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Women take the lead in employee engagement

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Women in the workplace are better at employee engagement than men.

This tidbit is a key takeaway from several studies by research companies such as Gallup, which found that women lead men when it comes to employee engagement – both for female managers and for women working with others of both genders.

A survey of several business coaches and executives throughout the Lehigh Valley and Berks County found that the majority believe that female employees and women in management exhibit better engagement skills than men because they are detail oriented, have great communication skills, recognize their strengths and weaknesses and can identify their co-workers’ strengths.

Jane Wells Schooley, CEO of Northstar Team Development in Hanover Township, Northampton County, said women in management roles are better at engagement because they “value and invest their time in the identical things that employees value and want their managers to invest time in.”

Wells Schooley cited several recent studies regarding women’s effectiveness in the workplace, including a few Gallup studies and research by CEO Bob Sherwin of Zenger Folkman, a provider of leadership research and development programs.

The gallup.com website gives detailed information regarding its women’s engagement research, reporting in a few recent studies that female employees are more likely to be engaged than their male counterparts. In addition, employees of either gender under a woman manager were more engaged.

Gallup found that a female employee’s strengths include her ability to build team engagement, a significant amount of self-knowledge and the ability to recognize other employees’ strengths in a team and at the workplace as a whole. The study found that female managers likely surpass male managers when it comes to “cultivating potential in others and helping to define a bright future for their employees.”

EMPATHETIC, ATTENTION TO DETAIL

Kayte Connelly, president of Best Principled Solutions LLC in Bethlehem, said women excel at engagement since they are empathetic, express their feelings and emotions more than men and are detail-oriented.

“Men are generally more goal-oriented and women more detailed. We talk more. I mean, we like to talk, so we are good at getting to know people,” Connelly said.

She noted that women also are more vulnerable.

While vulnerability was once considered a weakness in the workplace, it is now considered a strength.

“I think we recognize being vulnerable as a strength now more than in the past, but women are also more self-aware,” Connelly said. “Self-awareness is one element of being the best leader.”

HOLISTIC APPROACH

Karen Marsdale, president of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said women are authentic and naturally engaging – probably more so than men.

She used the example of the new female head of human resources at Starbucks who is being praised for making people at the coffee chain feel respected and cared about.

“There is absolutely much truth in that women tend to look at a person as a whole as opposed to viewing a person as an employee,” Marsdale said. “Women want to know the human aspect. They get to know their fellow employees, their home life, their family.”

The chamber president is co-founder of the Women-2-Women organization within the Greater Reading chamber. It was created to grow woman business leaders.

“We tell Women-2-Women to capitalize on the characteristics in their DNA. Use the characteristics that make women real and authentic,” Marsdale said. “That is what makes for a good manager.”

MORE LIKELY TO PRAISE

At Pinnacle 7 in Allentown, founder and principal Michelle Landis said women are more focused than men on developing employees, promoting recognition and acknowledging an employee’s needs.

Women will tell employees what they did right and give them a pat on the back quicker than a man will do.

“All this drives employee engagement,” said Landis, adding that good employee engagement is about someone’s behavior, whether female or male.

IT’S ABOUT INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS

Most business coaches surveyed seemed to agree that women have the ability to work with employees to achieve higher levels of engagement in the workplace.

But one Berks County business owner, who has been training employees for three decades, was not so sure if gender was the greatest factor in improving employee engagement.

Bonnie Sussman-Versace, who runs Focused LLC in Wyomissing, said she has a long history of working with male and female managers. On the issue of employee engagement, she said that she sees both genders do a good job with it.

“It is about what your strengths are, how you were raised, how you perceive others,” Sussman-Versace said. “Men are starting to recognize their strengths, and they are being driven to do that. Women talk more, while men have the attitude, ‘What do we need to get done?’ ”

NEED THE OPPORTUNITY

Wells Schooley said that a woman’s ability to achieve great things in terms of employee engagement is called into question when one takes into account the lack of opportunity women are given in general in the business environment.

“The issue of engagement and women has two sides: how well women managers engage employees and how the workplace engages women,” Wells Schooley said. “On the first front, women nail it. On the second front, women get nailed.

“All the engagement skills in the world will not be valued or valuable if a woman doesn’t get to use them in a managerial capacity.”

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