A Season of Change

As the character, Nettie Fowler, sang in the Broadway show, Carousel, springtime “is busting out all over”, and for those of us who never quite got into the swing of winter, it’s about time. We’ve been looking at a barren landscape long enough. Certainly the week of 80 degree weather gave a massive jumpstart to spring fever, but we knew it was a temporary diversion; Mother Nature will present her true spring when she’s good and ready. Nevertheless, the optimism that attaches itself to budding trees and chirpy robins has also presented itself in the economic temperament of the business community. 

The latest results of both our CEO Economic Outlook survey and that of the Business Roundtable show positive productivity trends in key industries such as finance and insurance, professional services, manufacturing and construction; along the theme of doing more with less (employees). As I’ve traveled around the state, post-Irene recovery is evident in many communities and soon the blowing river silt will be replaced with green shoots of all kinds as those communities continue their economic and physical recoveries. The “We Are Vermont Strong” social media campaign has successfully harnessed the emotional response by Vermonters, but these recovery efforts will take more than pride to complete. Please keep in mind the Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund when you consider how to reinvest in your communities.

Also under the topic of change is a recent workshop conducted by Governor Madeleine Kunin entitled, “The New Feminist Agenda: The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family”, which is also the title of her new book that will come out in the next month. One of the featured panels, which I moderated, included Bill Stritzler, Immediate Past Chair, and Managing Director of Smugglers’ Notch Resort, and former Roundtable member Jan Blittersdorf, CEO of NRG Systems. The panel focused on the ways in which the private sector is responding to the needs of the working mother: flexible workplace, access to childcare and family leave. But it was the presence of the third panelist, a trained scientist and promising performance musician turned Stay-at-home-Dad, which brought the issues more sharply into focus in our post-recession world.

Whether due to conscious decision-making as was the case with this Dad or, due to necessity because of an involuntary job loss by other fathers during the recession, the issues for stay-at-home Moms are no longer so gender biased. The Greatest Recession was indiscriminate in that regard. Increasingly, whoever earned the most money got to/had to keep working while the other assumes the role of caregiver. All panelists agreed that behind every family struggling to achieve their own unique work/life balance is an employer that values their relationships with employees. Creating a workplace culture that recognizes the changing needs of working parents over time is a competitive advantage for the employer. Expressing the long-term view and placing the appropriate value on those relationships are the first steps in creating that culture, and we’ve got CEOs of highly successful companies to serve as your role models.  Just give them a call.