Sabbaticals used to traditionally be for teachers and academics, but many companies have also offered them as part of their benefits packages. Thousands of women have seized upon this benefit and exercised their right to this extended leave of absence and are now looking to get back into the workforce.
With the economy improving but with a diminished talent pool, companies are now reaching out to these women. The advantages to a company when hiring them are numerous and can save them thousands of dollars in the recruitment and hiring process.
Women returning to the workforce after a sabbatical have a renewed energy and a commitment to succeed. Because of their communication and relationship-building skills they can reach across that generation gap and mentor young colleagues. Their expectations for an employer are much different than from a young person just starting out. These women are more interested in flexibility of work hours and sometimes being able to work from home.
There are however, some considerations when interviewing someone who has been out of the workforce for a while. Some concerns to address in an interview:
- Will the applicant want to take another sabbatical after a company has invested in them for a few years?
- Will the applicant be able to stay focused on their work? Perhaps living a freer lifestyle might impede their progress/professional development at work.
- Taking risks at work is sometimes a good thing to be creative and productive, but taking a risk to go on sabbatical may be a personality trait. This trait could cause them to take unnecessary risks in their day-to-day work.
- How long will it take the applicant to adjust to a full-time position? How much time and resources should a company be reasonably expected to provide.
Even with these concerns, there are companies that have successfully implemented programs and have actively gone out and hired these women. Listed below are a few of them.
GE India Technology Centre has a program to recruit women, whether they are an ex-employee or who are on a career break. To ensure a successful transition to the workforce, the company assigns a mentor who can help the returning employee improve on her skills and professional development. They offer flexible opportunities to allow her to transition from staying home full time to working such as flex hours and telecommuting.
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Tata SCIP is a program that offers opportunities for women professionals who have been on leave for at least six months and have a minimum of two years experience in their field. It offers work assignments with various clients that meet the flexible requirements for the returning employees.
Bain & Company, a global management consulting company, has been named as the top 100 companies for working mothers to work for 10 years in a row. One of the reasons is because it offers sabbatical leaves for women and flexible arrangements when they return to work so they can make a successful integration. Programs are available for women to take a leave when they start a family and keep them involved on a part-time basis. Not only does Bain & Company re-hire women on sabbaticals but it also offers programs for veterans to be re-absorbed back into the workforce.
Women who have taken time off work to raise children are an overlooked source for filling opportunities. Allison Karl O’Kelly, founder of Atlanta-based Mom Corps, says that 75 percent of the resumes it receives are from people who have worked at top firms or Fortune 500 companies at the manager or director level.
Women on extended leaves offer great opportunities and cost savings to a company. The diversity of their life skills, soft skills, as well as business and technical experience makes for a great foundation and a good argument to hire these women.