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A gaping hole in the strategy i

n an increasingly complex and competitive environ- ment, businesses need to

attract, develop and retain the very best talent at all levels in order to succeed. Te very best talent being one which is diverse and inclusive as well as offering essential skills and experience. With this as a given, many organisations take a proactive approach to talent development connecting ‘people’ as a strategic resource with the business’s ambitions for the future. Internal development strategies typically incorporate a

range of activities including: ``

Appraisal and performance reviews (reviewing individual performance against goals, objectives and behavioural measures).

` `

Department and functional reviews (senior level meetings evaluating the strength and diversity of the talent pipeline, taking a big-picture approach in the light of business imperatives and opportunities).

` `

Behavioural development programmes (addressing collective themes and development needs identified through appraisal reviews such as leadership development, managing change, managing performance, coaching and men- toring, diversity and inclusion).


Bespoke programmes for specific needs and diverse groups (such as executive coaching, high potentials’ programmes, women in leadership, graduate schemes and internal mentoring).

Despite investing considerable time and money, there can often be persistent leaks and blockages in the talent pipeline; people disengage, get stuck, leave and, in some circumstances, take learning away and join the competition. Te challenge is the extent to which organisations have an appetite to a) see a leak, b) acknowledge there is an issue, and c) agree to do something about it.

Te transition from career to parenthood and then overlaying these demanding and often conflicting identities is dramatic. Without appropriate support, navigating a return to work after extended leave (be that maternity, shared parental leave, or adoption leave) can be a rollercoaster of a journey, standing in marked contrast to pre-baby certainty and expectations of how life and work would turn out.

The transition from career to parenthood and then overlaying these demanding and often conflicting identities is dramatic

Notwithstanding often enhanced

policies for pay and time off, few individuals cite company policy when telling the story of their return to work (see the Working Forward panel, p14).Typically, the journey is a personal account of emotional highs and lows, dips in confidence and self-belief, concerns with currency of knowledge and skillsets and ‘big’ conversations with HR and line managers at a time when someone is perhaps feeling at their most vulnerable and unsure. Frequently, people express their

return in terms of ‘luck’; ‘I had a lucky return’, or ‘I’m lucky to work on flexible hours’ or even ‘I’m lucky to have a really supportive manager’. Luck doesn’t make for a strategic approach. Tere are sound business reasons1

to invest in returning talent

with evidence showing top performing companies for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to perform better financially than the average. Te surprise is that, despite having invested so much prior to this point, many employers simply fail to invest in their returning talent, working on the assumption of ‘self-help’ with all the risk that this entails.

` A case study

Seema is about to be offered a senior level promotion. Recruited seven years ago on the graduate programme, she has fast-tracked through a series of different depart- ments, been mentored by one of the directors, is herself a mentor to oth- ers, has led complex projects and is a current participant on the Future Leaders Programme. Focused, ambi- tious and a positive advocate for the business, Seema is widely regarded as ‘one to watch’ for the future.

Fast forward to today and the point where this career path intersects with becoming a parent for the first time. Change is on the horizon. It goes without saying that she is com- mitted to returning and the business will want to have her back, so what’s the plan to make that happen?

If this were someone in your talent pipeline, what is in place today to continue the investment, and sup- port Seema at this pivotal point in her career and personal life?

Note: This example is an illustrative case study based on our experience of working with different organisations and industries. It is not intended to be an accurate reflection of any one particular employer

A national trend

Women in the UK are having babies later in life.2

the latest ONS 2015 survey,

for example, indicate: ``


Te average age of mothers increased to 30.3 years of age.

Te fertility rate for women aged 40 and over, rose above the rate for women aged under 20 for the first time since 1947.

It follows that leaving it later to start a family increases the likelihood of having achieved a level of seniority, gained depth of experience and much organisational know-how. Hand in hand with this are often expectations of life; a self-image, a lifestyle, a level of income, and the central role of work and career. Tere is much to give up and, for many, a resolute belief that becoming a parent will simply be an addition to – not a replacement for – work and career. Te reality of this can be a tough transition,

Figures from

 | February 2017 | 13

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