Here is a brief article by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox for the Harvard Business Review blog. To check out the wealth of free resources and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.
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A German client of mine was complaining this week about a survey she received from the country’s leading newspaper. As the Head of Diversity at a large German multinational, she is the natural recipient of surveys asking how German companies are going to meet the 35% gender balance quotas that DAX 30 companies self-imposed in 2011.
It’s not the objective of the survey she objected to, it’s the assumption of solutions aimed at ‘fixing women’. “They are asking all the wrong questions”, she said looking at her options: a list of initiatives aimed at women: Did they have a women’s network? Did they offer coaching and mentoring to women? Were they sending women to leadership programs? Did they send their female employees to women’s conferences?
This is what the media considers “benchmarking best practices,” and they’re largely what American companies have been doing for the past 15 years. It’s implicitly assumed that they are the best way to achieve any kind of gender balancing in Europe as well, where companies are trying to figure out how to address the growing pressure for gender balance. From the DAX 30 in Germany, the Lord Davies report in the UK to the gender quotas on corporate boards in France, the Netherlands or Italy, the issue of gender balance is being taken seriously in Europe for the first time.
Yet as companies look at the combined impact of how women outnumber men in university degrees and the rising consumer and earning power of women, they’re increasingly finding that the traditional approach does little to help them realize the full business opportunities that gender balance can offer their bottom lines. In fact, because the surveys affect companies’ rankings on gender, which then impacts companies’ ability to recruit and their overall corporate image, the surveys may actually be preventing companies from realizing those opportunities.
Gender balancing a company ought to be a lever for performance, not compliance. If a company is to really get a strategic payoff from encouraging women in the workplace it needs to stop looking for ways to empower women so that they succeed in helping further leadership and HR practices largely predicated on a male mindset and culture.
Instead, companies should position ‘gender balance’ as a business issue requiring change management strategies led by the CEO. And it should make male and female leaders accountable for change, rather than blaming women for not getting promoted. This may not please the papers, but it will do a much better job of gender balancing your company.
So drop the women’s programs — and maybe drop the word “women” altogether.
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Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of the consultancy 20-first, one of the world’s leading gender consultancies. 20-first works with progressive companies interested in diversifying their leadership teams and optimising both halves of the talent pool and both halves of the market – the female and male halves. 20-first works with CEOs, executive committees and managers to build gender ‘bilingual’ organisations. The firm’s renowned Building Gender Balanced Businesses programmes and suite of online tools help companies harness the talent and market opportunities of the 21st century. Avivah is author co-author of the best-selling WHY Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution (Wiley 2008) and HOW Women Mean Business: A Step by Step Guide to Profiting from Gender Balanced Business (Wiley 2010). To obtain more information about her and her work, please click here.
To check out Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s other blog posts, please click here.
For some organizations, the extent of employee engagement programs is limited to the annual engagement survey. That model, featuring a survey filled with scores of questions and sent out for the entire organization to complete, needs to be updated.
Here is an excerpt from a highly unorthodox, certainly thought-provoking article written by Mike Prokopeak for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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New challenges require talent managers to re-examine what matters to employees and partner with executives to create engagement programs that drive results.
What happens at work, stays at work. If only that still held true for many of today’s workers.
In a BlackBerry-fueled, do-more-with-less workplace, the reality is the line between work and life is increasingly blurry. What engages and motivates employees at work is no longer just a matter of whether or not they like their boss or co-workers. Engagement and motivation are part of a complex set of factors linked to employee health and emotional well-being not just on the job, but also at home.
Those new realities pose challenges for employee engagement efforts and require talent managers to more effectively measure the relationship between employees’ discretionary effort, individual productivity and organizational performance. It also means educating leaders on their role and knowing when to get out of the way.
There are often conflicting definitions and measures of employee engagement, from psychological evaluations of employees’ beliefs about work to behavioral assessments of what they actually do on the job. Adding to the confusion, many organizations often conflate employee satisfaction with engagement.
For purposes of this report, engagement is a measure of how much discretionary effort an employee is willing to give on the job. And according to the numbers, that engagement level is dangerously low.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
According to a November analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.
“Our analysis suggests that even at the height of the recession, employees felt a greater connection to their work and role in achieving success than they do now,” said Pete Sanborn, a consultant with Aon Hewitt.
A November report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) told a similar story. That analysis showed that employees were only moderately engaged at work, with an average score of 3.6 on a five-point scale.
Limited career advancement and development opportunities, along with lack of satisfaction with communication between employees and senior management, pulled down engagement scores, said S. Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s Survey Research Center. Those problems were exacerbated by a lack of external and internal job opportunities.
“With more individuals staying in their jobs for a longer period of time, they’re starting to focus more on items where they’re able to improve or use their skills or feel like … even if they don’t love their job and they’re ready to move on that they’re at least able to use their skills and engage in work that is allowing them to reach a higher potential,” Esen said.
For high-potential employees, the numbers are more nuanced, but just as troubling. In general, workers’ intention to stay in their current job has remained high even as the level of discretionary effort has dropped. According to Brian Kropp, managing director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Human Resources Practice, only one in 10 workers were putting in high levels of discretionary effort in third quarter 2011.
Among high-potential workers, the opposite happened. Their engagement and discretionary effort remained high throughout the recession and subsequent slow recovery. “No matter what job they’re in, they’re going to work hard,” Kropp said. “That’s just who they are in their DNA.”
What has shifted is their intent to stay with their current employers. One in four are actively looking for a new job right now, Kropp said. That has important consequences not just for the future of an organization, but also for sustaining current performance.
“If they’re going to work every day knowing they won’t be there in the future, how much additional discretionary effort do you think they’re going to put in place in the near term?” said Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace engagement and well-being at Gallup.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Mike Prokopeak is editorial director for Talent Management magazine.