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Now, more than ever, women’s participation in business is essential to drive business performance, competitive advantage and profitability.
Regardless of growing international uncertainty from escalating trade disputes, to oil price rises and sluggish growth in the UK economy, most employers are finding it harder than ever to recruit the right staff. The results of a poll of 6,000 companies, employing more than one million people in the UK identified that:
- 81% of manufacturers trying to recruit in Q4 of 2018 reported difficulties – this level has not been reported since the British Chambers of Commerce survey began in 1989!
- In the services sector, 70% of firms reported recruitment difficulties, down slightly on the Q3 record high of 72%.
Additional surveys of recruiters and employers also identified that many industries are facing skills shortages in key areas:
- 50% of financial recruiters say that the under supply of financially skilled candidates will be their biggest industry challenge.
- Brexit and a weakened pound is/ will inevitably reduce the supply of labour in the hospitality, care and retail sectors.
- Supply and demand ratios are most acute in qualified and technical markets, especially within the burgeoning digital economy.
- Circa 70% of employers are experiencing moderate to extreme skills shortages and 77% anticipate a shortage of suitable applicants moving forward.
The challenge of gaining and retaining the right staff has reached a new high, in fact with employment levels at their highest for more than 40 years, employers are in the toughest recruitment market for a generation.
The resultant skills gap, unless handled creatively, will have far reaching consequences for productivity (59% of employers say this is already happening) and consequently, growth.
With a dearth of qualified candidates across all industries, employers who are struggling to attract talent, know that they will need to be more creative, open minded and flexible to meet the challenge.
Harvesting the greatest untapped resource:
The greatest untapped resource is parent returners (predominantly women), including those who have taken a career break. This significant proportion of our countries human talent is being severely underutilised, incongruous, especially in the current tough recruitment climate.
Despite the long held perception, women don’t lose their skills after becoming mothers. In fact, the complexity of balancing motherhood with work requires the honing of qualities much valued in the workplace – being highly organised, streamlining operations, managing multiple tasks, solving problems and handling emergency situations to name but a few.
Women with families are renowned for their ability to work ‘smarter’ in order to balance work and home responsibilities.
There is a high cost to society and business competitive advantage when we underutilise a significant proportion of our human talent
As an economic imperative, it is time for talent strapped businesses to implement strategies to help women stay in employment throughout their child raising years. According to current data, almost two million women are economically inactive due to caring commitments. Many want to return to work at some stage, however in reality, they face significant obstacles to achieving that outcome.
Some firms have concerns about employing working mothers; whilst it may present challenges, those challenges are insignificant in comparison to the challenge of not having the right talent to make an enterprise work.
- A recent study by Microsoft of 500 employers and 2,000 women identified that both groups found women to have more impact on the workplace after becoming mothers.
- A further study found that women working part time are the most productive in the workforce.
- A recent survey of 3,000 managers identified that women outperformed men in four out of five measures – initiative and clear communication, openness and the ability to innovate, sociability and supportiveness and methodical management and goal setting.
- In 2018 a study by McKinsey identified that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity of their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Clearly when recruiting, the focus of all employers should be the knowledge, skills and experience needed to do the job. Perversely this is not always the case, research conducted by PwC identified that the potential of professional women returning from career breaks, was significantly underutilised:
- 60% of professional women returning to the workforce are likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, experiencing an immediate earnings reduction of up to a third.
- A significant number of women who return to the workforce on a part-time basis will be underemployed, meaning that they would prefer to work more hours if flexible working opportunities were made more widely available.
- Two-thirds of professional women could be working below their potential when they return to the workforce.
The research also demonstrated that addressing the career break penalty could deliver gains of £1.7 billion to the UK economy.
Back in 2015 the McKinsey Global Institute identified that empowering women and girls could contribute up to US $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025.
From a purely selfish perspective i.e. in order to add value to their businesses, employers and recruiters need to address biases in their recruitment processes to ensure highly skilled and experienced women are able to return to jobs that they are qualified to undertake.
Developing a flexible approach to gender, age or working hours, will not only provide a level of immunity during the current talent drought, but also the foundations for a more diverse and productive workforce.
Research demonstrates that accommodating flexible workers positively impacts business. Not only improving staff retention but also productivity and the bottom line.