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By Lindsey Carnett, CEO and President of Marketing Maven & WPO Los Angeles I Chapter member

The WPO Annual Conference brought together driven women from multi-million-dollar businesses around the globe. This year’s theme was particularly important – Leading Up.

Building a strong, engaged workforce is important to the long-term success of a business. Getting it right can completely influence and shape the direction of a business.

Human capital can be defined as what an employee or a workforce possesses in terms of their knowledge, skills, experience and commitment. Finding the right mix is important to helping a business – whatever stage of its journey –reach its objectives and turn a profit.

When getting a business off the ground, the inclination is to hire quickly. However, individuals who may have been the right hires at the beginning may not be correct for the second phase of growth, requiring a business to look for new or additional staff in line with the skills needed for a business to scale.

The landscape of female representation in business has improved- but needs more work.

According to research from Pew, less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. Similarly, 22.2% of female board members are on Fortune 500 companies. These are low levels of female representation, despite progress being made.

Research from McKinsey cements the value of female representation in the workplace. Firms with women in top management outpace their peers and realize financial growth of up to 15% over the industry median. And in the public and government space, female leaders are significantly more likely than male leaders to have fast growing economies- something that we can all get behind.

Companies that make it a priority to identify and promote talented women help to support equal pay and equal opportunities, as well as achieve tangible financial benefits that help both employer and employee.

Making the most of an organization’s diversity requires inclusive leadership that enhances and aligns with a growth strategy, culture, hiring process and promotion schedules. This involves investing in talent and making it central to every aspect of a business.

As a fellow WPO member, I find that talent is key to the continued success of my business. Our engaged, diverse and motivated workforce is the lifeblood of the services we offer our clients. We invest in our employees, offering them opportunities to continue their professional development, networking and a space to feed back their ideas for improvement.

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With talent being such an important part of any entrepreneurial venture, how can you make the most of human capital?

Commitment to personal development: developing ‘soft skills’ is an effective way to incentivize and encourage employees. By investing in training programs, your employees can improve aspects of their professional development — such as technical skills — which can ultimately benefit the diversification of business.

Mentoring: another way to make the most of human capital is to encourage employees at all levels through mentoring. Pair newer staff members with those who are more senior – helping them to learn best practices and provide encouragement with both professional and personal development.

Skills audit: undertaking a skills and talent audit is an effective way of analyzing human capital. Consider the operational requirements of your organization, analyzing the output, sales, goods, services and behaviors that are displayed by employees. Compare these with the organizational objectives, strengths, constraints and limitations. Finally, consider your current talent and use all three sets of information to identify where you may need to make improvements, changes and allocate professional attention.

Proper evaluation and feedback: clearly defined performance goals and a structured, transparent process for employees to share their ideas for improvement is an important part of nurturing human capital. Whether it’s a public team get-together every week, or an anonymous feedback system, invest in giving employees a proper way to share what they feel.

Consult on incentives and rewards: what are the incentives that employees regard as a meaningful reward for outstanding performance? Perhaps it is an additional day of vacation, complimentary gym membership or Fridays off. Find out what motivates your workforce and use this as a way to help them achieve your organization’s goals.

Talent is one of the most important investments that a business owner can make. An engaged, motivated workforce can help a business flourish, helping to achieve objectives and nurture both personal and professional development.

Managing human capital is vital for entrepreneurial success  – and when women lead, great things can be achieved.

Originally posted on Women Presidents' Organization by Women Presidents' Organization.

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