This article has been written by Luke Rees on behalf of Thymometrics, a leading global supplier of always-on, real-time employee engagement surveys.
The deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Caroline Waters, has recently put out a statement urging recruiters to change the way they do business. Currently HR and recruitment teams focus too much on characteristics such as age and religion when determining how to manage people. She says that these teams need to focus instead more on employee “life stages” – by doing so, employee engagement and retention is likely to be significantly improved.
Currently it is estimated that only around 5% to 10% of companies take this approach, a low figure that may be negatively impacting employee satisfaction. Here are five techniques for implementing the “life stages” mind-set into your organisation.
Avoid Pigeon-Holing People by Age
A recent CIPD report discovered that there is indeed a strong link between life stage and working experience on work priorities: for example, younger age groups in general focus on values such as trust, recognition (terms of promotions and carrier growth) and freedom, while older age groups focus on achieving work–life balance and flexibility.
It’s necessary for recruiters to be aware of these trends, however it’s also important to keep an open mind, and to understand that many other factors play a part in an individual’s attitude to work.
Know When a Person Is Looking for Career Stability Over Development
Younger Gen Y and Millennial professionals may, in general, emphasise career development opportunities as a key driver, however this is not the case for every individual. For example, a 25-year-old who has already settled into life early (e.g. is married) may instead looking for a consistent and stable work commitment, rather than ploughing a more progressive, but riskier, career path. Recruiters should ask these more personal questions before pitching opportunities.
Conversely, Know When Someone Is Seeking Career Progression Over Stability
Similarly, there is also a large percentage of the older working population who may feel like they have yet to assert themselves in a corporate environment. Perhaps they focused on more ‘nurturing’ qualities during young adulthood, like taking care of family, travelling, or developing personal relationships.
In mid-life we often want to rebalance, and attacking a career could be the right move for those who have previously been unsure of what they wanted. Again, it pays to be able to interpret an individual’s back story.
Be Flexible Around Working Hours and Schedules
Any recruiter or employer who takes age diversity in the workplace seriously should be flexible when it comes to employee working arrangements. In the hospitality industry, for example, offering employees the option to schedule work hours around other individual circumstances can significantly boost engagement levels when employees are in work (as was seen by the McDonald’s executive team in Europe).
Understand – Through Measurement – How Your Corporate Culture Functions
Ultimately, when focusing on life stages you have to learn to play the psychologist, and to realise that there may not be a prescribed method for handling each and every personal situation. Each company’s culture is different, and managers and recruiters should be trained to appreciate their employees at all points along the life stage spectrum.
One way to understand employee life stages within your organisation is to think “people operations” (originally pioneered by Google). This is essentially a data-based approach to human resources, based on retaining employees by understanding what drives them. In addition, employee satisfaction surveys, team assessments and social media are all other great ways to accurately identify issues that affect your organisation.
Thymometrics, a supplier of employee engagement surveys, says that traditionally the employee survey doesn’t ask employees how much different aspects of their work matter to them. However, there’s no reason why organisations couldn’t start to have this kind of dialogue with their employees.