The challenges facing small business-owners include cashflow and how to keep customers, but what about if you want your business to grow? Then you have to keep your staff happy and Penny Spencer, who has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years – founding Spencer Travel in 1998 – is one woman who has always believed in investing in her team.
Penny built her multi-million dollar corporate travel agency whilst balancing the demands of her own family life so it was second nature for her to support mums wanting to return to work and raise their family. In recognising the significant contribution of this workforce sector, she now offers her entire workforce of 62 females and eight males flexible opportunities, and is reaping the rewards.
“Flexible work, and supporting mums and dads, takes a firm commitment and a recognition of the value of each employee to you as an employer. It also requires an acceptance that as an employer, you are in it for the long term, through pregnancy, maternity and beyond.
“Family commitments and demands do not stop once baby is six-months old and goes to day care. But by committing to them, the rewards of loyal, dedicated staff and the resulting effect on recruitment costs, retention levels, quality of work and ultimately your bottom line, far outweigh the effort taken to accommodate a day off for a school play, a week off for a sick child or a request for part time hours”, says Spencer.
With an impressive retention rate of 90 per cent, compared to a 20 per cent similar industry average, the approach is clear proof that supporting parents in the workplace pays off.
And Penny Spencer is not alone with other female small business owners, also recognising the benefits of embracing flexible work and in particular, supporting mums back into the workforce. Susie Campbell, founder of Little Black Book Marketing, a small start-up agency, has employed mums from day one and recognised that there was no shortage of talent amongst this sector.
“As a mum myself, my business needed to grow around family and so I knew there would be plenty of other mums like myself, keen for the same – an opportunity to work around school hours or a young family,” says Campbell.
“Having battled with inflexible employers in the past, I vowed never to be that boss. The benefits to my business far outweigh any challenges with employing flexible workers as the commitment and loyalty shown, is enormous even if you aren’t able to offer the corporate benefits,” Campbell adds.
The statistics back up the benefits of the approach Spencer and Campbell take. A 2016 Citrix report found that:
Seven out of ten employees would take another job if it offered more flexible hours
In Australia women comprise 46.2 per cent of all employees, with 21.4 per cent working part time
Research shows pregnant women are still being discriminated against, with court decisions often being unfavourable to those making a legal claim
49 per cent of women leave their job after giving birth.