“A society that does not establish pathways to leadership for all its citizens is a society that is denying itself a possibility of excellence.”
I have been inspired to write this article following some engagements I had with my professional women colleagues who are in the business sector. Working women are said to face challenges and obstacles in the workplace than their male counterparts. Women who have children tend to experience more demands on time, energy and resources and in spite of these many challenges women still succeed. Women also struggle to find better ways to balance work and life and often this guilt comes from outside forces like pressure from husband, family and friends. More and more studies are being released that reveal these challenges women face in the office compared to male counterparts.
According to my colleagues, gender equality has been talked about, mainstreamed in all developmental projects but pointers are still there showing that this imbalance still vividly exists. The task to emancipate these women from some of the socially driven perceptions about women roles and abilities in the workplace seems to lie on organisational leaders. Why this imperative on organisational leaders?
Some of these challenges emanate from the fact that society has drawn gender lines early and the exclusion of women has continued throughout adulthood. Unfortunately, this discrimination has not only remained in the private sector but even in the public sector as well. Even in those instances where women have higher degrees than men, they are still passed over for low jobs that go to less educated and less qualified males and also receive less compensation than men for the same job. A study by UNDP confirmed this position.
It has been argued that while explicit gender bias may have largely disappeared from the workplace due to tougher legislation and increased focus on diversity issues, challenges still remain that take a different shape and form from those encountered by prior generations of women. According to my colleagues in most organisations women have to put more effort than their male peers in order to earn recognition and praise. Such perceptions have led women to overwork themselves just for thumbs up. One woman said she worked as the only senior member of management team in an organisation for eight years. She said, ‘I found many times my contributions had to be significantly larger than my male counterparts to rent a public acceptance in front of various audiences’. She said this antiquated perception of women at work led to uncomfortable and gendered office relationships. She said during her eight years stint another woman then joined the organisation and upon seeing the subtle engendered behaviour she remarked to her, “stand up for yourself next time and you need to develop thick skin to tolerate the inappropriate judgements and comments.”
Such examples still do point to the reality women still face in organisations. To solve these challenges in the workplace, as employers we need to shift mindsets. Even at the national level, it is not enough to go through the motions with anti-harassment policies that do not really change practices. As leaders the challenge is to start thinking outside of stereotypes and evaluate individuals based on their work and value they bring to the organisation. Leaders should start thinking of making use of flexible working hours so that the absence of the woman on national duty whilst on maternity leave is not viewed otherwise. It is known that the attitude of a company starts at top and when we the leadership take action to reduce the daily challenges and help women feel more comfortable with their roles, that is when a culture can change.
One women corporate challenge which remains is that of sexual harassment. My colleagues argued that this is a real and persistent problem but one which can be actually very hard to identify.
While experts preach about where women have come from, it is unfortunate that stereotypes and outdated notions of traditions remain prevalent in modern corporate culture with glass ceilings continuing to be created for women. Pink collar jobs like cosmetology, waitressing and secretarial continue to be reinforced as women work. Who says!
For the leadership it is worth noting that several studies continue emerging highlighting the great strides women have made in terms of upward mobility. There are however still walls to be breached and hurdles to be crossed when it comes to true equality of women in the workplace. Together with the achieved strides, leaders in companies should start communicating the benefits that gender diversity has for individual employees, customers, organisations and the society at large. Continual gender bias affects talent planning, hiring, promotions and performance management. McKinsey and Company conducted a study “Women Matter” and it did provide factual evidence that supports that higher involvement of women in the corporate world leads to organisational stronger financial performance, improved corporate governance and stronger assessment of risk. Think about itǃ
Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com
When certain employees choose to leave an organisation, it is sometimes a disappointment to others, while for some it is indeed good riddance. For the organisation, this trend should be more than just the ordinary ebb and flow of business. Is it not worth knowing why employees are leaving?
Exit interviews provide factual information that can be used to improve controllable retention factors. For any leader always bear in mind that opinion, emotions and feelings are valid. Such interviews always give management the best opportunities to receive unfiltered feedback as departing employees have nothing to lose. When such information is received by the company leadership, maintain an open mind to possibilities and potential areas needing attention. It is important to combine this feedback with stay interviews. This will facilitate discussions and present an opportunity to evaluate our leadership skills, relationship between the organisational leadership and its workforce, policies and assist in strategic planning interventions. The intent of the stay interviews is to focus on the lived experiences of current employees and what they would like their future to hold with the organisation. Unfortunately, few leaders are interested in this strategic imperative. Even the Human Capital departments who are custodians of such policies do not really prioritise this process. This is actually grievous.
Interestingly, in the Zimbabwean context exist interviews are viewed differently in the corporate sector. The majority of organisations interviewed on the implementation of this tool are not prepared to listen to anything that comes from a disgruntled employee leaving. Unfortunately for most of our entities, the general practice has been when an employee gives notice; there is a tendency of negotiating the employee out faster. Once done, the processes of job posting, advertising and selection of candidates starts, giving no attention at all to the person who is leaving! Despite the many advantages organisational realise by conducting such interviews most organisations do not seem to hold this practice high. Empirically, it has been noted that replacing an employee cost on average 21% of their salary.
Leaders, make it a practice to collect the data but not as an end but the means to the end. Human Capital departments upon collecting the raw data from the exit interviews must use it to come up with easy to interpret tools such as excel pivotal tables. Such collated information will inform the improvement plans that ensue. It is also good business practice to link the exit data to the organisational strategy as a way to assist in measuring the effectiveness of an organisational human capital strategy to key areas such as recruitment and training, performance and leadership issues. Organisations prioritising change will definitely employ the use of such a technique. While management are struggling with introducing improvements in organisations, it is also true that the competitive pressures keep getting worse despite the improvements in programs and processes. The pace of change keeps accelerating and organisations continue pouring executive energy into the search for higher level of quality and devices and overall business agility. The answer to some of these pressures could be lying in some of those very soft issues of management which maybe redressed through feedback revealed from exit interviews.
Human capital gurus writing on current human resources management have stated over and over again that senior management is being increasingly faced with that challenge to create a sense of fulfilment in employees. While institutions like the communities and families which once provided individuals with identity, affiliation, meaning and support are eroding, only the work place has remained the primary means to personal fulfilment. Making use of exit interviews provide that platform where managers show employees that they have recognised and responded to that reality where employees do not just want to work for a company but to belong to it. So, when such an employee leaves an organisation on their own volition, exit interviews will help management understand those deep personal drivers propelling an employee to leave their family. Hence it is increasingly becoming the responsibility of corporate leaders to establish and maintain a link with each of its employees. Making use of exit interviews helps leadership to attain their objective of changing the employer/employee relationship from one in which employees feel they work for a company to that which recognises them as belonging to an organisation.
Exit interviews are so important and are highly effective when managers look for trends and act on them. Introduce best practices like ‘new trends’ quarterly meetings with key executives to discuss why people are leaving. Consider this feedback as a gift and never ask for this feedback if you are not prepared to change the issues. Once trends are established try and also look for trends beyond the interview and tie these with anonymous surveys data to get a full picture. There will indeed be a change on the bottom line!
Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted atTel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com
Today’s businesses are faced with a challenge to either innovate or fall behind. This is how simple the competitive imperative for all businesses is today. The primary difference between losers and winners in business will be the ability to respond to the pace of change. While winners will be able to adapt and act quickly, losers may try to spend time trying to control and master change. It is in this context that we wish to debate the concept and practice of open plan offices which is still at an infancy phase in Zimbabwe and is viewed with a lot of scepticism in some organisations.
In an open plan space layout, there are no distinct rooms or fully enclosed spaces. Workspaces are positioned together sometimes separated by short screens or panels.
The business benefits have been the openness of communication among workers as well as collaboration hence removing the silo mentality. Other advantages to organisations include the increase in collaboration and relationship building. This is considered the biggest benefit to breaking down the literal walls as staff can share ideas and ask for input. In sectors like the Developmental sector, the need to break down silos became evident when staff working on projects were developing tendencies of personalising projects as well as the need to mainstream cross cutting themes in programs. The introduction of cross cutting themes in projects, resulted in different experts having to work together on one project which immensely improved projects impacts and reach. In addition, these structural changes facilitated the building of effective relationships and interactions. As virtual teams work on project proposals, they had to be in one room to ensure that components of their expertise were all included in the project. The advantages of this approach has had far reaching results as the playing field was levelled and all parties were brought to common ground. Equally, in other sectors putting employees in a common room allows for improved performance as employees are able to track activities and do follow ups with ease. That consistent intermingling does not only generate a sense of oneness or camaraderie but also enhances information flow.
Additionally, open space layout has seen employees work together better as well as help save money. Economically, open space plans make more business sense. Organisations pay less for electricity as well as acquisition of heating and cooling conditions and other office utilities. Resources can be shared by a number of employees in one location. Even when employees’ needs evolve, these can easily be accommodated as staff are housed in one place.
Studies done on the use of Open Plan offices have also shown an improvement in employee health. In most organisations we normally have cases where some staff develop health problems like back pro, eye sight and arthritis challenges because employees in their offices spend the day hunched over their computers. While the open plan set up gets employees to move around more often as they consult and share information. Bigger offices also allow in more sunlight from windows and improve air quality through increased air flow in a way that makes the work space more aesthetically pleasing.
However, embracing these architectural structures on their own without the supporting infrastructure may also pose huge challenges. The high levels of everyday interactions in an undivided room may lead to noise and distraction that may make it difficult for employees to focus on their work and conduct business. Also lack of privacy is another potential problem as computer screens are easily visible by those walking. Telephone conversations can provide very good breeding ground to eavesdroppers hence may result in strenuous relationships. Legal and ethical issues may stem from the compromised confidentiality in regards to clients and colleagues. Diseases also spread fast and easily e.g. flue and coughs can end up affecting the entire staff and fear of spreading such diseases may increase absenteeism. The noise and other distractions can result in lower productivity and reduced concentration.
Our view, however, Businesses need not be deterred from moving with times because of the highlighted downsides.
We recommend that those organisations that have not tried the open space strategy with their teams to give it a shot. The Development sector, Financial institutions and others have embraced the open plan office layout and have realised the desired results.
Leadership provides a pivotal role in organisation set ups. It is that ability to portray a great vision and our acknowledgement of followers that helps in maximising performance. Our followers are inspired by us and would aim at achieving beyond their expectations through the guidance we provide as well as provision of an environment of trust. Organisations with effective leaders stand a chance of realising increased profitability and performance.
What then is the impact to the whole organisation when a leader is heard saying, ‘I cannot stand so and so.’ or worse still, ‘I cannot stand him for no apparent reason!’ As leaders how are we relating to these unfiltered thoughts? In most cases leaders are known to frustrate the employee in an effort to get rid of them and with the current provisions of the Labour Act number 5/ 2015, the hatched idea will definitely materialise by giving the particular employee a three months’ notice thereby closing the door in their face.
It is a leadership role and responsibility to mentor and manage every person in their team whether we like them personally or not. As leaders we need to bear in mind that we are expected and have to be seen to exercise emotional intelligence. It will therefore be grievous and inhuman to start making notes every time the employee does something that makes you cringe. It is not at all professional to treat an employee in this manner, rather try and understand what is it about them that drives you crazy. Remember your least favoured employees see how you interact with the rest of the team. Would it be wrong then for the employee to view you as subjective? Employees who suffer these challenges have no nice words about their bosses because they clearly know that you do not like them. Other employees would proffer solutions like, “Why can‘t you take your boss for lunch so that you try and understand each other?”.
As the least favoured employee trying to address an issue with the boss is usually hard. In the process, you would see them grin or quickly dismiss you which could be their tactic to keep your mind off how annoyed they were at the conversation. Such leaders may also ask issues beyond your job scope to humiliate you.
But for leaders who want to build strong teams, there are ways to manage someone you do not like as opposed to openly micromanaging them, sideling and bullying them. It is worth to note that employees in organisations complain about incompetent bosses, or dysfunctional co-workers as well as irritating and hateful direct reports. It will be easier for leaders to note that their jobs will be simpler if they liked everyone on their team. However, this is not necessarily the best as such team members fall victim to the comfortable clone syndrome. Leaders successful at fostering innovation endeavour grating different approaches through a productive process of creative abrasion. People liking each other is not necessarily a component of organisational success! But it is no basis to dislike employees for no apparent reason! Relatedly, as leaders we need to note that it is not possible to build a team comprised entirely of people we would invite to a backyard braai. Gurus in business management say from a performance stand point, liking employees you manage too much is a bigger problem than disliking them. It is often those we do not like that prompt new insights and help propel the group to succeed. Instead of spending time thinking how irritating the person is, as a leader focus on why you are reacting the way you are. Ask yourself this question; is the individual a real problem or maybe they just remind you of someone you do not like? Try to be honest with yourselves as leaders. It is far easier to change your perspective than to ask someone to be a different person. Rather seek out the positive in a person since there is no one who is 100% annoying. Given their talents, and their limits, consider what is it that they can do that would be best for the team. You need to be vigilant about keeping your bias out of the evaluation and compensation processes. If not managed well such biased outcomes can result is serious litigation process which are usually costly to the organisation. Ask yourself if you are sticking by the standard you use for other people. If not, you need to seek counsel from another employee who is familiar with the work the disliked employee does. Let them play the devil’s advocate.
It is good as leaders that we appreciate that we don’t view leadership as a solo adventure. Leadership is very muck akin to a team sport. Instead of using your dislike as a catalyst to procedurally fire them, consider staffing them to serve as your right hand person and where possible consider changing yourselves rather than wanting to change the whole world.
Although gender diversity has been a hot topic in the workplace and a corporate priority for many years, women participation in the labour market has not significantly increased. The same can also be said about women inclusion in formal economic activities. In Zimbabwe, a study entitled Gender Access to Financial Services in Zimbabwe was commissioned by an organisation called New Faces New Voices which is a Pan African advocacy network together with the Central Bank and GIZ substantiated the sentiments above. The main objective of the study was to provide an in-depth analysis that would support the formulation of policies and private sector strategies to expand the role and participation of women in the financial services sector. Empirically, a growing number of countries are adopting measures to increase women ‘s representation on corporate Boards and in senior executive roles, however, the progress has been slow. In Zimbabwe, we now have a National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) running from 2016-2020 that came after the realisation of the above and the need to achieving gender parity in leadership roles in the economy. Additionally, research has also shown that there is a strong economic rationale for making progress on women representation in the corporate domain.
It’s clear that the stage has been set and it is now time for the business leadership to start implementing such best practices in organisations. The question to us leaders is: what are we doing in our various corporate worlds to make sure women inclusion as a means to the desired end is mainstreamed in all organisational policies, practices and systems. While a lot seems to be happening globally and specifically in the Financial sector in Zimbabwe, what have the other sectors done to demonstrate their conviction on the need to increase the women representation on corporate Boards and senior Executive roles?
In order that organisations do not continually lag behind and miss that turning point to change, we recommend that corporates should individually start critically analysing those economic and social drivers around women inclusion that increase shareholders returns. There are propositions around gender staffing as some of the means to the end. However, as leaders we also need to note that such policies and practices can only yield the desired results if there is the supporting infrastructure like an organisational culture of inclusion. We recommend that the HR functions should start identifying those underlying models of the company’s way of doing business that focuses on women as the drivers to real change. Organisations should start analysing how many female vis a vis male employees are in their staff compliments. Finally, for this inclusion agenda to succeed there is need for shared values.
Leaders should bear in mind that organisational culture of inclusion will encompass more than having policies but actual processes and governance systems that provide and implement this diversity. Again, it is that time for our organisational HR policies and practices to practically start promoting this gender equality at different levels in the organisation including means to moving into managerial positions by women. Globally, organisations working towards this drive are already implementing the supporting interventions although the lead has been mostly in the Developmental and Financial sectors.
It’s now topical that every sector of the economy must work on challenging social norms, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that perpetuate gender inequalities. Overview, however, is that there is no panacea to this women inclusion agenda. Each organisation therefore needs to develop its internal gender inclusive policies particularly those that enhance staff performance or enable the opening of new business markets. Such gender inclusive organisational policies should be built into the specific gender needs and objectives of your organisations.
In conclusion, the wide range of research available regarding the business case for gender inclusion is indicative of the growing acceptance of diversity as a core ingredient to build sustainable , global and profitable organisations. However, the steps, tools and expertise required to achieve gender inclusion are not always defined hence it is critical for leaders in organisations to develop their own value chain actors. Alongside, develop gender inclusion strategies that will help female Managers to serve that untapped market of female consumer markets so as to enable the development of company products specific to women needs. Where possible nominate gender champions to drive the process. Research has also underscored the need for business to translate gender inclusion concept into action by designing and piloting strategies and operations in order to build tailored approaches to generate inclusivity for business across industries and sectors.