I’ve just finished reading a blog post by the Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Caroline Waters, in which she asserts that companies have much to gain from looking at their employees in terms of the stage of life they’ve reached, rather than in terms of more conventional labels, such as religion or age.
She’s right, of course (at least in this author’s opinion), but as thought-provoking as the article is, it doesn’t offer a justification for this viewpoint. So this blog post weighs in with an explanation: it’s all to do with employees’ changing priorities.
When Waters suggests drawing a connection between employees who have newly become fathers, irrespective of other characteristics or attributes they might share, this is a useful thing to do because these employees are likely to have common needs. This particular group will probably be short of sleep, desire more than average flexibility in their working arrangements, and be especially concerned about benefits such as life and medical insurance; furthermore, it’s quite likely that their needs are now different from those they had before fatherhood.
Their common “life stage” means that they are more likely to have similar needs and priorities than a group chosen at random. This means that, if changes are to be made, they can be done en masse for a significant group of employees who are all likely to be appreciative of these changes.
But we can do this the other way around, too. Rather than identifying groups of employees by some characteristic (like parenthood) and then looking at their needs, groups can be identified by uncovering a common need concerning some aspect of work. Often, such a group will transcend other, more traditional, demographics; but nevertheless, what this group has in common is that they will all rate the same aspect of their working life as highly important to them.
Getting that aspect of their jobs right is going to be an essential part of engaging and retaining that employee group, boosting the company culture as a result. And if companies have some way of identifying or communicating with that group, then the conversation can be continued to uncover the fine detail of any issues, and to gather enough material to inform a precisely targeted action plan.
It’s curious that the single most important method of gathering this kind of data – the employee survey – traditionally doesn’t ask employees how much different aspects of their work matter to them. But how else would organisations discover their employees’ priorities, and how they change over time, without asking them?
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