Retaining key professionals after a career break

panel of five women sitting on stage discussing employee retention techniques

Women take career breaks from work for several reasons including traveling, starting a family or taking care of an elderly parent - amongst many others. Retaining these women when they look to return to the workforce is crucial in a market where skilled professionals are in a shortage.

A panel of industry experts led a discussion around important strategies that employers can implement to ensure they retain key professionals returning after a career break, at the Robert Walters' Attracting, Developing and Retaining Women Returning to the Workforce event, part of the successful Empowering Women campaign. 

Flexible working policies

At the event, panellists and attendees overwhelmingly agreed that companies must be open to flexible working practices, particularly for professionals returning from a career break where other demands on their time make these policies even more important.

The whitepaper reveals that women returning to the workforce regard the freedom to manage their own working schedule as the most important flexible working policy (88%).

The freedom to work from home for part of the week also a high priority (84%), while a majority of employers do not offer it (61%). 

Liz McKenzie, Chief Operating Officer - The Wesleyan commented on this, "People that have flexible working are much more committed to you as employees. When they have made a choice of how to they want to live, and they know they can perform well at work and still have time and space to focus on other priorities, they will be more committed."

Keep staff informed

Habiba Khatoon, Associate Director - Robert Walters expands, "Employers who have embraced flexible working policies such as allowing staff to work from home and structure their own working day must ensure that they make potential employees aware of this working culture using the right channels."

With only 24% of women returning to the same employer following a career break it is important to communicate the policies you have in place to be more flexible. 79% of women said that finding a job with greater flexibility was a top priority, and 52% changed industry or profession specifically to find a more family friendly employer. 

This is the case for both men and women. 

"Flexible or agile working is important as a society. People, men and women, have increasing responsibilities. Some may be caretakers, also fathers want flexibility too," stated Francesca McDonagh, Head of Retail Banking & Wealth Management UK and Europe, HSBC Bank plc. 

You are more likely to have these professionals return to your company if you are transparent about the flexible working policies you offer in all cases. 

Recognise transferable skills

Employers looking to retain (or even initially recruit) women who have taken a career break should be aware of the valuable skills these professionals may have developed during their time away from the workplace.

22% of women who have taken a career break started a business while out of the workforce, while 23% volunteered for a charity, 18% took up freelance work and 25% pursued education.

Experience in these other areas means that they can offer unique perspectives when they return to their careers.

Openly discuss the additional skills an employee has, that they maybe didn't have before the career break, and recognise how these can be used in their role and help promote career progression.

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