Tag

talent management

Equality

5 Practical Ways You Can Keep More Women On Your Team

Published in Inc on Oct 5, 2015

At long last, the world is paying attention to the issue of gender
diversity. In May 2014, top tech companies started reporting the dismal
numbers of women in their workforces. When these statistics were
released to the public, a spotlight shone on this disparity, sparking a
conversation on the need for gender equality amongst corporate America.

While
this conversation has been discussed at length in the media and
exhausted by panels at conferences all over the world, the fact remains
that little change has actually occurred. We have a long way to go. As a
new report from Lean In and McKinsey shows, we are more than 100 years away from gender equality in the C-Suite. To top it off, NY Times reports,
the modern workplace is “toxic” and “the ranks of those women still
thin significantly as they rise toward the top, from more than 50
percent at entry level to 10 to 20 percent in senior management.”

It
might have taken 100 years for women to be able to vote in the U.S.,
but it shouldn’t take 100 more years before we achieve gender equality
at the office. If you want your company to benefit from the economic advantage of a diverse team,
there are five actions you can implement at your own company to grow
the number of women on your team. Here are some actions you can take now
to act locally and change the number of women on your team.

1. Women attract other women.

Do
you have at least one, preferably two, of your operational leaders who
are women? “Operational” is an important distinction. There are plenty
of teams where the HR person is a woman, or the communications person
(occupying the pink ghetto), but when you start looking for R&D leaders or P&L managers, the number of women thins out drastically.

What
few people realize is, if you have women in technology and operational
leadership they will attract other women. Women want to see other women
ahead of them in the company they are joining so they have positive
proof that they can get ahead in that company. Likewise, if there are no
women for your younger employees to look up to, you will lose them over
time. Before you say you can’t find them, determine going in that you
will interview both women and men for your open positions. In your
interview process you will find highly qualified women and you will hire
them. These highly skilled women will be magnets for other women
considering your team and open your talent pool up significantly.

2. True, not fake, flexibility.

Many
teams talk flexibility and yet the subtle competition and mindset of
one-upping each other that some teams exhibit can make working flexible
hours feel unsafe for many women. True flexibility means actively
respecting every employee’s wish to get their job done where and when it
works for them. If you can establish a culture where it’s completely
acceptable to call into a meeting if you need to be home or use video to
hold one-on-ones to support a teammate that needs to leave early
(rather than look down on it), you can keep women (and men) on your team
who have to juggle their home responsibilities with their job. But you
have to be proactive and out spoken about your support for flexibility
(provided people get their jobs done of course). Passive support is not
enough.

3. Talk about diversity openly.

It
takes courage to talk openly about your belief on diversity. Many of
your team will agree with you, but some will not, and not everyone will
tell you. I have found that a few men will complain to each other and be
passive aggressive on the issue, but you still need to speak out so the
women and other minorities on your team hear you. There is enough
evidence now that diversity creates better financial results and better
products. It makes no sense to omit 50% or more of the potential talent
from your workforce. By having the courage to speak out, be consistent
and be fair you will keep more women on your team and improve your
company in the process.

4. Invest in your women.

Many
fields are hostile to women, especially technology. Facebook’s Mary Lou
Jepson is just the latest in the long line of women to speak out about it.
Knowing that the workplace can be toxic or hostile, one way you can be
better than your competition at keeping and growing women is your
willingness to invest. Send women to female career oriented conferences
like the Grace Hopper Conference or the 3% Conference. Support them forming Lean In circles.
Speak openly about your wish to see them invest in staying with their
chosen field and find ways to grow within their field rather than
dropping out or moving to a more female friendly industry.

5. Hire a few good men.

There
are many men today who believe strongly in the need for gender
diversity. Their motivations are varied. Sometimes they have daughters
and want their daughters to have every opportunity. Sometimes it’s “just
right.” Other times it is understanding the need to hire the best and
the brightest and not wanting to miss out on half the talent. Whatever
the reason, these male allies are important in the quest for gender
diversity.

Bring men into your team who want to work on a diverse
team. Find men who don’t tolerate prejudice towards women and will
support the advancement of the women on your team. Make a conscious
effort to support these men when they work hard to bring women onto the
team and identify unconscious bias in the people around them.

It’s
time. The dearth of women at the top of companies is not just a
pipeline problem that stems from companies not proactively working to
improve their culture for women. We need to address the culture that
causes 50% of women to drop out of tech within 10 years of graduation
because it’s hostile. They don’t stop working, they just leave tech.
However, you can change the outcome for your team if you work hard to
bring women in and to keep them; your company will be stronger for it.

Leadership

Forced ranking is about the top, not the bottom

How do you rank against the guy next to you—better, worse, the same? And do you think the process of your managers discussing you relative to your peers is a good thing, or a bad one?

The practice of forced ranking—or the euphemistically named “vitality curve“—was developed by Jack Welch and GE in the 1980’s as a way to identify non-performers and so improve the financial results of the company. It was quickly picked up by companies in Silicon Valley with more aggressive cultures, like Intel, and used as a way to force employees onto a bell curve. It was recently dropped by Microsoft, while being picked up by Yahoo.

The ranking process is not a scientific one—it’s a process of judgement. My experience has been managers sitting in a conference room, putting names up on a white board, arguing through the lifeboat test: if you had to throw one employee out of the life boat, which one would you throw? Sometimes the process is simply a forced ranking, putting employees in a linear list; other times it’s a process to force employees into groupings like A, B and C, or top 20%, middle 60% and bottom 20%.

Sometimes it is a scientific process. In sales, results are ultimately measurable, and I know one tech CEO who used to fire the bottom 10% of his sales team each quarter, irrespective of whether they made quota or not. His purpose was to drive a dog-eat-dog competitive culture within his sales team.

The end result is the same. You end up with the collective judgement of a group of managers on a group of employees and, if you’ve run the process well, you know who your top and bottom performers are.

It’s always illuminating. If nothing else, to find out what other managers think—but I think it’s a clumsy, archaic process to manage the performance of your weakest players.

Poor performance needs to be managed continuously, not once a quarter or once a year. When you have someone who is not performing, you need to act quickly. Never forget, if someone’s not pulling their weight you can bet everyone around them knows it, and they are pulling down (at a minimum) the morale and (more likely) the performance of everyone on the team with them. So as the manager, you owe it to everyone to intervene and either put some training and coaching in place quickly to bring up the employee’s performance, or get them out.

But the top performers are the most valuable people in your organization and the ranking process can make you pay attention to their satisfaction and compensation, as a team, on a rigorous schedule. The pareto principle holds true for your engineer’s performance as much as it does for the likely distribution of your customers—80% of your results are probably coming from the contributions of your top 20%. This does not mean that the middle 60% is not important—quite the contrary—but it does mean you need to pay daily attention to the happiness and professional health of your top 20%.

This is where forced ranking can be truly illuminating. When you get your managers from across the organization, responsible for different job types, into a room and get them talking about their top talent, everyone can then pay attention to their careers. You can make sure your top talent has appropriate top compensation (especially stock options and/or RSUs) and that their career interests are being watched over and nurtured by every member of your management team.

Forced ranking is a useful tool, but a tool to be used occasionally and not as a religion. It’s not about making your employees compete (and so driving financial performance up). It’s not about identifying your bottom performers (you need to be doing that continuously). It’s about making sure your leaders know who the top talent in your organization is so you can grow them, and grow their leadership and impact on your company.

Photo: Seth Coal Deviant Art