Most people don’t change, or willingly go along with change, just because the change is “the right thing to do.” They do it if there is an important reason to change. Businesses don’t change their corporate cultures so that they retain women because doing so is nice for women. They do it if there is a compelling business reason to do so. The bottom-line reasons to achieve gender diversity in leadership are exactly that—compelling.
You may already understand the business value of gender diversity. You may know that an organization can only achieve sustainable gender diversity in leadership by having an inclusive culture. But enrolling others in creating a culture of inclusion requires that you present a clear business case that fits your industry and organization. It requires that the leaders of your organization understand the business value of inclusion and gender diversity. These are those reasons:
BENEFITS OF HAVING AN INCLUSIVE CULTURE
Increased engagement: Engagement has been convincingly linked with productivity, profitability, employee commitment and retention. An organization where more of today’s diverse workforce is engaged is an inclusive workplace. According to Cumulative Gallup Workplace Studies cited in “Business Case for Diversity with Inclusion,” organizations with inclusive cultures do better on several scores than those that aren’t inclusive. Inclusive organizations have:
- 39% higher customer satisfaction.
- 22% greater productivity.
- 27% higher profitability.
Decreased turnover: Turnover has significant direct and indirect costs. According to that same Gallup study, companies with inclusive cultures have 22% lower turnover rates. As the economy recovers and workers have more freedom to pursue new jobs, turnover will return to the front of business leaders’s minds. Studies show a staggering percentage of employed Americans—particularly Millennials—indicate that they intend to look for a new job once the economy improves.
Easier recruitment: An organization with a reputation for being a good place to work for diverse groups has an easier time recruiting talent from today’s diverse hiring pool. That saves money and time.
Better decisions: Many people have a sense that decisions are better when they come from a group with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. A recent study from the Kellogg School of Management concludes that heterogeneous groups get better results than homogeneous groups because the tension or discomfort leads to more careful processing of information.
Stronger connection with diverse markets: Businesses with diverse workforces have an easier time tapping the diverse marketplace. The buying power and influence of “minority” groups are large and growing according to buying power studies like that from the Terry College of Business.
BENEFITS OF GENDER DIVERSITY IN LEADERSHIP
In addition to the benefits of inclusiveness generally, the case for a gender-inclusive workplace includes:
Higher returns: Catalyst, a research and consulting organization focusing on women in business, and McKinsey have both shown correlations between gender diversity in leadership and the bottom line. Catalyst found significantly higher returns in Fortune 500 companies with more women at the top and on their boards of directors. McKinsey found that, of the 89 companies studied, those with gender diversity in leadership experienced higher return on equity, operating profit and stock price. While neither Catalyst nor McKinsey say that having women in leadership causes better results, the numbers indicate that having both men and women in leadership positions is good for the bottom line.
Women in the hiring pool: According to The Shriver Report, women are now half of the workforce and hiring pool. According to the U.S. Department of Education data and projections, the pool of educated workers has and will continue to have more women than men as women earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men. It’s simple: To have the most skilled and talented workforce, a business must attract and retain women as well as men.
The women’s market: A diverse culture that mirrors its markets tends to do better than its homogeneous competitors. The women’s market is key to many industries as women are important decision-makers, customers and potential customers. Women influence more than 85% of retail decisions. Women are decision-makers in more and more business-to-business relationships. Women-owned businesses are a growing sector of the U.S. economy.
Bang for the buck: If a business wants to increase engagement and retention from any group other than the group most highly represented at the upper levels of business (white, male, heterosexual, Christian), the largest return may be in increasing engagement in the largest such group—women. And there is more bang for the buck: Women’s needs and approaches to work are shared by other growing sectors of the workforce. Members of Generation X and Millennials share women’s need for flexibility, desire for closer workplace relationships and preference for fewer hierarchical structures. Steps to make a culture work better for women will also make it work better for these growing workforce sectors.
Creating an inclusive culture is great for those who otherwise would not feel a sense of belonging. Supporting the advancement of women in business is great for women. But these aren’t the ultimate goals—and they won’t inspire action. Inclusive cultures and organizations with gender diversity in particular achieve superior business outcomes: customer satisfaction, retention, productivity and profitability. That’s what can drive action and culture change.
Difference Works: Improving Retention, Productivity and Profitability through Inclusion is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at other major online book retailers. For more information, please visit http://www.differenceworks.com.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02.
Here is a bit of advice for those of you supervising younger employees. Throughout college I worked at a popular clothing retailer. The chain catered to the high school/college demographic, and all of us employees were in that same age range. Management had a great deal of turnover, so when I remember this job, I think of it in three phases. In the first phase, I worked so few hours I don’t think I can comment on the management. In the second when I started to take on more shifts, I had some pretty unexceptional managers. And in the last phase, I finally worked for a more impressive group. Today I’m going to focus on that middle set, the ones you don’t want to emulate.
Like many who supervise young employees, these managers were overly concerned with appearing “cool” in front of their staff. They didn’t encourage us to embrace the brand, nor did they seem to care much about it themselves. I never once heard any of them mention a sales goal. (It wasn’t until that third phase of managers that I even discovered our store had sales goals!) And they constantly joked openly about their own exploits and our customers.
The jokes—often overly personal or, when regarding customers, racist—created an uncomfortable work environment for employees like me. And customers overheard or employees reported them, it would have created an uproar of bad PR.
When I read Stephen Greenspan’s article “Foolish Humor: How the impulse to be funny can kill a career” on PsychologyToday.com, I immediately thought of those managers—and how much more respect I would have had for them had they not made such tactless jokes.
Greenspan’s article, by the way, is a valuable cautionary tale for all leaders. but it is especially appropriate for those managers of young employees, for whom professionalism might not seem as important.
Have you ever witnessed a bad joke tarnish or curtail a person’s career? Tell us about it in the comment section.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/teflon.
Many people would respond with "Ask for and value employee input," according to a survey by the leadership training firm Fierce Inc. Eighty percent of the corporate executives and employees it surveyed put that at the top of their list.
“Everyone wants to be seen and heard,” said Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce Inc. “To create a collaborative, engaging and positive work environment, managers need to encourage and value multiple, and sometimes opposing, points of view.”
As the boss, it’s your responsibility to make decisions. But you will make better choices and engage your employees when you ask for their perspectives and advice.
Of course, they rely on you to advise them too. In the Fierce survey, 37% also said it’s important for managers to provide constructive feedback. Employees want that feedback and respect bosses who provide it.
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/pewari.]
If you want to manage stress, sleep. Although I admire the enthusiasm and energy of people who live by the adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I could never join their ranks. On days following restless nights, I struggle to focus, to keep organized and even to hold conversations. All of those things, of course, lead to increased stress.
One other thing is a very close second for me: exercise. I jokingly refer to running as my “free therapy” and have a few routines I do at the office when I’m feeling stressed, unfocused or just “off.”
Even though I work from my home office most days, I’m still not interested in sweating during the workday, so my exercises during those hours have to be low-key. Here are my suggestions:
- Keep a pair of dumbbells beside your desk. When I realize I’m losing focus or feeling frustrated, I pick up my 10-pound dumbbells and do three quick sets of 10 bicep curls, 10 lateral raises and 10 shoulder presses. I complete all three sets in less than two minutes, and the exercises get my blood pumping just enough that I’m immediately able to refocus. On a typical day, I might do this routine one to three times.
- Lie down and do a plank. Planks are great for work because you can do them in as little as 30 seconds and still benefit. The exercise consists of lying face-down and holding yourself up in a straight line with your elbows and forearms. It’s much tougher than it looks and works your whole core. I usually do two 1-minute planks a day, especially when I’m feeling sore from sitting at a desk for too long.
- Walk at lunch. Winter might not be the best time to suggest this, depending on how cold it gets outside. When it’s not too cold or hot, though, I try to take a 10- to 30-minute walk most days during my lunch break. When I return I feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. Added benefit: I do some of my best thinking on those walks.
I’m not a fitness guru by any means, but I find that these simple exercises—along with running in the mornings and evenings—make a big difference for me. On days when I make time for exercise, I feel calmer and more focused. Plus, there are the indirect benefits. Working out makes me feel fitter, and that makes me more confident in many situations—including at work. And, bringing this post full circle, I find that on days when I exercise, I sleep much better too, meaning I’ll be less stressed the following day.
How do you exercise at work?