A Woman’s Touch: The Hidden Secret Behind Organizational Success

  • By Liz Briggson
  • June 7th, 2021

The 2020 pandemic brought unprecedented disruption to the U.S. economy and upended some industries all together. After almost a year and half since the first lockdown, we are still adjusting to the new “normal” in the workplace. As McKinsey pointed out in their  6th consecutive annual Women in the Workplace study, women, especially those supporting children and families, felt disproportionate challenges from the pandemic. More than 25% of women in the workforce contemplated scaling back on their careers or leaving them altogether. 

This study should alarm economists and business leaders. As McKinsey has discovered in its previous studies, companies who embrace women in leadership positions consistently outperform those who do not make this a priority. If we are not able to make the proper adjustments and accommodations in our “new” work environment, we could see severe consequences on our economic performance for years to come. 

Nancy Wu, Head of Sales and Customer Success with SkyStem, recently led a one-hour webinar discussing “A Women's Touch: The Hidden Secret Behind Organizational Success.” We recapped the key points below to provide a fresh perspective on how organizations can create an environment in the new economy to help women thrive. 

Reset Norms Around Flexibility

While the concept of flexibility received airtime prior to the pandemic, the past 15 months have demanded an entirely different level of agility. 

What does it look like to re-establish work/life boundaries moving forward? Perhaps it’s establishing set days for in-office meetings and staffing projects to allow for a more reasonable pace of work. It might look like structing work hours to make it possible for parents to pick up their children from school or for dog-lovers to take their pup out for an afternoon stroll. 

When it comes to flexibility, we can all acknowledge there is no one-size-fits all solution. Leaders can and should empower their teams to design their work week in the way that fits their own unique lives. And leaders should praise employees who are successful at this and do the same. 

Update the Performance Review Process

In a workplace where commitment is no longer measured by who arrives at the office earliest and who leaves latest, managers receive a greater responsibility to set clear performance objectives. The performance review process truly becomes about productivity and results, rather than perceived commitment measured by hours. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers’s study, the Female Millennial, provides key insights into refreshing performance reviews. The study found the majority of survey participants preferred frequent feedback over end of project recaps and formal performance reviews. Our webinar guests commented that these desires are shared by other generations, too. 

Nancy highlighted survey findings that encourage performance conversations to take place in person and focus on both past performance and future development. And one last take-away on this topic: Be sure to share any changes to performance expectations or reviews with your team. No one likes to be left in the dark, especially when it comes to something so personal as performance.

Implement Policies and Programs to Better Support Employees

Supporting employees first entails dropping all assumptions. For example, would you think to classify international assignments as a workplace program sought after by a majority of millennial women? Nancy shared a statistic from PwC’s study that 71% of the female millennials surveyed would like to work outside their home country at some point in their career (currently women only fill approximately 20% of international assignment roles). 

Other policies and programs to explore are a bit more domestic than sending a staff member to your affiliate in Switzerland. Start by considering stipends to offset the costs of working from home, increasing paid leave, and implementing periodic days off. Who doesn’t love a bonus Friday off to visit the dry cleaner, go shopping, and take a spin class?

When considering flexibility, reviews, and programs to help keep women (and all employees) better engaged in the workplace, keep the full picture in focus. These initiatives are not only kind, but they may also be the very actions that keep women in the workplace altogether. 

In their Women in the Workplace study, McKinsey and LeanIn suggest the COVID-19 crisis could set women back half a decade. By taking the actions above, perhaps the corporate talent pipeline may have a chance at becoming balanced at all levels of the organization. The bottom-line is don’t make women feel like they are forced to choose between their professional and personal lives. The way we re-design our workplaces for today will shape corporate performance over the next 20-30 years and beyond. We can’t afford not to make the necessary adjustments to empower women to thrive. 

We invite you to join us on June 10 for SkyStem’s upcoming webinar:  Nailing It! Secrets Behind Process Improvement Success in Finance.

About SkyStem
Headquartered in the heart of New York City, SkyStem delivers a powerful month-end close solution for organizations seeking to streamline their financial processes. The company’s flagship solution, ART, is an enterprise technology that helps CFOs and Controllers shorten the month-end close and the time to issue financials by automating balance sheet reconciliations, managing month-end tasks, performing flux / P&L variance analysis and providing insightful reporting. The web-based solution streamlines and eliminates up to 90% of manual activities while strengthening internal controls and corporate governance.

Visit https://skystem.com/ to learn more. 

  • Women leaders
About the author
Liz Briggson
Liz Briggson

Liz is a licensed CPA in the state of Michigan and a member of the Encoursa team. Liz also provides business valuation consulting services and is actively involved in the Grand Rapids, MI business community through the Association for Corporate Growth.

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