By Leah Shepherd
Jun. 1, 2010
Employers may be missing an important pool of talent ripe for recruiting: stay-at-home parents who are ready to return to their career field.
Al Clark, a managing partner with MGT Recruiters, calls them “an untapped source of talent.”
With about 5 million stay-at-home mothers and 158,000 stay-at-home fathers in the United States in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the potential talent pool indeed is deep. Returning to the workforce is an increasing trend with the current economy and the need to fill the financial gap, along with the desire to feel needed again, says Lisa Chenofsky Singer, an HR consultant at Chenofsky Singer & Associates.
“Employers need to understand the motivation is extremely high for these individuals, as they are truly ready to launch back with a full commitment,” she says. “Their connections within the community and with organizations they have been involved with is tremendous leverage for new products and services potentially offered by companies. Grass-roots marketing is amazing among the at-home crowd. They take these contacts back into the workforce with them.”
Dianne Durkin, president of Loyalty Factor, a consulting and training firm, says companies are finding a need to recruit stay-at-home parents “because of the need for experienced people, the present lack of talent and expertise and also the increased desire for individuals to have a balanced life.”
Chris Laggini, vice president of HR at computer and software retailer DLT Solutions in Herndon, Virginia, is enthusiastic about recruiting stay-at-home parents.
“You get such a bang for the buck from [recruiting] stay-at-home moms because they’re just loaded with [skills] from their prior professional experience,” says Laggini, whose company employs 210 people. “You get an excellent skill set; they’re going to be reliable.”
Clark is pleased with his company’s program for working moms. It allows them to work six hours per day so they can pick up their school-age children.
“It’s amazing how productive it’s been for us,” Clark says. “They’re actually producing above average. The loyalty is amazing. Their energy is so much more focused during that time [at work.]”
The program has helped the company with its recruiting. “It opened a whole new potential source of employees,” Clark says. “It makes it a lot easier.”
How to reach them
Some employers don’t know how to recruit stay-at-home moms, says Eileen Levitt, president at The HR Team, a firm that provides HR services to small and midsize businesses. It can be challenging to reach this demographic.
To get an edge, employers can use social networking tools and ads in national parenting magazines and local publications aimed at parents. Levitt says that when advertising, beware of legal pitfalls. In most cases, it’s not legal to advertise specifically for a woman or a mother for a particular job, Levitt says.
Traditional job ads don’t necessarily work either.
“You can tap into that network of people through organizations, support groups and church groups,” Clark suggests. “You can’t go after them with traditional recruiting methods. You’ve got to find them.”
Employee referrals remain an effective tool. Employees should be encouraged to spread the word at local schools, through parent-teacher associations and through neighborhood listservs—online groups where neighbors can post, read and request information about things like schools, parks, pediatrician referrals, crime and lost pets—to let other parents know a job is available.
Another option is to use a staffing firm or recruiting service that specializes in stay-at-home parents. Mom Corps brings together employers and stay-at-home moms looking for professional work.
In addition, there are job fairs that cater to stay-at-home parents, such as the NetWork Part Time & Work From Home Expo, which had more than 1,000 attendees and more than 70 companies April 11 in Philadelphia. Similar events are scheduled for June 13 in Washington and later this year in Atlanta, Portland, Oregon, and San Antonio.
Tips for employers
Understanding their needs and motivations can help with recruiting stay-at-home parents.
“Find out why a mom is re-entering the workforce,” says Patty Azar, a strategic consultant and CEO at Vision Alignment. “Always use the science of behavior to support hiring the right person for the right role. This will also allow you to recognize the natural behavioral strengths the mom will bring to the workplace. Align her skills with the right ROI to get the intended results for the employer and their customer.
“Most times, these mothers are looking for part-time [hours], flextime and the ability to get some balance in their lives,” she says. “They love their kids but need other professional fulfillment. Or, family finances are in such a state that a part-time role would support balance and some financial support to a strained budget.”
Beyond health coverage, the benefits that are likely to attract the stay-at-home moms include flextime, telecommuting, part-time hours and flexible spending accounts for dependent care expenses.
“By giving them that flexibility, they are very dedicated to doing that job during the day,” Clark says. “That flexibility will pay itself back to you as an employer in spades.”
Levitt has three employees with part-time hours and/or flexible work arrangements. “I was able to attract them because I was flexible,” she says.
In part, that means judging performance by results rather than face time at the office.
Levitt says employers should avoid making it appear as if the employee will be treated like she’s “on the mommy track” and unlikely to advance her career.
“People just want to be treated as a professional,” Levitt says. “People need to feel that they can get promoted, and they’re not stuck.”
Azar says great employers do not penalize women for motherhood.
“Moms must realize they will be expected to balance their lives. A great employer can tap into a great market of skill, dedication and ability, and the mom market can offer a great resource in the workforce.”
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