Why the future of business is with women
Leaders who are willing to change direction based on women’s input are more than twice as likely to tap into winning ideas. This research is from a Harvard Business Review study entitled How Women Drive Innovation and Growth.
Think about it. Today’s workforce now demands that strong company culture and thriving workplaces be at the centre of an organization’s focus. Why? Because culture is a company’s brand, its value proposition, its recruitment and retention strategy and its profit driver. And women are often the catalyst for this focus, largely because of the ‘soft skills’ these vibrant cultures demand — the same skills that for decades were dismissed as unnecessary, largely by men.
Two recent studies of workplace performed by Google underscore the imperative of soft skills.
In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, ‘hard skills’ expertise comes in dead last.
The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all ‘soft skills’: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
Project Aristotle, a study also released by Google, further supports the importance of soft skills. Looking to understand the characteristics of their best teams, in 2012 Google studied over 180 of them and produced fascinating results: it’s not the smartest people that make a best team, it’s the ones that demonstrate equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
One example of a woman leader exemplifying these crucial soft skills (and in an old-school industry) is Danielle Allan of Allan Financial. Millennial, UBC’s Sauder School of Business graduate, and daughter of Allan Financial President, Ross Allan, Danielle has the credentials to be playing in the dusty insurance industry. But she also has the soft skills to change the trajectory of the family business in a way that is causing some industry waves.
As the company’s heir-apparent and Director of Finance and Operations, Danielle has initiated the launch of their paperless office, spearheaded a corporate social responsibility campaign that within 3 years has lent nearly $600,000 to female entrepreneur around the world, brought in team players to introduce video storytelling, and of course tapped into new technology to better manage the complicated vagaries of life insurance products. She has also implemented sophisticated customer relationship management tools and initiated empathy trainings for her staff. If all that wasn’t enough, this year she is also working to obtain B Corp certification for Allan Financial.
Most family businesses struggle with change management. Especially when the original formula was successful. So how has Danielle helped to grow an all women team of 10 to become one of the leading life insurance companies in Canada?
By using the ‘soft skills’ of emotional intelligence and leading with purpose to champion for change.
The numbers don’t lie. Want a change agent? You’ll do well by hiring a woman.
Special thanks to Holly Graff for contributing as a writer.