By IESE Insight
Evidence is mounting: the old vision of “ideal” workers — who give 100% to their employers, without family interference — aren’t actually ideal for 21st century organizations. In fact, the old model of full devotion to work has a negative influence on performance, research says. Now it’s time to talk about “the new ideal worker,” someone who is able to achieve a better work-life balance and bring more to the various tables in their lives.
In The New Ideal Worker: Organizations Between Work-Life Balance, Gender and Leadership, editors Mireia Las Heras, Nuria Chinchilla and Marc Grau gather research on work-life balance as well as gender and leadership. The academic papers gathered in this book were presented at the seventh biannual International Conference of Work & Family as well as the first biannual International Conference of Women and Leadership, both organized by IESE’s International Center for Work and Family and supported by its Carmina Roca and Rafael-Pich Aguilera Women and Leadership Chair.
A global view
Representing more than 25 nationalities, more than 100 scholars participated in the IESE conferences, presenting research focused on such countries as Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, India, United Kingdom and United States. Chapters include qualitative and quantitative studies set in these countries, as well as theoretical explorations of topics, such as the flexibility-availability paradox facing the new ideal worker, with its potential for blurring boundaries as both flexibility and availability increase.
The volume, directed at practitioners as well as academics, seeks to define and address the needs of today’s workforce, looking at the role of technology and of corporate policies. In parallel, it explores gender discrimination and equality, the latter of which is ultimately for the good of organizations and the people in them.
From an “ideal” worker to real people
In the past, talk of the “ideal” worker might conjure an image of a white man who began his professional career in his early 20s and continued working without interruption for the next 40 years, usually at the same company. He clearly prioritized work over the family who was primarily cared for by someone else (his wife). His status grew along with the size of his office and the number of business trips he took.
This outdated view has been pushed aside by another. Here are five features of “the new ideal workers”:
- May be a man or a woman, of any ethnicity, race, age, disability or other status.
- Their career starts at any age, with time stepping in and out of the labor market, as needed.
- They bring (and draw on) their knowledge and experiences from past jobs and other spheres of life — including social, sporting, family and cultural realms.
- They may prioritize work or family or something else vital — depending upon the personal circumstances and stage of life at the time.
- They put more stock in feeling that they are contributing, part of team and learning, and less stock in status.
In short, the new ideal is more inclusive and lets people do more. Blurring the boundaries between the various aspects of life can bring more value to companies as well as to the human beings who work in them.