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31 Jan, 2022

Just how much talent is hidden in the “stay at home” bracket?

Ireland’s unemployment rate in the knowledge economy is at an all-time low. Finding people to fill the thousands of vacancies in the finance, legal, pharma, and technology sectors is the number one challenge for homegrown and FDI employers alike, writes our In-House Counsel, Lorraine Donoghue. This article was first published in the Sunday Business Post on 30th January 2022.

Headhunting, once a niche activity to fill high-end roles, has gone mainstream. COVID quietly took away the casual recruiter coffees and gave birth to a never-ending stream of in-mails and DMs. Recruiters now spend their days cold mailing, linking in, and reaching out, and in all this hustle for hires, a talent goldmine remains untapped.

One group of hardworking talented people have been on a very special “boot camp” learning new skills and building hardcore resilience. Many of them are waiting for their moment to return to paid employment and find the delicate balance between leading in the home and engaging in the workplace.  Do organisations consider just how much talent is hidden in the “stay at home” bracket? And how they can tap into it?  People who are highly educated, capable, and ready to return, might feel some organisations will view their CV gap, as wasted time, career carnage, or a period of down skilling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 Having been a stay-at-home mom for ten years before returning to office life as in-house lawyer at ifac, Ireland’s farming, food, and agribusiness professional service firm, I know just what it takes to make the transition. It isn’t easy, but it is worth the effort and flexible working options, including “working when you can,” is a vital ingredient for success.

Some of the key skills returners will bring to the workplace include time management, persuasive communication, people management, problem-solving, and organisational skills. 

Over the years I’ve been asked “do you work?” my reply was always yes.  I have three children of course I work.  For some reason, society doesn’t view caregivers as workers or value their skills.

Expect returners to bring their whole self to work. Why? Because they have a broader view of the world, they have spent time away from the workplace and are returning with more balance and a different perspective. Mature returners will expect to be treated with respect and valued by their peers and leadership or management teams. While Salary is always important and everyone should be paid in line with the value they bring to an organisation, returners will also value authenticity, flexibility, and upskilling opportunities.

Returning to the workplace is daunting and organisations should work with returners by implementing specific relaunch training programmes. Technology has changed exponentially in a few years, so too has the social structures and communication tools in organisations.

ESG is an increasingly hot topic for companies large and small. A structured returner/relaunch programme will help companies to find talent and build their ESG credentials.  The social impact of engaging returners is obvious and accessing returners with legal or governance expertise will also improve diversity and decision making in organisations, improving corporate governance in the process.

It’s time for recruiters to get back to basics, focus on getting to know candidates, reduce their reliance on software systems that are creating group think on candidate selection, and in some cases automating decision making.  A major GDPR issue in its own right. And it’s time for smart employers to tap the returner talent goldmine.

Top tips for returners:

  • Consider what role will suit you best

  •  Believe in yourself and pick an organisation that will support you

  •  It has never been easier to upskill with so many courses available online. Pick courses that interest you.  You have an opportunity to pick a new career

  • Approach organisations that have created a relaunch programme

  • Ensure your values and the organisation's values are aligned

  • Don’t view the time you spent as a caregiver as wasted time, view it as time well spent (it’s time where you managed a heavy workload and obtained invaluable skills)

  •  It’s never too late to return to the workplace. 

Top tips for organisations:

  • Tap into the hidden talent pool

  • Provide returner programme

  • Implement flexible working options

  • Value the skills obtained by caregivers

  • Recruiters get to know the real person behind the CV and don’t rely on software systems to find talent.