By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press ServiceNovember 30, 2010
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 -- Recognizing and finding ways to accommodate the changing needs of servicemembers and their families with regard to the military workplace should be a priority for leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke as part of a panel on work and life balance at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Focus on Workplace Flexibility Conference.
The audience was composed of more than 100 government, military and business leaders.
"The ability to be the best we can be and carry out our missions is so central to our focus on our people, but more than our people, our families," Mullen said, "and while we've made significant strides. We still have a long way to go."
Allowing flexible options that affect the number of hours worked and the places where employees work is one way leaders can help in providing balance between work and family life, the chairman said, citing flex time and compressed work weeks, part-time work, job sharing and teleworking as examples.
The federal focus on flexibility began March 31, when President Barack Obama spoke at a White House forum about modernizing the workplace to meet the needs of today's employees and their families.
"Workplace flexibility isn't just a women's issue," Obama said. "It's an issue that affects the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses. It affects the strength of our economy [and] whether we'll create the workplaces and jobs of the future we need to compete in today's global economy."
For military leaders, Mullen said last night, more than nine years of war has put a new focus on families.
"We have to figure out a way to put our people and our families in the center of our universe and then move from there to generate the kind of success that we're capable of," he said.
Taking cues from the business world, military leaders must recognize the plight of servicewomen who must choose between starting a family or continuing a military career, Mullen said. Some, he noted, move to the private sector, where such flexibility is increasingly being accommodated.
"We're in a search for talent just like everybody else, and we have to figure out a way to answer that particular issue or we will be coming up short for a long time," Mullen said.
The military must continue to move forward in helping its work force balance their jobs and their lives, the chairman told the group.
"Anybody who has dealt with change in business or in the military knows the continuous requirement to improve," Mullen said. "We know we've made some marginal improvements, but we still have an awful long way to go."