By Amy McDonald, FONA President
People ask, what sort of programs has FONA created for women, or for Millennials? I’ve even been asked what “special meetings” have been newly created, to start making sure women can be heard.
My response sometimes is a smile and a short pause as I consider a tactful answer.
At FONA, we don’t really have any programs articulated as solely “for women.” We prioritize a workplace and culture that is for ALL employees.
Creating a workplace for all can’t be something that a business “backs into” — you can’t fake it. For example, you can’t lead a business from behind closed doors and expect that establishing a women’s group will drive change. Leaders can’t look at employees as a homogeneous commodity but think that a few additional benefits will win the day for women.
It just doesn’t work that way and your people will see right through it.
For FONA, it starts with the core of how we operate and how we view our people. Here are some of the difference makers for FONA.
When I try to put it in a single word, one that comes up is “open.” We pride ourselves on inclusiveness and open doors. No matter your role, your gender, your race or religion, you deserve openness. You deserve open communication at all levels. Not something that “new meetings for women” can address.
Consider: 100% of women at FONA said they “feel like they make a difference here” – that’s 7% higher than benchmark (Benchmark being the 2016 Great Place to Work winning companies.) And 98% of women at FONA say that trying “new and better ways of doing things, regardless of the outcome” is encouraged.
At FONA, it comes from open doors to ownership and executive leadership.
That means company meetings where we open the books. At FONA, the company’s financials are transparent, as are the ups and downs of the business.
It means a clarity of expectations. Monthly employee meetings. Quarterly two-day management meetings. Corporate goal settings that are cascaded. Recognition programs. Knowing what is expected and what the priorities are – it means both personal and business growth.
To create a workplace for all, its people have to be allowed to thrive as they are. We call it “Thrive as you.” We see our people as unique individuals, whose careers and personal lives are not static but dynamic. At different points in their lives, their priorities shift.
Want great employee engagement? Create an environment where these natural life shifts are accommodated at all levels. Authenticity can’t be faked. The first step is to value who your employees are and everything that comes with it.
So when people ask me, what can we do to make a better workplace for women? I say create a better workplace for everyone. Be open, transparent, and authentic and your people, especially your women, will respond. See your and value your people as their unique and whole selves. Focus on your leaders’ hearts and minds first and foremost. Then and only then let congruent actions follow.
P.S: By the way, Great Place to Work is a fantastic organization with a wealth of resources. A big takeaway from the book A Great Place to Work for All by Michael Bush is that a great place to work is: one where employees trust the people they work for, have pride in the work they do, and enjoy camaraderie with their co-workers. Highly recommended!