I was recently invited by the Fayette Chamber of Commerce to participate in their Diversity and Inclusion Summit. Today’s blog is an excerpt from the presentation I gave there on “How to Ignite the Impact of Women Leaders in Your Organization.”

What if I told you, there was one portion of your business you could develop that could help you outperform your competitors by 202%?

Is your mind turning over the possibilities? What are you thinking? Adding new or additional technology? New products? More clients?

All great ideas, but not the one we’re here to talk about today. It’s your employees – specifically today, your female employees.

By creating a culture of engaged employees, you can set your business up to outperform your competition and be more profitable. You should invest in your people and provide the opportunities they need to develop into leaders who help your company thrive. But numerous reports show these opportunities are not spread equally throughout organizations. While I don’t believe you teach women and men to be leaders differently, I do believe you have to actively look at your organization and make sure you are offering the opportunities across the board to everyone inside – from your front-line to your C-suite – from your mom and pops to your Fortune 500’s.

Disengaged Workforce

There’s one problem. While women enter the workforce with the same intelligence and education as their male counterparts, there is a larger number of them who feel disconnected. In fact, 59% of women report being disengaged at some level in their current workplace. Unengaged employees cost you in two ways. One, they become apathetic and their work or productivity declines or two, they leave. You might be thinking good riddance – if they don’t want to be here, then I’m happy they are gone. But dig a little deeper and you will see the high cost her leaving can cost you.

Not only will you front the cost of hiring and retraining, which by most estimates average 6 to 9 months of the former employee’s salary, you’ll also have loss of productivity, staff time, on boarding and advertising. You also experience a ripple effect among the remaining employees, especially if she was a well-liked employee.

And let’s not forget to consider how it affects your external brand as well. What an employee experiences in the workplace dictates how they feel about the organization and how they share those feelings with friends, co-workers or on social media. Employees who don’t feel heard, supported, or valued, aren’t shy about sharing it with the world.

So how can you develop a culture of engaged women leaders in your organization?

Help Your Employees Build Their Personal Career Brands and See Themselves As Part of the Future

You become an Employee Success Partner. You harness their uniqueness and showcase the talents of those inside your organization. In doing so, you make them feel like they are appreciated and play a vital role in the success of the company. Doing so will not only stop the revolving door of employee turnover, you’ll actually grow an army of internal ambassadors and leaders.

When you assist them to create their personal career brand, you become a partner in their career development and enable them to recognize their strengths and contributions to your organization. You’re showing them that it’s valuable to talk about their wins and accomplishments. It’s a strong signal that you value what they bring to the table.

Over half of the people who leave a job say they left because no one ever talked to them about job satisfaction or their future in the organization. Since no one did, they decided they didn’t have one. I’ve seen this countless times in my own career coaching practice and lived it in real life. The adage is true – people don’t leave a job, they leave people. The process of empowering your employees to grow their personal brands offers you the opportunity to realize unrecognized potential and retain high value employees.

Let me go ahead and dispel a misconception you might already be thinking. If I help an employee recognize and display new skills and strengths, won’t they look for new opportunities or won’t someone hire them away from me?

Companies who place high emphasis on employee development have employees that are 87% less likely to leave for other opportunities. The key to making this work for both you and the employee, is through focusing on career growth and helping your employee realize where their mission aligns with the mission of your organization.

Learn more about creating a personal branding statement by watching this video.

Look What Some Major Companies Are Saying

Need more encouraging?

“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” Doug Conant, Former CEO of Campbell’s Soup.

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.”– Angela Ahrendts (Senior Vice President, Apple)

Now that I have you convinced, let’s look at how you can accomplish this.

How To Get Started

Before you begin, I suggest pulling your leadership team together, or if you’re a smaller business maybe consider a focus group of employees and discuss what the top leadership qualities are you want to see developed. Use the data you have available to guide these discussions whether those are employee surveys or industry trends. Maybe you decided you want your leaders to be strong coaches, empower their teams, don’t micromanage, express interest in employee wellbeing, reliable, innovative, problem solvers or collaborators. The list of possible traits is endless but it’s important you determine what the culture is you want your organization to become known for. Then you need to make a conscious decision the opportunity to participate will be made available equitably across the organization.  Once you’ve developed your roadmap, how do you begin to ignite these internal leaders?

First, you help them understand they have a brand whether they are actively cultivating it or not. It’s their professional reputation. It’s based on customer interactions, co-workers, evaluations, and more. And whether they know it, they have created a brand either intentionally or not. By convincing employees they are in control of their professional brand and that it can impact their career trajectory, you are empowering them to take an active role in growing and developing it.

Connect the Values With the Mission

One thing we know, when values and occupation align, big things can happen. If you help your employees figure out how their personal goals and missions align with your organizations you can generate momentum. This can be done by working with them to creating a personal branding statement that shows the impact they want to have or achieve in the workplace and life. If people recognize the destination and feel like it’s someplace they want to go, they will help you get there.  The more you help an employee recognize their identity and potential impact, the greater they’re buy-in and productivity. When they feel appreciated, recognized, and valued, employees are more enthusiastic and committed to their work and the workplace.

Create an Encouraging Environment

Create an environment that encourages. It’s vital you show your employees they work in an atmosphere where their voice is appreciated and valued. Give them the confidence to speak up. If not, their valuable ideas will never make it on the table for discussion. Providing opportunities and encouraging women to be visible is key. Being visible allows employees to demonstrate their skills and build strategic relationships.

Encourage Networking – Both Internally and Externally

Leaders network. Suggest industry or community organizations for your employees to join. Not only will this increase an employees’ network, because of committee work, projects, and leadership opportunities available inside an association, they’ll have added opportunities to grow and develop skills that will be beneficial to your company in the future. These types of groups share learning and knowledge.

We all know the best ideas come from what I call hallway time or even dinner conversations. It’s where you brainstorm with others. By suggesting membership or participation, you’re providing opportunities for your employees to gain confidence and increase their visibility. Both of which go a long way in their leadership development. This can also help counter some of the less formal networking that takes place in a business setting – such as on the golf course. I’m not saying women can’t play (I know some amazing ones you might want to consider for your next scramble), but they aren’t invited as often. If you’re honest, you know these casual get-togethers are what builds relationships and allow you to learn.

Networking needs to take place inside the office as well. Are you providing ways employees can collaborate on projects or committees? Do you have them problem solving or cross training? Not only does this build teamwork, it also can open the door to potential career moves neither you nor the employee has considered before. You’ll also see your employees have a better understanding of how their work impacts all areas of the organization. This not only reinforces their confidence and the value of their work; it gives others a chance to see their accomplishments as well.

Help Them Develop Their Style

Give leaders the room to discover their style. Neither women nor men become great leaders overnight. They need time to develop. They need to be confident that if they fail in learning a new task or developing a skill, they will still be supported. You need to provide and encourage supervisors to give them time to learn and adjust to new roles. If you haven’t properly developed them for it, it’s not all on them. We all make mistakes along the way. Mistakes are also the biggest learning tool around.

I love this about WD-40’s culture. They call these mishaps “Learning Moments”. They believe that both the positive and negative of any situation should be shared openly, so that everyone can benefit. If they try something and it fails, they are encouraged to say, “I had a learning moment and here’s what happened and here’s how it can be better tomorrow.” Or, “I had a learning moment, and these are the results I got and here’s what I want to share.” Without the fear of reprisal from a manager you take the fear out of learning and growing.

Make sure training and development opportunities are equal across the board. One way to do this is commit to a companywide leadership program that is relevant, time efficient and flexible. This type of program should include both formal and informal opportunities to focus on the core traits most valuable to your organization. It needs to be tailored to fit the experience level of those participating, while still stretching them to grow.

Seems simple right?

How To Encourage A Change

Helping people reach their career goals and communicate their worth is something I’m passionate about. However, years of working in a male dominated industry and listening to numerous colleagues across the nation has shown me this philosophy hasn’t made it fully into the corporate arena. While I’m excited to see that trend is changing, I know it can be a hard sell inside the walls of some organizations. So here’s some ammo you can use to push the discussion forward if you want increase your employee engagement and ignite the impact women have in your organization.

  1. Your bottom line will improve. According to a study by Catalyst, companies with higher representation of women in their management teams experience up to 30% better financial returns.
  2. Problem solving gets a boost because you get different perspectives and women tend to look at issues from different angles, life experiences, and how they affect people (both employees and customers).
  3. They help build a stronger culture. Women on your management team increase the feeling that the team is approachable. This leads to higher levels of employee satisfaction due to the fact they feel management is accessible and will listen. Women tend to be viewed as easier to communicate with and more community and mission focused.
  4. You’ll have stronger teams and your succession planning becomes easier. Women are more likely to mentor others. According to LinkedIn, 38% of senior-level women currently mentor one or more women, compared to only 23% of men. While I feel women can learn from male mentors, some are more comfortable with a person of the same gender. You also have some men who aren’t comfortable having lunch alone with a female colleague.  If there’s a shortage of women who can serve as a mentor inside your organization, look externally in your community and make those introductions.
  5. As you build a great culture of leaders internally, you’ll also notice the value of your external brand increases too. That translates to more and happier customers, greater productivity, and an improved pool of applicants who want to work with you too.

By creating leadership growth opportunities inside your organization, you’ll begin merging the strengths of both the men and women you employ, and you’ll drive your company to exceed goals and set higher ones. When you cultivate leadership and commit to providing opportunities, everyone benefits. If you’d like to talk about how your company can grow an engaged workforce by helping your employees build strong personal brands, visit www.chelliephillips.com and let’s talk.

For more secrets to career success, you can:

Join one of my courses and fast track your career.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch quick tips to help your job search or make yourself promotable.

Join my private Successfully Ever After Facebook Group for trainings and information designed for success-seekers.

Check out my audio books: Get Noticed, Get Hired or When In Doubt, Delete It!

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