Manufacturing always needs more dependable employees. An Industry Week article1 by Adrienne Selko stated that more than 2.3 million women left the labor market since the pandemic began. On top of that, countless other women had previously earned degrees and started up the career ladder before leaving the workforce to raise their children. The moms in these two categories can be terrific sources of workforce talent. Here are the top five things to keep in mind about what moms want and need from employers.
1. Offer a challenging career opportunity in a great company
The company culture that manufacturers tout to attract young job candidates is just as important to moms: the latest technologies, sustainable operations and community involvement. And while the young generation of workers may be happy to job hop, working moms generally seek stability. To present mom candidates with stimulating challenges, personal growth and career advancement, consider how the US Department of Education frames manufacturing’s six career pathways2:
- the health, safety and environmental assurance career path
- manufacturing’s logistics and inventory control career path
- a maintenance, installation and repair career path
- the production process development career path
- the plant floor production career path
- manufacturing’s quality assurance career path
Manufacturers who understand the appeal of a company’s culture, its stability and its career paths will make an impact by referring to these in recruiting, hiring and promotion efforts.
2. Give constructive feedback for career growth
Many moms eagerly want to learn on the job and advance. Helping them grow and develop begins with giving constructive feedback, and not just during performance reviews. In a Glassdoor.com blog on employee growth and professional development3, author Christine Soeun Choi writes that “more than 90 percent of employees would prefer that their manager address learning opportunities and mistakes in real-time, not during an annual review only.” Helping employees learn and grow by offering feedback on a frequent basis is more helpful than saving up the constructive criticism for an annual review “critique dump.”
3. Make professional development as standard as job training
A new employee’s professional development cannot pause while she receives targeted job training. Where job training fills an immediate need (the ins and outs of a new job), professional development supports long-term company objectives and career goals. Professional development, like job training, should begin on Day One.
In an Engineering.com article, “Supporting Women in Construction, Engineering and Manufacturing,”4 author Michelle Stedman offers advice for recruiting and retaining women employees. Along with advertising jobs as lucrative opportunities for bright, ambitious moms, manufacturers can ask HR departments to prioritize informing moms of open positions that match their skill sets. Even better, writes Stedman, is for companies to “offer professional development opportunities, giving women access to the training they need to make lateral or upward moves.” Stedman advises having employment candidates meet with the HR team to discuss how their careers can develop with this employer.
4. Create an accepting culture for a flexible workplace
When creating pandemic-era policies that offer flexibility for moms, the challenge is two-fold: to put flexible practices (like remote working) in place and to erase any baggage that may be attached. A Forbes.com article5 by Greg Orme explains: “As well as the mental stress of remote working, the pandemic has worsened a concealed cultural problem for aspiring female leaders. What researchers have called ‘the flexibility stigma’ means, even when adaptable work options are available, there is a concealed shame in using them.”
Moms who take advantage of flexible work time options often pay a high price – the (often silent) disdain of other workers and the sidelining of their career paths. Whether moms work part-time or flex time, take needed days off or longer sabbaticals, the entire corporation must understand that every employee’s performance is measured on results, not on the number of hours worked or the work schedule.
5. Furnish needed accommodations and benefits
Flexibility and accommodations needed by working moms may include remote work, flexible work hours/days, compressed work weeks, fixed rotating shifts, time off for major family events, job-sharing, job-protected maternity/medical leave and childcare support.
For pregnant workers, job-protected maternity leave can mean the difference between job security and the stress of job uncertainty after the baby is born. Some women workers can count on maternity leave but can’t afford to support their families if that leave is unpaid. Flexibility also is important for women transitioning back to work after maternity leave. Find ways to help valued employees during these times to retain those workers in whom time, money and training have been invested.
For working moms, childcare is huge. Harvard Business Review’s article, “Childcare is a Business Issue,”6 summarizes it like this: “Childcare is not a family issue, it is a business issue. It affects how we work, when we work and for many, why we work.” In a survey conducted by the authors, 26% of women who became unemployed during the pandemic said it was due to a lack of childcare. The article states that “the sooner employers treat childcare with the same seriousness as health care and other aspects of business infrastructure, the faster employees can get back to full force.” Manufacturers can support childcare with programs to build community and peer-to-peer support among the workforce, by offering remote work for moms and dads with kids at home, by offering childcare subsidies or by providing on-site or nearby childcare spaces and supervision.
- Adrienne Selko, “Moms in Manufacturing – How to Keep and Attract This Talent Pool,” August 2, 2021, IndustryWeek.com, https://www.industryweek.com/talent/article/21171103/moms-in-manufacturing-how-to-keep-and-attract-this-talent-pool.
- US Department of Education, Manufacturing Career Cluster, www.career.iresearchnet.com/career-clusters/manufacturing-career-cluster/.
- Christine Soeun Choi, “7 Ways to Support Employee Growth and Professional Development,” June 1, 2021, Glassdoor.com, www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/support-professional-development/.
- Michelle Stedman, “Supporting Women in Construction, Engineering and Manufacturing,” October 20, 2020, Engineering.com, www.engineering.com/story/supporting-women-in-construction-engineering-and-manufacturing
- Greg Orme, “Why “The Flexibility Stigma” Is Making Women Quit,” June 9, 2021, Forbes.com, www.forbes.com/sites/gregorme/2021/06/09/why-the-flexibility-stigma-is-making-women-quit/?sh=7f2fe84c6eac.
- Alicia Sasser Modestino, Jamie J. Ladge, Addie Swartz, Alisa Lincoln, “Childcare Is a Business Issue,” April 29, 2021, Harvard Business Review, www.hbr.org/2021/04/childcare-is-a-business-issue.