Chapter 6 High Performance Workforce Management
The Hopeful Telecommuter
Jennifer Smith was pregnant, and she was happy about it. She and her husband, Jim, had been planning to start a family for some time. However, she was concerned about her job as a Northeast Zone supply chain manager for health and beauty products for Big Bear Stores. Big Bear was a large, mulribillion dollar food store chain that had stores in 47 states. It was a conventionally organized retailer divided into three geographic regions (Atlantic, Mid-American, and Western) with 12 zones (4 per region).
Zone supply chain managers, such as Jennifer, were the link between the store managers and their product-line suppliers. Jennifer had been ranked number one in customer and in supplier satisfaction surveys for health and beauty product lines for the last two years. She knew that she was eligible for six months of maternity leave under the federal Family Leave Act, and that the company would have to provide a job for her upon her return. What she didn’t like was the thought that they did not have to, and probably would not, give her the same job that she was now holding so well.
Jennifer had talked with Jim, at length, about what to do. They agreed that she should approach her regional manager, Sarah Strong, the Zone VP, about the possibility of “telecommuting” to her job after the baby came. Jennifer thought that she could do 85-90 percent of the job at home on her own schedule. A large part of her job consisted of verbal and fax contacts with store managers and suppliers, as well as extensive use of a computer for manipulating databases, preparing spreadsheet reports, and sending and responding to e-mail. The other 10-15 percent of the time, when she had to be in the office for face-to-face meetings or had to take brief trips, her parents and Jim could keep the baby and cover for her at home.
When Jennifer approached Sarah Strong, Sarah was interested, but would not commit herself to supporting Jennifer’s request to telecommute. She said that the company had never done that before, and it might pose a number of difficulties. She did say that she would take her request forward to the two VP’s who could approve or disapprove it. Both senior managers would have to approve Jennifer’s request, however. Sarah asked Jennifer
to prepare some “talking points” concerning the benefits versus the limitations of the arrangement that she could present to the vice president of human resources, and the senior vice president of operations, Sarah’s manager. Sarah also asked Jennifer to prepare a cost estimate, in consultation with the Zone information systems manager.
The following was what Jennifer prepared for the estimated costs:
Laptop computer and
docking station $3,500.00
Setup DSL dedicated phone line 250.00
Fax machine 250.00
Computer desk and chair 375.00
Telephone line charges (6 months) 240.00
1. You are Jennifer. What “talking points” would you prepare to support your case Include both the strengths and limitations telecommuting. Keep in mind the needs o your “customers,” the human resources VF as well as Sarah, and the VP of operations.
2. What issues do you think that the VP of human resources might raise/have? What issues do you think the senior VP of operations might raise/have?
3. How does your answer demonstrate the principles of empowerment? How might it fit the components of the Hackman Oldham Job Characteristics model?