I want to lead initiatives, have my voice heard, experiment, and use my entrepreneurial flair.
By Lauren Noël and Christie Hunter Arscott
The next generation women leaders we interviewed are deeply engaged by leading initiatives, taking ownership over projects, and using their entrepreneurial flair. “Keep in mind that the millennial generation is a generation of entrepreneurs,” said one talent executive. At organizations where early career women are thriving, talent and senior line leaders are unleashing junior women to think and act entrepreneurially.
CHALLENGE EARLY CAREER WOMEN TO DIRECT THEIR CREATIVITY INTO INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
As one top performing, early career woman said, “One of the reasons why I joined my organization was the company’s at culture. It is so liberating. You can just do whatever you feel is the right thing to do. You have to feel ownership in order to care about the product you’re building.”
eBay capitalizes upon this desire for ownership, autonomy, and risk taking by engaging university new hires in cross-functional teams to address the question: “What products or services can eBay offer that appeal to millennials?” At the end of the company’s two week orientation, the new hires present their ideas to eBay’s executives. In the two years leading up to our research, eBay had run ten of these orientation sessions. Not only had the recent university graduates learned a lot in the process but eBay has also reaped considerable rewards from this early investment in talent. A senior talent executive at eBay stated: “After the first round of presentations, the ideas were so good that we started bringing in patent lawyers to attend the sessions. We are pursuing many of the terrific ideas at eBay.” Since implementing this program, eBay’s talent pipeline has improved in several ways. Consider this: from 2012 to 2014, eBay doubled the number of women in Director- level or above positions. eBay pursued a smart talent and product strategy. It simultaneously met the entrepreneurial desires of early career talent, while creating innovative product offerings for millennials designed by millennials themselves.
LET JUNIOR WOMEN TAKE A PROJECT OR IDEA AND RUN WITH IT
HubSpot’s Culture Code states: “We give ourselves the autonomy to be awesome.” An early career woman at HubSpot explained, “I love that HubSpot lets you take a project and run with it and own it.” HubSpot facilitates this sense of ownership by keeping teams small, making it possible for the company to be flexible, agile, and to move quickly without running decisions by a large number of people.
BELIEVE IN AND REWARD THE CAPABILITIES OF FUTURE WOMEN LEADERS
At HubSpot, the company’s senior leaders give junior talent lots of responsibility early on. For example, the HubSpot Culture Code reads: “Influence should be independent of hierarchy.” The company rewards accordingly. “We reward based on ingenuity and results, not time,” said HubSpot’s Vice President of Culture and Experience. One example of that is a millennial woman who has already risen to HubSpot’s Management Team as VP of Operations and was promoted to the role while expecting her first child. Actions such as this demonstrate capabilities of high achieving early career women. What’s more, they show the commitment of senior leaders to believing in the next generation of women leaders and putting women into mission critical assignments.
ENCOURAGE RISK TAKING AND EXPERIMENTATION
While conducting interviews for ICEDR’s Taking Charge research, senior level women executives advised emerging women leaders to take more risks. Sometimes these efforts fail, yet senior women leaders pointed to times when risks paid off as significant turning points for their companies and for them personally. In keeping with this principle, HubSpot’s senior leaders encourage risk taking. One HubSpot executive will occasionally email his team encouraging them to “try something crazy”. As one early career woman explained, “Senior leaders want you to take risks. With great risk comes great reward. If you don’t take risks then you only see incremental growth. We want to see exponential growth.” Another echoed these sentiments: “I get to experiment a lot. Experimentation is so valued here and that’s what makes these projects exciting to me because I don’t have to ask for permission to do something. I make that call that it is a worthy experiment to run. The idea is ‘just do it.’”
For organizational leaders to both retain early career women and innovate effectively, they must build company cultures where intrapreneurship, risk taking, creativity, experimentation, and ownership are not only accepted but also encouraged. The great news: both people and market-facing strategies can benefit from culture where the talents, passions, and capabilities of early career women are unleashed.