Ian Dowd: Managing the expectations and keeping motivation amongst the diverse workforce

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Workplace Diversity

One of the most impactful areas of diversity is age. Our workforce is getting older, but the modal average is evolving the workforce, especially in the area of HR.

The factors that motivate employees vary massively and most businesses will find it impossible to successfully execute a one-size fits all benefits package. The motivations are influenced by the stage that employees are in their career, their personal circumstances and, as we’ll see, where they’re based in the country.

When we combine the diversity in age with geography, the challenge is compounded. As companies grow, in size, scale and spread, they should expect to encounter new threats and find new opportunities.

Averaging out the most common motivating factors across the population does not lead to huge surprises. The top issues are salary (79%), work/life balance (66%) and career progression (43%).

But that does not tell the whole story. It’s how the importance of these factors fluctuate with the diversity of the workforce that’s interesting. No employee is an average – treating them in this way could be disastrous.

The wisdom of age

According to the ONS, there are population spikes for ages 21-33 and 41-51 for women and similarly 20-34 and 41-50 for men. Companies know that their workforces will likely reflect these demographic trends, but what does that mean?

The importance of salary grows as employees get older. Surprisingly, the more that someone gets paid – the more important salary is to them. Younger employees, 18-24 year olds, unsurprisingly, are motivated by training and support (47%, average 36%) – but shockingly least motivated by salary (73%, average 79%). They are taking a longer-sighted view of their careers.

In fact, the younger employees see perks like subsidised meals (11%, average 7%) and company phones (13%, average 7%) as job essentials than any other age group. These are not the be-all and end-all recruitment tactics for the younger generation, but are low cost motivators that could be the differentiator in recruiting, retaining and energising these employees.

Work/Life balance is one area where there is a marked difference between those entering the workforce and those most experienced. The number of people in each age group looking for this balance gradually increases. The commitments of family and the cumulative impact of working for a longer time could reduce the motivation for being 100 percent focused on work.

This is reflected in opinions of the working day as well. The lowest percentage of 18-24 olds saw seven hours as an acceptable working day; 75 percent say eight/nine hours is ok, which is higher than any other age group.

So what can we surmise from this? Smaller, almost disposable benefits may fit better for younger employees, while more significant benefits are needed for older employees. To maintain these different levels of benefits and preferences is tough for companies of any size to do.

Geographic diversity

As companies open more offices, there are regional differences that muddy the picture of benefits provision and employee motivation.

If a company needs to open an office in London, for instance, there are several differences from the rest of the country. London is the most populous area and has a bearing on national averages. This makes deviations from it even more remarkable.

For instance, employees in London are the least motivated by salary (76%, average 79%) or work/life balance (59%, average 66%). So what is important to London employees?

They are the group motivated by cultural fit (30%, average 21%), travel (19%, average 14%) and non-monetary benefits (35%, average 24%). They’re motivated by working in London, seemingly, because it’s an experience that they cannot get elsewhere…so this is what employers must appeal to.

By contrast –Scotland is the region motivated by salary (84%), career progression (49%, average 43%) and work/life balance (74%). A company with offices in London and Glasgow; cannot have a uniform HR policy across the two, as the audiences are dramatically different.

Employees are individuals

Managing an increasingly diverse workforce brings with it multiple challenges. However, companies can keep their employees motivated by personalising a package of career development and benefits. This individual approach will help safeguard the continued success for the organisation, ensuring the business and its people are aligned and all pulling in the same direction.

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About Ian Dowd

Ian is the Marketing Director at NGA Human Resources and responsible for UK and Ireland.

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  1. Insightful article – working with companies who recognise the importance of supporting the ageing workforce demographic we find that the one of the primary concerns amongst the 45-64 age group is in relation to work/life balance.

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