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Balancing Act

By Portage County Business Council

Todd Kuckkahn | Executive Director for the Portage County Business Council

The spinning plates on the Ed Sullivan Show provides a great visual of a balancing act. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go to This time of year our ability to spin all of the plates (and other items) and keep them spinning is severely stressed—wrapping up year end, special events, travel for holidays, budgeting, children’s performances, increased social media traffic, shoveling, New Year’s resolutions, you name it.

This balancing act of work, life and other parts of our lives has gained even more attention based on the interests of young professionals across the country. Research shows that young professionals are more often than not choosing where to live based on the place and quality of life and not necessarily the job and salary. The quantity of jobs available across the country makes this more prevalent.

As you’ve heard/read me say ad nausea, the balancing act of work/life connects directly to talent attraction. As a community, we need to create “places” that embody quality of life. Those places are both in and out of the workplace.

There are a number of organizations in our community, including the Portage County Business Council, who are working on programs and events, as well as seeds of ideas, to enhance our place throughout the community. The focus is on experiences and inclusivity. One such group is Rotary and the sister/partner cities and their work on the Cultural Commons, a pocket park in Pfiffner Park along the river. The New ERA Workshop 2.0 in 2018 will be another dive into these opportunities to enhance our community and place.

Place also exists within the workplace and the culture of the organization. There is a balance here, as well, and it has impacted every type of business. Corporate culture speaks volumes and is easy to detect. We have made some simple changes here to address the needs of our employees while still getting our laundry list of jobs, tasks, events and programs done.

Young professionals are not expecting and should not expect a free-will, come and go as you want, culture. The work needs to get done. However, is the 9-to-5/sit at the desk culture the most effective for employees? In some cases, it definitely is necessary. When it isn’t, are there alternatives that can still be managed based on the size of the organization? Change is nearly as difficult as spinning plates, however if nothing changes, then nothing changes.

Onboarding of new employees also is key indicator of the corporate culture and willingness of an organization to address work/life balance. The onboarding (i.e. orientation) process should be more than filling out reams of forms (on or off-line) and being shown where the restrooms are located. A new employee can tell a lot those first few days. Young professionals and all workers want to know the values and beliefs of an organization.

Outboarding is a newer phenomenon. When employees leave an organization under positive circumstances, you should keep in mind that you never know when that employee might come back. I just had a conversation with a major employer in our community whose light went on when I mentioned this strategy. Communicate with employees who have left and you would want back in the same vein that a university or college communicates with their alumni.

Whether coming in the door or exiting the door, the corporate culture must reflect a respect of the balancing act we all are confronted with on a daily basis. The culture will be different in every business. The community, as well, must be a welcoming place where a variety of experiences gives people the opportunity to connect in a positive way with place.

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