The gender divide in what employees want

A good retention and engagement strategy should recognize the difference in priorities for each gender

The gender divide in what employees want

More than one-half of working women with young children carry 75 per cent or more of the responsibility for the children during the workday, compared to about four in 10 of men in the same circumstances, according to a survey by Perceptyx, an employee listening and people analytics platform.

The pandemic has amplified these differences, as one-third of those women said they would need to change their current working arrangement within the next six months, and many are already looking for new employment with more flexible or fewer hours.

The above is an example of one of the differences in the circumstances between female and male employees that leads to differing priorities and needs. All employees want to be engaged with and have a psychological connection to their organization, but after that, there are key differences between the genders that factor into retention, says Emily Killham, client data researcher for Perceptyx.

Women are adept at balancing their own needs — such as professional obligations and childcare — and want flexibility that allows them to exercise that ability, she says.

“They want their managers to trust them, to be understanding about their unique needs, and to let them make the necessary arrangements to handle both their professional work obligations as well as their personal obligations,” says Killham. “They need clear expectations of the desired performance outcomes and the runway to get it done.”

Men, on the other hand, identify more with company culture and values along with their role in their organization’s success.

“[Men] also need clear expectations, but it’s more critical [for them] to understand how they will be evaluated and to receive feedback on their performance,” says Killham.

Stay connected

Given the differences in what motivates male and female employees to stay with their organization, it’s important for employers to stay connected, listen strategically, and individualize management. Implementing retention and culture initiatives without involving employees can actually have the opposite of the desired effect.

“Employees don’t want their organizations to act at them, but instead they want to be asked, listened to, and problem-solved with,” says Killham, adding that organizations should focus on embracing — rather than eliminating — gender differences and create a workplace where people can thrive, regardless of those differences.

Killham notes that the pandemic has intensified many of the existing differences between the genders, with women shouldering a heavier load for domestic and childcare responsibilities while men have been finding all the extra challenges at once to be distracting. The net result for both has been lost productivity, she says.

What can employers do for both male and female employees dealing with the effects of the pandemic? Setting clear expectations — providing men with performance levels upon which to be measured and women with goals to arrange their lives around — keeping the listening channels open, and individualizing support according to the needs of each employee are ways employers can make their organization a place where all employees want to stay and contribute while dealing with the challenges of life during and after the pandemic, says Killham.

For more information on the gender divide in talent retention, download a free whitepaper from Perceptyx here.

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