How HR Tech Can Address the Causes Behind the ‘Great Breakup’


Many companies are facing a Great Breakup, where women in senior positions are leaving if their demands are unmet. It is not enough to tweak old policies to address the challenge. Companies should rethink their approaches. Annie Rosencrans, director of people and culture, Americas, HiBob, explains how HR tech can mitigate the Great Breakup.

McKinsey & Company recently coined the phrase ‘Great Breakup’ after its McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2022 reportOpens a new window . It showed that women in senior positions demand more from work and leave companies at unprecedented levels if their calls are unmet. While women continue to be well underrepresented in senior roles in American companies, they are also victims of two pipeline problems. The first states that the ‘broken rung’ remains unfixed, meaning that men still significantly outnumber women getting on that first step to management. The result leads to the second pipeline problem, where there are simply too few women to promote to higher-level executive positions thereafter.

The study also shows that women leaders do want to advance but effectively face stronger headwinds than men. Aside from problems with the pipeline, they also cite high levels of microaggressions that undermine their authority, while broader protected characteristics such as marital or parental status are often the unspoken causes behind being passed over for promotion.

Additionally, they report doing the lion’s share of unremunerated work to support DE&I and employee wellbeing, the cornerstone of a robust and healthy company culture. Finally, women leaders are seeking a markedly different culture at work than they are currently experiencing. Together these challenges are driving the ‘Great Breakup.’

Clearly, corporate America needs systemic change, but how do companies begin to address these issues?

It is not enough to tweak old policies. Companies looking to keep and attract more women into senior leadership, particularly as they transition to remote and hybrid work (a dealbreaker for many senior women in work), need to rethink approaches fundamentally. It is a huge task as it requires knowing individuals at scale and productively catering to them. Ultimately you want to empower this cohort to bring their voices and innovations to the table. And for this, you will need robust HR tech.

HR Tech: What Is It, and How Can It Mitigate the ‘Great Breakup’?

HR tech is a broad term that refers to the use of hardware and software solutions to automate essential HR functions. This technology helps HR professionals streamline time-consuming tasks and is responsible for key activities such as talent acquisition, workforce planning, compensation benchmarking and performance management. Moreover, a good tech stack will also address employee engagement and drive good DE&I, all of which underpins a strong company culture.

See More: Impacts on Employee Engagement with Performance Management

To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies need to start by getting more women into leadership, i.e., fixing the ‘broken rung.’ There are many layers to this goal that initially require a seismic shift in C-Suite mindsets. Thereafter, they need to take highly targeted steps to mitigate and improve people management of female talent. The reality is they will need an intuitive HR tech system that goes beyond core HR. 

It requires a flexible and configurable HR platform that can provide people analytics and automate the processes that need to be put in place. They not only identify the largest gaps in promotions but also help create the work climate women in leadership are calling for. They include flexible work models, equitable performance management, and workforce planning that can provide a level playing field for women seeking career advancements. 

With the shift towards remote work becoming commonplace and work-life balance both gaining priority for many women in leadership, more and more HR tech tools are being designed with all these factors in mind. These HR tech tools help HR professionals not only automate functions but also improve company culture as a result.

People analytics is a key functionality of good HR tech in that it uses data-driven insights to help companies understand their people. This helps uncover surprising sources of talent and counterintuitive insights about what drives various aspects of the employee experience, including performance and retention levers.

The importance of understanding the employee experience and the employee side of the business is obvious. People data is more than a collection of information on employee compensation, staff turnover or the racial, gender or sexual orientation of workers. It can highlight burnout trends, gauge employee satisfaction and engagement, and determine the skills that employees need to grow their careers. These are all pain points not being appropriately addressed for the women polled by McKinsey & Company. The bottom line is that analyzing employee data will help companies make better business decisions for this group.

See More: 9 Great Tools That Enable Employee Engagement

The Role of Managers

Managers also play a central role here, and many could benefit from additional training on fostering remote and hybrid employees’ career development and minimizing flexibility stigma. Equal access to mentorship and sponsorship is also key. Companies should also be putting safeguards in place to ensure employees who take advantage of remote and hybrid-work options are not disadvantaged in performance reviews. This means communicating to managers that employees should be evaluated based on measurable results, not when or where they work. It also means closely tracking performance ratings and promotions for remote, hybrid, and on-site employees. Again, a good HR tech platform can automate the processes and protocols behind these requirements.

The data is unmistakable. Women still face systemic obstacles in the workplace and are less empowered as a result. Business leaders that want to correct this do not need to reinvent the wheel. They simply need to make a concerted effort to know who these women are and what they want and ensure opportunity is fairly distributed. Ultimately, real change must start at the top, and leadership at the C-suite level must dictate the agenda and reinforce a commitment to keeping women in the workplace by hiring and retaining female talent, which will, in turn, prompt more women to stay.

So, the real value of HR tech comes from its ability to manage the entire employee lifecycle by putting people — women in this instance — at the heart of bespoke policy design and operational and business decisions. With such a tool at their disposal, HR professionals can focus on improving recruitment practices, supporting managers, and boosting retention, productivity and diversity of opportunity for this cohort.

How do you think HR tech can mitigate the problem of the Great Breakup? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

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