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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Practical advice for HR professionals
Article Type: How to … From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 9, Issue 5
Retain female talent
Chris ParkeBased at Talking Talent.
Retaining talented individuals is critical to long-term business success and businesses should remember that losing key individuals is a very costly process. Should an employee leave, businesses will have to cover the administration costs of the resignation and recruitment process, pay out for recruitment and selection, cover the vacancy period, allow time for the new employee to settle in and allocate funds for induction training. Female talent is sometimes overlooked, especially in male-dominated industries, businesses or teams. But female employees cannot only have a wealth of experience, they can provide valuable differences in approach, ideas and style.
It can be tricky for managers to understand the different challenges that face women in the workplace and difficulties often arise when handling key stages of a woman’s career, for example, when she has children. If these points are managed successfully there are many business benefits, such as retaining talent, increasing performance and engaging individuals. When planning for the future, businesses count on having their key resources available, so it is essential they consider how to best manage and retain these individuals. The following five steps can help organizations to retain female talent.
1. Understand systemic barriers
A core understanding of the issues affecting your business and the people working there is essential as it will provide a clear picture of the systemic barriers preventing women reaching their full potential. Whether using an internal source or external consultants to review the current situation, be sure to have a clear idea of what information is needed in order to make informed decisions about putting in place any new processes or making changes. These could range from modifying existing company policy to bringing in executive coaching to attract and retain female talent. Look at the level at which women’s careers falter or stagnate and why this might be. Once there is a strong set of data it is possible to see how well this performs compared to the national average or industry standard. Data can also be used to set aims and objectives, benchmark new programs and judge return on investment.
2. Establish strong talent management practices
Once the business needs have been identified, address them by implementing a customized talent management strategy. Recognizing differences in staff can help individuals feel that their personal needs are being addressed. Initiatives such as giving access to gender-specific programs for female leaders can help in creating authentic management and leadership styles. Keep away from “one size fits all” career models and offering more flexibility will allow both men and women to speed up and slow down their careers at different times.
3. Increase the levels of understanding and awareness
Exciting new strategies and programs can often falter when there is a deeper disinterest throughout the organization. Make sure a strategy looks at creating a widespread, cultural shift in thinking. When managing an organization that helps men and women succeed, it is important to increase the levels of understanding and awareness of systemic barriers. Look at internal communications, changes to policy and implementing training and coaching for all levels. If possible, get high-level buy-in for initiatives, as this will help to promote them and get others on board.
4. Manage critical stages effectively
Maternity is a key stage at which organizations struggle to retain women; if it is managed badly it can lead to the loss of key talent or unhappy, disengaged staff.
Communication is the most critical factor in managing maternity in the workplace. Ensure there are strong lines of communication between the employee, their manager and the team. The manager and individual must work together to make the transition successful. This includes creating a plan for the handover and the return, carrying out a communications plan during the maternity leave and managing stakeholder expectations. This will help to minimize the impact on the extended team and help them feel in control of their situation.
Maintaining high confidence levels is important in ensuring the employee reaches her optimum performance as quickly as possible when she returns. Inviting the returner to attend team days or client meetings, for example, can help the phasing back into work.
Lastly, communicate with the leaver that her career is of the utmost importance to the company. Be sure to continue regular performance reviews, have open discussions around career aspirations and try to be open to other flexible ways of working.
5. Use mentoring, role models and networks
Mentoring and role models are a vital part of enabling women to envisage their future within an organization and to encourage their progress, while increasing awareness of the possibilities available to them. Networks are useful for employees to connect with others in a similar position, allowing them to share experiences and ideas, as well as creating a sense of community and support within the organization. This could include a working parents’ network or a senior women’s network.
Identify the type of networks or mentoring schemes that fit an organization best and will be the most useful. Speak to potential role models and determine how best to use their experiences. Ask if they are willing to be contacted by others in the organization. Mentors and role models should demonstrate diversity, including gender, background and working style. Make sure these initiatives and role models are highly visible.
About the author
Chris Parke is the Managing Director of Talking Talent, which supports some of the world’s leading organizations to help them retain their talented women and realize their full potential. He has an MBA from Imperial College London, as well as a diploma in Clinical Organizational Psychology from INSEAD. He started his career in investment banking with BZW, and then moved into consulting with PwC. He has been an executive coach for over ten years. Chris Parke can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org