Do you know what your workers truly value? Valuegraphics expert David Allison, keynote at the upcoming EVOLVE Benefits and Workforce Strategies Summit, shares his thoughts on how employers can harness the power of values to improve workplace culture, attraction and retention.

  1. Society in general—and the pension and benefits industry in particular—has historically relied heavily on demographics as a means of understanding employee/plan member populations. Yet your research suggests this approach is inadequate. Can you explain?

If you’re trying to understand people, a good model to use is the three-legged stool of audience insight. The first leg is demographics. They still have a very important role to play, because there are going to be certain demographic realities around any group of people. But here’s where we’ve been going wrong: We’ve been assuming that since we know what people are (age, income, gender, marital status, etc.), we also know who they are. And we don’t.

David Allison

The second leg is psychographics. Psychographics is a catch-all phrase for everything else we know about people that’s not demographics: their likes, wants, needs, past behaviours, purchase decisions and belief systems. That data is important because it can show you patterns so you can make predictions. It all comes from exactly the same place, which is history. What we’re all trying to understand is, how do we get people to be inspired, motivated and engaged? How do we influence their behaviours in the future?

Valuegraphics is the third leg, because it tells you what’s going on inside people’s hearts—who they are on the inside; what they actually care about; what’s motivating their decisions, behaviours, actions, emotions and reactions. You need all three legs —because if you’re missing a leg on a three-legged stool, it’s not a very stable place to be.

2. What steps should employer/plan sponsors take to uncover the shared values of their populations? Are there any potential pitfalls?

If you ask people what their values are, they’re going to lie —because they’re either trying to present themselves as a really good person, or they’re not being entirely honest with themselves. For example, if you ask a group of people, “Do you value family,” who’s going to say no? It’s the same with environmentalism: You’re not going to say no.

Instead, what you have to do is ask people about their life: What are you worried about? What do you do in your spare time? How do you feel about sex, love, religion or politics? If you ask enough people about their lives, you start to see patterns or signals in the noise that show you how people are making decisions about what they’re going to do—because our values drive everything we do.

You can find out shared values using the Three Telltale Questions (you’ll have to attend my EVOLVE keynote to find out what the questions are). If you use them properly, you can get people to tell you their values without lying. When you listen to enough people answer and watch for hints, you start to see their values bubbling to the surface.

3. How can having a better understanding of shared values help build a culture of inclusion and belonging at an organization?

People wake up every morning trying to find more of what they value. If you know what the motivating values are for your workforce, two things happen. First, you can create incredible incentives, training and workplace culture. You can do all kinds of things that align with the values you know are going to get people to be more motivated, engaged, inspired and excited about coming to work every day. And second, you can stop doing things that don’t matter to them so you’re not wasting time and money.

4. What are the key takeaways from your research and its insights?

During my EVOLVE keynote, I’m going to present the results of customized research conducted for this conference, looking at the values of people who chose their jobs based on the pensions and benefits offered. I’ll identify the three “power values” that are the most resonant for this audience and exactly what they mean, then share ideas on how to use that information.

You’re going to walk away knowing three big buttons you can push in order to tackle any issue and seize any opportunity for this particular audience, as well as how you can refer back to them over time. The values don’t stale-date; they’re with us for life because we’re all values driven. Values are the answer to everything. We just need to put them to work.

The International Foundation’s EVOLVE Benefits and Workforce Strategies Summit is June 25-27, 2024 in Calgary, Alberta.

Alyssa Hodder

Recommended Posts