The last few years have seen a huge resurgence in conversations about women returning to work. The concept is not new – generations have seen women drop out of the workforce for years to care for their children and their homes; some returned, some couldn’t quite make it back.
Like with everything else in the world, digital technology, and the Internet has opened new opportunities for millions of women – either as job opportunities or as online support systems and job boards.
One such leading online platform is JobsForHer, a connecting portal that is designed specifically to help women restart their careers after a break.
We chatted with Neha Bagaria, Founder and CEO of JobsForHer to find out how she channelled her personal experiences as a restarter to help other women.
Neha: I was the usual career woman, and when the children came along, I decided to take a break to raise them – the break ended up being more than 3 years long.
During this personal journey, I became aware of the various difficulties a woman faces in order to re-enter the workforce. There are innumerable accomplished and qualified women around me who just stopped working for personal reasons such as marriage, motherhood or elder care, and then never returned to the workforce.
I started delving into the reasons behind this female brain drain, and it became clear that there are many re-entry challenges that need to be addressed in India.
Something as basic as school pick-up becomes a huge issue – most schools get over at 2-3 pm; offices go on till 6 pm at the very least – unless you have someone to take care of your child during this time how can you hold down a full-time job?
This is just one situation – women returnees not only need flexibility but also need help to regain their confidence and retraining to enter the workforce properly.
On the other side of the spectrum, companies and employers need to overcome gender biases and change cultural mindsets.
My own experience made me determined to enable other women to restart their careers and connect them with whatever they require to do so. And this idea grew to become JobsForHer, I founded it on International Women's Day, March 2015.
Neha: I’ve always been a social entrepreneur at heart; during my last semester at college, I founded my first company Paragon to introduce the Advanced Placement Program in India, and I also became the College Board Representative of India.
When marriage brought me to Bangalore, I started working with Kemwell, a pharmaceutical services company, in the fields of HR, Finance and Marketing strategy.
The growth and development that I experienced at Kemwell were immense, but social entrepreneurship was my first love and after I took a few years out for the kids; it all just fell into place. I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do. But apart from my gut feeling, I had enough experience to understand the gap that existed in the market and how I could fill it.
Neha: Well yes, when I decided to start JobsForHer, there were a lot of challenges - to put it mildly.
Firstly, I had started working after a long career break and untangling motherhood responsibilities from work demands was difficult. It was a challenge to figure out how to divide my time between my kids and my new business.
I hadn’t yet started working full-time, and I felt that not picking up my children from school was a deal-breaker. I was fighting against the traditional stereotyping where women are made to believe they are the sole caretakers.
The last time I had founded and run a company was 12 years ago, and I didn’t have kids then so the challenges of balancing work-life was different at that time.
Professionally, there was also the challenge that my past work experience was in education and pharma, which was diametrically opposite to the fast-paced rollercoaster world of tech start-ups.
However, slowly but surely, I started piecing it all together. I started with strong advisors to fill in the gaps in tech, HR and to build a scalable start-up. This gave me immense confidence in my idea, and I felt I could achieve the scalability I had envisioned.
Neha: I think we are our biggest hinderances. Through my entrepreneurial journey, I have realized how often women tend to hold themselves back because of fear.
It is so important to recognize our fears and to name them; only then can we find a path to overcome them. Whenever I am at a crossroads, I ask myself this question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It is critical that we don’t let our fears hold ourselves back and stride on, confident of figuring things out - eventually.
Neha: I strongly feel that for a woman entrepreneur to succeed in the competitive business landscape, it is imperative that we become comfortable giving equal importance to our careers as we do to our other obligations, roles, and responsibilities. And for that, we need to build a thick skin and a strong support system.
Because until we don’t, we won’t be able to create the ecosystem required to support this challenging journey to the top.
We will need to rally the troops and have our support structure firmly in place - parents, in-laws, extended family, friends, and yes, husband too. We will need to stop caring about people who don’t understand and help the people we care about to understand us. We will need to make sacrifices and compromises about being there for everyone all the time and having everything perfect. And we will need to stop feeling apologetic about it.
Neha: More of the same! We have come a long way in the last 3 and half years. We have made huge progress in changing the mindsets of both the women and companies. Women, so that they feel confident about the gap in their resumes and portray it in the right light and companies, so that now they are not only taking back a huge number of women returnees but companies like Dell, Epsilon, Facebook, Diageo, Sapient, Credit Suisse, etc. are working with us closely to reach out to this candidate pool.
It gives me enormous satisfaction when I hear of women restarting their careers through JobsForHer. We’ve seen success stories of women who restarted their careers at companies ranging from large enterprises to SME’s. I see them happy and confident and excited about regaining their financial independence and a sense of self-worth. In fact, we have launched an e-book called “Way Back to the Way Forward” to chronicle some of their restarter journeys. Whenever I read this book and delve into their challenges and achievements, it makes everything feel worthwhile.
Neha: Working with SoaringEagles has been a great experience!
Since they offer a wide range of professional development courses and JobsForHer is India's largest portal for women returning to work post-sabbatical, we found a perfect partnership.
Run by a fantastic and empathetic team, the courses they run are perfect for women returnees to reskill themselves before dipping their toes back into the professional world.
Neha: Not let guilt and fear hold me back from dreaming big!
Neha and her team are doing a commendable job of helping women get back to work after a break. We wish them all the success because therein lies the success of many women returning to work.
If you would like to share your entrepreneurial journey, then drop us a quick note. We would love to hear from you. If you want a sounding board to grow your business fearlessly, click on the Request Consultation button above.
We've all been there: you invest in a leadership training program and hope to see the promised results. But, months later, nothing has changed. Meanwhile, your team is still struggling with communication and collaboration issues.
Did you know that only 50% of leadership training programs yield the desired results? That's a pretty startling statistic, and one that should serve as a wake-up call to any company looking for increased productivity, better employee engagement, and reduced turnover. The reason is simple: Leadership development programs don't always deliver the ROI they promise because they're often designed in isolation from your organization's specific needs.
We all know that leadership training programs are not a one-and-done deal. They require continual reinforcement and upkeep to be effective. But why do they fail in the first place?
It's not just you, it's pretty much everyone else too. Leadership training programs have traditionally failed because of a few key factors. In this blog post, we will share all that can go wrong so that you can create more effective leadership programs by focusing on what matters most to your business. This way, when it comes time for evaluation at the end of your program, you'll know whether or not it was worth investing in.
Factors that contribute to the failure of leadership development programs
If the system does not change, it will set people up to fail. Research in the 1950s found that most supervisors regressed to their pre-training views after a while. The only exceptions were those whose bosses practised and believed in the new leadership style the program was designed to teach.
Training programs do not facilitate organizational change. Even well-trained and motivated employees are unable to apply their new knowledge and skills when they return to their units which are entrenched in established ways of doing things. In short, individuals have less power to change the system surrounding them than that system has to shape them. Organizations need “fertile soil” in place before the “seeds” of training interventions can grow.
When organizational change and development efforts are championed by senior leaders then training gains the most traction. That’s because such efforts motivate people to learn and change; create the conditions for them to apply what they’ve learned; foster immediate improvements in individual and organizational effectiveness; and put in place systems that help sustain the learning.
Organizations are systems of interacting elements: Roles, responsibilities, and relationships are defined by organizational structure, processes, leadership styles, people’s professional and cultural backgrounds, and HR policies and practices. All those elements together drive organizational behaviour and performance. If the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behaviour change—indeed, it will set people up to fail.
The effectiveness of any manager depends on the clear strategic direction that they have from the top management. Many companies consistently struggle with unclear direction on strategy and values, which often leads to conflicting priorities. This creates confusion and dissipation of valuable resources. When senior executives themselves don’t work as a team and are not fully committed to a new direction or acknowledged necessary changes in their behaviour, it is quite difficult to expect the rest of the managerial team to be able to deliver effectively. The problem then is more about the incongruence between what they learn in the training program and what they see on the ground in their organisation.
Sometimes a top-down or laissez-faire style by the leader prevents honest conversation about problems. Employees hesitate to tell the senior team about obstacles to the organization’s effectiveness. This, coupled with a lack of coordination across businesses, functions, or regions due to poor organizational design and inadequate leadership time and attention to talent issues can create an environment where performance will be hindered, no matter how good the training program is.
Hence while developing leadership programs, it is important to start at the top, ideally through a coaching intervention. Coaching of the senior executives will help bring clarity on the strategic direction and values. This can then be cascaded down to the next few layers through group coaching and training.
By addressing management practices and leadership behaviour that shape the system before training individual employees, leaders create a favourable context for applying the learning. The systemic changes encourage—even require—the desired behaviours.
Too many training initiatives rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture, or CEO mandate.
Context is key. One size does not fit all. Many organizations invest in off-the-shelf programs or send their managers to academic leadership courses offered by well-respected universities without considering the real impact and results they are looking for. While these can be great for the individuals in terms of their personal brand building, it does not serve the purpose for the organization. Companies need to ask themselves what the desired outcome is and how a program will relate to specific organizational goals.
Often, leadership training programs are offered as a one-and-done approach. In other words, you attend a 2-day training and that is the last you hear of it. But while a one-and-done approach satisfies the need to do something, it ignores a critical fact: leadership behaviours and new habits are developed over time. Leadership development is all about creating good leadership habits. As we know habits cannot be changed just from attending a 2-day class.
Effective leadership development needs to be constructed as a learning journey that unfolds over time. But not only this—it should incorporate continuous coaching to help observe and reinforce good habits. It should also provide opportunities for skill practice and application. Nothing can replace on-the-job training and giving real-time feedback.
To ensure success for your team, combine professional development with coaching or mentoring sessions focused on practical application.
So, there you have it – some of the key reasons why your leadership training program may not be delivering the results you are hoping for.
Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behaviour which also means adjusting underlying mindsets. Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioural change—something that’s often missing in leadership courses.
Companies can avoid the most common mistakes in leadership training and increase the odds of success by first doing the groundwork of creating fertile soil for desired change, establishing clarity about strategic direction and values, matching specific leadership skills and traits to the context at hand; embedding leadership development in real work through coaching and mentoring interventions that investigate the mind-sets that underpin behaviour.
For designing effective leadership development programs in Singapore and India, reach out to us at email@example.com.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
The latest articles and industry insights delivered to your inbox