Do not look at the woman in front of you as having been out of the workforce. Instead, see her as formerly employed in one of the hardest occupations possible: parenting. She can handle stress and odd hours, all with very little sleep. She can multitask and think days, weeks and even years in advance. As an HR professional, there are things you can do to help her return to the workplace and capitalize on her unique set of needs.
Understand the Compromise
In a study published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, researchers found that compromise was a major theme in the decision of a parent to return to work. A parent returning to work has made a decision to balance her life between two huge priorities. Understand that she may be torn between being at home and being at work. She wants to do both, and well, but bilocation is still a fantasy. By keeping the job focus on achievement over time, a smart HR director can ease the pain of returning to work and increase employee retention.
Value the Employee
The same article states that one of the major factors for a parent to return to work is for a sense of value. It is important for any employee to feel valued, but may be more so for the returning parent. Awards, appreciation flowers or a heartfelt thank you note can bring out the best in a parent-turned-employee.
Remember that a mother coming back into the labor force post labor is not some lost soul who needs a place to be. She is an accomplished human being who can bring value to your company.
Go To Bat
Workplace flexibility is central to a parent’s decision and ability to return to the workforce, according to the Journal of Industrial Relations. Unfortunately, studies show there is often a dissonance between the policies of a company and the management’s actual practice. Having a work-at-home policy means nothing if that policy is never approved by management. Economies of time are central for success for both a business and a parent. A business manager needs enough man hours to complete a task but valued parent-workers needs time to pick up children from school and handle kid-related emergencies.
Sometimes it will be the HR director’s job to mediate this balance of time and responsibility. This may require conversations with managers, but it could also mean offering the parent-worker alternative job responsibilities. Researchers are finding that the stresses of being both a parent and a successful employee are opening up people returning to the workforce to the idea of changing career paths. Making this a possibility can be good for all parties involved.
About the Author: Ruth Harris has been a HR consultant in the Bay area for ten years. When she’s not at the office, she enjoys spending time with her kids and exploring the city of San Francisco.
What causes people to gravitate towards their career? We know that there are numerous factors including socio-economic status, location, age, academic inclination, mentors, and parental influence.
For many years, centuries it seems, it was common for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents—daughters following mothers, sons following fathers. Given how we used to learn things and the very nature of old class systems, that careers were family-centric is in no way surprising.
In recent times however, children are less likely to take similar career paths as their parents. In fact, according to recent findings from Ancestry.co.uk, just 7% of children today end up in the same job as their mother or father (as compared to 48% a century ago).
Indeed, from a career perspective, all sorts of things have influenced career gravitation for women, including the Suffrage movement, Title IX, and even technology.
According to Ancestry.com’s studies, children today are three times more likely to choose a different career from their parents.
So let me ask this question of HR Professionals. Was one of your parents an HR Professional, or the earlier derivations such as Personnel Manager or Payroll Administrator? If yes, how much of an influence was this on your own career choice?
In my entire career, I have only met one mother/daughter HR duo, and in reality, the mother was only the HR Professional for a few years before taking over the company from her father. How come there aren’t more mother/daughters like this?
I think it behooves us to ask:
- Are we promoting our career in a sustainable, attractive way?
- Are we happy in our career, and do we project happiness?
- What can we do to promote this field to our children?
Talk amongst yourselves.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
Looking for a life-impacting role for HR? Explore the opportunity you can use to save lives and life styles. I am talking about the life skills and balancing of life decisions of both your employees and their spouses.
My mom’s cousin lost her husband in the last year. In her grief and lack of education, she ignored the opportunity to keep her insurance and other benefits going. She has now had a stroke and may need brain surgery. I don’t want to go into the healthcare debate; I want you to think about the people and the impact a little education and/or policy changes could make.
What if her insurance and benefits could have continued automatically, paid out of her survivor benefits? This could at least have happened for a reasonable “grief” period, when there are so many decisions to make.
Let’s go beyond insurance and jump to life skills discussion. Want to increase family engagement? What about addressing the often ignored factors of estate planning and organizational skills? 85% of households have one spouse solely responsible for bills and paperwork. How can you help employees and their spouses, regardless of which one is the household operator, understand the critical necessity of cross training or at least strong organization of these processes. It can be touchy, but in many cases, it would be very welcome to have tools and discussion facilitated.
This issue is gender and socio-economically diverse. Think about it. Think about your mom, dad, sister, brother, grandparent, spouse. Who is going to be impacted by a tragedy compounded by complexity of new skill requirements, or financial messes that have never been shared?
You can make a difference.
Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
Today’s dads are working hard to be “better” fathers than previous generations. No one is saying that that those generations of dads were not good fathers, times are simply changing and dads today are making it clear that they want to raise their children differently.
While dads are making family time a bigger priority than their fathers and grandfathers did, their dedication to a thriving professional career has not changed. Corporate culture, especially in larger companies, doesn’t always mesh with a dad’s desire for more family time. Because of this, many working dads are finding themselves struggling to juggle a work-life balance, as women have been doing for decades.
However, some companies are evolving with the times and improving their paternity leave programs as well as utilizing technology to allow for more work flexibility. This includes giving dads the ability to work from home, even if it’s only for a couple of hours a day so they can cut out of the office early to pick the kids up from school.
Of course another factor is that our wives are not the women their mothers were. With more women in the workforce, in fact 40% are now the family breadwinner, the home environment has changed and so must the delegation of household responsibilities. There is increased pressure on men to be more than just a paycheck and to play an equal parenting role.
But it’s also that our generation has wanted to change and be more present in our children’s lives. To really know them and to be closely involved with shaping who our children become.
According to a Pew study, fathers in 1965 spent only 2.5 hours a week on child care, where today that number has jumped to about 7 hours. While that may not seem like much, evolution is a process and I believe that the generations of boys we are raising will do even more.
I had a great childhood and have enormous admiration, love and respect for my dad but have still strived to be a more involved father in the raising of my three children. And I hope that my sons will do even more than I’ve done for their kids.
Men are evolving. Each generation is told more and more that it’s okay to cry, to be vulnerable and to love. So when we hold our babies in our arms for the very first time – we do. All of those thoughts we had as kids “I wish my dad were here,” “I’ll do that when I’m a dad,” come flooding back and we make a conscious effort to be different. Some of those promises we keep and some falter under the pressures of careers and mortgages. But the point is that we get a little closer to being the dad that we wanted to be and hopefully, as we reflect on the dad we said we would be – and the dad we actually are – we continue to evolve.
Chris Duchesne is the VP of Care.com’s Global Employer Program, Workplace Solutions. He brings more than 15 years of experience in HR technology to Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world with 8 million members spanning 16 countries. A key member of the leadership team, he oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. A father of three small children, Chris knows first-hand the challenges working parents face and brings that experience to his role.
The difficulty associated with maintaining a work-life balance certainly isn’t a new saga – in fact, it likely dates all the way back to the days of the caveman. That said it’s becoming a more prominent issue for the workforce and, consequently, a more significant focal point for those in HR. If employees are facing stress in one aspect of their life, be it work or personal, it’s likely impacting their other functions as well. And in a time when productivity and innovation mean the difference between being a leader or a laggard, most firms can’t afford not to acknowledge the challenges that most in the workforce are facing.
A recent Pew study found that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find balance their work with their family life is either somewhat or very challenging. Similarly, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers always feel rushed. What do these statistics mean for HR? More than half the workforce is feeling the squeeze when it comes to time and flexibility.
But working parents may be more passive about their need for a positive work-life balance than those from Gen Y. Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are explicitly demanding flexibility. In fact, 69% believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary, according to a Cisco study. What’s more, according to findings from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, 75% of Millennials are unwilling to compromise on their family or personal values. As a result, young top performers are choosing work environments in which the benefits are less about pay and more about creativity, personal meaning and adaptability.
Nevertheless, as baby boomers retire in mass numbers, the two generations are very quickly taking over the entire workforce which means that hiring managers and executives have to take note.
Below is a quick run-down for auditing your firms’ current culture offerings in regard to work-life balance.
Use an anonymous survey to investigate the following aspects of your employees’ life:
- Stress levels and perceived causes (i.e., time, responsibilities, work load, etc.)
- Impact of stress on productivity
- Desired options for alleviating stress (i.e., increased time flexibility, telecommuting options, mandatory breaks/no-work activities, health promotion activities, etc.)
With the results of this survey, pinpoint the issues that your workforce is facing and subsequently engage an educated trial-and-error process for implementing successful work-life balance practices. Pursue a follow-up survey after 3-6 months to ensure that the changes being made are putting your organizational culture on the right track.
This type of proactive behavior results in a domino effect of positive impacts because in addition to improving the productivity of your workforce, there is also a direct recruiting benefit. Firms that adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce are naturally going to improve their employer brand, or their reputation among prospective employees. In time, this will not only increase candidates’ attraction to the firm, but it will attract those individuals with the best culture fit. What’s more, the sourcing process will be less complex, reducing both time to hire and cost to hire. While all of this takes time to develop, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers alike.
Experiencing this upward spiral of hiring benefits isn’t difficult, but it does require change. In essence, the essential components to this entire process are (1) acknowledging a problem faced by the parents and millennials in the workforce that is causing a noticeable shift in work culture demands and (2) accepting short-term costs for significant long-term gains.
About the Author: Greg Moran is the President and CEO of Chequed.com, an Employee Selection and Automated Reference Checking technology suite as well as a respected author on Human Capital Management with published works including Hire, Fire & The Walking Dead and Building the Talent Edge. Greg can be found blogging at disrupthr.com, on twitter @CEOofChequed and Google+.
I was recently flipping through the stations on TV and stumbled across the 1997 “chick flick” Picture Perfect. For those not familiar, this particular movie stars Jennifer Aniston as an aspiring ad agency professional who finds her career, despite her obvious talent, slightly hampered by the fact that she’s single. Her lack of attachment (no husband, kids, or mortgage) is the basis of her boss and the agency’s fear that she’ll develop relationships with key clients and then leave, taking those clients with her elsewhere, without a second thought. She feels so hampered that it prompts her to concoct a story with a fake fiancé and wedding plans to prove her “commitment to the firm;” her plans to settle down reaffirm that she is in no hurry to make a move anywhere else.
Now this movie is slightly dated and the world of work has certainly seen changes since its release, but I wonder if in some cases these types of fears still exist? One might argue not. If fact, Time Magazine’s recent cover story “The Childfree Life” discussed couples who choose to not have children, and the career opportunities that are often available to childless women that they may otherwise have to forgo. And one of our Women of HR contributors, Kimberly Patterson, recently explored the subject, and possible fallacy, of loyalty here.
However, despite these arguments, you have to wonder if the sort of mentality presented in Picture Perfect doesn’t actually still exist in some places and some companies. There are still many organziations where longevity and loyalty is rewarded, where service recognition programs are a key part of employee recognition strategies. I’m not claiming that all companies that recognize and reward loyalty think like this; I’m just wondering if in some corners of Corporate America, there are still executives and leadership teams who maintain these biases.
Having been single in the professional world for many years, I’ve felt both sides of this: the Time Magazine cited opportunities to travel, and the freedom to be a part of projects that may have been more difficult with commitments at home. But there have also been occasions where I’ve experienced Jennifer Aniston’s character’s feeling that I’m not quite the same as everyone else who is settled down with a family. I’ve never felt it hamper my career, but there are times (especially when company and charity events are centered on couples and/or families) that there has been a slight feeling of not quite belonging.
So I ask you…what do you think? Do these biases still exist? Are there places where women may be held back as a result of not being “settled down?” And if so, do these biases affect men the same way?
Futhermore, as HR professionals, should it not be partially our responsibility to ensure our companies are not excluding single and/or childless women (and men for that matter) from development and advancement opportunities?
I’d love to hear your comments below.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I love to watch my little girls sleep. They are calm, full of possibility, and not asking me to change them for the 4th time that hour into another fairy, princess, or pirate costume. As I watch, I imagine what dramas, adventures, heartbreak, and careers (I am a career coach after all!) lie ahead for both of them and it’s hard to discern what my hopes are for them and what my actual expectations are.
My free-spirited head-strong 4. 5 year old has always had a mind of her own and her attitude taught me early on that she was her own girl, with a unique personality; wonderful, and not at all a clone of her mom. This helped me pull away the layers of hopes I had dreamt up when she was 20 weeks in utero and I found out a little girl was in our future. As she took on the world through her independence, I worked hard to stop putting my aspirations or assumptions of who she would become onto her tiny little shoulders. By the time my younger daughter was born I felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of embracing the individual personalities each girl would have. That being said, I still do catch myself making offhand comments about “when Josie is CEO of a company” or “when she opens her own restaurant.” After years of watching their personalities form, I come up with careers that I think they will definitely master. Of course, these career predictions change as fast as the whims of precocious preschoolers change. So what exactly do I hope for when it comes to the lives my girls create and why do I bother to write about it?
I hope they have choices. I hope they never have to stay in situations that aren’t working for them, that aren’t helping them grow, and thrive, and laugh, and play. I hope they work (I do, I can’t help it) but I also hope they have the choice to create the work schedule and environment that brings out their best and matches the priorities they hold at any given moment. So what does this mean for me, and how I mother them? How do I help them achieve a life full of choice? I’m not quite sure but I think it involves helping them develop a love of learning so they have the education to back up their goals. I am also pretty sure it involves showing them what love is and how it never means giving up who you are, what you like, or who your friends are. I want them to choose wisely if and when they do decide to marry.
I have read countless books geared towards us working mom set, and most of them are written from the perspective of a fairly privileged, educated woman who does have the choice to either work or not, be married or not, have more children or not, schedule housecleaners, nannies, gardeners, date night etc. or not. One of the themes that seems to come through is a hint of complaint about the fact that there just are too many choices. As if moms are paralyzed by choice and opportunity, a burden the generation before us didn’t have.
Can I be candid? To me this is nonsense. Instead of lamenting the various choices we have and the way it makes us feel afraid to move, how about buck up and spend some time figuring what you want and who you are, and have the courage to be that person and pursue that goal? Take choice by the horns and run with it. You want to work part-time to have more time with your family? Figure out a way to make it work. Talk to your employer, talk to other moms who do it, create a situation that makes it possible. You want to start your own business? There is no easier time then now. Truly it will only get harder. Trust me, I work with MBA students and I have heard every counter to this argument including “ I have a newborn” to which my response is, “Do you think it will be easier when you have a full schedule of t-ball and ballet classes to take your kids too?” You want a meaningful career that involves decision making? Pursue another degree, ask for management opportunities, apply for a new job, seek out a mentor that has that role. Take proactive steps so you are creating a life that includes endless choices and a plethora of paths to venture down.
I hope this for my daughters, I seek this for myself, and I encourage it of you.
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Summer – it’s a time for the pool, barbeques and a laid back frame of mind, right? As a working mom, I cannot say that I agree. The school year is full of places to go, people to see, and projects to be completed, but at least it is not up to me to decide where and when my children should be. Day in and day out there is one constant, they go to school and I go to work.
Summer on the other hand is totally different. There is often too much pressure on working moms when it comes to summer vacation. Where should I send the kids? Will they be happy? Every week is different obstacle to be overcome. There is no regular schedule or organized transportation like the school bus picking them up, and sometimes it can actually add to my schedule. Am I being a bad mom by not allowing them to have a ‘true vacation’ – always making them get up early and go somewhere just so I can make ends meet and further my career?
As women, we naturally want to be the best moms we can be, and in large part that is trying to provide a healthy physical and emotional balance in the home. Our nurturing selves want to be there for kids in the summer – to take them to the beach, the park or the zoo; but we also want them to know that life is not always run on a schedule and taking it easy is also part of a balanced life.
I realize that there is much to be gained from a jam-packed summer of friends, activities, and both sleep away and day camps – I myself, spent many exciting weeks at various camps – basketball, tennis, Girls State – and I didn’t even have a working mom. And even though I understand and even appreciate the value, I sometimes I have to wonder… how many days are there left till school starts again??
Sophia Lidback is Product Manager at Exaserv, where her responsibilities include managing product development, writing and editing technical and functional user manuals and managing customer relations with respect to product implementation. Sophia is a wife and mother of 4.
I was putting my 7 year old to bed when she turned around and said “you’re the best mum a daughter can ever have, I am so proud of you and want to grow up to become like you.” I hugged her and kissed her, told her how much I love her and how much I am proud of her too. That night I couldn’t sleep and kept thinking to myself that between being a career driven woman, and a mother (and a good one too, at least that’s what I think) whatever I am doing, it must be right.
Just how difficult is it to be a mom and have a full time job at the same time? Ask any working mom and she will say it isn’t easy. Balancing the two roles takes great talent, not to mention effort, to be able to switch between hats. Women are famous for their ability to multi task, and multiply this several times for women applying this skill to both a job and motherhood. We tend to go through guilt pangs every now and then, guilt that maybe we are not dedicating enough time to our children, that perhaps we will be seen as neglecting our jobs if we take those couple of hours to attend that sport event at school, etc…. We often do not stop for a moment, to take a deep breath and admire our resilience, stamina and our genuine efforts to keep both worlds seamlessly on track.
In an article published online in Time Health and Family in 2011, titled “Working Women Who Try to Be ‘Supermom’ May Be More Depressed”, the author makes reference to research that shows working mothers who think they are able to juggle between a career and motherhood effortlessly are in fact more depressed when compared to other women who really don’t overdo it.
Let’s stop here shall we?
Does trying to balance between our careers and our duties as moms mean we are overdoing it? I personally don’t think so. And by the way, which type of mom classifies as a ‘supermom’ anyway? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word ‘supermom’ as ‘a woman who performs the traditional duties of housekeeping and child-rearing while also having a full-time job’. According to this definition all working moms classify as one by default. The research goes on that apparently by embracing the fact that it is ok to ‘let things slide,’ working moms can happily combine both roles. On the face of it this makes sense, but there is a caveat, or at least that’s what I think: where do we working moms draw the line when ‘compromising’ on stuff at work before they are perceived as becoming slackers and their career growth suffers? And alternatively can working moms really let things slide when it comes to their children in any aspect related to their well-being, not just physically but equally important, emotionally?
Well I finished reading the article with one conclusion. The ‘supermom’ journey is filled with challenges, no doubt. I’ve been one for 7 years now, and I experience them first-hand every day. It is not easy to juggle between a demanding job, meetings, overseas assignments, projects, play days, doctor appointments, violin rehearsals, school concerts, sport days etc…. yet I still do it. How do I manage? I really don’t know. I’m not perfect, but who said that being a perfectionist is the road to happiness? Has it been a rewarding journey so far? It’s a straight ‘yes’. The personal gratification that comes from watching our children grow to be healthy happy individuals without compromising on career aspirations or vice versa is worth every moment of it. Maybe we are overcomplicating this ‘supermom’ case. Maybe all we have to do is realize we are doing our best and self-appreciate that. Apparently our children do.
Being a supermom is a matter of personal choice. Those of us who walk into it knowing we must spend a great portion of our lives balancing the heavy weight we carry on our shoulders become mentally prepared to face the challenges. There are plenty of days when we feel proud of what we are accomplishing, times when we feel the load is too much, and many more moments when guilt that maybe we are not giving it our best shot overtakes us, but you know what? The truth is that we are super and we have deservedly earned the title.
Being a stay at home mom has its perks – you don’t have to get dressed up, you can work out on your own schedule, and you don’t need to have the children’s lunch ready at 7 a.m. However, the most amazing and obvious benefit of being a stay at home mom is the opportunity to intimately know your children and to share all of the milestones of their young lives. No one can truly understand and love a child like their parent. Choosing to stay at home had its financial and career limiting consequences, but it’s a choice that I will never regret.
Being a stay at home mom however does not mean that you must put your brain or skills on hold. Especially in today’s modern world where there are countless ways for you to expand your horizons. And that’s exactly what I did. After driving many, many miles to practices, games, lessons and recitals, making sure that the homework was done and dinner was prepared, I spent countless late nights looking on the computer for ideas to sharpen my skills, and technology is what I came to love.
I am a problem solver. I love when I am given a challenge; know how to fix it, and how to fix it better. It started with setting up my own home wifi network. To most of my friends and co-workers, it’s probably no big deal, but in the stay at home mom arena – I was “big stuff”. Everyone wanted to know, ” how did I know how to do that?” Before I knew it, I was helping my neighbor, her friend, and then their elderly parents. And so began my journey, I became even more motivated to challenge myself. From school sports teams to the theatre department, the needs, as well as the expertise grew. I taught myself HTML, CSS, and how to create a Joomla site.
With each growing project a new skill such as Photoshop and Gimp emerged. I began to get noticed and was offered a position by my local principal in the Career Tech Department. The launching pad was perfect, it allowed me to further develop my skills and opened my eyes to the world of other opportunities out there. With my newly minted resume, an opportunity presented itself. The Global HR consulting firm, Exaserv, was looking for a Product Manager and the job description fit me perfectly. Some of the main requirements were organizational skills and the ability to prioritize, and all those years of being a stay at home mom had definitely helped to hone those skills. Not to mention my developed computer expertise!
It’s been over a year now since I’ve been back in the workforce and I have loved every day of employment. I am constantly learning and growing in my new role and enjoy all the “doors” that are opening for me. Staying at home to raise my children was the best decision I ever made, but taking that time to also sharpen my skills has given me the opportunity to go back to work and grow my career. It’s an experience for which I will forever be grateful.
About the author: Sophia Lidback is Product Manager at Exaserv, where her responsibilities include managing product development, writing and editing technical and functional user manuals and managing customer relations with respect to product implementation. Sophia is a wife and mother of 4.