When asked whether they wanted to stay with their organization, 72 percent of women who’d been with the company for less than six months said yes. Only 67 percent of men with the same tenure said they’d stay.
But when you look at employees who have been with a company two to five years, there’s a drastic reversal. Only 58 percent of women say they’d stay with a company, compared to 63 percent of men.
I’ve hired women after they left the workforce for several years to raise children, and it’s easy for me to understand why. Hiring managers tend to stop reading after seeing extended resume gaps, leaving hard-working women frustrated.
“Women tend to take more time off for parental leave, which can influence pay increases and promotional opportunities, which compound over time,” said Eleni Lobene, a senior associate consultant at global consulting firm Aon.
With so many factors playing into employee experiences, which have the most potential to close the gap between men and women? In my experience, these four:
1. Transferable skills.
Before men and women accept a job offer, there’s already a divergence in experience. In 2017, data from the job board ZipRecruiter found that when comparing job-related skills, men represented at least 70 of job seekers in 39 skill areas compared to just 29 areas for women.
This gap widens with time. ZipRecruiter’s chief economist Cathy Barrera said that after only a few years in the workforce, men and women get locked into gendered roles. Even if a woman wants to switch career paths–or if her role becomes obsolete–it’s difficult to switch.
What does this mean for you? Be flexible when assessing resumes. Look at men and women’s experiences and consider how they can be applied in a new role.
This same concept applies to internal promotions. In my experience, it’s much easier and cheaper to promote from within than to hire externally. Before broadly advertising a new position, examine the talent you already have.
2. Multiple chances to develop.
The Aon report found that only 66 percent of women–versus 71 percent of men–feel challenged at work. They feel stagnant, and the problem intensifies when the organization doesn’t have the resources to focus on each individual’s career path.
Peggy Yu, COO of e-learning platform Startup Institute, suggests providing employees with multiple sources of knowledge to foster their professional development. “The key is to ensure they don’t feel like there is only one person owning their professional journey at the company,” she said.
Your employees should talk to you–or, when it comes to long-term ambitions, they can turn to a mentor. Go one step further by creating a program in which managers and mentors communicate about how individuals are doing.
At my company, each new employee is assigned a mentor who holds the same role. These relationships tend to grow over time and result in lasting bonds that equally benefit both individuals, as well as the organization overall.
3. Individual recognition.
Not every employee wants acknowledgment for the same thing. If you don’t take the time to uncover these differences, quality employees will feel unappreciated.
This is why Michelle Turman, CEO of organizational management consulting firm Catalyst Consulting, has all new employees fill out a recognition questionnaire. It asks individuals the types of achievements for which they want to be recognized and rewarded, and how.
“If you do not ask, you run the risk of demotivating the employee, increasing employee turnover, and being ill-prepared for how to manage your overall workforce,” Turman said.
4. Company attitudes.
Leaders are changing their company policies to make their workplaces more inclusive. But if the overall attitude about equality doesn’t also change, there’s still a gap in employee experience.
For instance, many companies–my own included–have updated their parental leave policies to not distinguish different leave options for men and women. But that doesn’t remove the stigma about taking time away from work to have kids.
“There needs to be an unapologetic adoption of the mindsets that drive these changes,” said Lauren Bello, partner and managing director of the digital branding agency Ready Set Rocket. “Bottom line, if an employee participates in a policy or benefit, you need to be sure they won’t be penalized for it.”
To enable this change, start at the top. If employees see their executives leading by example, attitudes will begin to change.
Both men and women will feel comfortable voicing what they need to be happy at work. Women can talk about their career goals and men can take time off for paternity leave–and neither will feel their gender is standing in the way.