A predisposition among Australian employers toward an ‘ideal worker’ profile puts organisations at risk of missing out on ‘hidden’ local talents and opportunities to build loyalty, a diverse culture and boost productivity.
A recent research report found that both employees and decision-makers believe that being male and perpetually available with no outside responsibilities or interests, as well as prioritising work above all else, are the most desired qualities for employment.
“It seems that while we struggle with skills shortages in Australia, our businesses still have a belief that accommodating the work/life balance of employees is either too costly or disruptive to creating a high-performance team,” said Peter Harte, vice president, Asia-Pacific, Kronos, which released the research report.
“Instead, businesses have an inclination toward employing those people that fit the mould of least disruption. As a result they’re missing out on a wealth of experienced talent that has to languish in the background because employers are unwilling to meet their needs and circumstances.”
The research report, which took in 500 business decision-makers and 2,000 employees within Australian organisations, found that 72 per cent of employers felt that employees that reach parenthood are more likely to transition to part-time working hours, requiring the businesses to offer more flexible working arrangements.
“While many of the ideal characteristics are perhaps not surprising, we need to question whether these pre-conceived notions about the ‘ideal worker’ means that they’re missing talent that is right under their noses”
Related to this, almost 40 per cent of business decision-makers prefer employees without children, in comparison to only 18 per cent who consider employees with children desirable. Similarly, just over half said the same for the mature age workers leading up to retirement, expecting them to want to work less or more flexible hours.
The report highlighted a tension between workplace expectations and personal lives, which is putting the interests of employers and employees at odds.
When asked what qualities they prefer when looking for candidates for their business, 76 per cent of decision-makers said they would like their workers to be willing to work extra hours, while 57 per cent preferred employees with unbroken employment records and 73 per cent looked for ambition in their employees.
“Many business decision-makers believe that a sense of dedication, commitment to work full-time, and constant ‘face-time’ in the workplace are essential to achieve effective job performance,” said Harte.
“Moreover, they assume that the best reward for a job well done is promotion to a post that’s even more demanding. Those who seem to not fit those criteria may be labelled as uninterested or unengaged.
“While many of the ideal characteristics are perhaps not surprising, we need to question whether these pre-conceived notions about the ‘ideal worker’ means that they’re missing talent that is right under their noses.”
Businesses can no longer ignore the huge impact of work-life balance on employee productivity and performance, according to Harte.
“They must be more agile and flexible in accommodating the life changes of their employees, or risk losing out on the innovations and increased productivity that comes with the varied perspectives and experiences of a diverse workforce,” he said.