A few days ago, Gallup introduced a report called State of the American Workplace, which revealed that nothing short of a full workplace revolution is needed to lift employee engagement and productivity from all time lows. 33% of American employees are engaged at work. That means 67% of American employees aren't.
While this workplace revolution feels like a massive undertaking - and it is - the Seneca Council identifies three areas that can be improved in the modern American workplace. These are the areas where we dedicate our observations and recommendations in an effort to increase engagement and productivity in every kind of workplace.
1. Keeping women in the workforce and equally rewarding their work. Despite academic research demonstrating companies’ increased financial and cultural strength when women are equally and fully represented, stubborn challenges still exist. Specifically:
· Women still only comprise 4.4% of the Fortune 500 CEO positions. Similar representation persists in smaller companies.
· Women continue to earn less than men (between 79% and 92%)
· Women continue to be overrepresented in low-paying industries and occupations, partly because lifestyle demands rule out more rewarding occupational choices (the “motherhood wage penalty”)
· Work cultures continue to play into stereotypes, alienating women from peers and promotion opportunities.
· Women’s ambitions are different from men’s: money is less important for women, but they value high-quality colleagues, recognition by bosses, and flexible work options. 29% of women off ramp primarily because jobs are not satisfying or meaningful.
· A University of Massachusetts study found that for every child a woman has, her salary decreases by 4% — and that penalty is worse for low-wage workers. But for men, fatherhood increases earnings by more than 6%.
2. Creating and promoting customized career paths. The Seneca Council is particularly interested in the availability of “off ramps” and “on ramps” for women in the workplace, responding to these statistics that indicate a “loss upon reentry” for a large number of qualified women:
· 60% of women have “non linear” careers, meaning they take time off or take advantage of flexible schedules
· 93% of women who off ramp want to rejoin employment, but only 74% manage to do so
· Among the 74%, only 40% return to full-time mainstream jobs
· Those who return to mainstream jobs are penalized or stigmatized, resulting in fewer promotions and less job satisfaction
· 24% take part time jobs
· 9% become self-employed
· Two in five women do not qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the only federal protection for unpaid, protected job leave.
3. Engaging men in customized paths. A third area of focus for the Seneca Council is the persistence of the traditional workplace’s hold on men. Gender optimization means not only that women have the opportunity to balance their ambition with their care of others, but that men too have these opportunities. A key aspect of keeping and growing women in the workforce is offering and destigmatizing non-linear opportunities for men too, so that the whole competitive model changes, not just the women in it.
· A 2013 Pew Research study titled “Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family” found equal levels of stress among mothers and fathers regarding caring for children, indicating fathers would like to spend more time with their children.
· Responding to the persistent stereotypes of men as breadwinner exclusively, Anne-Marie Slaughter observes, “The majority of American mothers in the twenty-first century are raising daughters with more life paths open to them than are open to our sons.”
While not a cure-all, these three areas offer ample opportunities for study and change, giving companies a leg up in increasing the engagement and productivity of their employees. The Seneca Council is eager to be a partner in this journey.