Case Study: Awareness raising – Hypo Oberösterreich, Austria
Company / organisation name
Hypo Oberösterreich (Oberösterreichische Landesbank AG)
Work and Family Audit (Audit Beruf und Familie)
About the company / organisation
Hypo Oberösterreich (or Oberösterreichische Landesbank AG) is an Austrian regional state bank based in Linz and majority owned by the region of Oberösterreich (Upper Austria). It is a universal bank, which specialises, among other things, in housing and investment banking. As a mortgage bank, it is also entitled to issue mortgage bonds. The bank was originally founded in 1891 and now has a balance sheet total of €8.5 billion and employs 461 staff.
Hypo Oberösterreich received a basic certificate from the family and work audit (audit berufundfamilie) in 2007, and a full certificate in 2010. It was the first bank in the region and among the first companies in Austria to engage in this process.
Based on the initiative of the same name developed in Germany, the Austrian audit acts as a consulting instrument, allowing employers to examine the family orientation of their company and take specific measures to improve it. Companies who undergo an assessment of their current status regarding work–family balance, and who set up a plan for making progress in areas defined by themselves over three years, are awarded a basic certificate. A full certificate is given to companies who have carried out a second assessment at the end of the three year period, reviewed achievements against plans, and agreed upon further steps to be taken in the coming period.
The audit instrument originally focused on issues related to working parents. However, in recent years both the audit instruments and the measures implemented or planned in participating companies, have been extended to include the specific needs of working carers. This is the case at Hypo Oberösterreich.
The following measures of relevance to working carers are already in place:
Flexible working time models: for example, the flexitime policy allows individual time budgets to range between a surplus of 20 hours and a deficit of 20 hours. In exceptional cases, the employee can make use of an extended deficit of up to 60 hours.
Part-time work options: those returning to work following a period of leave can choose from a range of part-time options, tailored to their needs. Of course, issues of practical feasibility need to be discussed with the supervisor.
Various leave models are available for employees with care-giving responsibilities; examples include long-term leave and crisis leave. The latter addresses the need for immediate leave resulting from a family member becoming dependent on care.
Assistance and continuity of contact during periods of leave: for example, a newsletter called Karenz is distributed four times per year to all employees on leave.
HR guidelines for addressing work–family balance issues: the HR guidelines for appraisal interviews and/or performance reviews have been adapted to include advice and instructions on how to discuss work–family balance issues. The stated objective is to explore the personal situation of each employee in order to help address challenges related to work–family reconciliation, such as burn-out due to multiple responsibilities. Line managers receive training to enable them to successfully use the new guidelines.
Health and well-being measures including training and awareness raising, focusing, among other issues, on the prevention of burn-out.
Information portal on the company intranet: the portal is used for providing information on issues regarding work–family balance, in a suitable format and via an easy-to-use channel.
Seminars and workshops are held on issues related to work–family balance, including the reconciliation of work and care.
Further measures are being planned, up to 2013. In particular, work is ongoing regarding the formalisation of support measures for employees engaged in care-giving to elderly or disabled family members. The intention is to set up procedures and structures which provide employees, as well as their supervisors, with clear guidelines about how to address the issue.
Rationale and background of the initiative
Hypo Oberösterreich considers that successfully addressing the issue of work –care reconciliation is a long-term process. Moreover, it requires a range of activities and procedures and represents a process of organisational learning.
A working group was set up in the company under the leadership of a member from HR management. Its role was to oversee the certification process as well as the preparation and implementation of the measures agreed upon. Members were selected from the HR department and from other relevant units of the company. Preference was held for employees with both work and family responsibilities. Another member of the working group is a working carer.
A number of topics were selected, which were drawn from initial discussions with the organisation in charge of the auditing process. These topics were then distributed across the members of the working group. Smaller teams were then formed, each comprising two or three members, which developed proposals for activities and measures.
Currently, the working group is working on identifying a list of standard situations faced by working carers. In doing this, the group is making use of a lifecycle model which consists of various stages. The overall objective is to offer employees working conditions which are tailored to their phase of life. This is opposed to the traditional model which only distinguishes between employees with and without small children. Following this, typical needs and preferences will be defined for each phase of life; these can then be used as the basis for developing various company measures and initiatives.
Results and assessment
The company conducts an employee survey at two year intervals to evaluate job satisfaction and employee loyalty and to explore emerging trends. The survey has also been used to assess existing demand for support in the area of work–life balance. In addition, surveys of line managers are carried out to complement these data.
The latest employee surveys not only show that large numbers of employees have young children. They also highlight the fact the proportion of employees engaged in that care-giving for other dependent members of the family is increasing.
The audit certificate is used in promoting the bank, for example in advertisements. It is also used more generally to foster the bank’s public image as a family-friendly company.
Internally, feedback obtained from employees suggests that they are aware of the bank’s efforts to improve employees’ work–family balance. This is considered to play an important role in fostering working morale and employee loyalty. This is especially with regard to high-performing employees for whom competition on the labour market is strong.
Issues, challenges and lessons learned
The working group in charge of the audit process at the company is currently developing a strategy to ‘sell’ the importance of the work–care reconciliation issue to management. There is the risk that the issue might be seen mainly as a temporary trend in public opinion rather than a challenge which will continue to be of major relevance to employers and the economy at large.
There has been much talk about a ‘war for talent’ and the changing demographic landscape in Austria. There have been some indications that the bank might face a scarcity of suitable job applicants in the near future. This is expected to lead to an improvement in awareness of the role family-friendly working conditions can play in attracting new staff. Against this background, a major task is to sensitise line managers of the issues discussed here. A particular challenge is to make sure that employees who take extended responsibilities within the family are not considered as unsuitable for promotion. This will require a further change in attitudes among line managers.
Home-based telework has also been discussed as an option for improving work–family balance. However, as a regional state bank, this company needs to place significant attention on issues of data security and data privacy. For this reason, the teleworking option is only offered for job positions that do not involve use of customer data. This is not expected to change in the near future.
Case study author:
- Gareis, empirica GmbH, Bonn
- Harald Huemer, Head of HR Development, Hypo Oberösterreich, conducted on 7 February 2011.
- und Beruf Management GmbH, Zertifikatsverleihung 2010”. [accessed at http://www.familieundberuf.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Veranstaltungen/Zertifikatsverleihung_22.11.2010/booklet_22112010.pdf]