Looking for the “ideal worker”? Time to wake-up

The hunt for the ideal worker is going to damage organisations in the long run, this expert claims.

Looking for the “ideal worker”? Time to wake-up

A staggering amount of organisations have admitted to searching for the “ideal worker” – unattached, young males who are willing to work long hours. This trend is harmful to employers and employees, a report from Kronos found.

The report, which details the results of a survey covering 500 business decision-makers, 2,000 employees and a mix of industries from healthcare to retail, revealed 72% of employers felt the employees transitioning to part-time work when they reach parenthood could cause disruptions to the workplace. Another 53% felt the same for mature age workers who are reaching retirement.

Additionally, almost 40% of decision-makers prefer employees without children.

When asked what qualities they look for in candidates, 38% believe males to be more desirable than women, 76% would like employees to work extra hours, 57% prefer employees to have unbroken employment records, and 73% look for ambition.

Peter Harte, vice president Asia Pacific of Kronos, believes these prejudices could create myopic organisations at risk of missing out on entire talent pools, as well as generating extra costs for themselves when refusing to hire mature aged workers.

“What’s amazing is people still don’t really value or understand the cost it takes to hire someone, train them and retain them in the business,” Harte told HC.

The prejudice is driven by the perception that older workers, or workers with children (often extended to women in general) will not want to work in traditional, full-time structures.

“Many business decision-makers believe that a sense of dedication, commitment to work full-time and ensuring constant ‘face-time’ in the workplace is essential to achieve effective job performance,” Harte said. “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 disinterested or disengaged.”

Harte argues that the opposite is actually true, with a better work-life balance creating more engaged workers, who are more productive.

Flexible work arrangements are a symptom of a more open and intelligent culture. “It is work smart, not hard,” Harte explained. “Productivity is basically the value created in every single hour, so it doesn’t matter that someone works 10 hours a day, someone else could work four hours and be more productive.”

Harte explained that motivated and happy individuals will bring productivity with them, so allowing time off or flexible hours will be rewarded with a boost in productivity. The same applies to the prejudice against candidates with “broken employment” – gaps in employment history can be signs of travel, study, caring for family or injury, all of which do not indicate laziness, but character and integrity.

Overall, Harte thinks the answer is a no-brainer. “Businesses just need to wake up … let’s add more diversity in the workforce, it’ll be good for the country,” he said.

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