Women and Transition
A new perspective?
Ever wonder if we’re using the right levers to influence employee engagement? To get results in the employee engagement arena, we tweak core values. We deploy culture surveys and comb through their results. We evaluate our company’s mission and hire leaders who can amplify that mission by their very presence.
Would it surprise you that there is another tool that isn’t always considered in these conversations?
I have to be honest. I’ve gained a greater understanding of employee engagement from my research on women and transition than from my time serving as EVP of HR and Administration at Iron Mountain, a Fortune 500 company that had 21,000 employees in 37 countries during my tenure. Please don’t misunderstand. Employee engagement was a constant topic for me when I served in the c-suite. But my work with disengaged employees many of whom are in transition has offered me a valuable new lens into the challenge of employee engagement.
Transition offers a provocative new lens into employee engagement. What is transition? It occurs in individuals when what holds meaning and value to them shifts. Think tectonic shift not squirmy child at the dinner table. Transition can be initiated by countless events – like marriage or the birth of a child or the sudden onslaught of an illness. Regardless of the trigger, transitions follow the same pattern. They can occur for women and men at any age. Employees involved in transition re-evaluate what holds value and meaning for them. The answer to this examination is highly individual and may hold the key to engagement.
Employers can use two practical employee exercises to improve employee engagement – each borrowed from my work on transition. Both exercises help employees make important linkages between their day jobs and what holds value and meaning to them.
Employee Venn Tests: Do you remember Venn Diagrams? They were the overlapping circles that we all learned about in 3rd grade. The point of interest is the area common to each circle. This exercise asks employees to compare the value and contributions inherent in their job descriptions and with what holds value and meaning to them personally. The overlap of the two drives engagement. Here’s what we often miss – slight tweaks to job descriptions can have orders of magnitude impact on an employee’s engagement. As an illustration, imagine a call center employee who is really interested in big data and its long-term impact on business. By working through a Venn Test with her manager small but meaningful new assignments can get added to her job description. What if she could pick up a monthly reporting role that allows her to interact with data and outcomes analysis from her department? Minor Change. Significant impact on her engagement.
Internal Value-based Networking: Study after study tells us that long-term success in companies and careers is often positively influenced by peer connections outside of one’s immediate department. Helping employees make these connections can have a great impact on engagement. For example, employers can sponsor networking activities so that peers can meet one another and build their internal networks. The catch? Employers need to help employees build new introduction narratives. These personal stories are not the standard chronological resume. Instead, they are centered on value. Using this technique an employee’s introduction becomes less of a verbal recitation of their resume and more of a summary of what holds value to them. Their story gets built out by identifying illustrations of how that value has been expressed through the various roles she or he has held in the past or through a current job.
These exercises are simple, low-cost options. Each requires a manager or leader willing to acknowledge the most terrific resources at her disposal, employees.
Linda Rossetti is the author of Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2015. Ms. Rossetti holds a Harvard MBA and serves as Managing Director of Golden Seeds, LLC an angel capital network dedicated to funding women-led entrepreneurial businesses. Prior to her current activities, she served as EVP of Human Resources and Administration at Iron Mountain.