage “If it is not right at home, it is not right at work either”, one still sees work and family as two completely separate areas of life that have nothing to do with each other. Yes, one even gives the impression that the person who fulfills his or her family obligations is only capable of half performance in the company. In return, one assumes the high-performing and committed employees that they must be rivets from a family perspective. But that cannot be accepted. A professional at work and a professional at home - that must be the solution. It is positive for the individual, for his development and his environment, if he fulfills all of his responsibilities. This applies in particular to the two most important areas of life, work and family.

The working woman, the working man - this naturally requires a different way of dealing with one another than in previous generations. Both have to agree on their respective career and life plans as partners. Consideration and a willingness to take responsibility are required. The different interests of the partners cannot be without effects on the personnel development measures of the company. An interruption of work, a change from a full-time to a part-time job or even a sabbatical year must not be rated as a career break. They must not have a negative impact on further professional prospects. Just like a change of place of work, company and area of ​​responsibility, family changes must be seen as a normal part of life and career.

It is quite conceivable that one day the HR department will not only speak to its employees from the outset, but also to their partners. Family planning will play an important role in such a conversation. According to many surveys, the desire of young people for a "happy" partnership, for family, is at the top of the priority list.2 In view of the egomania that the younger generation is generally accused of, this is actually surprising. But the results of the investigation clearly show that the family is alive. To be sure, the desire to have children, which was often expressed at a young age, falls by the wayside too often.

Given the alternative “children or work”, many couples opt for the latter. Now it is certainly particularly responsible today to bring children into the world. The future has never been so unpredictable. How can you plan ahead 20 years? Nevertheless, in addition to the worry of losing temporal sovereignty over life, material reasons predominate when renouncing children. The standard of living of a family with two children is considerably lower than that of a childless couple.3 Even if a partner works partially, he has to reckon with a career decline and corresponding financial consequences. The consequence of this decision for the profession: A hundred years ago

every twentieth citizen was older than sixty, today it is every fifth, in fifty years it will be every third. "The decline in the number of people under the age of 20 will be particularly pronounced in the new federal states in the next few years, and by 2010 it will probably be almost 40% compared to 1991."4

A family-conscious personnel policy aims to initiate an improvement here, especially if it is supported by state and, if applicable, collective bargaining framework conditions. Ultimately, it's about a better balance between work obligations and maintaining private relationships - the Americans say: it's about the balance between work and life. The non-profit HERTIE Foundation, founded in 1974 - one of the largest private foundations in the Federal Republic of Germany, focusing on education, society, European integration and medicine - has taken up the topic and the situation of companies with regard to the compatibility of work and family in one from 1995 to The empirical project that lasted in mid-1998 was examined in detail and solutions for a better compatibility were shown.5

According to the project results, a family-conscious personnel policy can start in many classic fields of personnel management. In ten fields of action that have been worked out together with numerous companies, family-conscious action is to be particularly clearly practiced and established. Fig. 1 gives an overview of these fields of action and shows in a nutshell what benefits family-conscious action has for the company:

Fig. 1: Ten fields of action for family-conscious personnel policy see p

As a rule, family-conscious measures affect several or all fields of action. Teleworking is a good example. It allows a parenting “vacationer” to stay in the job and adjust his work goals to the needs of the toddler. Telework encompasses the following fields of activity:

  1. Working hours: It has to be agreed whether and when the teleworker is in the company, when she has to be available at home and what flexibility she has.
  2. Place of work: The teleworking place must be set up. This includes the question of whether and how the company contributes to the equipment, especially the computer, telecommunications, necessary insurance, rental and telephone costs, etc. In addition, it must be clarified whether another job is necessary in the company.
  3. Work processes and work content must be coordinated with teleworking.
  4. Information and communication must be ensured through fixed presence times in the company (meeting at fixed times, etc.), reliable accessibility at home and information flows (intranet, e-mail, etc.) tailored to teleworking.
  5. Leadership: Leaders have to change their self-image. You no longer control the attendance, but the work results.
  6. . The corporate and personnel policy model of thought must answer the question of whether teleworking is worthwhile for the company.

A family-oriented company operates in the context of communal and state conditions. The effectiveness of family-conscious personnel policy and the profitability for the company is greater, the better the measures are linked to municipal and state regulations. The example "kindergarten" shows that:

  1. The opening times of the kindergarten and the working hours should be coordinated. The company may be able to help bridge gaps in childcare before the kindergarten opens and after it closes with short-term childcare.
  2. If necessary, several companies can operate a joint kindergarten.
  3. It is possible that a company in a public-private partnership can make a financial contribution to a public kindergarten.

Another example of the interweaving of state and company measures: If the statutory leave of absence from the current three years were converted into a time account (e.g. that can be accessed until the child is twelve years old), parents would be able to bridge gaps in childcare more easily on their own.

One of the main findings of the empirical research was that not so much investments in infrastructure and social budgets contribute to better compatibility, but in particular leadership skills and flexible work organization. Above all, it is about a change in consciousness. The focus of the efforts is the necessary sensitivity of the company for the family concerns of the employees. The aim is a corporate culture in which the individual employee is seen and respected in their entirety. One takes their responsibility for other areas of life seriously and thinks about how the skills acquired there can be used for the workplace. For example, it is undisputed that the management of upbringing, the family and the household trains holistic thinking and planning, teaches how to set priorities and act in a results-oriented manner. In such a role, you actually have to show all the qualities that are generally attributed to good managers: being able to listen, motivate, mediate, integrate, decide, set values, be a role model. In other words: family orientation pays off for the company.

But what are the general advantages of a family-conscious personnel policy for a company?

Efficiency and profitability are increased:

  1. The more flexible working hours and place of work, more independence and well-thought-out substitute regulations enable more efficient personnel deployment.
  2. Motivation and the working atmosphere improve when employees can better combine work and family with the help of the company and can rely on their family concerns being taken into account.
  3. Many entrepreneurial measures in recent years have not helped to consolidate the loyalty of the employees. Loyalty can only ever be mutual. Without them, a community of people will not be able to perform above average. Once the foundation for mutual loyalty has been laid - not least through a family-conscious personnel policy - fluctuation and sickness rates also decrease.

Recruitment and retention are made easier:

  1. Training and qualifying new employees costs time and money. For this reason, for example, parental leave should also be used from the company's point of view so that employees can then be reintegrated smoothly.
  2. Qualification costs are better amortized.
  3. Family awareness is an important argument in the competition for qualified employees. Of course, it is positive for an applicant when he feels that an employer accepts his responsibility for his family and shows interest in the professional ambitions of the partner.

The company gains an image:

  1. Family policy engagement in the region strengthens the position of a company location.
  2. Family policy engagement promotes customer loyalty.

In addition to increasing efficiency and profitability, and in addition to the positive effects on personnel marketing, a family-conscious personnel policy is also beneficial for companies in the long term.

The decision for or against children is highly personal, but has far-reaching consequences for society. With the decision to have children and their upbringing, families make important preliminary work for the economy, e.g. tolerance, independence, ability to learn, willingness to take responsibility; all key qualifications, the foundations of which are laid in the first few years of life. For this reason alone, companies should support parents in their upbringing task. We have many working groups, such as "School and Business", "Church and Business", "Bundeswehr and Business". I would like to see a “Family and Economy” working group. The family is as it is recognized and recently published in an excellent commemorative publication6 Honored family scientist Max Wingen never tires of propagating in politics and business, by far one of the most important "top performers" in our society7.

The desired family-friendly design of the corporate culture and the influencing of the associated advantages depend to a large extent on the extent to which the executives participate.

pull. However, this generally applies to the other policy areas of companies. “Company guidelines are only as good as the executives who apply them8. Without the involvement of the executives, all family-conscious resolutions will be wasted. Managers are mediators between the operational framework conditions, the requirements in the company and the family needs of their employees. Their behavior and how they deal with family issues have a decisive influence on the employee's image of the company. The joint search for solutions and the ability of employees and managers to compromise are at the center of a trust-based management style and are a prerequisite for family-conscious personnel policy. Of course, the credibility of executives is strengthened if they also show an example in their own private matters, i.e. postpone an appointment once because they attend the daughter's schooling ceremony.

According to Bertram9 The lead of our order in post-industrial society will "depend on the extent to which it is possible to relate people's different areas of life in the area of ​​production and reproduction in such a way that the qualifications of individuals in both areas can optimally come into their own". I can only agree with this statement. The family is the nucleus for the spiritual wealth of our country. Without children there is no knowledge society with a future. We need innovations not only in a technical but also in a social field. A better work-life balance promotes the qualitative and, in all probability, the quantitative development of our society. One thing is clear: a greater commitment by women in working life requires a greater commitment by men in the family and household if the development is not to be at the expense of women. Because as the manager colleague Albert Koch from Nestle put it: “The new woman in business life, who is allowed to be both a manager and a mother, will only exist if we have a new man who is both a manager and a father at the same time. “Well, the men are about to change. "It is not" just ", but" already "19%" new men "who have a spirit of partnership and who are unconditionally committed to their families. Unthinkable a few decades ago. For this reason, more and more companies are realizing that a family-friendly world of work is not just an expression of a women-oriented social policy, but a necessary prerequisite in efforts to attract highly qualified employees - and thus a condition for international competitiveness. "10

The job & family audit.11

Not only this well-founded assessment of the change in male behavior, made by Stefan J. Becker, the project manager responsible for the non-profit HERTIE Foundation, gives hope, we were pleasantly surprised that the work and family audit, developed with the support of the foundation, was successful12 meanwhile brisk demand. With the help of this instrument, companies can have themselves audited and certified with regard to their family-conscious personnel policy by a non-profit Beruf & Familie GmbH founded especially for this purpose by the non-profit HERTIE Foundation. By mid-2000, around 50 companies had already used this option, including, for example, Commerzbank, HypoVereinsbank, parts of Siemens, the Federal Insurance Agency, Underberg, Röhm, the Brunner tax office, a Fraunhofer Institute, Knoll, Merkle-Ratiopharm.

In detail

  • the Work & Family audit systematizes and weights the range of measures an organization offers;
  • compiles indicators for a company-specific cost-benefit analysis of family-conscious measures;
  • identifies the development opportunities of a family-conscious personnel policy;
  • gives impulses for a company-specific action strategy;
  • promotes the skills development of managers;
  • helps with the development of a corporate mission statement;
  • provides important foundations for personnel and organizational development.

The auditing process controlled by Beruf & Familie gGmbH is carried out in cooperation with expert auditors and consists of the following steps:

First of all, the interested company is provided with extensive information documents and a corresponding questionnaire. Then, after an initial structuring discussion, an in-house representative project group is put together. In a subsequent one to two-day workshop in the company, the project group is informed about the handling and use of the audit. Together with the auditor, she then uses the work tools handed over to determine the current status of the family-friendly measures and their implementation in the company. The results are then evaluated and presented in the company. Possible need for action is indicated, proposed solutions are developed and further measures are defined. When evaluating and weighting the available range of appropriate family-friendly measures, “it is less about quantity and more about quality. For this reason, the type of institutionalization, the target group, the actual use and implementation as well as the support from colleagues and superiors are assessed for each individual measure. The result is a "check-up" of the current situation and an image of the corporate culture. "13 Finally, special emphasis is placed on the definition of a TARGET state. After successful completion of the auditing process14 the auditor from Beruf & Familie gGmbH recommends certification. An independent audit council made up of representatives from ministries, journalists, business and science decides on this. The basic certificate initially received is valid for three years. In the subsequent possible re-audit, an employee survey is used, among other things, to check whether and to what extent the gap between the actual and the target state that was identified at the time was closed. Once the audit has been successfully completed again, a temporary certificate will be awarded.

The management team, which undergoes such an undertaking that affects the entire company, not only talks about contemporary personnel policy, it concretely confronts the change process, knowing full well that it is of a long-term nature. Of course, this is only possible if you have an idea of ​​where you are going. It should lead to the fact that a woman can be both a good mother and an accepted manager and a man can be both a recognized manager and an exemplary father.


1. F.-X. Kaufmann, The Future of the Family in United Germany, Munich 1995, p. 11. Kaufmann also quotes in his work (p. 175) the saying of the German classic of economics Friedrich List: "Whoever raises pigs is ... a productive, whoever brings up people is an unproductive member of society. "This, according to Kaufmann, sums up the" fundamental lack of the prevailing economic understanding ".

2. One of the main results of the Shell study reads as follows: “In the case of German young people, the focus on the central position of the family for their own life planning seems to be detached from any“ material ”considerations of use, for example the form of the“ care marriage ”has played out . Rather, the family is understood as a resource, as emotional support, as a place of reliability, loyalty, domesticity and partnership “. (Deutsche Shell 2000, p. 14).

3. J. Zerche, On the income position of families and socio-political consequences to be derived from it, Grafschaft 2000, p. 146: “The data of the microcensus for 1994 also show the financial disadvantage of families bringing up children. In West Germany, for example, the median equivalent monthly income of married couples without children was DM 1,913, compared to DM 1,481 for married couples with children. Expressed in relative prosperity positions, this means that married couples without children have over 106% of the income of all private households, while married couples with children only have 82%. "

4. M. Wingen, Demographic Development and Personnel Planning, Cologne 1999, p. 6.

5. Non-profit HERTIE Foundation 1999: Company objective: Family-conscious personnel policy - results of a scientific study, Cologne 1999.

6. Jans / Habisch / Stutzer: Signals from family studies and family politics. County 2000.

7. M. Wingen, Family Policy, Stuttgart 1997.

8 KILOMETERS. Leisinger, Corporate Ethics, Munich 1997, p. 120.

9. H. Bertram, Famiilenleben, Gütersloh 1997, p. 72.

10. S.J. Becker, corporate goal: family-conscious personnel policy, Grafschaft 2000, p. 520.

11. See also on the Internet at http: www.beruf-und-familie.de

12. Fauth-Herkner / Münich-Wienes / Wiebrock: Concept and implementation of the work and family audit, Cologne 2000, p. 249 ff.

13. S.J. Becker, loc. Cit., P. 519.

14. Cost about DM 20,000.

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | May 2001