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The gender dividend

As governments around the world debate the best policies, regulations, and practices to spur economic growth in 2011 and beyond, they would benefit from giving as much weight to demographics and the vital role women play in driving economic growth as they do to analysing regions and industries.

According to a new report published today by Deloitte, The Gender Dividend: Making the Business Case for Investing in Women. According to the report, the role women play – or don’t play – can affect economic competitiveness. With an ageing population and a shortage of skilled workers looming, economies must be ever more resourceful in making efficient use of all the talent available. Women make up nearly half the working population in many regions around the world, and make a big impact in shaping household spending and consumer choices.

Policies and investments targeted at advancing women will be critical in a global economy that is increasingly dependent on the intangible assets of people, brand, and intellectual property. Planning to realise the gender dividend can be reflected in increased sales, expanded markets, and improved recruitment and retention of key talent. And to achieve the dividend, organisations need the collective perspectives of both men and women, which can lead to better decisions and more effective leadership.

One critical step concerns the involvement of women at leadership level. Whilst many leading companies will have several women-focused initiatives in place at any given moment, these don’t seem to be achieving the goal of consistently moving women into key decision-making and leadership roles – the roles that have the most impact on business success.

“This report shows that failing to capitalise on women as employees, leaders, and consumers, has a real impact on the bottom line and the overall success of an organization,” Heather continues. “To tackle this, investing in women must be taken out of the realm of ideology. Advancing women to more senior roles needs to be viewed as any other business decision – and that involves building a solid business case. When a company proposes to invest in cyber-security or seek to become more vertically integrated or decides to switch to a new technology platform, the impact of the bottom line is always analysed and weighed. Investing in women should follow the same rationale.

“Even then, we see that in many companies, the business case is accepted, it has been followed through with programmes and initiatives to promote and support women, but progress has stalled when it comes to women in the most senior levels of the organisation. We believe that reaping the Gender Dividend demands more deliberate and sustained commitment to make women a seamless part of management. That commitment has to be driven by, and led by, the Board and the executive level. That’s why Deloitte’s Chairman, David Cruickshank, is one of the business leaders behind the 30 percent Club, which encourages company leaders to commit to do everything they can to increase the proportion of women on their boards, and to encourage other corporations to do the same.”
David Sproul, who takes over as chief executive of Deloitte on June 1st of this year, has reinforced Deloitte’s commitment to the agenda. Of the fourteen roles on his new Executive, 28 percent will be held by women. David comments:

“In our own business, we have had to specifically focus on ensuring a greater proportion of women make it to senior roles. The women in our Partnership make big and valuable contributions to our clients and in leading our people; they definitely also bring a fresh perspective to our business strategy and how we execute it. We have acted to accelerate women into positions where they can make that contribution at the top of our firm. This has demanded regular and sustained intervention by our leadership, championed by the CEO. For example, over six years ago we defined a minimum number of Board roles that would be occupied by women.

We’ve already seen women who have had that Board experience progress to senior leadership roles across the firm, including in my new Executive team and important business unit roles across Deloitte. We are now reshaping our Board, as our leadership changes, and expect to double the number of women Board members as that process concludes. This is still work in progress, and keeping it on the agenda is we believe essential to the future impact and success of our firm. “This report shows that the current operating model in many organisations is to think of talent as a cost and women as a niche group. Companies, including our own firm, can’t let up in their focus on moving beyond this mindset, and ensuring that women make their optimum contribution to successful business and wider economic prosperity.”

The Gender Dividend: Making the Business Case for Investing in Women, the first in a series, is a road map for constructing the business case for smarter investments in women. The report lays out the core rationale for why governments and organisations must look to women as key to their economic growth.

There is a big difference between the conditions that can accompany strong organisational performance in benign economic times or over the short-term, and those that yield the kind of sustained organisational performance, through good times and bad, that all organisations truly strive for.

These conclusions form part of the findings of a major two-year action research programme unveiled by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) today. The programme, Shaping the Future is built on detailed, in-depth tracking of the progress of six organisations* undertaking change programmes over a two-year period, as well as drawing insight from the 11,000 practitioners in the dedicated network through round table events, polls and online discussions.  The final report draws out ten key insights from the research to help managers and leaders unlock sustained, long-term performance in their own organisations.

Dr. Jill Miller, research lead on the Shaping the Future programme, CIPD, says:

“As the economy lifts itself from the doldrums, organisations are wrestling with the changes necessary to sustain organisational performance through good times and bad.  This project reveals the insights we’ve drawn from our detailed research into six very different organisations undergoing change, and translates them into key challenges for any business leader and HR professional wanting to deliver success through excellent management of people.

 “Working in detail with our case studies over the past two years, we have identified how sustainable organisation performance can be achieved through differing change programmes. What is striking is the consistency of our findings across the different organisations, and the evidence-based clarity of the lessons the work has delivered for any businesses wanting to deliver successful change.  Business leaders can use our findings to help drive change and long-term performance in their own organisations.”
The ten key insights outlined in the research are:
1 The organisation change response needs to be truly agile and enduring, not a knee-jerk reaction that quickly dissipates: Organisations need to ensure change isn’t just a temporary break from the norm, maintained by employees only while the immediate “storm” is passing. Instead, change should manifest itself as a more proactive agility, creating organisations open to new directions, aware of the limitations and risks of not changing, and equipped to keep moving and adapting.

2 It’s a fine balance between alignment and flexibility: While aligning employee, customer and other stakeholders’ values, behaviours and objectives with a wider organisational purpose is important, over-focusing on this alignment can create barriers to the flexibility needed to enable the organisation to change.
3 Shared purpose can only be achieved by finding human connections beyond short-term profit or efficiency targets: By fostering amongst employees a genuine sense of shared purpose and meaning at work, stronger connections, engagement and performance can be delivered.
4 Collaborative leadership brings sustainability, so organisations should avoid defaulting to a directive and driven approach to leadership in tough times: Reinforcing a collaborative problem-sharing approach can drive longer-term, sustainable change, agility and engagement.
5 ‘Middle management’ have a valuable transforming and translating role but are often sidelined, bypassed or cut out in change processes: Suitably skilled middle managers can play a key role as transformers and translators in bringing change to life. As translators they can facilitate two-way communications between leaders and the front line and as transformers they can bring change to life.  Much of this can be lost when change involves “delayering” this middle-management tier, rather than refocusing, retraining and drawing on their skills and experiences.

6 An over-focus on today’s needs is not true talent management; it’s talent tunnel vision: Identifying and developing the capabilities individuals will need in the long-term is crucial to meet the organisational imperatives of tomorrow.
7 Truly understanding employees’ locus of engagement can avoid the risk of over-attachment and underperformance: Organisations need to get under the surface of employees’ engagement and better understand whether they are truly engaged with the organisation and its core objectives, or if they are only engaged with some selected parts of their roles, or with individual managers and colleagues. This more selective engagement can undermine sustainable performance.
8 Perceptions of unfairness undermine employee engagement: Perceptions of unfairness or organisational injustice can stifle employee engagement and act as a blocker to performance.

9 Process-heavy organisations are often still insight-light: Overemphasis on backward-looking targets defends existence but doesn’t prove worth. Organisations need to cull data that doesn’t add value and be curious with the remainder to uncover real insight.

10 Leaders don’t always know best about the long-term vision: Effective mechanisms for upwards communication – that filter important signals from the ground from the background noise – can provide real insight and challenge for leaders, and inform longer-term planning.

Stephanie Bird, Director of HR Capability at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, added: “These findings complement our other longitudinal flagship programme, Next Generation HR, which is more specifically centred on HR and seeks to draw even more future-focused conclusions. Each highlights the importance of agility, getting the balance right between organisational alignment and flexibility to respond to evolving challenges and the vital role that insight can play.  In order to drive consistently strong performance, organisations need to use data, make connections and be curious.  Our Shaping the Future report finds consistent evidence of that fact, and translates it into practical advice for anyone seeking to lead or manage.” 

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