20 Dec Think Strategically: Offer Reduced-Hour Positions

Thinking about strategic hiring is something my clients often address during our strategic planning initiative. It’s a powerful way to give your firm a strategic edge. In particular, we are finding that having a highly diverse voice is what breeds creative and innovative solutions.

In the last year I’ve meet with many clients that are battling perceptions (and reality) of gender imbalance. When we meet they are confused because they present similar data, “we’re about 50% women, that’s really good for our industry,” but once pressed, it’s revealed most of the women lay in middle management or below.

Putting unconscious bias aside for one moment, something your firm can do immediately is offer reduced-hour weeks for high level positions. Stay with me…I know it’s unconventional, we say things like “that’s just how much time the job takes” and “all principals are expected to work full-time plus.” If we want to make change, we’ve got to start thinking in a new way – which means challenging antiquated ideas. Start by asking “why” when these old ways of thinking come up. Why do we have to require all this time? Why does it have to be “equal?” (nothing else is) Why can’t we create a reduced-hour position that is still highly valued in the firm? We see over and over again we are seeing studies that say long hours do not increase efficiency.

Many of the high-level professional women who are mothers would love a 28 to 32-hour a week position. I’m not talking about retaining women that are already employed at your firm; this is about creating NEW positions. As business owners we are trying to get the most return on investment on our benefits dollar, so often it doesn’t even enter into our consciousness to offer this type of positions, AND you are missing out on a huge opportunity!

Ever since starting Fantail Collaborative, I’ve been partnering with other professional women that are mothers who, like me, left their full-time, fairly rigorous positions, to be the primary caretaker of their little. And believe it, we did not want to give up our career! So we adapted and took on the risk to be independent consultants. I started Fantail Collaborative to bring talented people together, and that benefit is passed on to our clients.

Here are just five benefits of hiring professional women that are mothers.

1.    Highly Efficient. Time is precious, and mothers will utilize it to the highest efficiency. I thought I was efficient before, and now I’m amazed what I can get done during an hour nap!

2.    Adaptability. Oh yes, we are used to dealing with things not going our way – and making the most of it without being flustered! There is an art to modifying the situation to make it work when things are askew.

3.    Patience Abound. Dealing with inefficiency of a system is nothing to navigating toddle-dom. With a high tolerance of chaos, I find mothers often don’t get “hooked” in the mess of others.

4.    Negotiating Skills. If you can dress a 3 year old you can negotiate a contract. I don’t think I need to explain more.

5.    Team Building. In a recent study released in Nature, it shows pregnant women’s brains change to be better at accessing others needs. Yes! Emotional intelligence, the key element in building a successful team and being a great leader.

Did I miss any? Let me know!

If your company joins other national employers like Amazon in the 75% schedule there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, it is critical that the company culture regard the reduced-hour position as the same valued as other full-time employees. Try to focus performance reviews on quality of work and goals, stay away from time spent.

Second, have some shared understanding of boundaries of time. If it is only 32-hours a week, really that’s it. I once had an agreement to work 32-hours when I was in graduate school, only to hear in my review that I was too protective of my time!

Third, after you come to a shared understanding, write it down, have everyone sign it as a “statement of understanding.”

If you’re interested in exploring these ideas more, please contact me and we can have a chat!