Guest Post By: Rania Stewart, senior product manager with Peoplefluent.com. Learn more about Rania at the end of this post.
Ask any career-oriented woman about her top work-related concerns, and she will likely rank having access to high-quality jobs at desirable companies and having equitable opportunities to advance within those organizations at the top of the list.
Recent data shows the majority of companies worldwide (71 percent) don’t have a clearly defined strategy for grooming and developing women as company leaders, according to a 2011 Women’s Leadership Development Survey conducted by Mercer.
Despite that poor showing, some companies are doing right by women and minorities to promote, encourage and support career growth. Here are some telltale clues you can look for in determining whether you will have ample opportunity to move up the career ladder at your organization.
Internal Candidates Are Regularly Tapped to Fill Open Roles
Take a quick scan of the managers and company leaders. Perhaps your manager had your job title a few years or months back, or your new CFO recently transitioned into the role from heading the accounting department. Trends like these suggest that management has visibility into their employees’ skill sets and takes an active interest in monitoring their progress and professional goals. So while you may be sad to find your favorite coworker is taking a position as a manager in a different division of the company, you can take heart knowing that as a matter of course, your organization is in the habit of fostering internal talent and may soon have big plans for you.
Your Performance Reviews Are Frequent and Detailed
Finding yourself constantly writing self-assessments and sitting in your manager’s office, formally or informally, discussing your performance may seem like a hassle at the time, but it demonstrates that company management is keeping a watchful eye on your career development. That data and feedback doesn’t just vanish into a vacuum—it is used as a basis for company leaders and HR managers to determine which employees will be slotted into succession plans, which are on deck to fill roles once they become vacant, and which possess the type of skills and potential that need further training and development before moving forward. That approach levels the playing field, providing management concrete data to guide their decisions for employees in every part of the business.
In contrast, an organization that takes a more laissez-faire approach to evaluating your performance has a much weaker understanding of individual skill sets and goals. They likely have fewer tools at their disposal to guide decision-making on promotions and movement, and in turn rely on subjectivity more than employee track records. That kind of approach tends to reduce fairness in the process, since managers have less material to guide and support their decisions.
Work-Life Balance is Not a Taboo Phrase
Women with career aspirations often want to have families and to work for companies that understand that work-life balance is about flexibility—not being less productive or less committed to a job. So, consider not only whether women are in the c-suite and get assigned the large projects that lead to promotions, but also which types of women tend to get promoted at your organization. Are they single, raising families, older, or younger? Also investigate the benefits package and structure to find out whether it includes insurance options more tailored to families than single employees. Review the employee handbook to determine policies about working remotely, another sign that an organization supports work-life balance. Through promoting women with a mix of age and family circumstances and publicizing a wide array of work and benefits arrangements, a company demonstrates that it invites and encourages women to rise within its ranks.
Achievement Reaps Rewards
Plugged-in employees often know which of their peers drive the best results. If those hard workers are routinely getting opportunities and assignments, then your employer is likely using a data-based framework to promote people based on merit as opposed to employer biases or favoritism. This merit-based recognition suggests that senior level company leaders can openly inquire about the reasoning behind promotions or special designations, and evaluate whether they are warranted.
Increasingly, employers are leveraging software to ensure all employees have a path to growth if they want one. HR departments and company leaders are using automated performance management systems and succession planning software to comprehensively and equitably pool data and visualize each employee’s progress, potential and goals with the intent of developing talent from within.
In an era when there are still many companies that don’t formalize women-specific policies and programs to foster inclusivity and opportunity, technology and our own power of observation might ultimately make the difference between career stalemate and success.
About the Author: Rania Stewart is a Senior Product Manager with Peoplefluent, an industry-leading provider of talent management software. Prior to joining Peoplefluent in late 2010, Ms. Stewart was a talent management practitioner for over 7 years at Aetna, Inc., gaining experience in the many facets of workforce planning, development and analytics.
Holding advanced degrees in social psychology and instructional technology from the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology, Ms. Stewart began her career consulting on the design and development of custom e-learning/learning management system installations for companies such as Verizon, CVS, The World Bank, and the federal government.