Monday, 30 November 2015

Part Time Working Mums – A Most Valued Contribution



Things are so busy at Certus I was going to put blogging on hold, albeit I have to admit I truly have got the bug these days. However I was totally engrossed in a post from a lady I have had the pleasure to meet a couple of times – Michelle Dawkins of Oracle and her writings https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/women-leadership-roles-does-part-time-work-michelle-dawkins?trk=hp-feed-article-title-comment so much so I felt compelled to write and put forward in support the perspective of what I believe is a vitally overlooked asset that is easily accessible to an employer of an Small Medium Enterprise (SME) business – “The Part Time Working Mum”. Also to give you a brief insight as to how we at Certus understand the demands of working mothers (and I should equally say fathers) but also making an acknowledgement that without our own working mothers’ contribution Certus would not be the company it is today!
In 2011 when Certus started to expand we immediately experienced the same basic challenges any growing SME experiences, “how do you win business, get the work done as cost effective as possible, maximising profit for onward investment to grow organically?” Well in the professional services field you need people, and to do a job well you need quality experienced people. Unfortunately quality and experience costs money and when you start out its money you don’t have.

A Pool of Untapped Talent
For me the answer to this problem became strikingly obvious as I stood in the school playground one morning dropping off my boys and looked around me. In that moment of deep thought I didn’t see a playground full of Mum’s dropping off their loved ones, but instead I suddenly saw Company Executives, Accountants, Solicitors, Doctors, IT Professionals, HR Professionals, and Executive PA’s. All around me there was a vast amount of intellectual talent. Some of which were heading off to work, others I knew had sacrificed their career temporarily (sometimes indefinitely) all because they had chosen to stay at home and bring up their children. 

It was from this point I realised that in order for Certus to grow that I needed to be creative in my talent pool. I could benefit from a flexible workforce, and this is what I saw. Flexibility, dedicated, highly skilled people.

In-fact I still see it everyday and all we seem to read on the internet is a constant stream of articles on Gen Y and Millennials, which at times I feel we are being told to pander too as they are different! - Well actually “No”, whilst we need Gen Y we actually have just a valuable under-utilised workforce all around us in “Mums”, who believe it or not the majority actually do want to work again. It still amazes me that this untapped talent pool is often tainted, completely unfairly, as difficult to incorporate into the demands of a modern business - which in my opinion is total nonsense. Consequently by some they are seen as an overhead, I argue differently.

Mums need flexibility, but so do businesses. So why not make it work? They are also the most organised individuals I have ever come across. Equally a growing business needs a relatively low cost quality labour force that is also flexible. It’s a win-win, often mums can’t work 5 days per week, 8 hours a day, and as an SME employer you don’t necessary want or have the funds to pay for a full time employee. This is not saying we pay them differently, but it’s just pro-rata on the number of hours worked, which is less than being full time. I have also found that my approach to recruitment methods is different, and more cost effective.  Our latest recruit, Dodie, I met at my sons school. I find that I don’t necessarily need to rely on just agencies, but instead receive recommendations from colleagues and friends, which just opens up a wider, diverse pool of talent. 

Making it Work?
So how do you make it actually work? The answer actually is very simple – good communication, including but not limited to:

1.    Understand the needs of the working Mum

2.    Come to an arrangement, where they clearly know your expectations

3.    Assign a workload that meets both yours and their needs, but also doesn’t necessary put a Mum under undue pressure around key times of their day i.e. don’t go book a meeting at 08:00 in the morning or 15:00 in the afternoon when the school run is on!

4.    Take advantage of technology to enable your teams to work collaboratively

5.    Don’t put part time working mothers directly in the front line and in highly demanding client situations nearing times when they need to be with their families, none of us need this pressure!

6.    When they are needed in the office and have a child care issue let them bring the kids into the office, or go to them!  

7.    Plan ahead give both of you plenty of notice of key events – from important business meetings that you do need them involved in, through to half term dates!

8.    Don’t under estimate the need for human interaction - Mum’s want to be in work for a few hours a day in the company with other adults! They want to be intellectually stretched and challenged and they get this from proper social adult interaction in the workplace

9.    Talk to them – things change over time!

Result: You will have a highly valued, dependable and loyal workforce. It also means they can still hold down key leadership and managerial positions – Charlene, my HR Manager is just about to go part time, but she is critical to our business operation and in supporting me. Her knowledge, advice and guidance around HR is critical for a growing company and she is also someone I lean on as my own corporate sounding board. Rachel is my Financial Controller and has been with me since day one. Certus as a company wouldn’t function without Rachel. She is a qualified Accountant and working mother to three young children and manages all our money. She is supposed to be part time, but I know at year end she works more hours in a month than I do! And Mary is our EVP of Quality and Testing Services – Mary is full time and holds an Exec position on our Operating Board, but she is also a working Mum with two young children.  I also have Caroline on maternity leave.  She’s just had twins!, but in another guise she is probably the most qualified Oracle Cloud technicians when it comes to data migration in the world (and I am not elaborating here!).

Intangible Value - Balance
More importantly they also offer us as an Exec team insight into a workforce that is 50% women, and yes we do bloody listen to them because if we didn’t we wouldn’t have an effective business operation. They are treated no different to anyone else, and if anyone did step out of line from graduate to CEO we would all find ourselves taking 5 minutes out on the “naughty step”!

So when there are those times you need them in the office and they have no child care, we let them bring the children in and get the kids involved where we can. When the kids turn up we let them use the internet or the older ones we get them to make a marketing poster for the company! One asked for something else to do, and then spent the day shredding documentation for us (under supervision of course) – they loved it.

Our Mum’s give great balance to the company and as the company expands it is something we want to maintain. Equally this is not us ignoring our male staff and of course we need people to work full time in front of house demanding consultancy roles. This is never going to go away as this is what we do. However I am proud to have working mum’s in our team, and I am proud to say that at one point I had more women than men working for me, most of which were working parents. At Certus we take pride in delivering high quality service, skill and expertise.  We do this by being creative and flexible, and this is a massive selling point for us!

So to all our Mum’s full time or part time, thank you for being part of our company! And for those who don’t get this more fool you – but the next time you are in the playground picking up your children just look around you, open your mind, and you just might see something different! 

… as for Gen Y, guess what? parenthood will happen to you at some point as well.