A Note From Rene

A Note From Rene’

As a result of post pandemic impacts, it seems like every industry is struggling with staffing issues of some sort. When many schools return to in person teaching this fall, there will be plenty of Moms ready to return to the workforce. Are you doing all you can to attract them to your company? Please read the below article to gain some insight as to what these 800,000 workers may be looking for.

I also anticipate challenges to efficiency as more companies embrace some form of returning to the office, whether it is 100% or some hybrid model. Be prepared to have processes in place to be available to your team without constant interruptions throughout the day.

The two articles below that were published By Harvard Business Review have some great suggestions.

To Retain Women, U.S. Companies Need
Better Childcare Policies

Written by Deborah Schroeder-Saulnierand.

Published by Harvard Business Review

Retain Women

Buckling under the burden of childcare during the pandemic, more than 800,000 women left the work force between August and September 2020, according to The New York Times. According to McKinsey, the pandemic has set women back half a decade. At its peak, women’s unemployment had risen by 2.9 percentage points more than men’s unemployment. Not only does this matter for gender equality, it will also reduce families’ abilities to offset income losses, resulting in a deeper and more persistent economic recession as a whole. Leaders of all genders need to not only empathize, but also step up and actively find ways to keep women in the workforce.

Caregiving responsibilities at home and work could threaten women’s ability to remain and progress in the workplace: Up to 2 million women are considering leaving the workforce, according to the 2020 Women in the Workplace study from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org. Women of color are particularly challenged and are also trying to maintain career progression. Women could suffer the most in the 2021 recovery, too, according to McKinsey and Oxford Economics. The return to pre-pandemic employment levels for women will take 18 months longer than it will for men. This is why investing in caregiving is investing in women, and in the future of our global economy.

This Is a Global Issue

Pandemic-related job and income losses have been much higher for women around the globe, prompting some to call this period the “shecession of 2020.” Globally, women already perform almost 2.5 times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. Many single mothers have had to keep working, while some have had no choice but to quit. Some have struggled to access basic necessities like water and utilities, including in the U.S. “When the pandemic broke out, significant help arrived quickly for working parents in many rich countries, with one notable exception: the United States,” according to Bloomberg Law. A year into the pandemic, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package has moderates clashing with progressives in his own party, stalling change. The childcare system is already exacerbating inequalities for women and the poor. Will this continued lack of help hold back the world’s largest economy? And will help come too late to repair the damage already done?

The U.S. is clearly behind the rest of the developed world on this issue. Australia took the lead early on and provided childcare subsidies to families and financial support to childcare facilities. Childcare centers across Canada were subsidized with federal funds totaling U.S. $475.5 million. Ontario added an additional U.S. $112 million for PPP (paycheck protection programs) and staffing. In Japan and Korea, the government subsidized family leave time. In Singapore, the government offset child center fees by 50%. In both Austria and Germany, childcare benefits application rules were simplified. Child health examinations were waived in Austria. In Germany, income reporting was simplified. And, in Ireland, the government subsidized childcare provider salaries.

While the U.S. government lags behind on policies to help working families, companies can and should be acting sooner. So, what can business leaders do today to keep even more women from leaving the workforce?

  1. Engage women in conversation. Involve your female workers in designing strategic management initiatives that enable change and build resilience, including personal leadership capabilities, critical job skills and competencies, and organizational redesign. Then, take action to ensure the implementation of new policies.
  2. Revisit ideas and reset policies to allow for more flexible work arrangements. It’s all about giving women a choice about the number of days worked at home, their timeframe for commuting, expectations for meetings, email protocols, desired availability, and time-off policies.
  3. Assess current pace, productivity, and performance expectations. Ensure that goals are realistic and that employees are measured based on outcomes.
  4. Acknowledge parents. Create an environment that acknowledges the role of parents, so they don’t feel like they have to have to hide their childcare challenges from work.
  5. Fix the gender pay divide. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that women earned, on average, just 82 cents for every $1 earned by men, and their projection shows parity is not to be gained for another 30 years or more.
  6. Reexamine your benefits system. Implement time-off policies for homeschooling. Encourage employee assistance programs, bereavement support, and mental-health assistance for increased stress.
  7. Fortify communication. Model transparent two-way communication about childcare policies and issues. Leave less to interpretation when it comes to messaging, decisions, and feedback.
  8. Offer parental perks. Think about offering some perks such as kid-friendly virtual events, mental health days, and support groups for those with kids at home.
  9. Take a fresh look at paternity leave. In a recent multi-country interview with 130 new fathers and their partners, McKinsey found that parental leave can strengthen partner relationships, help to establish a shared parental role and help both a spouse’s career and the family finances.

Exploring Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees value flexible work arrangements, and companies need to get serious about offering them. Job-sharing is one form of flexible work arrangement where one’s role is fulfilled by two people. There are great benefits: schedule flexibility improved work-life balance increased productivity, and talent retention. Sharing requires workstyle fit, expertise, the right coverage, excellent communication, information sharing, and a collaborative review of results. Other flexible designs include remote working, alternating locations, meal/break flexibility, compressed workweeks, and part-time work.

While many flexible roles offer similar benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that the way they’re structured can also come with some unfortunate downsides. Unfortunately, some “part-time” options for women turn into trying to cram a full-time workload into a part-time schedule, for less pay per hour. And part-time work often means that career opportunities pass by, childcare needs don’t fit well with childcare providers’ needs, and women end up feeling left out of both working-mom and stay-at-home mom support groups. Leadership needs to be more realistic about setting the appropriate expectations for part-time positions with the entire company.

Involving Women in Designing Strategic Management Initiatives

In order to be successful at keeping more women in the workforce, companies need to make women a central part of the team — from the C-suite on down. Include women in strategic management conversations, and make changes together. The success of women, families, future generations and our global economy depend upon our corporate executives choosing to take on this kind of bold leadership.

 

Written by: Maura Thomas

Published by: Harvard Business Review

 

How to Get Your Team to Stop Asking You Every Little Question

Every Little Question

You’re finally in the flow, typing away and making progress on that strategy document. And then a team member IMs you a question. And then another one pops up. Before you know it, your afternoon is gone and you’ve made no progress. Sound familiar?

In order to make time for reflective thinking, managers need to facilitate their team members’ independence. This is especially important if your team is not physically together, because “quick questions” sent through team chat channels can otherwise be endless.

Start by analyzing the problem. What are the reasons your team members feel they need your input? Is it because they don’t have the confidence to make decisions on their own? Because they fear reprisals if they make the “wrong” decision? Because they are unqualified or inexperienced? Categorizing the types of issues can be helpful to recognizing patterns and taking corrective action.

Once you understand what they’re coming to you about, then you need to determine why, and what role you play in that. Does your behavior enable, or even encourage, your staff to bring you every little “speed bump” in their day? Does it lead them to believe that you are the only one who is authorized to solve problems or make decisions? Does the way you interact with them cause them to lack confidence in their own judgment or make the limits of their authority unclear to them? Do they have good reason to fear making a mistake?

 

Below are ideas you can implement in four specific categories that will empower your employees while promoting your own productivity.

  1. Put an emphasis on attention management.

Start by identifying whether an “open-door policy” is something that is stated or promoted in your organization. If so, make it explicit with a clear definition.

Of course, it’s important for leaders to be available to their teams. But “being available” shouldn’t come at the cost of everyone’s work being interrupted unpredictably, all throughout the day. An open-door policy was never intended to mean that anyone is available to be interrupted at any time for any reason. A better implementation is to be clear that everyone in your organization should be considered accessible, but not necessarily constantly available. Individual team members need to provide signals about when they are available to be interrupted, and when they aren’t. And the culture needs to support this undistracted work time.

In a virtual situation, encourage the team to practice attention management by periodically closing their email client, putting their phone on silent and out of sight, and setting their chat tools to “do not disturb.” You should model this behavior, because if you never do it, your team won’t either, no matter what you say.

In the office, indicate your do-not-disturb times with some sort of signal, and empower your team to do the same: You could use a do-not-disturb sign, a cubicle flag, or headphones, for example. Everyone should know what the signals are and what they mean. Then be judicious about putting them up to create undistracted work time and taking them down when you’re willing to allow interruptions.

These scenarios might seem impossible at your organization. In that case, you need to look at the way communication flows. Put a focus on creating a culture that supports asynchronous communication, where the conversation isn’t always “live” but people can chime in when it’s best for their work flow. My favorite team collaboration tool, Twist, offers a great guide for how to do that.

  1. Promote self-confidence in your staff.

Set boundaries for your employees, making sure they understand the responsibilities of their role, the types of decisions they can and should make on their own, and the general limits of their authority. Then, encourage them to find their own solutions to day-to-day problems. Instead of answering questions, try using the phrase, “I trust your judgment.” The more successful your direct reports are in solving their problems on their own, the more their confidence will grow. This is a great way to develop your team members while also increasing your own opportunities for undistracted work time.

One thing that can interfere with your team’s autonomy is if you’re the kind of manager who likes having a lot of control, and being involved in every decision. This kind of micromanaging is a burden on you and stifles your team’s growth. You can’t do everyone’s job for them, nor should you. Empower your team members to make their own decisions. If you are unsure whether you are micromanaging, ask a trusted peer or former employee to give you honest feedback.

  1. Embrace the tough decisions.

If there are employees whose judgment you don’t trust, try to understand why, so you can find remedies. Do the employees have a gap in their skill sets? Would additional training help? Is the person new to the organization? Perhaps more time is needed to “learn the ropes.” Maybe finding a mentor or “buddy” on the team would be helpful. But set a time limit on this.

Occasionally, you may find you’ve made a hiring mistake. The hardest questions to face are whether you have the right person in the wrong role, or whether the person isn’t a good fit for the organization. Don’t drag your feet here. Make it a win for you and the employee by helping the person find another role at your organization, or a new job somewhere else. This will enable you to cut your losses, as well as help develop your company’s reputation as a good place to work.

  1. Create a safe environment to make mistakes.

If there are serious, unpleasant consequences to honest mistakes, your organization has a “CYA culture,” where people aren’t coming to you because they want your input, they’re just looking for a way to shift any future blame. This will stifle growth and prevent your organization from being adaptable. Remember the old adage, “Praise in public, correct in private.” Speak to team members privately when one of their solutions does not provide the best outcome. Emphasize the idea that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Hold team members accountable to their decisions by using mistakes as teaching opportunities. Call attention to the lesson learned, and make sure it sticks, but if the decision was ethical and made in good faith, be supportive and empathetic.

By implementing these four strategies, you’ll be able to minimize interruptions from your direct reports, and you’ll create more opportunities to focus on the thoughtful work your leadership position demands. In the process, you’ll inspire confidence, innovation, and creativity in your team members. When you empower your team to work more independently, you improve as a leader and ultimately, you contribute more to the success of the organization.

 

Written by: Maura Thomas

Published by: Harvard Business Review

November 2020

As we approach Thanksgiving in a very challenging year, my hope is that you will find a few things for which to be grateful.  Personally, I am thankful for each of you (clients, friends, business connections).  Each of you has had some impact on me and helped shape me into the person I am today.  Thank you.

If you are working in the capacity of supervising others, please remember that you are helping to shape them.  You need to continue to help them grow.  One of the best ways to do this is through delegation.  They will learn new tasks, gain more confidence and become a greater asset to your organization.  I hope you all enjoy this month’s article on the topic.