Research shows that gender diverse teams deliver superior business results over those of their all-male counterparts. Yet, many women will take a mid-career hiatus in an effort to prioritize their family responsibilities. As a result, companies miss an significant opportunity to continue to have higher performing teams and to commit to seeing more women reaching the c-suites.
Many women want an opportunity to stay engaged but prefer a less traditional schedule, perhaps working from home or part-time. Meanwhile, engaging women over the course of their career is the key to seeing companies build higher-performing, more gender diverse teams. And while that all seems very straightforward, the bottom line is that women are still leaving the workplace due to a lack of flexibility.
In fact a 2015 study from Lean In and McKinsey & Co found that, “Women see a workplace skewed in favor of men. They are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender — and are twice as likely to think their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future.”
That same study stated, “Companies need to do more to give all employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives, from offering programs that do not inadvertently penalize participants to fostering a culture that gives employees permission to take advantage of these options.”
Women (and many other candidates) want the opportunity to think of their career advancement as a dial not a switch. That means that they recognize that at points in their life they may want to be engaged full-time and actively prioritizing career over everything else in their lives. However, they also want the opportunity to dial back to more flexible opportunities at points in their life where other things (aging parents, young children, illness, etc) become priorities. They genuinely want to stay engaged at some level versus the more traditional option of turning their career “off.”
I talk to a lot of CEOs who want to keep women engaged, but don’t know how to do it. Here is the advice I give them:
It’s not about hours in the office, it’s about the quality of the work:
● Employers need to be challenged to focus on measuring results and deadlines versus time card punches. By building a work environment that values contribution over hours, employers can realize increased revenues, higher employee satisfaction, less turnover and more diversity amongst their teams at all levels.
Remember to utilize the available technology:
● The technology that is available to companies using remote staff is robust, accessible and inexpensive. Slack, 15Five and Zapier are some great applications that can help to streamline processes and increase knowledge sharing and communication amongst employees both in and out of the office.
Don’t sacrifice team collaboration or organizational culture:
● A common misconception is that organizational culture and collaboration are only built around the water cooler. Remote teams and flexible staff want to be engaged as well. Being intentional about utilizing meeting times efficiently and always be certain to give plenty of time and opportunity to seek input from those people who don’t work a traditional schedule.
Accountability is key:
● Flexible staff should be treated as equal contributors. It’s important that teams both in the office and out are held to the same standards regarding productivity and deadlines. The best flexible candidates appreciate the opportunity to contribute to higher performing organizations and expect that they are held to the same standards as their in-office colleagues.
Ask yourself WHY?:
● Challenge yourself to ask the question, “Why do we work the way we work?” Are the hours and the in-office time a requirement? Could you engage better talent and get better results by utilizing remote staff? Would you be able to minimize turnover by offering part-time options? If there isn’t a business reason that mandates all teams work the traditional-40-hour-in-office-schedule then why not innovate? The traditional 40 hour work week is over 100 years old. You wouldn’t be impressed to see someone driving a car to work that is over 100 years old, would you?
We work with CEOs and HR Executives all over the country and are placing hundreds of candidates in flexible positions with progressive companies every year. We’ve seen flexibility work in a large variety of industries ranging from accounting and legal to administrative and research. The most common feedback that we receive from employers who hire flexible staff is that it increases the caliber of candidates and that their flexible staff are fiercely loyal.
Once we challenge ourselves to think differently regarding productivity and work schedules, we can reap the benefits of accessing the incredible female talent that is waiting for an opportunity to recognize their professional success while maintaining personal satisfaction. It is time to realize that career progression should be a dial — -not a switch.
Courtney Jones, Founder and President, MomSource
Courtney founded the MomSource Network to advocate for professionals that seek to contribute to find professional fulfillment while still prioritizing their families. Courtney is a huge advocate of women in businesses and frequently speaks on topics related to flexible employment, women in business and building results-oriented teams.
MomSource Network currently represents thousands of educated, professional candidates throughout the United States who are committed to finding flexible full-time, permanent part-time, job-shared or telecommute opportunities.