It's time to come back! GE Hiring program
In 2008 GE's John F Welch Technology Center (GE JFWTC) at Bangalore kick started a program called 'Restart' that aimed solely on rehiring women scientists and engineers who had taken a career break and wanted to get back to work. Over 3800 scientists, researchers and engineers at GE JFWTC are helping redefine what is possible in the energy, transportation, aviation, healthcare, consumer and industrial, financial and entertainment businesses.
In India, says Rajagopalan Raghavan, the Centre's general manager, HR "We noticed that several women engineers and technologists took career breaks for a variety of reasons and most specifically to start their family, follow their spouse's careers, etc. After a few years of their sabbatical, they often like to return to active workforce when their personal needs have been met. In addition, few women engineers graduate especially in areas such as mechanical engineering from Indian universities. Also, there are limited women in science and technology and to make matters worse, there was a significant loss in the existing pool on account of career breaks due to a variety of reasons.
GE saw that there was latent talent in the market waiting to be tapped and re-inducted into the workplace. Plus, this talent was stable having satisfied their personal needs, but, most of these hidden talented people did not know where and how to approach to restart their careers. Seeing that a phenomenal opportunity exists to build talent and increase the number of women scientists, engineers and functional experts we worked hard at identifying such women to help them begin their careers again in GE. And for that we had to clearly think out of the box to come with ideas and programs to reach our desired objective."
Since the Restart hiring initiative is meant exclusively for women scientists, engineers and functional experts who have taken a career break, the program aims to get these women back into the workplace and enables their effective transition to a fulfilling career by providing them with opportunities to develop and acquire new skills, coaching from mentors and by offering them flexible work arrangements where required.
"When we were toying with the idea of 'Restart', we wanted to make it more informal and fun-filled. Hence, we searched the landscape using variety of resources and looked for women engineers and scientists that had taken a career break and invited them to look at opportunities at GE. We ran special recruiting and referral programs to encourage this as well as created our own mini-site at our company's website," expresses Raghavan. "While all this was happening on one side," says Raghavan, "we thought it will be great to check with our existing women employees what they thought.
They agreed this was a great initiative, but, also highlighted various things that we had to change internally before we brought the "restart" employees in to our workforce. This headed us to change from one program/initiative to another. Firstly, we gave a complete relook to our flexible work program by introducing three additional flexi-programs.
Thereafter, we introduced something very simple, yet what people loved i.e., created many special "mom-tobe" car parking slots in our 50-acre campus for expectant mothers. We also created a "mom-to-be" relaxation and lactation rooms at the campus where expectant and new mothers feel comfortable and relaxed. These were simple, yet effective steps towards creating a very inclusive workplace."
Additionally, GE JFWTC started this initiative by creating a cracker of a team that defined every detail, including interview panels, "show and tell" prospective candidates what the company is doing, the technologies that it works on, assimilation and training, part-time opportunities, etc., "We realized early enough that to be able to attract such workforce, we had to think and act differently. Conventional work and hiring norms will not yield desired results," addressed Raghavan.
As GE always believes that a diverse workforce offers the company and its employees the best environment to innovate and excel, around the world, GE has various programs including affinity networks that encourage among other things, camaraderie, team spirit etc., that often end up in having a very inclusive workforce that fosters innovation, creativity, and employee engagement. The same occurred in this case.
"From a high level, the Restart hires have assimilated very well into GE and have started to enjoy working on science and technology programs that they had missed while being away from work," says Raghavan. Further, he adds, "It is not surprising that this program is well received within the company and by the Restart hires." In addition, he thanks the credibility built by the well developed and contributing Restart hires. Some Restart hires vouch for the program. One of them is Nagapriya Kavoori. She is a mother of a one year old baby and had taken a break of more than eight years. After joining through Restart she can manage her baby and her work efficiently in GE's global research center as the Restart program provides flexible options like taking calls from home.
Arioli Arumugam is a manager at GE in the aviation engineering section. She has two kids, a six year old son and a four year old daughter. Arumugam took a two and a half years career break when her son was six months old. Although, she was satisfied with her homemaker role deep down she desired to work too, wanted to pursue her career and make an impact, therefore, she joined GE back through the Restart program. "When I started work through the Restart program, I had apprehension about how I am going to manage work and activities on the personal front with the same commitment. Since work culture at GE is based on performance rating on the delivery and not on hours of work an employee puts in office, I was able to start working again," says a pleased Arumugam. On the other hand, Janaki G. working at GE's global research center who has done masters in mechanical engineering had taken a career break of almost six years to take care of her daughter.
Now that her daughter is full time in school Janaki is back to work. "I make use of the flexi hours, wherein I come early to work and leave pretty early, too, like close to 4.00/ 4.30 pm to go back and take care of my daughter. Overall it has been a splendid experience for me and I hope to have many more years here," says Janaki. At the end of the day, a technology center like GE boasts of the having the best of best scientists and engineers. "We are indeed very pleased and happy to have these new set of employees on board at GE and look forward to having many more. I am personally and professionally glad that the program has achieved its first objective of identifying and on-boarding a small number of such professionals back to the workforce and work at GE. We have a great culture, one that innovates and improves our lives and secondly that makes us, the employees of GE, leave each day with a sense of satisfaction that only a great workplace can offer.
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