Gender Diversity: It’s time to step up

Gender Diversity

The business case for leveraging female talent to create a competitive advantage has been proven time and time again, yet almost halfway through the second decade of the 21 century the goal of meaningful diversity in our boards and corporate executive teams remains as elusive as ever.

It was only a few years ago that New Zealand was in the unique position of having a female Prime Minister, Governor General, Leader of the Opposition and Attorney General all at the same time.

This, combined with the fact that we were the first country to give women the vote, is why possibly New Zealand is perceived to be a very progressive country when it comes to providing equal opportunities for women.

But when I look around the executive teams and boards of our largest organisations today, I have to say I’m disappointed that New Zealand business appears to have lost some of its early momentum. Because, despite all the research and evidence proving that companies with higher percentages of women in their leadership perform better financially, the highest levels of corporate New Zealand continue to be a largely male dominated domain.

And the news doesn’t get any better when it comes to equal pay. The reality is that the gender pay gap and lack of women in senior roles on boards and executive teams in New Zealand is having a negative impact on our performance and productivity. The strong evidence is that having women in senior roles improves your economic performance. A report by Goldman Sachs concluded that New Zealand’s economic output could rise by 10% if women’s labour and talent were fully tapped.

In my view there are a few key areas that need to be addressed in order to improve female representation at the highest levels of corporate New Zealand.

Firstly, it’s important to frame diversity as a serious strategic issue, not just a problem to be solved by HR. By elevating diversity to an executive management level, companies are better able to give it the appropriate focus and in turn marshal the necessary resources to break down the barriers holding women back. If I had to list one factor that, in my experience, makes the difference between success and failure it is executive sponsorship at the highest levels. Only when senior leaders commit themselves to gender diversity and challenge old forms of behaviour at every opportunity, is meaningful change going to occur.

Secondly, appropriate and achievable targets need to be put in place around diversity. This is absolutely what drives real business change. If a key component of executive and management performance evaluation is improving their diversity metrics, those metrics do improve.

Thirdly diversity considerations should be instilled into the corporate HR and recruitment processes, particularly the early identification of female leadership talent combined with thoughtful targets that push women into the consideration set for key roles. There are some simple processes that can be put in place to get the ball rolling without enormous cost and effort. For example, one of the things we have introduced at ASB is a policy whereby interviews for senior roles for female candidates must be conducted with at least one female interviewer. In this way, it’s possible to reduce any unconscious bias in the interview process to provide more of a level playing field for women. And I would argue that this sort of initiative is not only relevant for large organisations like ASB. Many of the smaller businesses and operations that dominate the New Zealand economy would also benefit by adopting a more inclusive approach to recruiting women.

The prize in solving the diversity challenge is a big one for New Zealand businesses. In terms of female executive engagement, New Zealand currently lags behind our global competitors and we are failing to optimise the economic benefits that diversity brings.

Clearly there are solutions that legislation and regulation can also offer but the first step needs to be a personal commitment to address diversity by the men and women with the ability to influence executive appointments and assist with success.

It’s time for us to step up. – Barbara Chapman

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The First Step to Hiring Good Employees Is Stop Looking Down on People Who Just Want a Job

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I work almost exclusively with entrepreneurs, or people who want to be entrepreneurs. In fact, I network, hang out, have dinner and connect on social media almost exclusively with entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs. My life partner is an entrepreneur. I suspect even my cat has the entrepreneurial spirit.

So I answer a lot of questions from entrepreneurs. Want  to take a guess at one of the most frequent questions I answer? “How do I know when I’m ready to hire an employee?”

First step to being ready for your first hire is change your attitude about people who want a j-o-b.

Most of the entrepreneurs I know are genuinely baffled by people who really want to be employees. Many of them have walked away from high status, well paying, moderately secure positions for the siren’s call of being their own boss. They have at least a subconscious attitude that says anyone who isn’t aiming for entrepreneurship isn’t ambitious, is settling, has a dream that is several sizes too small. For many of them, the elitist notion that entrepreneurs are a little more clever, a little more savvy, a little more cool isn’t something you glimpse under the surface, they express it freely and adamantly. It’s a club they believe everyone should want to join.

Yet, the typical entrepreneur couldn’t reach their goals without depending on people who have no desire to be an entrepreneur. Even those of us with no employees hire companies whose services depend on their workforce.

Here are three reasons why the “working stiff” deserves your respect as well as a paycheck.

1. They’re taking a risk too.

We all know that being an entrepreneur requires taking risks. Sometimes big risks. But working for an entrepreneur is risky, too. You have a lot on the line as an entrepreneur, but you have the reins in your hands. Your success depends on the decisions you make. Ultimately, so does the success of your employees. While their performanceinfluences your success, they take the risk that they will turn in a stellar performance and still lose their investment if times get hard or business gets slow and you decide you have to do it without them. Don’t belittle their risk by constantly reminding them of yours.

2. They have big dreams too.

Their career dream might not be to own and run a business. It might be to help someone own and run a business. Or just to work for someone who owns and runs a business that they can be proud to work for. Someone who appreciates them, someone who treats them as an equal, someone who believes their dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s. If they have those kinds of dreams you can make their dreams come true at the same time they help you realize yours. But only if you’re willing to be that kind of employer. Don’t belittle their dreams by treating them as anything less than worthy of pursuing.

3. They’re everything you aren’t.

Every strength you have represents a gap in the strengths of your business. If you’re a natural juggler who is comfortable with having 20 balls in the air at once, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at following the system A-Z and staying hyper-focused on the task at hand. If you’re a natural risk taker who finds change exciting, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at holding steady and maintaining status quo.

When you find an employee whose strengths compliment your own it frees you to do what you’re best at doing. But only if you fully appreciate the value of what they’re best at doing. If you’re one of those employers who believes that the entrepreneurial traits and talents are naturally superior you’ll shrivel your employee’s morale faster than a well-placed thumbtack can deflate a balloon. Don’t belittle their talents by treating them as anything less than vital to the success of your own goals.

Now, if you’re filled with awe and appreciation for those folks whose dream of serving the world includes working for a passionate, driven and fair-minded entrepreneur who will support and reward their own pursuit of excellence in their career, there’s good news. You’re already on the path to finding one.

Entrepreneur Magazine- Dixie Gillaspie Contributor

Sometimes, the boss is the one lying in the job interview….

one-skill-job-candidate-blanda-openforum-338We often hear about job candidates exaggerating their accomplishments. Somewhere between their resume and the interview, the truth takes a back seat.

This stretching of the truth, however, is not a one-way street. Many new employees have told us that they felt they were misled in interviews about either the responsibilities of the position or the culture of the company. Small untruths on working hours, flexibility, dress code, or employee numbers can even translate into big slights for a gung-ho new hire who feels he’s been deceived.
It should be obvious that a false start is no way to start a professional relationship.
We’re not suggesting that employers intentionally misrepresent their company or the opportunities for new employees, but somewhere inside the ritualistic dance where applicants and employers are both trying to put their best feet forward, they can wind up tripping over each other. And that can lead to an atmosphere of distrust for new employees.
 

So how can leaders build a foundation of trust with new employees from day one, and ensure their long-term success and satisfaction?

 

Start with the job description

When it comes time to filling an open position, hiring managers are often in a mad rush. Someone has just given a two-week notice and there is a chair to fill. And from the employer’s perspective, that empty chair is seen as costly. So the old job description is quickly dusted off and posted in the hopes of attracting a top-flight replacement. That’s where the first mistake occurs.

What this approach does not take into account is that today’s jobs are constantly evolving. A job description that is a just few years old may have long become irrelevant. As a hiring manager, it’s critical to ask yourself questions about the position, such as: How has it changed since we last hired for this job? What new tasks are critical to the role? What would I like a new person to do differently? How will success at this job be measured?
 

Revisiting the role before the hiring process and having a clear grasp of its responsibilities and expectations are the first steps to ensuring that you find the right person. This also makes it more likely that your new hire understands exactly what he’s signing up for and won’t hightail it out the door the first chance he gets.

 

Don’t rely on the resume

Resumes, understandably, are a key indicator for many hiring managers to determine whether an applicant will make the short list for a particular position. But resumes are just advertisements for the past. What you are really looking for is a crystal ball into the future. In fact, it is important to keep in mind that you are not just hiring someone for a particular job, you are hiring them to grow with your company.

 So, what will success on the job look like? You need to be upfront with job applicants and explore that question during the hiring process. Tell candidates what will be expected of them and ask them what their definition of success is and how they hope to attain it at your company.

Look for insights into what makes applicants tick, which will provide clues to their potential, strengths, and development opportunities. Those attributes, which can be further gleaned from an in-depth personality assessment, will help hiring managers identify individuals who can succeed in the job and thrive in the company’s culture. Combine that with a behavioral interview and referrals, and you get a comprehensive, integrated approach to hiring. When expectations are clearly defined in the interview process, it’s an exercise in trust building.
 

Build trust upfront

Once a new employee is hired, it’s important to start off on the right foot. Particularly in the first week, it is important that the new manager takes the time needed to create a real connection and ensure that trust is firmly in place.

job interview, culture
The first few days on a new job are what you might call “the Goldilocks time.” New employees are trying not to be too hot or too cold, but come across as just right. New hires are keenly aware that they are being evaluated by their colleagues, so there has to be someone who can provide a solid understanding of how a worker can best contribute in her new environment.
Trust between a manager and new employee doesn’t happen overnight, but the first impression can be a make or break point. Be clear about the requirements and expectations of the job. Be genuinely interested in who they are (don’t multi-task when you are talking to them), and let them know you are interested in their aspirations and their growth within the company. And be open about how you like to work—your habits, quirks, strengths and the things you are working on improving. -Patrick Sweeney