Is it the next big thing?

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One of the key challenges employers face in business is when valued employees take what is currently referred to as “time out” or “parental leave” from their professional career. In many cases it’s treated as a “taboo” with most being conscious of having a gap on their CV that may be viewed as a career break and is almost never discussed in a business context. Yet going on a course to develop our skills is seen as a great move, something which is highly valued by employees and employers alike.

Let’s turn this on its head!

Amongst the top reasons why parenting is so challenging, tiring and fulfilling are the fact that it’s constant and involves learning and immediately applying new skills (many of which you may not consider your strength (in a business context)) “on the job”. Imagine that, your company sends you on a sales course that is never going to end, there is no break from it, you can’t prepare, delegate or fast track. Irrespective of how well you take to it, your new skills will inform the development of new life coming into the world and as such will have consequences for you to deal with. A scary thought.

Yes, there are the obvious “time management”, “patience” and “productivity” skills, which are developed as a necessary requirement of Parenting, but we could all do with honing these irrespective of our specialism. What about the other areas that not everyone considers to be their strength? and in a professional environment some would run a mile from, but in developing as a parent you have no choice but to learn and apply, like:

Sales – skills required on a daily basis to parent a child from the age of 1-2 years old. What are the closing techniques that will successfully persuade your toddler (or older) to choose to process all of the functions that enable them to independently eat their meal, for example, or let you put on their coat, or co-operate in any way?

Performance Management – skills required on a daily basis to parent a child from the age of about 3 years old. What are the key performance indicators of a three year old? How will you measure them and what actions are you looking for as an indication that a reward is due to be awarded or revoked. What method will you use to communicate this and how will you ensure your child understands and is motivated by this process?

Conflict Management – required to parent children from the age of about 2-3 years old. How will you resolve and help your child to resolve conflict with another? How will you deliver news to your child that they don’t want to hear in a constructive way?

Supplier Management – which supplier will you select for your child’s education/ other skills development? What criteria will you use to select and how will you monitor whether it is being successfully delivered? What action will you take if it isn’t being delivered?

Add to that an array of other skills, like Networking, Leading, Events Management, Catering, Confidence Coach, the list goes on. (We can see why parenting is so challenging and indeed why many view going back to work as a break! That way we only need to focus on the skills we feel more comfortable with and consider ourselves successful in!)

Why are we not harnessing this phase of self-development more in the workplace?

Parenting could be viewed as a way of learning and developing ourselves, but most don’t view it in this way.  Instead, the application of new skills is simply viewed as a necessary part of getting things done and swept under the carpet by all, as generic “parenting challenges” that make us so tired.

But is everyone actually missing a trick? Could raising awareness of the learning and development experienced by parents be harnessed more by companies? What if companies decided to change how it’s viewed as part of recruitment and learning and development processes?

 Is the term “Parental Leave” in need of a rebrand?

What if the language around parenting was to change?

What if instead of “parental leave” businesses decided to offer a “parenting skills development” sabbatical and use the “keep in touch” days as an opportunity to review how to apply parenting skills in their profession?

What if, for candidates that are also parents, a portion of their CV and interview process were to be spent exploring rather than avoiding their parenting experience and reflecting on how it has ADDED TO their portfolio of skills in the workplace? Would a different, more respected approach from society create an energy shift that would fill us up rather than drain us of confidence and energy?

Would a rebrand like this, along with an accessible portfolio of truly part-time (3-day a week) working strategies like Jobsharing, reduce key recruitment and diversity challenges?  It’s certainly food for thought.  Perhaps you know of organisations that have already turned it on its head? I’d love to hear your views.

If you’d like to find out more about successful family friendly strategies and support for those who choose parenting and career, please check out http://www.ginibee.com

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