Lifelong Learning, Kochan Shares Research and Other Insights on Workplace Issues

Jon Griffith and Lois SlavinThomas Kochan

Kochan Shares Research and Other Insights on Workplace Issues

By Monica Nakamine
November 1, 2002

In recent years, MIT has proactively supported the idea of work/family balance, not only as a way to promote quality of life, but to also increase productivity in the long run while maintaining a fulfilling family life. Professor Thomas Kochan, the George M. Bunker Professor of Management in the Sloan School of Management, has been at the forefront of these efforts. On September 30, 2002, he shared some of his insights on this and other issues at the LFM-SDM Lifelong Learning Seminar Series

LFM-SDM Director of Partner Relations Jon Griffith and Director of Communications Lois Slavin attended Kochan’s session.

About Kochan

The driving force behind Kochan’s passion for work/family issues might stem from growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, where work and family life were balanced, if not one and the same. In today’s workforce, he sees an ever-widening gap between work and family, which can lead to decreased productivity at work, and/or an unfulfilling family life.

“The workforce and nature of work have changed dramatically, but the policies, practices, and institutions governing work and employment have not adapted,” said Kochan. “They still reflect assumptions of the old industrial economy. My research, teaching, and public activities are aimed at closing this gap between who we are and how we work and how we manage and govern employment.”

Kochan started working on these issues as a student at the University of Wisconsin, a school that has historically been considered a leader in helping to create progressive industrial relations policies for the American workforce. The school has always held true to the “Wisconsin Idea,” a concept that encourages University of Wisconsin students to become fully rounded scholars, thereby contributing to society as researchers, teachers, and public servants. Kochan still lives by this model, which is reflected in his work — in and outside of MIT.

Funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Center, the MIT Workplace Center, of which Kochan is co-director, was founded in July 2001. Its mission is “…to build — in theory and practice — a mutually supportive relationship between the performance of firms and the well being of employees, their families, and communities.” To that end, the center incorporates research, stakeholder dialogues, workplace experiments, and public education as its main initiatives.

Kochan is also involved in the Global Airline Industry Project and the Kaiser Permanente Labor Management Partnership Project. Working with two LFM ’03 interns – Jared Miller and Laura Bogusch — Kochan is looking at ways to improve not only the airline industry’s labor relations practices, but the airline industry in general. For the Kaiser Permanente project, Kochan is writing an extensive case study on the healthcare provider’s labor-management partnership practices. He will later help the company address issues that arise in the case study.

Aside from running the MIT Workplace Center and working on various outside projects, Kochan continues to teach courses at MIT for LFM, SDM, ESD, and Sloan students, mainly in organizational processes, leadership, and conflict management. On an MIT-wide level, Kochan is the chair of the Campus Race Relations Committee.

About the Lifelong Learning Seminar Series

The Lifelong Learning Seminar Series was initiated by members of the LFM-SDM Lifelong Learning Committee, which is comprised of staff members of the department. The intent of these lectures is to engage faculty members with staff members in order to facilitate communication between the two and a better understanding of each professor’s expertise.