COVER STORY – Advancing Gender Balance in the Workplace 0

From Face-Time to FaceTime - Navigating the Changing World of Work
While gender equality benefits everyone, inequality negatively affects everyone too. Organizations striving for gender balance in the workplace need to rethink systems and put in extra efforts to cultivate an organizational culture capable of harnessing the power of all genders for achieving business goals.

The events of 2020 have turned workplaces into a huge box of dilemmas. The sore subject has been met with strong feelings since due to the work from home scenarios, stress is all-time high and is very much negatively impacting the employees. This has immensely impacted the gender balance; especially employees who have downsized their careers to take care of the family needs. However, organizations can retain employees by creating equal opportunities to achieve full potential at work.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 has predicted that gender equality has been tremendously impacted due to the current COVID-19 scenario and the progress on gender equality has slowed down drastically. Organizations need to put in extra efforts to ensure that gender equality is practiced for achieving business goals.

Diverse leadership positions, gender boards and ubiquitous presence across the roles and designations have yielded better financial results and creates factors that become directly proportional to the gender diverse workforce and brand value of the company.

There is a stark gender gap globally as various research, surveys and data clearly point out. However, companies that practice greater gender diversity have reported inherent benefits as they fully leverage and utilize the talent available. These organizations are leveraged with improved business financials and profit margins:

This is more of a dependent factor, which culminates due to organizations having better gender diversity at the workplace. Diverse leadership positions, gender boards, and ubiquitous presence across the roles and designations have yielded better financial results and creates factors that become directly proportional to the gender diverse workforce and brand value of the company. Organizations must follow the below factors for ensuring the gender gap is reduced and employee experience is improved across levels:

Employee Retention: Building a comprehensive culture to boost the motivation and morale of the diverse workforce. A work environment where all employees feel respected and valued provides an enhanced culture of a positive workplace for all your employees. Recognizing the strengths of co-workers creates a much conducive environment especially when the environment is gender diverse. The employees in such an environment tend to notice that their co-workers have competency and strengths they do not retain. The mutual appreciation for these strengths will help the company develop and promote a true environment of “Recognition” and a conducive environment for the employees to deliver at best.

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Quality Control through Gender Mix Workplace: Diversified teams are more imaginative and better at problem-solving where they can give a better gender-mix, indicating the shift from quantity to quality of the workforce employed to execute the work.

Flexible norms are required to be in place for the employees to be motivated at work. Companies should look for ways to structure new work-life boundaries. Click To Tweet

Reducing Burnout of the Diverse Workforce: A balanced work regime is essential in helping all employees facing burnout to get through this crisis. To reduce the stress levels at the workplace, employees are making this happen by looking into the productivity expectations set during the week and work on the areas if this is realistic to achieve. Continuous performance checks should be included to ensure that the goals are reviewed, and the output requires to be extended due to unavoidable circumstances.

Additionally, companies have found creative ways to give employees extra holidays to rejuvenate themselves due to COVID-19 stress. Flexible norms are required to be in place for the employees to be motivated at work. Many employees feel like they have continuously logged in at work, which makes it much harder for employees to draw clear lines between work and home. Companies should look for ways to structure new work-life boundaries.

For many organizations, this may need injecting new work practices, like establishing defined hours for discussions, putting a policy in place for responding to emails outside work hours, and improving team communications.

Understand and Manage the Performance Drivers of the Diverse Workforce through Artificial Intelligence: Machine learning and Artificial intelligence are disrupting the way performance management was earlier getting managed. Automation & ML is becoming an important engine for human resources to personalize the way each employee is thinking, and organizations are finding methods to run an effective organization and rewarding employees for their contributions. But given the shift to remote work and the heightened challenges employees are coping with their personal lives, therefore, performance criteria set before the pandemic may no longer be appropriate.

By using ML & Al, managers will be able to relieve employees’ stress—and refocus on key priorities—by re-evaluating performance criteria set before the pandemic to make sure those criteria are still attainable. Bringing ML & Al into line with what employees can reasonably achieve may help to prevent burnout and anxiety—and this may ultimately lead to better performance and higher productivity.

“By using ML & Al, managers will be able to relieve employees’ stress—and refocus on key priorities—by re-evaluating performance criteria set before the pandemic to make sure those criteria are still attainable. Bringing ML & Al into line with what employees can reasonably achieve may help to prevent burnout and anxiety—and this may ultimately lead to better performance and higher productivity.”

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Use Automation to Personalize Policies and Programs to Better Support Diverse Employees: Many companies have changed their policies and programs to support employees during the pandemic, from offering more paid leaves to providing resources for work from home support. Companies should make sure employees are aware of the full range of programs and policies available to them.

Right now, there is a significant gap in communication between what companies offer and what employees are communicated. Right from offering personalized mental wellness counselling to medical support, companies should automate the policies and benefits offered and employees should be aware of using such features for the improvement of the wellness & engagement parameters.

As organizations settle into the next normal, they should determine how effectively they are addressing employees’ biggest challenges and reallocate resources to the most valuable programs. Given how unprecedented this crisis is, they should also consider whether their benefits go far enough to support employees.

The Path Forward Open and frequent communication with employees is critical, especially in a pandemic stage; when employees are surprised by the decisions that will impact their work and disengage the workforce. Organizations should share more regular updates about the business and key decisions that affect employees’ work and lives. It is also critical that leaders and HR teams communicate with responsiveness so that employees feel appreciated and understood. Using technology for effective communication brings value to organizations to settle into the next normal. Technology will immensely support in solving the issue of gender balance in the workplace and support in solving employees’ biggest challenges and reallocate resources to the programs that are most valuable.

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Human Resources Business Partner, Birlasoft Manmay Prasad is the Human Resources Business Partner at Birlasoft. He is an emerging HR leader with 10 years of multifarious experience in Human Resource Management. He has worked in a variety of industries including companies like Kohler Co., Videocon Mobile Phones, Punj Lloyd Ltd., and BT Global Services. He specialises in Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Employee Relations, Compensation & Benefits, HR Analytics, and Learning & Development. He holds an MBA in Human Resources and Industry Relations from Xavier Institute of Social Service.

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