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19 March 2020

Organisations must do more than just set lofty gender diversity goals if they hope to attract and retain top female talent, Fiona Grimmer writes.

There has been a noticeable change over the last few years. Many companies are renewing focus on prioritising women’s representation in leadership positions. This is certainly a promising step in the right direction, but many companies just do not know how to make this work for them.

Many set lofty female recruitment targets and ask recruitment companies to help them meet these. However, more often than not, companies do this without also considering the organisational and cultural changes needed to make attracting talented women a reality.

Across all industries, employers are facing growing competition when it comes to securing staff, and are finding it increasingly difficult to attract specialist talent. That is without considering the additional challenge of engaging specifically with female job seekers.

More on this: Can women have it all?

More than ever, it is imperative for organisations to have a strong employer brand that resonates with a female audience. They must be able to articulate and market a clear message of how they value people of all genders, ages, cultural backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Demonstrating they are a diverse and inclusive company, which is authentically supporting gender balance and equality, matters when it comes to attracting the top talent.

In order to do this, organisations need to give an accurate and genuine view of their culture and workplace. Promoting female brand ambassadors to share their perspective and experiences is a powerful story-telling tool, and one that should be utilised in all recruitment strategies.

Further, in order to walk the walk and have strong female representation in leadership roles and throughout an organisation, it cannot just stop at recruitment. There needs to be support in place to not only attract top female talent, but also retain it.

A long-term approach to identifying and fostering talent needs to be developed. By supporting existing staff and enabling all members of a team to have equal opportunities, organisations are far less likely to lose their talented staff when they are transitioning through different stages of their life and careers.

The days of thinking those who take up flexible working arrangements are not motivated or dedicated to their career must end. Just being present in the four walls of the office can no longer be an indicator of work ethic or output, and top organisations must now take a truly outcome-led approach. Managers should work with team members to establish clear objectives, articulate their responsibilities, and then trust employees to achieve results in whatever way that is most effective for them.

Flexible work should be norm, and not the exception. Flexible working arrangements must be available to all staff. They must be available to men and women, parents and non-parents, and from senior managers all the way through to the most junior members of the company.

Staff work at their best, and are at their most productive, when they are feeling present and satisfied with all aspects of their lives, both inside and outside of the workplace.

Recognising this allows a company to help ensure all employees feel valued, which in turn drives organisational creativity and innovation, providing a competitive advantage. This approach should be replicated across the recruiting industry.

This circles back to employer branding. Building a workplace where employees can be equally passionate about tackling work challenges as spending quality time with family and friends should be at the forefront of talent attraction and recruitment marketing campaigns.

Organisational culture is the basis of developing a unique and genuine employer brand. Therefore, it is essential that organisations not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk when it comes to attracting and retaining top tier female talent.

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