Does the traditional nuclear family facilitate our talent management strategies?
One of the areas that anyone involved in the hiring process is not allowed to explore is the marital / relationship status of any potential candidates. I am completely supportive of this, but with the caveat that it is impossible to separate a significant part of someone’s life and assume it doesn’t exist. It does, and in most cases, any difficulties will usually surface somewhere in the career transition process. Life issues do eventually become workplace issues.
Rise in divorce rates
I have noticed recently how the rise in divorce rates is impacting executive search. Last week alone, a significant number of potential candidates expressly cited divorce as a reason for not engaging in the search process.
This information is based on candidates willingly and voluntarily sharing very private and sensitive information with a total stranger. There are possibly others who just have just cited location, travel requirements, timing and all the other reasons candidates give for not being interested in a position. I have no idea if they are the real reasons. Given that (depending on the stats you read) roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce, it’s perhaps possible that divorce underlies many candidates reluctance to engage.
Changing jobs is also one of life’s major challenges, especially to a new company, in possibly a new location. Having these two major life events occurring simultaneously is too much for many. Even if the opportunity is a perfect fit, they have to turn it down.
As anyone who has been through the process will tell you, the effects of divorce can change virtually every aspect of a person’s life including where they live and with whom , their standard of living, their emotional well-being, their financial situation and liabilities and time spent with children. For many their social group will change and perhaps the needs of new partners and their children will also have to be factored in, as modern family life becomes ever more complex. Almost all would describe it as a challenging and stressful time.
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The divorce process saps enormous amounts of both time and energy. It involves meetings with possibly lawyers, counsellors or therapists, real estate agents and financial advisors. Stress can lead to health issues requiring medical treatment. James, an ideal candidate for one particular search told me ” There is no way I could focus on changing jobs right now. I am struggling to keep all my balls in the air currently as it is. I have been depressed. Looking for somewhere new to live, dealing with lawyers and seeing my children at weekends, as well as my job, is all I can cope with at the moment. My manager is cutting me a lot of slack”
For one or both parties it will mean moving house, itself a life challenge. Child care arrangements will need to be set up as more and more children (50%) split their time between two households. This places a greater reliance for any professional person on local support networks, which might include grandparents, day care or help at home, if it can be afforded. Quite often the current employer has been sympathetic which fosters additional and strong employee loyalty. Sometimes those same flexible arrangements cannot be replicated with a new company, especially at the start of a new job.
I talked to Annick in France whose employer had agreed to her travelling only during the weeks her ex husband was responsible for the care of their two children. This time was fixed by the court and was not flexible. But additionally, professional input suggests that fixed routines for children under these circumstances are best for their well-being and have to be strictly observed. Annick felt that her hands were tied at least for the next 10 years, until the children (ages 6 and 8 ) became more independent. Her future career she believed would now be limited to local opportunities with limited travel.
Many potential candidates in these circumstances ask about remote working. Most companies are reluctant to afford that facility to new employees at the beginning of their careers with their organisation, except possibly those in the sales force. There will usually be a certain period of onboarding, where it’s important for the new employee to be physically located with the people he or she is working with or managing.
Relocating as part of a family unit has its own stresses (I’ve done it), but relocating as a single person, or even a single parent, is not straightforward. Pieter in Holland, in his early 50s with 2 adult children told me ” I’ve just gone through a divorce and chosen a house to be within easy distance of my kids. It has taken me time to rebuild my life and a social network. I just don’t want to start over in a new place. I am happy to travel so if the company would agree to some element of home office working – I could be open”
Saskia, is a senior executive I contacted for a position based outside her native country, with a reasonably high level of travel. With the ink barely dry on her divorce papers she felt that she may not even be allowed to take her children out of the country on a permanent basis by her ex husband or the courts. With the high level of travel, she would have to hire support to cover any extended absence in addition to daycare. She didn’t want to do that, not just for financial reasons, but she simply didn’t want to put her children in on what would be at times 24 hour care, in a foreign country. In her current job and location their grandparents stepped in to fill the gap.
This significant trend is already having an impact on workplace dynamics. In the talent management sector we have become reliant on the existence of the traditional nuclear family, as a way of facilitating the movement of talent and supporting career transition. But it seems that is changing, so we have to find ways to adjust our strategies to make sure we are not losing the best talent because of circumstances which now a high percentage of the population are experiencing .
So what do we need to do to adapt to those changes? Ideas anyone?