With FTSE companies recently been set new government targets for a minimum of 33% of women in board level positions over the next five years, the issue of the number of women in leadership positions remains as prominent as ever.
We run a Women’s Leadership Programme to help more companies of all sizes and sectors to proactively gain the guidance and support needed to create workplaces which encourage women’s senior careers. However, the best performing businesses achieve high performing teams because they attract, retain and develop the best talent at all levels, regardless of gender.
The tips below are from our Women’s Leadership Programme, but are just as relevant for men’s career progression as they are for women. They all relate to removing any potential barriers to retaining the best people in an organisation and to ensuring there is scope for them to progress to senior levels. Our aim is to inspire organisations to create rewarding work environments where all barriers to progression are removed and where everyone is able to work in a way which makes them feel productive and engaged. With the job market having become more buoyant, people are now more confident about switching companies. So when organisations have attracted skilled employees, it’s vital they do all they can to keep them, and to encourage them to progress within the organisation.
1) Examine your progression pipeline
Take the time to examine your organisation’s progression pipeline and succession planning. Is there an equal balance of men and women working their way up? Are enough people being promoted through the company to senior management positions? Or are they leaving before they reach that stage? If the results are not what you expected, look to establish what barriers could be preventing this. If you don’t know why people fail to climb the career ladder at your organisation you can’t make any changes. Are women being put off going for promotion because director jobs are mainly occupied by men? Are junior employees aware of the career progression opportunities available to them? Dig out the root causes and find positive solutions.
2) Explore your working practices
It’s equally vital for both male and female employees to strike the delicate balance between work and home life to be able to effectively manage their careers and to excel. This helps employees to stay healthy generally, plus feel engaged and focused at work, and able to make lasting contributions to their organisations. Review your organisation’s practices around flexible working to provide opportunities for employees to successfully juggle work and family life. A recent CIPD report found that 72% of employers believed implementing flexible working practices had a positive impact on staff engagement. And make sure you demonstrate a clear, positive policy on shared parental leave. This new legislation was put in place to help drive gender equality in the workplace, eliminate discrimination around maternity leave and to build employee engagement.
3) Introduce mentoring programmes
Asking senior staff to mentor younger employees in your organisation can create huge benefits. Not only does it unlock talent among junior teams, it can also boost their confidence if they are intimidated by the journey to the top. Advice and a sympathetic ear, matched with a professional attitude, can be a powerful force in creating future business leaders. Many women in particular avoid talking about work-related problems with their peers. Finding a mentor to answer their questions, and to listen to them without judging, could boost their leadership potential if they’ve previously been held back by their own fears.
4) Give staff the opportunities to develop
Don’t risk losing your best employees by neglecting their professional development needs. Hang on to top talent by providing a robust and meaningful development plan with clear progression opportunities outlined. Take the time to identify the skills they need to develop and to do their job well, and trust them to take on new responsibilities. Provide the opportunity to experience as many areas of the business as possible. This will inspire and stimulate employees by allowing them to move outside their comfort zone a little. It’s also great practice to get them working with other teams and in new environments.
5) Achieve buy in from senior team members
An organisation’s culture and values needs to flow from the top level down. It’s essential to get senior-level buy in for developing a workplace culture which provides clear progression opportunities. The aim is to create an environment where all employee development needs are met and where they feel inspired by opportunities, rather than limited by a lack of options or support.