November 3, 2016
Some of the world’s biggest and best-known companies have lower engagement than they should among senior-level women, claims a new report, which found significant engagement gaps in key areas, including mentorship, appreciation and cooperation with colleagues. Roughly three quarters of those surveyed for the rewards of an Engaged Female Workforce were found to have generated lower levels of employee engagement among female senior managers. The research from BCG looked at factors that contribute to engagement levels for more than 345,000 male and female employees across the world and found that in companies in the bottom three quartiles of overall engagement scores, the scores of women increase by just 4 percent from non-manager to senior manager level while men’s increase by a full 12 percent. The study also found that companies in the top 25% of overall engagement scores had virtually no engagement gap between senior female managers (4.5) and senior male managers (4.4 ) when scores are rated from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).
“When companies do best at engaging their workers, women and men benefit equally”, said Claire Tracey, a partner at BCG and a co-author of the report.
“Having a culture and working environment that is great for senior women appears to generate positive effects for everyone.”
The report shows that the gender gap in engagement emerges as employees become more senior, which is important as research has shown that engagement tie to overall performance so management teams that want to provide the best environment for their most senior women need to make this a priority and work to address the issue.
The report advises that companies should start by understanding the root causes of their engagement issues, in particular by listening carefully to senior women. This is the most critical step, and one that companies often miss in their rush to move directly to implementing solutions. Yet the root cause of disengagement varies. In some companies, there is a vicious cycle in which women’s skills and opinions are not used sufficiently, leading them to disengage.
Other companies have found that they are not active enough in promoting women on the basis of their potential. Instead, they wait for female employees to demonstrate strong performance in a given role, an approach that causes companies to miss out on their highest-potential leaders. Still others have found that senior managers in siloed business units are forced to rely on informal networks to get things done, a situation that can be disproportionately detrimental for women. Getting to the specific root causes for each company is vital to determine the right solutions.
It also recommends that companies should provide flexible work models to women and men at all levels, ensuring that part-time work is a viable option for everyone (not only for new mothers). And they must manage performance effectively to ensure that people can legitimately succeed in these programmes.
Output-based KPIs (for instance, assessing whether the work gets done, not where it gets done) can help. It’s also important to allow managers to move into more flexible roles for a defined period, particularly after several years of long or inflexible hours.
To download a copy of the full report click here.