Women in the Workforce: Recruitment, Engagement, and Development

War For Talent

8,220 women left the labor force every day in 2020. With employers stretched thinner than ever for qualified talent, this mass exodus from the workforce is bad news for organizations that are not only trying to keep up with demand in their industry, but also attempting to prioritize inclusion and diversity on a wide scale.

Recruiting and retaining women in the workforce is essential to the economy’s growth and overall health. At M3, we’ve prioritized this initiative with the creation of our Women’s Business Resource group, a collective of professionals (both men and women) whose target achievements include: a diverse, inclusive workplace, the development of future women leaders, increased employee engagement, and expanded marketplace reach.

Yet, we know there is still work to be done – and we know we aren’t the experts in this area. However, through our work with clients across industry sectors and our relationships with key business partners, it is our goal to encourage conversation on this topic and embrace the “aha” moments and actionable takeaways that come out of these important discussions.

On September 30th, M3 hosted a panel discussion titled Learning Out Loud: Recruitment, Engagement, and Development of Women in the Workplace. The panelists (listed below) were chosen from a variety of industries with the intention of generating varied opinions about the best ways to recruit, engage, and develop women in a professional setting:

  • Beth Dettman, CFO of M3 Insurance
  • Tyler Gudex, Executive Director of Eastcastle Place
  • Judy Gray, Chief Human Resources Officer of State Collection Service, Inc.
  • Kris Best, Chief Financial Officer of BVK

The panel, hosted by M3’s own Jen Pino-Gallagher, left attendees with much to consider, and a few innovative ideas that they could take back to their own workplaces. In the spirit of knowledge sharing, we are sharing a few of our biggest takeaways from the session in today’s article.

Recruiting Women in the Workforce

When broaching the topic of improving recruitment efforts in order to better attract women, the group first agreed on one fact: the traditional recruitment process has been forever altered. Though the pandemic played a part in integrating more technology into the way we recruit talent, this shift was a long time coming. Once this baseline was established, the following initiatives and potential solutions were discussed:

  • The recruitment process needs to be quicker. The war for talent has necessitated a quicker turnaround time between a first interview and offer of employment. Professionals in the labor market have more power today, fielding multiple offers in real time. Tyler Gudex, a featured panelist, made the point that employers who want to prioritize recruiting top female talent for their organization need to move quickly.
  • First impressions of workplace culture make all the difference. How do you stand out among other employers who are seeking out female employees? Showcase the inclusivity and feel of your culture. Women want to know that they will be accepted and supported by an organization before they will accept an offer. It’s important for organizations to make a great first impression during the hiring process, and online via social media and the company website.
  • Embrace technology or be left behind. It’s no longer optional for employers to decide whether or not they will hire over Zoom – it’s imperative. All job seekers, but particularly women, have found that the convenience of a Zoom interview allows them to seek out new opportunities without necessarily having to take PTO in order to have a conversation with a potential employer. A technology-focused process automatically opens up the talent pool to women who can’t afford (literally and metaphorically) to take time off or seek out childcare in order to participate in a multiple-interview process.
  • Develop interest in your industry and culture at an earlier point in a woman’s career. The conversation about industry and culture aligned with our own CEO’s message – employers need applicants to fall in love with both before they will commit to your organization. If you can develop that love early on in a woman’s career (either through an internship or development program experience), you’ll have an easier time recruiting them for a full-time role in your organization.

Engaging Women in the Workplace

The ongoing war for talent has direct implications on the importance of engaging women in your organization once they have committed to the company. Without continued support and engagement, women could pursue the other opportunities that they have at their disposal: from a better job offer to leaving the workforce altogether. Here are a few ideas that were shared during our panel discussion about how to engage women in the workplace:

  • Hold “stay” interviews. The exit interview has become ubiquitous, but one panelist suggested flipping the notion on its head and conducting “stay” interviews. This idea allows leadership and human resources departments to inquire about the wellbeing and satisfaction of an employee far before they reach a point where they become disengaged.
  • Encourage conversation about how employees work best. It’s a fact – not everyone works in the same way. Some employees are more productive in the morning, while others thrive during a coffee meeting with more deep work relegated to the afternoon. Kris Best, one of the event’s panelists, encouraged organizations to consider ways they could allow employees to create their own days around the way that they work best. Another important aspect of this point is the concept of flexibility. This was a hot topic during our panel discussion, and, while we know it isn’t applicable to every industry, women are seeking out opportunities for more flexibility in timing and location of work. If your organization can offer women the opportunity to create a balance wherein life fits into their work and work fits into their life, you will set yourself apart from other employers. This can mean creating flex hours where employees can come in earlier or later depending on their lifestyles and work preferences, or even offering a remote work option.
  • Create a committee of ambassadors. Seeking out the opinions of your female employees is a great way to engage your employee population and get great ideas for the ongoing work of attracting and retaining talent. Choosing a committee of ambassadors to meet with leadership on a consistent basis is a great way to start gathering this feedback.

Developing Women in the Workforce

The final topic that our panel touched on may have been the most important. It is one thing to recruit women and engage them in your organization, and it is another to create an intentional plan to elevate them through the ranks. These were a few of the ideas that surfaced:

  • M3 created a Shareholder Development Academy. Becoming a partner in our independently-held agency is a great achievement for an employee. However, we realized that fewer women were being considered for this honor. To create intentional change, we developed a Shareholder Development Academy. The Academy is evenly split between men and women and provides more facetime with members of our leadership, openings to grow within M3, and learning opportunities for team members who are on the cusp of becoming our next leaders.
  • State Collection Service Inc.’s Future Leaders Program has seen success. Judy Gray, one of our esteemed panelists, spoke to the Future Leaders Program that her organization has created to intentionally develop its next generation of leaders from a diverse talent pool. Since its inception, 80% of the graduates from this program have been promoted.
  • Encouraging mentorship creates valuable connection. Finally, it should go without saying that mentorship is integral to an employee development experience. However, organic mentorship often tends to benefit those who already have an advantage in the workforce. Creating a formalized mentorship program in your organization can encourage knowledge sharing and guidance among professionals who may not ordinarily interact, and uplift those who often don’t have an “in” in the professional world.

Key Takeaways

Women continue to leave the workforce in droves, and this phenomenon is only exasperating the ongoing issues with attracting and retaining talent. Employers who are prioritizing their people strategy can find ideas and advice from M3’s panelists on attracting, engaging, and developing women in their workforce in order to win the war for talent. Learn more about the work that M3’s Women’s Business Resource Group is doing to continue this conversation and enact change on our Inclusion and Diversity page.

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