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How employers can appeal to women on career breaks

Struggling to retain staff? Women returning to the workforce after a career break offer a valuable resource to employers, plugging skills gaps and boosting diversity. So what do they look for when re-entering the workplace, and how can your company catch their eye? Our latest whitepaper, Attracting and Engaging Women Returning to the Workforce, reminds businesses they must be proactive and adaptable to secure the brightest talent.

Why employers must be flexible

After polling 1,000 female professionals, we discovered that a strong salary and company benefits (90%), career progression (88%) and wellbeing initiatives (82%) are top of women’s priority lists when returning to the workplace.

Flexibility (79%) is also a major preference, with over half our respondents keen to move into a more family-friendly sector once their career break comes to an end.

The trouble is, there seems to be a disparity between the attitudes of employees and employers towards flexible working.

While 84% of female professionals want the option to work from home, it’s offered by just 39% of employers. And although two-thirds of women would welcome the chance to work part-time, only 35% of businesses provide this opportunity.

With all this in mind, it seems employers will only attract the brightest talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working. As Danika Jarmer, account director at Robert Walters, highlights: “Flexibility around working hours is a priority for many women, but employers must also consider taking a flexible approach to how this policy is implemented.

“By giving managers the freedom to organise flexible working arrangements on a case-by-case basis with staff, employers can ensure that these arrangements work for each individual – rather than a blanket policy which may not be appropriate for some staff.”

Top 10 tips when recruiting those on a career break

Of course, flexible working isn’t the only thing your business needs to consider when recruiting people after a career break.

The following points are also vital:

1. Understand what women want from their jobs.

Flexibility, competitive salaries and career progression all remain important issues. Since only 24% of female professionals go back to their previous employer after a career break, it’s worth delving deeper to understand what they’re after.

2. Don’t make your recruitment messages too restrictive.

Many women returning to work are looking to move into a new area within their sector, or to embark on a career that’s connected with, but different from, what they did before. So ensure your job ads and interviewing make it clear that you’re open to good people with transferrable skillsets and experience.

3. Ensure your brand appeals to women.

Social media, online videos and testimonials can all attract talented staff. Some 83% of women on career breaks favour brands which promote inclusion and flexible working.

4. Use online communities, job boards and networking events to raise brand awareness.

Flag up any awards your company has achieved on social media sites, and communicate with women directly through online forums and job boards dedicated to their needs.

5. Learn more about flexible working.

As we’ve mentioned, try to embrace flexible working – but avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible working covers everything from job sharing and home-working through to part-time work. 

6. Provide childcare support.

Half of professionals consider financial support for childcare to be important. This gives employers the chance to stand out from the crowd by offering family-friendly policies.

7. Offer wellbeing initiatives.

Since two-thirds of women want exercise to be included in their working day, health and wellbeing schemes could give companies an edge over their rivals.

8. Make it easy for women to come back.

Avoid the loss of talented staff members by keeping in touch with them during career breaks. Office visits, newsletters and social channels can all help.

9. Launch return-to-work programmes.

A dedicated programme of training for women returning to the workplace could prove a significant draw. Surprisingly few employers offer these at present.

10. Deliver mentoring opportunities.

Some 79% of women say they’d find a mentor helpful during their transition back to working life. Mentoring schemes could ultimately give women a better idea of their future career options.

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