A recent report issued by the European Commission revealed that fewer women are returning to work after giving birth compared with their European counterparts. It goes without saying that the potential pool of talent lost as a result could be huge.
Last year law firm Slater & Gordon surveyed over 500 managers on the topic. More than 40% admitted they would be wary of hiring a woman of childbearing age, while a similar number would be hesitant of hiring a woman who has already had a child, especially for senior roles.
These findings are, sadly, unsurprising but that in no way makes them acceptable. Some of the reasons managers cite as informing their hiring decisions against mothers are along the lines of flexibility, ambitious drive and cost. But in an economic climate facing huge skills shortages, hiring employees with relevant experience – regardless of their home situation – makes sense to the business’ long term success.
Employees are motivated by the freedom to deliver work on their terms and will consequently produce a standard of work that excels that of a standard 9-5er looking to climb the ladder. It’s been proven time and again that happy workers are the most productive. And it’s flexibility and empathy from our employer that enables this happiness. Time and again we hear the benefits of our ‘Virtual Assistant’ service, for example, which is increasingly popular among candidates seeking an improved work-life balance and employers looking for a responsive and flexible service.
For an employee to feel connected to and motivated by their employer, mutual understanding is critical. This requires the employer to truly empathise with the person – not just the employee - and appreciate the complexity of their lives outside of the workplace, regardless of children. Unfortunately if this doesn’t happen the employee will be spurred on to seek out a more “caring” work environment. This is the point when you lose all that accrued intellectual property from your mum-to-be and realise the costs of hiring and training someone new.
Technological advancements, cheap data and Wi-Fi abundance mean we have reached a point now where we can work far more flexibly. The future of work is undoubtedly flexible working, and the easiest way to embrace it is to trust your colleagues and be genuinely empathetic towards their circumstances.
So if flexible working practices are key to minimal turnover and employee retention, why don’t more businesses embrace the change?
True flexible working is much more than a line written into an employment contract. A strategic approach by a business requires a clear, well-coordinated goal driving it forward and ensuring it is part of a broader cultural change, not just a perk. Aligning flexibility to the overall business purpose and objectives will ensure it’s embedded into the company ethos, and thus gets the best possible results.
It might take a while for some to catch on, but for us, the solution is clear. Companies attracting and retaining the best talent have embraced flexible working and are moving forward strategically. Is your business following suit?