Attracting and Retaining Female Talent

Friday, May 12, 2017
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In a VUCA business environment, ensuring the diversity of your organization as a whole -- and your leadership team in particular -- is critical. If your organization is actively trying to recruit higher numbers of female employees, you're not alone: According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' recent report, Winning the Fight for Female Talent, 78 percent of large organizations say they're actively seeking to hire more women -- particularly into experienced and senior-level positions.

With competition to attract and retain talent on the rise, HR executives must take a closer look at their diversity strategies to ensure that they're recognizing and meeting the needs and wishes of female job-seekers and employees.

Beyond Flex Time

A culture of flexibility and work/life balance ranks high on the list of traits that make an employer attractive to female job-seekers. However, nurturing this culture will require your organization to go beyond simply offering flexible working arrangements. It will also require you to empower all employees to define what work/life balance means to them and live out that ethos daily.

One of the proven ways to accomplish this is by offering employees of all ages and at all stages of their careers access to professional coaching. Past consumer research has shown that women are more likely to seek professional coaching to improve work/life balance, so the need is well-established. Whereas a mentor may share wisdom and expertise from his or her own life, a trained professional coach possesses a unique set of tools, resources and approaches that will help employees tap into their own expertise and empower them to pursue a balanced life in and out of the office.

A culture of work/life balance and a culture of coaching also go together. Thanks to research from the International Coach Federation and the Human Capital Institute, we know that organizations with strong coaching cultures report higher rates of employee engagement and higher annual revenue than peer organizations without strong coaching cultures. This is due in part to the values that are cultivated in a strong coaching culture, including open communication, mutual respect and compassion for self and others. In addition to investing in professional coaching for employees (ICF and HCI's index for strong coaching cultures includes equal access to professional coach practitioners for all), one of the best ways your organization can build and sustain this culture is by offering coaching-skills training for managers and leaders. By equipping managers and leaders to use coaching skills and approaches with their teams, your organization can reap positive impacts that go beyond enhanced employee work/life balance, including improved team functioning, increased engagement, increased productivity, improved employee relations and faster leadership development.

Pathways to Leadership

Why do people join an organization? What motivates them to stay? Why do they leave? One of the most crucial traits that makes an organization attractive to female and male job-hunters is clear opportunities for career progression. Consider that, in PwC's research, female and male job-hunters and -movers cited a lack of opportunities for career progression as the top reason for leaving their former employers.

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Specific help with career-charting aligned with the organization's growth strategy may provide some answers. Particularly for high-ranking positions, it's essential to demystify the process for career advancement and empower top talent with the tools and know-how to succeed. This was the impetus for GlaxoSmithKline's Accelerating Difference program, which aims to promote more women to more senior levels within the organization through coaching, sponsorship and dialogues.

The program, which had 220 participants in 2016, includes 12 individual coaching sessions, six half-day group coaching sessions and senior leader sponsorship. The Accelerating Difference program has been a linchpin in GSK's strategy for recruiting and retaining top female talent. Approximately 46 percent of 2013 participants have been promoted by at least one level, compared to 26 percent of women and 27 percent of men at the same grades across the organization. Participants were also more likely to stay at the organization (76 percent) than 69 percent of women and 71 percent of men who did not attend the program. Direct reports indicated that participants improved in manager effectiveness over time more than three times faster than a control group. This is just one of many examples of professional coaching supporting individuals' professional growth, organizational development and overall success of the enterprise.

Winning the Battle

The competition for female talent has never been fiercer, and the stakes never higher. And yet, the organizations of the future can position themselves as leaders in their respective fields by investing in a thoughtful strategy that aligns recruitment, diversity and leadership development efforts and champions the growth of a strong coaching culture. These organizations will attract, recruit and retain top talent. The time to act, however, is now.


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