Pay Attention to "Career Advancement Moms"  
10/31/2006 1:54:19 PM

By Peter Weddle -- It’s the political season in America, and the pundits are busy coining terms for population groups that will have an impact on the vote. The best known example of these designations, of course, is the “soccer mom,” a genus whose power at the polls is legend. And more recently, we’ve heard of “national security moms,” a group that remains concerned about hearth and family but also raises questions about the country’s foreign policy and war on terror.

In the spirit of such anointments, I’d like to recognize another group that also has a powerful vote, not at the polling station but in the homes of the best candidates for your open positions. I call this group the “career advancement moms,” although I acknowledge that a more politic term would be “career advancement spouses.” Anyway, you get the point. This group includes the partner of the person you most want to hire.

In many cases, “career advancement moms” will influence the evaluation of your opportunity, and you’ll never even know what issues they raised, what concerns they emphasized, or what position—pro or con—they took. And because you don’t know any of that, you lose all control over the dialogue. In essence, you’ve spent all of your time and money convincing a person to come to work for your employer, and that person is only one-half of the decision-making team. The other half—those “career advancement moms”—haven’t heard a word from you and thus form their impressions of the opportunity from incomplete or, worse, inaccurate information.

What should you do? I suggest that you turn the dialogue into a conversation. Here’s what I mean.

First, find out what issues are top of mind for those career advancement moms who are the partners of your best employees in the career fields for which you are most heavily recruiting. Don’t assume that you or even the employees have a good fix on this information. Sociologists spend long hours and considerable effort probing the hearts and minds of voting blocks. We in the real world, however, don’t have the luxury of such leisurely investigation. Therefore, I suggest that you ask a small group of top employees if you can explore employment issues with their spouses. Explain why you are doing so and that all of the information will be collected without attribution. While this approach will get you started, I also suggest that you make the exploration of these areas a more regular and permanent part of your annual assessment of employee satisfaction (assuming you do one).

Second, analyze the insights you acquired to determine the major concerns and their relative priority among the career advancement moms you surveyed. Why did they encourage their partner to accept your organization’s offer or, at least, stay neutral in its evaluation? And, why do they support their staying at the organization in the present? Use this information to develop a value proposition that is distinctive to your organization and clearly articulates why employment with the organization will serve the best interests of the employee and their partner, their family, and their collective future. While this proposition is all about selling, it should be plentifully supported with details and facts to corroborate its claims and give them power.

Third, embed the value proposition where it can be seen and evaluated by the career advancement moms you want to reach and influence. As a minimum, this message should be an integral part of every job posting and recruitment ad and be fully expressed in the Careers area of your organization’s Web-site. As always, keep in mind that people do not read on the Web; they scan. Therefore, make sure that your content is expressed in headlines and bullets so that the reader—the prospective employee and their spouse or partner—can quickly look over it and still get the essence of the message.

Fourth, consider setting up a special section or channel on your organization’s site that is designed specifically for candidate spouses and partners. In other words, this area would not be open to the general public. Rather, it would be made available to a select group—say, to those selected for second interviews—with a specific, by-name invitation to visit issued to their spouses/partners and access controlled by password. This area should offer much more detailed information to support the value proposition and even the opportunity for partners and spouses to ask questions of the HR Department. It might also have links to resources that spouses and partners would find helpful, including those for child and elder care, fitness and even employment. By making the career advancement mom feel a part of your organization’s “family” in advance, you’re likely to have a much stronger ally in their family when the employment offer is discussed.

Top quality candidates are almost always employed and exercise great care in managing their careers. They know that change is unsettling and, these days, also often fraught with risk. As a consequence, it is very difficult to convince them to leave the familiarity and security of their current employment situation in order to take another opportunity, no matter how appealing. To give yourself the best chance of success, craft a recruiting experience that is persuasive and compelling to both of the parties who will evaluate an offer: the individual you want to hire and their spouse or partner.

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