The Great Leaders You Might be Leaving Out

Re-entering the formal workforce after years starting and supporting a family was a daunting prospect. I had chosen to throw myself wholeheartedly into managing a household, moving back and forth internationally, juggling an entrepreneurial art career, and raising a young child. Each year the obstacle of returning to an office seemed more and more challenging with a longer gap on my resume, then came the pandemic, so I delayed my return.

However, in the process of becoming a mother and navigating international moves, I gained a completely new identity, strength in areas I didn’t even know existed, and an ability to create effective processes. Would anyone in the workplace understand or even acknowledge this growth that happened inside of me during these years outside of a traditional office? I wasn’t so sure anyone would.

This isn’t a story unique to myself, there is a reoccurring v-shaped employment pattern for women during times like the summer where childcare challenges are more present. In fact, around 10 million US mothers living with their school-age children were not actively working in January 2021 of the pandemic due to the industries many women work in, and due to the extreme childcare challenges of shut-downs during COVID. This drastic shift in women leaving the workforce has not only negatively impacted the career trajectory for many women, but has also negatively impacted the businesses and organizations they left. What left along with these women was their talent and institutional knowledge.

Recent research by Angela Passarelli and Spela Trefalt has brought to light a staggering reality: the ‘Motherhood Penalty.” An article profiling this research by Elizabeth Weingarten describes this phenomena as employers not understanding the link between “new mother,” and “leadership potential,” instead thinking that motherhood leads to a depreciation in leadership skills.

Weingarten, E. (2022, May 4). This may be the way to cancel the ‘motherhood penalty’ and develop leaders. Fast Company.

Are there some resumes sitting in the stack with gaps from time away from the workforce to raise a family that haven’t even been considered? Are there women on your team juggling daycare drop offs and pickups after sleepless nights that might have an extraordinary ability to multitask, persevere through challenges, AND read the room in an instant that could potentially lead a team to new heights?

Weingarten says Neuroscience research suggests that, “[…] new parents undergo changes in their brain that allow them to be more present, to empathize with others to collaborate more effectively, and even to respond to stress in a more adaptive way.”

Luckily for me, our CEO and President Diana Rivenburgh saw that there were unique skills I’d honed in the years of early motherhood that could be an asset. She not only hired me onto the team, but has consistently worked to mentor, coach, and provide resources for me to translate the leadership skills I learned becoming a mother. If more leaders had the same awareness and understanding that not only are these skills transferrable to the professional arena, but could potentially be an asset, the script on motherhood and leadership potential could be completely flipped.

This coaching I’ve received from Diana is exactly the kind of coaching that Passarelli and Trefalt’s research suggests can support mothers through this transitional period of their careers and impact women’s desire to stay in the workplace after returning from leave. Maternal coaching can change the story on the role of motherhood and its impact on leadership qualities and close the gap of retaining talented employees in the transitional period of early motherhood.

So how can leaders make this shift to maternal coaching, and when?

Passarelli suggests a coaching program should, “start as soon as the pregnancy begins […] That’s when the identity shift happens, that’s when [women] begin to face major inequities at work […].”

Passarelli and Trefalt also recommend that coaching be provided to both women AND their managers which could help a manager avoid well-intentioned behaviors driven by sexism.

The key takeaways exist mainly in awareness of leaders who have young mothers or new mothers on their team. When leaders shift their own mindset and view motherhood as an asset for leadership rather than a roadblock, cultural change can occur throughout the organization.

One way to easily make sure young mothers or new mothers aren’t being screened out of the hiring process or the leadership ladder would be to assess your employees on the drives, needs and talents they bring to the table rather than their status as a parent or the gaps on their resume.

It has been a true privilege to work for Diana and with our clients at Strategic Imperatives to help leaders gain awareness, institute fair and repeatable hiring practices that consider all candidates, and to find those with the best fit for their organizations and the role. Beyond the job offer, the best leaders and managers institute strong onboarding, development, coaching and mentoring practices to engage and develop employees throughout their career trajectory. It’s a win-win for these organizations and their people.

Go past the resume and assess candidates based on their fit to a role, their needs and drives in the workplace, and the unique talents they bring into the workplace.

Build awareness before you hire by signing up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution. You can take the guesswork out of hiring, hire better employees, and create fair and repeatable hiring practices!

Works Cited:

MISTY L. HEGGENESS, J. F. (2021). Tracking Job Losses for Mothers of School-Age Children During a Health Crisis. United States Census Bureau.

Weingarten, E. (2022, May 4). This may be the way to cancel the ‘motherhood penalty’ and develop leaders. Fast Company.

Stop the Guesswork of Hiring: Put the Right People in the Right Seats

A recent study revealed that a staggering 76% of executives do not believe they have the right people throughout their company to execute their business strategy.

CEOs, CHROs and other business leaders I speak with feel the pain when they can’t find the right people or keep the talent they have. One CEO client described finding and keeping good people as a “life or death” risk for his business. Desperate times don’t need to resort to desperation hiring. A lack of alignment causes great pain in organizations. Alignment starts by putting the right people in every role.

The good news is that leaders who believe they have the right people to execute their business strategy are experiencing 42% less turnover than those lacking the right talent.

Here are a few ways you can align people to jobs with the right people in the right seats:

Get fully aligned on what the job is before you determine the candidate requirements

Before jumping in to describe the years of experience or education required, start by getting really clear on what the job functions are. What will this person be doing that’s important and common to the role? It’s more important look for equivalent experience, skills and the right behavioral and cognitive match for the job than whether or not the candidate has a degree. Make sure all those involved in the hiring process are fully aligned on the position and the candidate qualifications.

For more than a decade IBM has been eliminating the need for a degree as a job requirement for many of its jobs. According to its CHRO, about 50% of US jobs no longer require a degree. They are more concerned with the skills, experience and fit for the job and their culture. NEC had this practice in place in the 1990s for just about all US positions including at the leadership level.

Select for fit aligned with all key aspects of the job

Having the right background on paper won’t matter if there’s a poor fit with the job duties. Assessment instruments appropriate for selection such as the behavioral and cognitive tools provided by The Predictive Index provide rich information on the candidate and how well they align to the position profile. For instance, a sales position may call for someone with more of a “hunter” profile than a “farmer.”

Understand fit with the team, the manager and the culture

Beyond aligning to the job, explore how the candidate might fit with the manager, the team and the company’s culture. Here’s a resource for insights on how different styles lead, work and operate within a team.  Consider if you need more of the same types of styles on a team or if greater diversity of styles might bring some balance and fill gaps. Your questions should certainly explore a cultural fit and alignment with the organization’s values.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution while you can to help you take the guesswork out of hiring!

Attract Diverse Candidates

You may think you are already struggling to fill positions on teams with qualified, available candidates, yet alone those with diverse backgrounds. However, you may be overlooking great opportunities to attract and retain diverse talent and create more inclusive cultures. Consider practices you can take to uncover bias and gaps in your current talent acquisition approaches. Expand your view of diversity beyond visible traits of gender and race to include those with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and multiple generations. Remove any non-essential requirements from your job postings that may serve to discourage diverse applicants. Expand your recruitment sources to add other organizations, geographies and educational institutions.

Be extra diligent when hiring leaders and managers

Leaders and managers have a direct and profound impact not only on business results, but also on culture. It’s easier to get a sense of a candidate’s background and experience than it is to ascertain their leadership style. Understanding the styles of the team members may also reveal how different leaders can align with and shape the results and performance of the existing team. Structured interview questions, pre-hire behavioral and cognitive assessments and careful reference checking can come together to reveal traits that can make or break parts of your business.

For heaven’s sake, train interviewers to interview effectively!

Come on now – we’ve all been candidates being interviewed by people who had horrible selection skills. Years of interviewing experience doesn’t necessarily translate to doing it well. It’s a mystery to me why we leave critical hiring decisions in the hands of people who have not been properly trained. Train leaders, managers and talent acquisition professionals to probe deeply to understand a candidate’s experience and style using structured interviews, explore the individual’s motivations as they move through their career and tap into the rich data a valid behavioral assessment provides. IBM currently requires all those involved in the interview and selection process to be certified in the “Select for IBM” program. The training reinforces looking for skills over degrees and eliminating some of the bias that can appear in the selection process.

It’s time to power up the Talent Acquisition strategy, team and tools!

It’s never been more important to have a highly qualified, professional talent acquisition team, strategy and tools in place. No longer is the “recruiter” simply an entry level role for the Human Resources department. It’s time to up the game and get beyond “post and pray”.

These tips combine methods and tools to help you fit the right people in the right seat, aligned with your organization’s values. And yes, I’m passionate about assessments! I’ve used them for decades and would not ever hire anyone to work for or with me without them. I included Predictive Index solutions into the Strategic Imperatives solutions because I experienced the power of these tools and analytics as a PI client. Interested in checking these out? Use this link to take a Behavioral Assessment for yourself. It will take just about 6 minutes and you’ll find great value in the insights!

Here are some other really useful (and free) resources to check out:

Download this Guide to Structured Interviews e-book to power up your interview process with these key steps

Sources: Beyond more years of experience than I often admit to, here are several sources used to inform this blog and well worth looking at:

The State of Talent Optimization 2022 Report. 300+ executives reveal the cost of the “Big Quit” and the top drivers of employee retention.

Why IBM Chooses Skills Over Degrees. A Conversation With Nickle LaMoreaux
Chief Human Resources Officer for IBM, CHRO CONVERSATIONS, GALLUP, APRIL 13, 2021

Woods, Arthur, The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2021

Get the Most from Your One-on-One Meetings

Communication constantly swirls around us in a barrage of text, slack, chat, social and email.  While these can be quite useful and quick, none will substitute for the powerful impact of a one-on-one meeting a leader or manager has with team member.  Yet too many of these meetings fail to make an impact and may come across as just another appointment on the calendar.  Each one-on-one meeting presents a stellar opportunity for alignment and impact.  

The most impactful one-on-one meetings embrace a dual purpose around the person AND the work.  They provide opportunities to solve problems, engage in strategic discussions and check in on key projects.  From a person-centered perspective, they also show team members that you care about them and are supportive of their career and development goals.  

Here are some tips for making these meetings most impactful for you, the employee and the organization:

1. Schedule regular meetings and respect this time.   

Determine a frequency that works best based on the size of your team, the roles and how often it makes sense for individual meetings.   Knowing there is regular time on the calendar may prevent some daily interruptions.  Show up on time and stay the full time.  If you must cancel, provide advance notice and reschedule in the very near term.  

2. Determine priority topics.   

While a formal agenda might not be necessary, you may get in the habit of sharing topics to discuss in advance important to either of you.  Some may be recurring themes while allowing time for other pressing topics.  At the start of your meeting, you can compare topics and perhaps even agree on time for each.  “Let’s go through these two items in the first 10 minutes so we can spend the rest of the time doing a deeper dive on the third topic.” 

3. Be present and create positive energy.  

Focus fully during the meeting to make the most of the time together and demonstrate you value the individual and their time.  Turn off the phone and alerts coming from your email, calendar and data-generating watch.  Start on a positive note with a compliment or acknowledgement of a recent win or effort.  Beginning with positive energy helps to open the dialogue and put the person at ease.

4. Solve problems and surface solutions.  

One-on-one meetings can be useful to dig deeper into challenges and collaborate on potential solutions.  You may ask the employee in advance to come up with ideas on a challenge the department faces or to describe the challenges they are facing and come up with ideas for solutions.  You’ll discover how the employee solves problems and will learn more about what’s happening a level or two deeper in the organization.  You can use this discussion to offer input and feedback and to identify road blocks that you can remove at your level.   

5. Dig deeper on strategic questions.  

Too many meetings cover issues at a surface, fire-fighting level. When grappling with more strategic issues, you may want to pose a question or topic in advance to allow the person time to gather thoughts.  These could be questions about a product or service, opportunities the company may be missing, a key customer or planning for the leadership offsite.  

6. Be a person talking with a person.  

Engaging as one person to another brings humanity to the discussion.  Everyone has personal challenges and celebrations.  Taking time to share something about you and asking about their life can encourage them to be open if they are facing a stressful situation.  People want to feel a sense of psychological safety and be vulnerable from time to time.  When you as the leader express vulnerability, you provide unspoken permission for your employees to do the same.

7. Engage on career goals and professional development.  

While coaching, feedback and learning often happen in moments of interaction, it’s important to also devote some focused time on development conversations.  This may be every meeting, or every other or in certain sessions.  Provide the individual with a heads up if the topic will be about development.  These personal conversations often require a bit of reflection by the individual to feel prepared.  During the meeting, ask focused, open-ended questions to encourage the employee to express their goals, experiences and challenges.  Ask what you can do to assist.  Offer up ideas after the individual has had a chance to speak to avoid shutting down the dialogue.  Express your confidence in their ability to continue to learn and grow.

8. Align, summarize, and clarify.  

It’s helpful to summarize any agreements you’ve made to ensure you are on the same page.  Include any action items each of you agreed to and clarify the timeframe and follow up.  Referring to commitments from the last meeting encourages accountability for the employee and for your own actions.

9. Acknowledge and appreciate.  

Leave a few minutes at the end of the meeting to express appreciation and acknowledge ideas and efforts.  Avoid generic or inauthentic phrases.  If there’s something specific to recognize, say it.  “I appreciate what you’ve done to ….”   In any case, simply pausing for a few seconds and saying “Thank you” shows you value the person and the interaction you’ve just had.  

Recognizing that the greatest threats to an organization’s success often come from a lack of alignment, the one-on-one meeting provides a venue to get aligned around the work and set up an environment for the individual to thriveLeadership requires balancing numerous paradoxes.  Aligning the human and results-driven factors may be among the most critical and the most rewarding.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution while you can to help you take the guesswork out of hiring!

5 Ways to Stop the Great Quit

With 4.2 million Americans quitting their jobs in October 2021 alone, attracting and retaining workers rises to the top as a critical business priority.  Savvy leaders recognize that this is not just about people quitting.  It’s a worker revolution where people have greater flexibility to determine where, how and when they want to work.  These factors and more present CxO leaders with an opportunity and a responsibility to realign their business and talent practices. 

Has the Great Resignation impacted your business?  If so, you’re not alone.  Over 300 executives surveyed by The Predictive Index shared their insights about The Great Resignation summarized in the 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report .  The “Big Quit” is top of mind, and executives across industries are feeling the sting. Executives reported that one in five workers have quit in the last six months, and 75% of execs say it has impacted their financial stability. 

Top 5 Ways to Terminate Turnover:

On a positive note, the report revealed five turnover terminators to combat these challenges: 

1. Companies with the right people in the right roles have 42% lower turnover.

Most of us have experienced the pain of hiring the wrong person for a role.  Relying on resumes, the usual sources and “gut feeling” sets you up for retention roulette risking hiring someone who doesn’t fit the role, the team or your culture. The tight labor market brings desperation hiring to the forefront.  Aligning the right people in the right roles should be every leader’s dream. Building a company of top performers (and keeping them) starts with putting the right people in the right roles. People with a solid fit to their job, team and company culture are more engaged, more committed and more likely to perform well. 

2. Remote-friendly companies are experiencing 33% lower turnover.

Leaders of fully on-site organizations (either by necessity or by choice) reported a turnover rate of 24%. That number drops to 16% among remote-friendly organizations (i.e., those that support hybrid or remote work in any capacity)—that’s an eight percent decline (and 33 percent change).

A September 2020 global study by Steelcase revealed that while most people want to work from home to a degree, most also want an opportunity to come back to the office.   54% of US respondents say they expect to work from home one day a week or less; 26% say they expect to work from home just two to three days per week.

Bringing them back to the same old office, work environment and hours won’t cut it.  Leaders who take this massive shift as an opportunity to create better work experiences, inspire and engage people and help teams work together better in the future. 

3. Companies that prioritize health care benefits experience 27% lower turnover.

This pandemic-era work experience has not only brought forth physical health concerns related to Covid-19, it has also revealed behavioral health concerns as employees grapple with family challenges, isolation from social circles, financial challenges and more.   Desired healthcare benefits have moved beyond easy and affordable access to medical care.  These extend beyond the physical, into the realm of emotional health. Employees also value having a healthy workplace. Companies reporting that providing competitive health care benefits isn’t a top-three talent priority, executives reported a 22% turnover rate. By contrast, companies where healthcare benefits are a priority, the attrition rate falls to 16%—a six-point decrease (and 27 percent change).

4. Inclusive companies are experiencing 19% lower turnover.

Beyond physical safety at work, people also crave psychological safety.  The want to feel safe to freely share ideas with bosses and colleagues who will listen and value their perspectives. That feeling is so important, it’s making the difference between a quit and a stay.  Beyond illuminating the importance of healthcare, the pandemic put inequity in all forms in the spotlight.  Improving diversity is only the part of the equation.  Inclusion goes beyond diversity to embrace all voices and all experiences.  Doing so helps to reduce turnover. 

5. Companies practicing talent optimization are nearly twice as likely to avoid the brunt of The Great Resignation.

Talent optimization simply means ensuring your business and talent strategies are aligned.  When your talent is equipped to execute on business strategy, it means you’re leveraging each person’s natural strengths—and optimizing their potential. That’s what talent optimization is all about.  Successful businesses don’t run themselves.  Even the most well-crafted strategy requires the right people and practices to execute well.  Aligning both talent and business strategies includes designing the right teams and structure, hiring the right people for each role, inspiring them by providing development and coaching opportunities and keeping your finger on the pulse of your workforce by diagnosing and uncovering aspects of disengagement in teams or the organization. 

Read this insightful report to discover how executives are tackling The Great Resignation.  Ask us how we can help you to future-proof your organization. 

Future blogs in this series will dive more deeply into each of these areas with recommendations and resources. To identify the best actions for you to take for your company, first, quantify the talent problems you are facing and the impact on your business.  Next, identify the root causes driving workers to quit and to remain.  Then implement targeted, aligned magnetic workforce strategies to attract, engage and retain the best people for your organization. 

Contact us to learn how we can help you create, align and optimize your business and talent strategies.  Visit our Resources section for other useful articles, tools and reports.   

Sources:

The 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report by The Predictive Index, January 2022.

The Great Resignation Doesn’t Have to Threaten Your DE&I Efforts by Arthur Woods, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2021

Work Better:  It’s time for an experience that’s fundamentally better, Steelcase.  Work Experience Diagnostic Study conducted in September 2020 by Steelcase in 10 countries.