After my 13 years of working in corporates and exposure to various HR policies, processes, priorities, systems etc., I am left feeling a bit disappointed with how HR has not kept pace with the evolving minds of human beings.
The world today, we all know, is moving towards healthy living and a better work life balance. More and more women, in particular, are choosing to throw in the towel and have chosen to not go back to the corporate rat race. If corporates believe that they can lure this segment back by offering exceptional salaries, they are sadly mistaken. In the name of flexibility, what is on the table is the offer to work from home, to not commute to office as much though most roles remain as full time jobs, with the same expectations as those of full time employees who get to office everyday.
Sadly, this is recipe for disaster for corporates. What they are doing in the process, is saying, we know you need to be at home but we would still like you to work full time which means they are signing off to doubling or trebling the work load for women, hoping that by way of some miracle, women would survive and continue working. Really…? Time for a reality check.
If we really want women to continue to work, genuinely, that is, there are clearly 3 things to be bear in mind:
a) Recognize that women are already overloaded with work and family pressures and need to work under an environment which does not add to the stress. What this means is, consider offering an option for women who want to slow down, an alternate career track, which takes off the pressure of competing with peers. Consider different rating criteria and moderate all such workers as one group. Making this a merit based system is still possible but it needs to be a different system. Ambitious women can still choose to get back into the mainstream track whenever they want and compete with everyone else at their level
b) Be proactive in providing such options to women proceeding on maternity leave. We know how things would be – they would be tough. Acknowledge the challenges and offer a slower career track right away. Leave the choice to the employee. Reassuring women (by way of a policy), that they have a choice to get back to work and not to deal with so much pressure that they were used to in the past will go a long way in retaining women
c) Treat this group of people like your ‘special needs’ employees. Provide mentors, deeper HR connect, a dedicated helpdesk etc. This, if managed well, will be the set of employees who keep the organization going despite tough times. Include Alumni, interns and such people and if required, roll this up into a company by itself. We all know many women do bring a lot of commitment, passion and creativity to the table and the bottom-line is, they do want to work.
Women are already making their decisions and do prefer to work provided someone understands their needs. Corporates are struggling to get their diversity ratios right.
Let’s take some risks. Try out a new model. See if it works.