by Louise Campbell, Managing Director at Robert Walters Ireland
Struggling to retain staff? Women returning to the workforce after a career break offer a valuable resource to employers, plugging skills gaps and boosting diversity. So what do they look for when re-entering the workplace, and how can your company catch their eye? Our research paper, Gender Diversity and Leadership, reminds businesses they must be proactive and adaptable to secure the brightest talent.
Why employers must be flexible
After polling 100 female professionals, we discovered that 98% of women regard good work-life balance, strong salary and company benefits and career progression are top of women’s priority lists when returning to the workplace.
Flexibility (86%) is also a major preference, with over half our respondents keen to move into a more family-friendly sector once their career break comes to an end.
The trouble is, there seems to be a disparity between the attitudes of employees and employers towards flexible working with only half of employers offering this.
With all this in mind, it seems employers will only attract the brightest talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working. Flexibility around working hours is a priority for many women, but employers must also consider taking a flexible approach to how this policy is implemented.
By giving managers the freedom to organise flexible working arrangements on a case-by-case basis with staff, employers can ensure that these arrangements work for each individual – rather than a blanket policy which may not be appropriate for some staff.
Top 10 tips when recruiting those on a career break
Of course, flexible working isn’t the only thing your business needs to consider when recruiting people after a career break. The following points are also vital:
1. Understand what women want from their jobs
Flexibility, competitive salaries and career progression all remain important issues. Since 37% of female professionals would consider changing jobs to find an employer with a better maternity policy, it’s worth delving deeper to understand what they’re after.
2. Don’t make your recruitment messages too restrictive
Many women returning to work are looking to move into a new area within their sector, or to embark on a career that’s connected with, but different from, what they did before. So ensure your job ads and interviewing make it clear that you’re open to good people with transferrable skillsets and experience.
3. Ensure your brand appeals to women
Social media, online videos and testimonials can all attract talented staff. Some 86% of women on career breaks favour brands which promote inclusion and flexible working.
4. Use online communities, job boards and networking events to raise brand awareness
Flag up any awards your company has achieved on social media sites, and communicate with women directly through online forums and job boards dedicated to their needs.
5. Learn more about flexible working
As we’ve mentioned, try to embrace flexible working – but avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible working covers everything from job sharing and home-working through to part-time work.
6. Provide childcare support
Half of professionals consider financial support for childcare to be important. This gives employers the chance to stand out from the crowd by offering family-friendly policies.
7. Offer wellbeing initiatives
Since two-thirds of women want exercise to be included in their working day, health and wellbeing schemes could give companies an edge over their rivals.
8. Make it easy for women to come back
Avoid the loss of talented staff members by keeping in touch with them during career breaks. Office visits, newsletters and social channels can all help.
9. Launch return-to-work programmes
A dedicated programme of training for women returning to the workplace could prove a significant draw. Surprisingly few employers offer these at present.
10. Deliver mentoring opportunities
Some 44% of women say they’d find a mentor helpful during their transition back to working life. Mentoring schemes could ultimately give women a better idea of their future career options.
About the author
Louise has held overall responsibility for the Irish operations of Robert Walters since 2003. Passionate about training, developing and retaining talent, Louise is also the Director of European training for Robert Walters and an advocate for the “Empowering Women in the Workplace” program, which delivers insight to employers and businesses on how they can best create strategies and policies to ensure gender diversity in the workplace.