Even in this day and age, there’s a misconception about flexible working. Too many companies still view flexible working as an extra, as something for which they have to make special dispensation, as something that has to be earned. Of all jobseekers, this affects working mums probably more than anyone else.
Too few working mums get the support and flexibility they need to achieve that very difficult balance between home and work. This means women often have little incentive to return to work – and stay there – once they have children. That’s a huge talent pool that employers are alienating by refusing to provide a flexible working environment. With competition for talented people tougher than ever and work-life balance becoming more and more important to the modern worker, something needs to change.
Flexible working is not just for mums. The benefits extend to all staff, resulting in a happier, more productive workforce who know they have an employer who understands their needs and does everything possible to meet them. By offering flexible working or job share opportunities, employers can improve their candidate attraction and retention.
I’m delighted to say that as a working mum, I have a flexible and understanding employer who allows me to work in a way that suits my family commitments and really values what I can do in return. At Impellam, the group of recruitment companies of which IRC is a part, we use a system called Open Blend to help us understand what’s important to our employees.
Every employee selects which eight of 28 elements relating to their work and home life are most important to them. They then give each a personalised definition and measure, from 1-10, how fulfilled they are in each specific element, as well as setting a target score. With the help of their manager, the employee decides which actions to take to increase their level of fulfilment with each element. Open Blend enables us to far better engage with our staff, to understand what’s important to them and what motivates them at work.
In reality, working mums are no harder to cater for than anyone else in the workforce – what they want is exactly what everyone else wants in this age of virtual offices and fluid working practices. Yet there’s an unwritten rule that you need to prove yourself in a role before you get the benefit of flexible working. Employers even ask interview questions on candidates’ flexibility and availability, which has many working mums feeling that they're at an immediate disadvantage.
Flexible working is not an add-on. It’s something that companies should include in their external job specs so that candidates are comfortable stating their availability – and know they’re applying to an employer that truly understands their needs. Companies need to shout about it, make it a part of their company policies and recruitment advertising. If candidates who require flexibility from day one – but offer flexibility and experience in return – don’t see this when they apply for the job, they might feel it's not worth applying in the first place.
How can you keep working mums happy? Check out our infographic:
There are companies who are doing all they can to accommodate working mums. Websites such as careersformums.ie allow mums to find roles that are specifically targeted to their needs and many employers conduct recruitment campaigns targeting experienced stay-at-home mums. Progress is certainly being made. But there’s a lot more to do.
To find out more about what we're doing to promote flexibility in the workplace or to talk to us about how we can help you with your recruitment needs, contact us now.