Keeping Female Workers Engaged—and Why That Matters

It’s no surprise that women bring distinctive viewpoints, ideas, and insights to the workplace. But here’s the more shocking stat: Women lead men in terms of workplace engagement. In fact, 35 percent of female employees are engaged at work, compared with only 29 percent of male employees, according to Gallup’s 2017 report, “Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived.”

It’s common sense that employees who are engaged at work are more productive, enthusiastic, and committed to their jobs. Research even indicates that higher engagement is linked to greater profits and decreased turnover rates. Yet less than a third of all employees say they are engaged in their work.

So, what can companies do to keep female employees happy and productive at work? Here are five tactics to consider implementing.

  1. Train managers to cultivate employees’ potential. Having a female manager matters—employees with a female boss are six percentage points more engaged, on average, than those who report to a male supervisor, the Gallup survey found. Female managers excel at cultivating the potential of the people who report to them, helping them develop new skills and abilities. They also check in with their direct reports more frequently than male managers do—providing the critical feedback employees seek.

To increase engagement, train managers—male and female—to ensure that their direct reports feel cared for both professionally and personally. Managers who take the time to ask about an employee’s sick child or 5k run generate goodwill.

  1. Understand the “employee journey”

Marketers spend billions of dollars tracking the customer journey—identifying every touchpoint their company has with a customer and the “pain points” that drive customers away. The touchpoints that attract women, and the pain points that drive them away are often different than those that impact men, so understanding what works and what does not work for your female customers and prospects is important.

In her TED Talk, Diana Dosik, a principal at Boston Consulting Group, makes the case that companies would benefit from understanding the “employee journey” as well. By fully understanding how employees experience work—particularly your female employees—you’ll be able to fix the pain points that are preventing them from being more engaged, focused and, ultimately, more productive. This may mean providing lactation rooms for new mothers, or offering flex-schedules for female employees with school-age children.

  1. Increase communication with employees

As I’ve written before, communication is critical to improving employee morale.  Create a culture in which female employees are comfortable communicating with their managers. Managers should seek out employees’ opinions on the engagement strategies you are implementing; with employee buy-in, the tactics are more likely to succeed. Helping your female employees, in particular, to incorporate their passions, interests, and talents into their work will reap dividends in terms of employee engagement—and could also boost your bottom line.

  1. Focus engagement efforts on senior-level women

There is a lot of buzz about retaining women in their twenties and thirties when they’re deep in the child-rearing years. However, more attention needs to be placed on engaging high-level women managers; research shows that engagement drops among women as they rise in seniority within a company.

“Companies that get it right for [senior-level] women tend to get it right for everyone in the organization,” writes Claire Tracey, one of the authors of the BCG report, “The Rewards of an Engaged Female Workforce.” Addressing the issue, she explains, can help fix the culture for the entire company.

  1. Provide flexible work models to employees at all levels

Senior-level women who embrace flex time, telecommuting, and a results-oriented culture—and succeed—inspire the younger cohort of female employees, who can see more possibilities for themselves at the company in the future. That’s one of the reasons why, at organizations that demonstrate high levels of employee engagement overall, there is no gender gap; men and women are equally committed to their careers.

Output-based KPIs—which focus on whether the work gets done, not where it gets done—can help. Also, make reduced or part-time work an option for all employees—male and female.

In fact, many of the initiatives aimed at engaging your female employees will benefit your overall employee engagement rates. And that, in return, will boost morale, increase efficiency, and even bolster your company’s bottom line.

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