Women in the Workplace 2022

While this publication is based on research conducted exclusively in corporate America, I put it to you that some of the findings are equally relevant to us here in the Caribbean. I refer in particular to the conclusions reached on the role of managers.

[T]here’s a growing gap between what’s expected of managers and how they’re being trained and rewarded. Most companies say managers have been expected to do more over the last two years to support employees’ well-being and advancement and promote inclusion on their teams. At the same time, the shift to remote and hybrid work has made managers’ jobs more challenging. Yet relatively few companies are adequately training managers to meet these new demands, and even fewer recognize people management and DEI efforts in managers’ performance reviews.[1]

In addition to the foregoing quote, the 2022 Women in the Workplace report based on information gleaned from over 40,000 employees of 333 participating organizations with a combined headcount in excess of 12 million people identifies the following three primary findings under the caption The Importance of Managers:

  1. Company expectations are rising, but most managers aren’t prepared to meet them;
  2. Most companies are not doing enough to train and recognize managers; and
  3. When managers show up consistently, women and companies benefit.

Based on my work as an executive coach and trainer/facilitator in both the public and private sectors in multiple Caribbean jurisdictions, all three findings are applicable in our context as well.

The good news is that there is a growing number of employers who have become aware of the disconnect and who are taking steps to remedy the situation. In today’s article, I present a theory of change designed to leverage the existing body of knowledge of how managers influence job satisfaction levels of those whom they lead and how effective performance management systems can be used to drive organizational level results.

The ultimate goal is to help you to ensure that you are training and appraising your managers correctly.

Theory of Change

A theory of change (TOC) is a method that explains how a given intervention, or set of interventions, is expected to lead to specific development change, drawing on a causal analysis based on available evidence.[2] While the methodology is most used to effect social change, I posit that it could be instrumental in resolving the existing disconnect between what employees want and need and what managers are held accountable for doing.

To explore how TOC can be leveraged in this context, let’s work through its six stages.

Stage 1: Identify Long Term Goals

Ultimately, organizations want to provide psychological safety and employee engagement thereby securing job satisfaction and optimal productivity.

Drawing on James Clear’s model of four stages of psychological safety, we see that employees need to feel included and be confident that it is safe to learn, to contribute and to challenge the status quo.

In the case of employee engagement, the goal is to leverage discretionary effort. This occurs when employees feel passionate about their jobs and are committed to the organisation.

Stage 2: Identify Preconditions for Long Term Goals

The 2022 Women in the Workplace report identified specific managerial behaviours that contribute to the targeted long term goals. Their findings are compatible with the existing body of knowledge based on primary and secondary research and include:

  • Giving helpful feedback
  • Helping direct reports manage workload
  • Showing interest in the careers of one’s direct reports
  • Checking on the well-being of team members
  • Ensuring that employees receive credit for their work
  • Encouraging inclusivity and respect on teams

Stage 3: Identify Basic Assumptions

At this stage of the TOC process, we develop a hypothesis about cause and effect. In this instance, two contributory factors have been identified.

  • Managers have not been adequately trained to do the things listed above
  • Managers are not being held accountable for doing the things listed above

Stage 4: Identify the Interventions to Create the Desired Change

To rectify the gaps, managers need to be trained in how to effectively execute the functions listed in Stage 2. That training must be integrated into a comprehensive change management initiative such as the PROSCI® ADKAR model of change.

Stage 5: Develop Indicators to Assess Performance

As indicated in the Reinforcement phase of the ADKAR model, measurement is an important factor for reinforcing new behaviours. You may be familiar with the adage “what gets measured, gets done”. To incentivize and sustain the change, the targeted managerial behaviours must be integrated into existing managerial performance appraisals. In this way, the behaviours will no longer be perceived as optional but rather as integral components of managers’ core responsibilities.

The foregoing step will cause the behaviour to be mainstreamed and will reward those who are compliant and introduce appropriate consequences for those who are not.

Stage 6: Explain the Logic of the Intervention

Managers are largely responsible for the conditions that drive psychological safety and employee engagement. Therefore, by understanding the drivers of both desired outcomes and ensuring managers have the right talent and commitment to deliver on said drivers, organisations can create psychologically safe environments and build employee engagement thereby improving job satisfaction and ultimately business performance outcomes.

The Way Forward

If your organisation is like the majority of those which participated in the 2022 Women in the Workplace study, then there is scope for improving how your managers are trained and appraised. Further, this is not jus a nice to have. Rather it is pivotal to critical success factors such as employee retention, productivity, better work culture and a reduction in burnout.

So, what say you? Are you ready to make the change?

[1] The full report is available at https://womenintheworkplace.com/

[2] https://unsdg.un.org/sites/default/files/UNDG-UNDAF-Companion-Pieces-7-Theory-of-Change.pdf

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