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This chapter is from the book

What You Can Learn from Demographics

Demographics offer a way to distinguish and describe characteristics of a population to determine what sets that segment apart. Although not a foolproof predictor, demographics are so valuable that it's surprising that HR professionals don't always have employee information at their fingertips. Everyone typically knows how many employees work at their company, but you also need to know other important facts about your employees:

Key employee demographics:

  • Where are your employees located?
  • What is the average length of employee service?
  • How are your employees divided in terms of age? Male/female ratio? Ethnic mix? Educational level?
  • What is the median salary for all employees? What are the salary ranges for different job families, businesses, and locations?
  • How many employees fall into each pay/job grade or job/functional category?
  • Which primary languages do your employees speak? For what percentage of your employee audience is English a second language?
  • How many employees support dependents? On average, how many dependents do they have?
  • How many employees have computers at work, easy access to the company intranet, and e-mail accounts?
  • Can employees take time at work to attend meetings about HR programs, services, and products? Do meetings need to be held before or after work or at lunchtime? Do employees need to be paid overtime to attend these meetings?
  • What percentage of your employee population belongs to a union? How many unions are represented at your workplace?
  • How many employees are also customers of your company? How many are also shareholders in your company?

Your employee demographics will give you valuable insights into almost every aspect of communication, especially the following:

  • What to communicate (content) and what examples will resonate with your audience.
  • How to communicate (for example, print, electronic, or face-to-face).
  • When and where to communicate.

For example, your company's medical plan enrollments will show you what percentage of your population has children. This is important to know when you're communicating about many topics, such as medical benefits, life insurance, savings, time off, and flexible work arrangements. Understanding how many employees have families also helps you know when to communicate. For example, meetings before or after work may be difficult for some employees to attend.

  • "Demographics explain about two-thirds of everything."
  • —David K. Foot, professor of economics at the University of Toronto and author of Boom, Bust & Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century2
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