Part time doesn't have to equal career pause

It’s an interesting phenomena.

So many of us in mature markets are talking about the lack of diversity in senior leadership roles. Various reasons have been cited for the “glass ceiling" syndrome inclusive of

  • Bias and discrimination - overt and/or unconscious
  • Gender and ethnic stereotypes
  • Lack of effective networking opportunities between minority employees and “mainstream” leaders
  • Work-life balance pressures

We certainly see that work-life balance, or "career & personal interest integration", continues to be an issue. Despite the ongoing push of corporations to open senior level career options for women for instance, we see so many female professionals bowing out from their ascending career roles. Instead they choose to spend their time on families, and/or to pursue other interests eg: tertiary studies, coaching, charity projects, or relocating and putting their own jobs “on hold” to support a spouse’s career.  We wonder whether this “opt out of corporate career” trend will increasingly span both genders, with the rise of stay at home dads and single parents. It’s fascinating, because in 2016 you’d think that with all the technology available in the workplace, and virtual work arrangements on the rise, senior level professionals would have more flexibility to pursue their personal commitments and interests, as well as their careers. 

However, despite many corporations showing commitment to boost “diversity” hiring (be it for gender, ethnicity or sexuality) we still so rarely see instances where the actual work commitment required, especially for senior level hires, is anything other than a full time work contract.  With all that we’ve already observed on generational expectation differences for work-life balance, and the increasing importance of that concept to employees at all experience levels; we wonder why corporations aren’t actively changing work practices to factor in this growing risk for securing and keeping high quality staff.

It seems particularly ironic, that within the HR function, we’re busy advising business leaders on the need to create options for workplace flexibility in order to attract and retain key talent; but so rarely apply those principles within our own patch of turf!

One of our employers of choice is determined to lead the way in showing that you can maintain a global role at senior level as a HR professional, and pursue personal interests outside of work as well.  This US$ 13 billion business  spanning both mature and emerging markets is hiring a Global HR Business Partner to support a key corporate function and it's C-suite leader; and are effecting this hire on a salaried part time basis. They’ve been clever with their thinking on this and have structured this role to appeal to a wide variety of HR professionals, be it a working mum or dad who wants to balance a career with family commitments; or a HRBP who who wants to also invest time in sports or charity interests or further studies and other personal commitments.

When you think that many Global HRBP’s are already double or triple hatting with their remits, it seems so very obvious for how a high performance HR leader could effectively manage to support a key population within a business whilst working part time; so kudos to Syngenta for offering this unusual career role.

And it is indeed an unusual arrangement. Today for instance, on LinkedIn we see that of 2,648 advertised jobs at HR Director level within the USA, only 6 are available for a part time work arrangement. There are 0 advertised jobs on that same site for part time HRD roles within the UK. Granted, it’s not the most scientific analysis of the market, but it serves our point! 

If your company has had success in effecting senior level hires, for any functional area on a part time basis – we’d love to hear about it.  After all, changing this basic work time arrangement may well be the key that allows companies to make sustainable headway with leadership diversity.

HR musingsLeanne Morris