Employee engagement, which can be improved by methods such as promoting open communication or via talent recognition, is a workplace approach that can result in the right conditions for members of a company to be motivated to give their best each day. It is key to many business outcomes, such as productivity, innovation, revenue growth, and even customer satisfaction.
So why are there women at work who feel less engaged? A survey of over 5,000 employees found that lack of leadership opportunities and unsatisfactory representation in senior management were some of the factors causing women employees to grow increasingly unhappy.
Here are five ways to promote employee engagement and women empowerment in your team.
1. Foster a supportive company culture
Often, women may face obstacles in their career progression due to heavier family commitments outside of work, such as caring for children or elderly parents.
According to Ms Zen Soh, a Senior Consultant at global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, bosses play an important role in encouraging a family-oriented mindset. In turn, this can positively affect employee loyalty and performance.
Employees’ priorities may shift as they move through different life stages, like becoming parents. Being supportive and avoiding negative judgement should they require more flexible work arrangements can help to prevent dissatisfaction and promote employee retention, says Ms Soh.
2. Cultivate a family-friendly workplace
Flexible work arrangements and benefits can tide employees through challenging work-life stages. Common practices include flexible work hours, working from home, and even four-day workweeks, where suitable.
Another thing employers can do is encourage their male employees to maximise their parental benefits such as paternity leave. This can help accommodate women’s work-life commitments as such support schemes may help phase out the outdated view of maternity leave being disruptive to business.
Ms Soh added that employee turnover can rise when women look to lighten their workload during or after pregnancy. However, she has noted that companies that offer benefits like flexi-hours and hospitalisation or insurance cover tend to retain more capable employees, many of whom go on to fill leadership positions.
3. Have proper reward structures in place
Employers need to take a long-term perspective on rewarding employees in order to retain them. Employee turnover and training are costly, and it may not take a lot to keep employees feeling rewarded and motivated.
Regular check-ins, performance appraisals and offering bonuses and incentives are some best practices that companies can implement to better retain quality talent. Simple gestures, aligned with company objectives, often go a long way when it comes to employee engagement, says Ms Soh.
Furthermore, employees need to be recognised for performance and loyalty. For example, managers should look internally for promotions before considering external hires. This gives deserving, loyal employees a long-term reason to stay committed to their work. Raising the profile of talented and top-performing women in your company through a strong recognition system (for example mentorship opportunities) is a good success strategy to adopt for all women employees.
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4. Embrace equal opportunities and treatment
In Ms Soh’s experience, for every 10 senior finance roles, about seven candidates placed are male. Many employers still perceive men as having stronger technical skills and being able to more rationally take on difficult stakeholders.
To embrace equal opportunities at work, employers should hire and promote based on merit and avoid judgment biases. She says that companies should be aware of the possibility of making assumptions about women’s abilities or their commitment to work, both of which can hinder career progression. This also extends to giving women a voice in the workplace. Research has shown that women are more likely to be interrupted and not given as much credit for their ideas.
Recognition and equal opportunities are exactly what all employees, whatever their gender, need in order to stay engaged and competitive. Giving employees equal opportunities also unlocks the full potential of a diverse workforce, which boasts a larger skill set that can translate to improved financial performance.
5. Keep things fresh with constant learning and new opportunities
Assigning employees different roles and portfolios can help prevent them from falling into a work rut.
“[I’ve seen women in senior roles] stay on for 10 years and they are constantly challenged, which helps them to stay satisfied,” says Ms Soh. “In particular, ambitious workers want to be challenged and explore different kinds of exposure,” she adds.
Today’s employees greatly value personal growth and professional development. Managers can take the time to find out employees’ goals, offer courses or diversify their team’s portfolios so that employees can apply different skills to constantly stay engaged.