Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Send a Message to the Women in Your Company

Every day, of course, is a good day to work on improving the way that you engage and communicate with your people. But it never hurts to have a special reason to start (or to restart) a conversation with employees — the sort of conversation that builds real connections with them, the sort of conversation that builds real value for your organization.
Next Thursday, March 8, people all across the world will celebrate International Women's Day. In some countries, it's is a nationally observed holiday. For business leaders, it provides an occasion to think with renewed urgency about the goal of including women fully and productively in the life of their company.
What are the essential ingredients of inclusive leadership? Most executives who take that question seriously recognize that communication ranks on any list of such ingredients. It's a lesson about the soft side of management that many leaders have learned the hard way: You can't work with people successfully if you don't talk with them.
But there's more to it, we believe. Truly inclusive leadership entails not just talking with your people, but also letting them do much of the talking. Just as so-called user-generated content has revolutionized the consumer Internet in recent years, so does employee-generated content invigorate the conversation that unfolds inside an organization.
Which brings us back to International Women's Day. More and more top leaders today understand that women as a group face particular challenges in the workplace — and that companies benefit from acknowledging (and, in some cases, accommodating) those challenges. Many women, for example, find that meaningful inclusion in the life of their company is somewhat a function of how easily they can juggle the demands that come with being a working mother. When leaders pretend that those demands are irrelevant, many women aren't apt to feel very welcome.
In our new book, Talk, Inc., we describe how leaders at one company — EMC Corporation, the world's largest computer-storage provider — found a way to enhance organizational inclusion by promoting conversational inclusion. They encouraged a group of employees who are also mothers to produce rich content about "the working mother experience" (as those women call it). That move sent a message to women throughout the company: At EMC, their day has come.
Here, excerpted with slight modification from our book, is a story we call "Mothers of Inclusion."
The real work of engaging employees "has nothing to do with technology," says Polly Pearson, EMC's former vice president of employment brand and engagement strategy. "It's all about behavior." As if to prove that conversational inclusion isn't dependent on using the latest digital gadgetry, EMC in 2009 published a traditional printed book — a soft-cover tome of coffee-table-book size, just shy of 250 pages in length, written by and for EMCers. It's an old-media monument to the idea of letting employees tell the EMC story, and to the related idea of letting them tell their own stories. Called The Working Mother Experience, the book gathers personal essays by ninety-seven EMC women from fifteen countries (along with one essay by a male employee).
Read the full story:

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