India flexes time for women

One of the interesting features of telework is the way it keeps popping up even when “management” tries to suppress it. Often this is because all the tried-and-true options have been exhausted. For example, in the 27 May 2011 edition of the Financial Times Amy Kazmin writes about the Tata conglomerate’s program (called Second Career) to retain the talents of young mothers. The problem in India, as in many countries, is a growing shortage of skilled workers (as contrasted to a surplus of unskilled workers). In one sense, India’s efforts in global off-shoring have been too successful. Many companies have used up the supply of local skilled talent and are scratching their collective heads in search of new talent supplies.

Where the needed skills are information/knowledge-related, telework may be part of the answer. As the FT states:

The Tata Group’s “breakthrough”, says Mr. Pradhan, was to realize that taking time out to raise children did not have to exile women from the job market permanently. “It is part of a normal social process for women — because of their unique space in humanity and bio-uniqueness — to take time to raise a family,” he says. “We said, ‘let’s focus on what is preventing women from coming back into the workforce’.”

Hello? Is it possible that the thought of resuming your career, after not being in the workforce for several years in order to raise your kids, might be daunting? Do you think that an employer who goes to the trouble of easing you back into the workforce via flextime/telework might be more attractive than an employer who does not? Although mothers’ work skills may be a tad rusty, they are probably more able to deal with sudden situations than they were when they paused their career.

Tata’s answer to the talent shortage was to rescue dormant talent. Their flextime system is ideally suited to this task. Mothers in the program can start as part-timers and work their way up to a level that balances the needs of family and employer. As usual, one of the barriers to the program was the reluctance of managers who felt a need to have employees in the office full time. According to the FT article many, if not all, of those managers have come around.

As for the young, reworkiated¹ mothers, enthusiasm is expressed as: “This is like a dream.”

Do you think that this might work in the US and/or Europe?
¹ Well, repatriated doesn’t work here.

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