Revamping Company Recruiting Strategies to Attract Top Female Talent
By Melissa Ann Andrews
Developing an effective strategy for the recruitment of top female talent is incredibly beneficial for businesses. Women make up approximately 51 percent of all workers in upper management and professional occupations. Currently, there are more women in management positions than men for the first time in American history with projected increases in the total world labor force by 2018. They are projected to account for 51.2 percent of the increase in total labor force growth by 2018. Many new start-up businesses are operated by women. Women make up 66% of the university population receiving the majority of college degrees. More women are attending and graduating from universities than ever before changing the make-up of our current workforce. These trends will greatly affect recruiting and hiring practices for businesses and organizations in the future. Companies that want to stay competitive should actively develop strategies or change their current one to help attract top female talent.
The first step toward marketing and recruiting women to work at your company is to review your company’s strategy. A comprehensive recruiting plan should include retention, diversity training and community involvement. As you review your recruiting plan, it is probable that you will see very traditional elements focused toward hiring male candidates. You might even find assumptions built-in to your verbiage expecting employees to work traditional hours; eight-hour days and forty-hour work-weeks with bonuses and vacations. Several recent hiring surveys show that when women look for positions, they look for different benefits than men. Flexible work arrangements have been listed as a main factor in what attracts women to a company and why they would stay with a company. Many companies are now developing female specific and targeted recruiting plans. Top companies with the best record of promoting women, outperformed competitors on average from 41 to 116 percent. In a study conducted by Pepperdine University. Another study indicated that companies with the highest representation of women in their senior leadership had better financial performance as a group than those with the lowest number of women. Sounds like a no-brainer to me?
Other research suggests however that men and women use the same search mechanisms to find a job. This leads us to believe that it is how we market the job that will become critical. Be considerate as to where you post your job advertisement. There are specific websites that cater to certain groups or types of professionals. Universities and Colleges are also great places to find candidates from relevant disciplines as are professional groups or affiliations. What about the tools that are used to screen applicants? In 2006, approximately 80% of companies listed that they used some type competency-based-selection in their hiring process. The competencies however, were based on traditionally male associated behaviors. When interviewing, have the candidate give you specific examples of what they did in a particular situation, not just a certain skill that they have listed in the job description. Surveys have also indicated that even your website can be designed to appeal to men or women. Maybe a focus group may be able to help to see if your site is on the right track? The point is to be aware of simple items within your process that may alienate potential new-hires. What about looking within for existing employees? Many recruiters and hiring managers do not actively seek out female talent already working in the organization. Talk to board members or senior leaders in your organizations. They may know potential candidates already working in your company that may not be actively seeking positions. Internal hiring and development of women are critical to support and advertise your brand image which will help you attract more candidates.
A company’s brand can also make a difference when marketing to women. Few organizations take the time to review how their public image is viewed by women in the market. Women often feel underserved by recruiters and organizations. This fact makes it very important to think about how your message can appeal to women. You will want to reflect that your company is a wonderful place to work and employees are valued. Specific items that women look for in job ads or during the interview may include job sharing, telecommuting, flexible work hours, and options for child care and elder care. IBM Intranet highlights over forty different examples of flexible work-arrangements in the recruiting packages. Microsoft offers the opportunity to choose what parts of flexible work arrangements they would be interested in as part of their yearly benefit allocation. Deloitte has offered changes in paternity leave and an emergency childcare plan for working parents under six-years-old. Fujitsu offers 120 percent of a mother who has returned to work after maternity leave until the child is fifteen months old to keep valuable employees.
Companies that provide collaborative work environments also seem to be good at attracting female talent. Being a socially responsible organization and demonstrated diversity practices by management may also be important factors to attract female applicants. Consider how your image reflects women in a variety of roles. Recruiters have to understand how women contribute to their organization and their communication styles. Consider using testimonials and interviews that showcase what you are doing and reinforce how work is rewarded and appreciated.
Training for your recruiters to understand the specific needs of female candidates is invaluable especially in hard-to-fill positions. Adapting your company standards and recruiting practices to be reflective of your diverse workforce might be the difference in attracting more female high potential employees. Fujitsu Services redesigned their recruitment literature for job fairs. The company feels that it has doubled the number of applications from women for their graduate programs since re-doing their brochures. The recruiters also describe what they do at their job instead of just saying they are technology consultants. This simple communication style change when delivering the message has made a huge impact. Another important aspect to include in interviewing is to explore the transfer of knowledge by asking for real-life examples. This will help find quality candidates who may have been out of the work force at different intervals in their career. Even widening the range of college degrees that qualify for a certain job may provide you with more candidates in the pool. Some computer companies have added Latin, Philosophy and Law as potential backgrounds in one IT company. They have seen a 46% rise in female applications for their company. The point, one size might not fit all.
When reviewing and developing your own strategy, consider what your company’s needs are when you create your advertisements. Thoughtfully place the job posting strategically on sites or in publications that meet your placement needs. Factor in flexibility and other work benefits that will be attractors instead of detractors. Carefully review your processes to see if they alienate certain candidates from the process. Even the competencies that are used to screen applicants should be carefully reviewed for bias and fairness. Ensure that your recruiters are trained to effectively work with female applicants and meet their needs. Finally, don’t rule out looking in non-traditional places for unexplored talent like internal employees, other fields of study, or employees that are returning to work. The main thing is awareness. As the work force changes and more and more women are the managers and leaders within your companies, the methods and recruiting practices that you use to attract them will have to change if you are going to stay competitive.
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