According to Catalyst’s latest study, Expanding Work-Life Perspectives:Talent Management in India, there’s a mismatch between employees’ workplace flexibility needs and work-life programs at global companies in Asia: programs offered may not be the right fit regionally and, as a result, people may not feel comfortable using them. To be effective, the report suggests, work-life programs can’t be “one-size-fits-all”—organizations need to develop localized approaches that take diverse cultural contexts and customs into account.

The study explores the work-life perspectives of over 1,800 high-potential employees in countries throughout Asia, of which 226 were working in multi-national companies in India. It includes a section focusing on similarities and differences among respondents from India, China, and Singapore; separate in-depth reports on India, China and Singapore provide insights about high-potential women and men working in these three countries.

Specific to India, the Catalyst study finds that, regardless of gender, future leaders in India have high career aspirations and also value having a good fit between work and their personal lives. However, more Indian women than men feel that lack of workplace flexibility is a career obstacle.

“In India, women’s workforce participation is on the rise, and our research shows that women are just as ambitious as men,” said Ilene H. Lang, president & CEO, Catalyst. “But work-life challenges cause women to downsize their professional aspirations. The right work-life solutions improve a company’s ability to recruit, develop, and retain promising employees, enhancing workplace performance and strengthening the bottom line and competitive advantage.”

In India, more than 25 percent of both men and women reported a dual focus of work and family—a figure higher than China, where there’s a higher focus on work, vs. Singapore, which had the highest number of respondents with a family focus. Other highlights from the in-depth report on India include:

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  • Indian respondents had the highest short- and long-term career aspirations: 98 percent said they were hoping to advance to a higher-level position in the next five years and 78 percent said their long-term goal was to reach CEO or senior leadership positions.
  • Both men and women in India value work-life fit — 97 percent men and 95 percent women rate it as very important. However, women reported higher levels of difficulty in managing work-life demands while men were more likely to say that managing work and life was “easy” for them.
  • The analysis showed that for more than 80 percent of both women and men in India, the existing flexibility policies provided by their organizations did not meet their work-life needs.

Comparing India with China and Singapore, highlights include:

  • Respondents from China expressed the highest level of job focus (75 percent) while respondents from India (27 percent) and Singapore (26 percent) were more likely than other countries to have a dual work-family focus. Singapore had the highest percentage of respondents with a family focus (17 percent).
  • Women and men in India had the highest short- and long-term aspirations to advance further in their careers and to senior leadership roles: 78 percent of Indian respondents said their long-term goal was to reach CEO or senior leadership positions, vs. 52 percent in China and 51 percent in Singapore.
  • Respondents from China were less satisfied than those in India and Singapore with their level of workplace flexibility (57 percent said they had enough, vs. 72 in India and 74 in Singapore).
  • Interestingly, respondents in China (83 percent) were also less likely to rate work-life effectiveness as “very important” compared to India and Singapore (both 96 percent).

The report offers questions for companies to consider in developing localized work-life strategies for employees: What does work-life fit mean to your employees, and what kinds of work-life supports will be most helpful in this specific cultural context? What flexible programs are available in your organization? Do they align with cultural needs and norms? Do women and men at your organization have similar flexibility needs?

You can download the free report on the Catalyst website. Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.