Think about the impact free, high quality childcare would have if offered to all parents of children below primary school age? This is what Adam Marshall, from the British Chambers of Commerce wants the Government to consider if the UK is to find a solution to reducing the chronic skills shortage.
In the most recent edition of the Sunday Times, Marshall explains that at the moment, thousands of women and men are being forced to leave successful careers, because it makes no financial sense for them to remain working when childcare costs are so high.
As a case in point, a senior contracts manager working for one of the world’s most illustrious manufacturing brands recently decided not to return to work after the birth of her twins despite loving her job and feeling as if she were having to sacrifice something she had worked really hard to achieve. She had worked out that after childcare costs she would be making a profit of just over £100 a month and with travel costs this would be reduced to nothing. With her husband earning a lower salary, there was no option for his career to take a backseat. Her hands were truly tied.
Another couple both had successful careers in procurement, but due to the nature of their roles, both were required to travel abroad and work anti-social hours. When their son came along they chose to continue with their careers but had to jump through an inordinate amount of hoops to ensure childcare could be provided. All normal nursery provision started at 8am and finished at 6pm so they were forced to rely on friends, family and additional support from babysitters to make it work. Financially things became really challenging and it has meant they are unable to have any more children until one of them is prepared to give up work.
Their stories are not uncommon and there’s no doubt that free or even just affordable childcare would enable significant numbers of talented people like them to remain in their jobs and still raise their families.
At present though this is not a readily available option. So how can procurement go about retaining individuals at the peaks of their profession when children become a factor in their career choices?
Flexible working is one solution, and is definitely starting to have an impact when it comes to supporting working families, particularly where the demands of the role require parents to work outside of the normal 9 to 5 routine. There are also many organisations who support employees with children by providing subsidised childcare within reward packages or even childcare on-site.
Other innovative benefits that employers have implemented include the option to purchase additional holiday (WH Smith), back-up childcare, maternity coaching and programmes for Dads (Merrill Lynch) and enhanced maternity/paternity/adoption pay (Kellogg’s). BAE Systems Maritime Ships in Portsmouth recently won the Working Mum’s Innovation in Flexible Working Award for taking action on flexible working in a traditionally male orientated environment.
There’s no doubt that if organisations want to hold onto their best performers, offering innovative solutions for parents through reward packages and working practice will have a significant impact in retention. It will also be quicker to implement than waiting for the next generation of procurement professionals to rise up through the ranks or trying to source abilities from a finite talent pool.