Retaining Women Workers

When the economy picks up this year, more women than men are likely to leave their companies. That?s because women still face more frustration when it comes to getting equal pay, equal chances for upward development and mentoring, and equal consideration for the most interesting challengesat their company.

In addition, most women tend to view their careers more broadly than men: Instead of working up a vertical path, they are willing to entertain possibilities in multiple industries. Many even plan on owning businesses as soon as they get enough experience in the corporate world.

And when women decide it?s time to move on, they are more likely to engage their families in their decision. In contrast, many men tend to worry that leaving a company will upset the family dynamics.

Though businesses today face many critical problems, they shouldn?t put employee retention on the back burner. Unfortunately, too many do. What?s the fallout from this reluctance to spend time and money on retention? A growing number of unhappy employees.

A number of Industry strategists predict that more than half of all employees are currently ready to change jobs. And because women change jobs more frequently than men, more high-achieving women are impatiently waiting for a growing economy to provide new openings and opportunities.

So, would you rather have your employees planning their next career move or focusing intently on their current job? This question points to the importance of engaging top talent so you have their full attention today, as well as keeping them with you tomorrow.

Predicting Fallout

Companies that don?t make an effort to retain their top women employees should expect some business fallout. According to analysts in both the United States and Europe, the more women there were in a company?s senior management team, the less its share price fell in 2008 and 2009.

In addition, in a study spanning 19 years, Pepperdine University found that Fortune 500 companies that had the best record of promoting women outperformed theircompetitors by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent. McKinsey also did a global study that showed a significant positive difference in the financial performance of companies that had women in at least a third of their senior management positions.

It seems clear that developing and promoting women is simply good business.

One problem is that many companies have delayered their organizations (reduced the number of tiers) so that promotions are limited for both men and women. But, even in those situations, managers can take steps to engage their top women employees.

According to the research I did for my book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction, high-achieving women don?t base their decision to stay with a company solely on titles or money. If they take a promotion, it?s because they want the challenge that goes with it.

Some top motivators for women are also true for many men?especially the younger generations?but they are strikingly true for women. They include the following:

? Provide frequent, new challenges. Women love to learn and tackle new, complex challenges. Never assume that their outside responsibilities will get in the way of a demanding new task. Let your employees make that decision.

? Continually affirm their contribution and value. Women typically want to know how well they did in relation to the people they touch, including their peers and customers. It?s not enough to praise their knowledge and ability. They need to know the impact their contribution made.

? Create an innovative and collaborative environment. Women like environments with an open flow of communications. Ask them to help you design work that engages everyone in the process, instead of working through hierarchies.

? Provide meaningful work. Many women struggle with committing to a monetary goal or a drive focused solely on beating competitors. They are more likely to align their energies with profit goals when they understand the significance of their work to thebigger picture.

Engaging and challenging your women employees makes good business sense for both productivity today and your company?s growth tomorrow.

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is president of Covisioning, an executive coaching and leadership training company with clients across the globe. She holds a doctorate in organizational psychology, with an emphasis on high-achieving women in today?s workplace.