An oft-overlooked goldmine for entrepreneurs: The Woman-Returnee

With a strong economy and rising employment opportunities, acquiring and retaining good talent is one of the top challenges for small or mid-size businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Many candidates are attracted by the top giants in the Silicon Valley, who, undoubtedly, offer rewarding career opportunities and meaty compensation packages. 

Moreover, given the current immigration landscape, offshore hiring is beginning to decline and companies are looking locally for talent, which means the candidate pool is shrinking further adding to the woes of talent leaders. With unemployment rates the lowest they have been in years at 4.3%, how do companies who don’t have big, brand marquee names attract strong talent?

When I wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking a break to raise my daughter, I found the doors were shut. Firmly. Till someone realized my potential and offered me a job - http://www.womenbacktowork.org/resources/2016/4/4/someone-took-a-chance-on-me. Long story short, after a few years, I co-founded our company, Akraya.  Very soon, we began hiring from a largely untapped pool of women who had taken a break from work and wanted to return to the workforce. It was a strategic shift that proved to be very successful, given these employees are our top performers.

With a strong desire to support other women and our expertise in the talent and staffing industry, we launched our Women Back to Work program

Why I am urging my colleagues to hire women returning to the workforce?

I am sure you are thinking - how is this going to benefit my business or help my bottom line? Tapping this vast talent pool can unlock very strong candidates, especially during these crunch times. The perception is they are ‘less than ideal’ employees because of the gap in their resumes. Contrary to that belief, our experience shows them to be smart, articulate and hard-working.

Women-returnees are well educated with strong professional backgrounds. During their unemployment period, most of them take on bigger volunteering roles in schools or nonprofits. Some dip their toes in other pursuits such as blogging or mompreneur-ships, thereby building concurrent skills that are useful when they get back to work- be it project and budget management, collaboration or being ‘scrappy’. They also bring other softer but key skills like being patient, well organized and highly productive. They know how to ‘get things done’, a critical skill for any business.

It makes great business sense to hire from this pool. With the top salaries the name brand companies are paying, it is challenging for those with lower budgets to attract strong talent.  Women returning to work are cognizant of their first re-entry job as being an investment in their career and are not highly focused on the compensation nor on the cool perks. Their expectations are aligned to the market realities.

Additionally, since going back to work is a considered decision, women-returnees don’t take re-employment lightly. 

Tap into this unconventional pool of talent

We tapped into this pool and offered re-entry opportunities along with training and development programs, which have translated into longer tenures and high retention rates. If you consider the business angle, we acquired and retained strong talent at competitive compensation levels we could offer. They, in turn, leveraged the opportunities to refuel their careers. For both parties, it was a very worthy investment.

Talk to any of these candidates and they will tell you the road to finding worthwhile re-employment is very rocky. By offering re-entry programs and opportunities to this large talent pool, we, as employers, can truly operate at the intersection of business success and doing good. The two are not mutually exclusive. This could truly be an inspired moment for employers!