How can employers look after all the demographics in their workforce? It is worthwhile considering the options…


It’s vital that employers understand the make-up of their workforce, and the needs of the different demographics within it – but it’s equally crucial not to make assumptions.

While you can work around the parameters of personas in the workplace, there’s danger around conjecturing about what people want and need based on their generation rather than their specific circumstances.

For example, there are 22-year-olds who finish university and already have a child, and therefore have different priorities and needs to other graduates. You can’t pigeonhole people like that.

Of course, to an extent you have to cater to the masses and you can’t cater to every individual need – but we’re in danger of stereotyping everybody and not understanding their differences.

So how do you understand the demographics you’re working with? It’s really not rocket science: you need to go out and talk to them! It doesn’t matter if you are a multinational company, or have multiple locations in the UK – you still shouldn’t find it hard to talk to your people. Of course, some people won’t want to discuss their problems: but most are open to talking about what their needs are.

Personas are a great tool to open up the conversation about why it is critical not to treat your workforce as a homogenous mass.

Millennials: do we need to restructure?

As the youngest generation enter the workforce, with a new raft of needs and wants, employers may worry about the need to ‘revamp’ their benefit propositions.

It goes further than that, however: it’s not about restructuring an entire benefits package to suit them – it’s about helping them understand what they’re being offered. A lot of people, especially the millennials coming in, simply don’t care about what you do in employee benefits – and they don’t know why they should care.

Employers shouldn’t be worrying about running before they walk: offering new benefits tailored to millennials before they actually engage their newest staff with what they can take advantage of, and why they should.

The sandwich generation: showing the love

Without falling in to the trap of generalisation, it is fair to say that many employees in the UK workforce now have care responsibilities at both ends of the spectrum, both having children and elderly dependents who need support in some form or other.

Often, workplace support for this squeezed middle does not come in the form of some expensive-to-provide benefits, but rather understanding, flexibility and time.

For example, in one company if someone is having to make the huge transition of putting a relative in a care home, they are given the time they need away from the office to do that and paid for a week of that time, divided over the weeks they are away: they are being given the support in flexibility of time and also still receiving some financial support.

Similarly, it’s hard for new parents, and if you can do something that is helpful to them that makes a huge difference: for example, sending them food for the first couple of weeks that they are adjusting to looking after this brand-new life.

The ageing workforce: to retirement… and beyond?

Today’s ageing workforce entails several risks for employers and employees alike:

  • Healthcare costs: higher sickness levels among older workers lead to higher claims, and consequently higher premiums.
  • Retiring at the right age: many older staff are having to work longer because they don’t have the retirement savings to retire when they want to.
  • Talent management: sometimes employers require the turnover in the older bracket to create new opportunities for younger workers. If people aren’t retiring, and those roles don’t become vacant, then the new talent has nowhere to progress to – and goes elsewhere.

As the cost of retirement goes up, so do those risks. There is no easy solution here: companies simply do not have magic pots of money to add to people’s retirement pots.

However, regardless of the demographic you are catering for, employers need to remember that we would all love to make revolutionary change: we all want to tear up the proposition and start again, but time and money don’t allow us to do that.

But you can be clever with what you’ve got: there are small changes you can make to have a big impact.