Why working parents make a diverse and committed workforce

  • Published on 10th August 2017

    Rosie Anderson Specialist Recruiter of Cyber Security Experts & Manager of Outsources Cyber Security Recruitment Team

    Rosie Anderson

    I enjoyed my maternity leave (brief though it was) but the time came when I was ready for adult conversation and to dive back into my career. Recruitment isn't your average 9-5 job - and starting a brand new Cyber market and specialising in Pen Test recruitment meant I would be looking for niche candidates and finding new customers to work with. It wasn’t (and still isn’t!) your average "return to work slowly" situation but for me, coming back to something brand new which I could craft for myself was a challenge I (maybe foolishly) set myself.

    Luckily my employer is REALLY good with me, allowing me to adjust back into working life and my hours increased slowly to where I am now - which is still not full time but full enough to keep both parties happy and meet the demands of the role and the family.

    The government has taken great strides to ensure shared parental leave is available to both parents, and working families now get up to 30 hours of free childcare if both parents are working from the age of 3. However, it is still proving to be a great challenge for a returning parent to find those flexible opportunities. This is something that Outsource and our #OUKWomeninTech team are hoping to change! Here are my top 5 reasons why I believe returning parents, either from maternity break or a career break of any kind, are a committed workforce that can help to increase diversity in your organisation.

    1. We're seriously focussed with our time - We may not have full-time hours, but in the hours we are here we get stuff done. I can do more in half an hour than I used to do in a morning pre baby - Maybe it's the training from having an hour when the baby sleeps and blitzing the house but when I'm on a task I'm focussed until it's completed. I think the old saying – “If you want something done, ask a busy person” really applies to anyone who is on reduced hours - The hours I am in the office are constrained by when I have childcare, but that means I have to be extra efficient, and not do anything  that isn’t mission critical to my ultimate day job. This means I have to really work on my priorities and focus on what will deliver the biggest return on time invested.

    2. We're a pro at multitasking and handling conflicting deadlines and multiple demands - Admittedly I may need ALL the caffeine but again the training from a baby on the hip, cooking tea and relaying a shopping list to my husband means I'm a pro at multitasking. This does tie nicely into prioritising my hours and making sure I have clear objectives, and I can’t live without my To-Do List to make sure I don’t forget anything.

    3. Being a parent makes me more ambitious, not less. I love being a mummy to a little person but I also love my job and love working with different customers and candidates. I am super competitive, and I always want to do a great job for my customers and candidates. I have multiple priorities – but I can be passionate about my career and my child – It isn’t a one or the other approach. My work is what ties me to who I was before I was a parent, and the fulfilment I get from doing a great job does make me feel competent and smart. With a new baby and as a first-time parent, there are plenty of times I have felt like “Oh god, I really don’t know what I’m doing here!” At least with my day job, most of the time I feel like I know what I am doing!

    4. We get used to knockbacks. In recruitment, there’s a lot of knock backs - my candidate fluffs an interview, my client cancels the role etc. Being a parent is no different and at times with tantrums, teething, croup, and sickness, days are hard! But having a smiling bundle of joy that's happy to see me when I get home does put things into perspective and helps to build my resilience. There's a reason I’m grafting and there's a reason I’m picking myself up and getting back to it the next day - I have an example to set to my son

    5. We understand the need to be flexible – There’s a lot of things that can happen as a parent, that means I unexpectedly need to take time off work i.e. sickness, childcare problems, health appointments etc. On the flip side, there'll sometimes be a customer I need to see later in the day or an Expo or an event I need to attend late in the evening which requires an overnight stay. There's flexibility required by both parties and as long as this is managed right this flexibility is what makes my part time arrangement work. I know where my boundaries lie and its built into the psychological contract I have with my employer. The psychological contract is the unwritten set of expectations of the employment relationship, and it’s maintained by regular communications between both parties to make sure expectations are set and boundaries are clear from both parties.

    My advice to employers

    Working parents and a returning workforce are a great potential solution to the skills shortage and the lack of diversity that's a real recruitment challenge of today. Research shows that 7 in 10 employees would like to have flexible working but only 12% have ever asked for it. Over half think any request would be negatively viewed by their employer, so there’s an increasing loss of skills after parental leave where parents don’t return to work.

    It is so important to ask this question when reviewing a role requirement and considering how working hours could work:

  • Is this a real part time role or a full-time role crammed into part time hours? What support needs to be given for this to work? If the role requirements are full time, then look at a job share option rather than trying to cram full-time responsibilities into part time hours as this will only cause undue pressure for both parties. This may mean that you end up paying for 1.20 FTE rather than 1.0 but as an employer, you are going to get excellent commitment and skills plus more work done!
  • 61% of UK workers feel they would be more productive if they could work flexibly and over 67% said they would be more loyal to a business A business that supports flexible working gets to attract and retain the best talent, sees a difference to their bottom line and creates a motivated and committed workforce. Flexible working doesn’t just mean key time (the new word for part time agile working!) This also covers remote working, hot-desking, job shares and return ships. By having a more agile approach to working environments, you can attract a more agile and diverse workforce. Could this be the answer to the skills shortage the UK is facing?
  •  It's really important to regularly check in with both parties to make sure the arrangement is working properly and the demands of the role and the demands of the family life are being met. The hours may need tweaking a number of times to get the balance that is needed, so you need to make sure your policies allow for regular changes until the balance is right. Regular communication and honesty is key from both parties. As an employee, you need to be honest with yourself about what you want, and what will work for you and your family and set your boundaries. As an employer, you need to encourage honesty and an open dialogue so that any issues can be ironed out before they reach breaking point. This becomes even more important with multiple children and elderly parents/family that need care.
  • Be aware that any returner, especially a new parent/carer, may need a confidence boost from time to time. We will naturally have guilt about working, guilt as to whether we're doing enough for our employer, self-doubt about whether we can meet all the demands we put on ourselves. And that can just be in one bad morning! A caring boss or a mentor to check in will make the world of difference and sometimes a pep talk can help boost confidence. Lloyds Banking Group, in particular, are making great strides forward with their own Return ship programme and run confidence and assertiveness workshops for their employees, and upskilling classes for returners. Mentoring and buddy schemes are also a great initiative to ensure that employees stay engaged and any problems are identified and ironed out quickly.
  • One final point, don’t just offer agility to your NEW employees – think about your existing workforce and what you can do to re-engage and retain your top talent.I know how much of a difference an engaged employer has made to my work/life balance now I’m a mum…and it’s easily achievable for every employer for every role with honesty, good communication and creative thinking.

If you are looking for ways to increase your organisation's diversity, please feel free to check out our #OUKWomeninTech page - http://www.outsource-uk.co.uk/inspiringwomen.asp or contact me on RAnderson@outsource-uk.co.uk


If you would like to discuss joining the panel for our next event or would like more information on candidate attraction for your business, contact the Outsource Diversity and Inclusion Team on 01793 430021 or at techwomen@outsource-uk.co.uk