Thursday 28 November 2019

For Love or Money 2: Changing Requirements of Staff

I've had a chapter included in MuseumEtc's book on reward, 'For Love or Money': Re-engineering the Way Museums Work, writing as an associate of Barker Langham.

However, I would hope the content will be relevant for people working in other sectors too.

This is part 2 of the chapter. Part 1 on the changing context of work was here:

Changing Requirements of Staff

Managing staff more smartly is also more important because the expectations of the workforce in many areas of the world have changed. People want and increasingly demand a sense of purpose and meaning from their employment as well as connection with others in the workforce. Employers in all sectors already need to respond to this demand and this will become an absolute requirement if we ever see the widespread introduction of something like universal basic income. This will mean that people have a more realistic opportunity to take on work that they want to, rather than have to do and will potentially provide a significant opportunity for employers like museums working in the creative economy.

People also want more flexibility, often including the need to work part vs full time, to work at home, and increasingly to work for multiple organisations as freelancers, or by developing ‘side hussles’ on top of their main employment. Importantly, these expectations are not limited to generation Y / Z or their global equivalents, eg China’s post-80’s, but are increasingly expressed by people of any age.

Organisations therefore need to focus on meeting these workforce needs as well as their business and customer ones. Sometimes this can be quite easy. For example museums often need project based staff to design exhibitions and this short-term focus often fits the aspirations of people who want to work in this role.

Similarly, museums’ increasing need for flexibility often means they need to get work done by temporary employees, contract or ‘gig’ workers, and consultants. This contingent workforce is an increasingly common addition to the traditional organisation. For example, as shown in the above figure, Charles Handy’s shamrock organisation model (Handy, 1995) now needs to be considered to have four constituent parts (or leaves):

   A core workforce with specific skills and a high alignment with a museum’s mission and domain who want a long-term relationship with the museum. The core workforce may include curators, conservators etc, but also front of house / visitor experience staff where excellent as opposed to average performance, for example by offering and personalising explanations on exhibits, can make a huge difference to customer experience.

   A contract workforce of key talent who do not fit the above profile but are still really important for the museum’s future. Handy suggests this may include people who have previously been employed by the organisation. Web designers and other digital staff may also fall within this category.

   A peripheral workforce who will probably be employees rather than gig workers, but who may bring a ‘gig mindset’ (McConnell, 2018) to their work, meaning that they are more focused on their own development and career rather than loyalty to their current and short-term employment. This workforce segment will include staff working in generic functions such as Finance and Marketing as well as areas like security and food and beverage if these are not outsourced.

   The additional leaf provided by the contingent workforce of gig workers and other short-term contributors. This group could include people working in a range of different areas but where it is easier and more effective to rent rather than own capability. As opposed to the contract group, these staff will not generally provide a strategic differentiation and this means they may need to be managed with rather more focus on efficiency.

Each of these different workforce segments have different requirements and expectations and will need to be treated differently, though to the same extent in terms of the relative quality of the approach.

Meeting each of these segment’s needs can also be fairly easy as the flexibility required by an organisation often relates to the flexibility desired by individual staff. However, the challenge is often in matching the two. For example Glassdoor reviews from staff on UK’s zero hour contracts, show a significant difference in perspective depending on whether these arrangements have been designed to meet employees’ as well as the employer’s needs (Ingham, 2015). In addition, staff need to be participants in the design of the flexibility to ensure it really does meet their needs.

Organisations also need to focus on providing suitable integration between these workforce categories in order to avoid tensions between them (McIlvane, 2019), as has been reported recently at Google (Wong, 2018).

Other ways of meeting the workforce’s new expectations include providing more involvement in the core domain of the museum. For many staff, this will be a core reason that they work in the sector and most museums could make much more out of this alignment than they do, maximising the opportunities for intrinsic as well as just extrinsic motivation. For example, museums could develop internal communities enabling staff to contribute outside of their specific job areas.

The role of volunteers in many museums shows the potential provided by people who want to contribute to a museum’s cause, separate to any financial compensation for doing so. A good example here is the London Transport Museum which has a large volunteer workforce, including roles which might usually be standard paid positions, including research, IT, helpdesk analyst, curators, and event stewards. The museum even takes this approach a stage further forward by using volunteering as a means to meet the museum’s broader mission, providing volunteering experience as a means for people to develop into transport engineering careers with other employers through the museum’s Enjoyment to Employment programme.

However, it is also important that this opportunity is not taken too far. Providing broader and more altruistic benefits can never be a good excuse not to pay people appropriately!

The above strategies should also help museums improve their diversity as moving towards more personalised approaches also makes it easier to meet an increasingly varied range of requirements and hence appeal to non-traditional recruitment pools. However, making this approach work also requires an effective approach to inclusion, ensuring a more diverse range of people are able to contribute and work together effectively.

I'll be posting parts 2 and 3 of the chapter over the next couple of weeks.

Jon Ingham,
Top 100 HR Tech Influencer - Human Resources Executive

Mover and Shaker - HR magazine, +44 7904 185134


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