Our Tribe Chief and Founder Jenny Jones is very familiar with the challenges of balancing the school run with the next client meeting, while also recognising the fact that employers need be aware of the amazing talent they are letting slip through the cracks.
Ask any Mum, in their past life a successful professional, looking to re-enter the workforce with part-time or flexible working hours in the type or level of role they were before, and the majority of them will tell you it’s really hard! All too often many of them give up and accept roles that are two or more levels below their capability if they go back to work at all! Surely this is a waste of talent within the talent short world we operate?
Ask any employer or hiring manager and they’ll tell you a story of woe around finding talent for their team. They may tell you they can find talent, just not talent that fits culturally into their team. Or maybe it's not hard to find the culture fit, but those that are a great team fit lack some of the intricate technical skills needed, or lack experience, or both. It's getting the combination right that seems to be the tricky bit.
Then someone applies who’s perfect – just the right culture fit, attitude, and energy, with all the technical attributes you need. But…..they want to work flexible, or part-time hours. Chances are that someone is a woman and a Mum, looking to re-enter the workforce or make a change in their working life to give them the balance they need to meet their family commitments. Whilst their husband or partner might also work, the inevitable struggle to balance kids, work, and harmonious home life, like it or not, more often falls on the working Mum.
Many of you will be men reading this, or women with no children. How honest are you with yourself about whether you are biased when it comes to employing a working mum?
I’m a working Mum with 4 kids in our household. I have worked since my children were born – back at work just 2 weeks after one of them! I am a business owner and work within that highly successful, busy environment every day, managing up to fifteen people; I have no family support network living within 600 km’s, yet I still take my kids to school every day, I work in the classroom for two hours every week, I do our grocery shopping, I cook healthy dinners, I work with my kids on their homework, I wash clothes every day, I spend quality time with my husband and I am part of the teamwork on delivering a premium service to our customers and candidates alike. And, I am no more special than many other working Mums – that’s just what we do! And most of us love it!
I look for past history of success – past behaviours often predict future behaviours
One of the best performers we have ever hired was a 3 day a week working mum. We have more of those woman in our office right now. I find working Mums are often the most productive people in the office - they are on task knowing they are there for only a set period of time and they want to prove they are as capable and valuable as every other team member.
From my observations I find most working mums come back to work for 1 of 2 reasons – either they love to go to work and don’t want to spend their days without this stimulation or, they need the income. Either way they are motivated to make it work and every working Mum I have come into contact with is typically self-managing, motivated and driven. They show initiative, are flexible and are prepared to ‘roll their sleeves up’ and do whatever needs to be done. They often also bring a maturity of thinking and an unflappable approach as they have to behave like this around their kids and busy home! I don’t know about you but there are many attributes here that we are always being asked for and we certainly look for in our team.
So here’s what I look for when hiring a returning to the workforce Mum. It's also how I have set up my routine and what I believe has made mine, my work colleagues and my families lives both at work and home, harmonious and successful.
I ask questions around - examples of high productivity both before they became a Mum and whilst they have been one; what support network do they have in place, including for when children are sick. I ask about their partner and how supportive and committed they are to them returning to work; I look for past history of success – past behaviours often predict future behaviours. And then I just chat to them, I am honest, I tell them what we need and ask them if they feel they can commit to those needs. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions – we expect them, and the reality is if they can’t answer them clearly and articulately then in my view, they are not yet ‘set up’ to return to a busy working environment. Give encouragement and honest feedback so there are no surprises and then give it a go! If you feel it’s "too risky", don’t be afraid to offer a contract position – loads of returning Mums will consider this.
So to ease your talent finding issues, don't overlook the working mum – in my view its absolutely worth "the risk"; you will discover little gems and gain much value, not only from their capability but from their gratitude toward you being different than most of the others out there!!