The right to decent work: How Dr Maria Hameed Khan puts theory into practice at EBA

Maria is a self-described serial student, and her lifelong love of learning is hugely valued at Employer Branding Australia. Our Head of Research & Insights expertly blends her strategic, evidence-based approach with a human touch to get to the heart of each organisation we work alongside. With a sarcastic shell hiding a warm heart and a philosophising soul, Maria is the perfect person to lead our team.

Surviving or thriving at work

The average person spends 115,704 hours at work over their lifetime.

During a typical 50 year employment period, that works out to about a quarter of our available hours.

We all know work takes up a massive portion of our lives, so it stands to reason that if we want to live well, we have to work well. This is the topic Dr Maria Hameed Khan has spent much of her academic career investigating.

She’s authored academic papers and industry reports on a range of human resource management (HRM) topics. Her research covers how we foster inclusive workplaces and ethical leadership, from understanding lived experiences through intersectional perspectives (gender, disability, neurodiversity, vulnerable youths) to analysing media representation of women in leadership.

Maria’s most recent work explores the changing nature of work and drills down into the concept of “decent work” - the subject of her thesis, which granted her the title of Doctor in December 2023.

“My work focuses on understanding how we can create decent work across all levels in society, from regulators to organisations to individual workers. For decent work to exist, we need to uphold certain values and concepts of social justice: empowerment, fairness, dignity, respect and the opportunity to flourish and thrive - and have fun doing it!”

The people behind the data

As her colleagues and friends, we couldn’t be more proud of Maria’s work and dedication in achieving her PhD (while only being a little bit worried about the insane amount of caffeine and lack of sleep she endured during this time). As a collective, we’re unbelievably excited about what Maria and her academic journey will bring to EBA and our development in this space.

In her role as Head of Research & Insights, Maria is heavily involved in our EBArticulate services, including interviews, focus groups and the discovery processes that underpin employee value proposition (EVP) development. She’s helped put systems in place to make our work scalable and collaborated on new ways to qualitatively and quantitatively analyse our data.

“Working at EBA has shown me how research can have meaning and impact in more ways than I originally thought. At the heart of what we do, there’s a very simple concept: we talk to people and understand why they choose their workplace. It’s ironic - in conventional approaches to research, it’s common to take the ‘human’ out. I like that at EBA, we prioritise a human side to our research - we’re not just coming in to get data. We come to listen and understand.”

From East to West

Maria’s passion for understanding and improving workplace culture stems from her early career journey, when she witnessed first-hand how a diversity of thought and experience can shape a working environment.

She was raised in Pakistan’s leafy, subtropical capital, Islamabad, and landed her first part-time role at a children’s charity headquartered in the United Kingdom. After completing her law degree, Maria opted to study for her first master’s degree in the UK. She returned to Pakistan after graduating and quickly gained a role in Dubai’s financial sector. Arriving in the Persian Gulf’s cosmopolitan hub, hot on the heels of the global financial crisis, was an eye-opening experience for the 23-year-old.

“Working in the finance sector at a time when the stakes were especially high, I gained insight into the good, the bad and the ugly sides of human nature. Normally, you’d have to live in many different countries to get exposure to people from across the globe. But Dubai is a perfect blend of East and West, with people from very different perspectives converging.”

Finding home again

After four years in Dubai’s “luxurious bubble”, Maria felt the itch to explore new horizons and, true to her intellectually curious nature, to tackle further study.

Maria met Dave [EBA’s Chief Operating Officer] while studying in Brisbane. One day, he shared with her what it was like to work at EBA. Maria says she felt “instantly drawn” to the organisation; she saw the overlap between what EBA does and her own work as a researcher.

Now, two years into her EBA journey and a freshly minted Doctor, Maria is better placed than ever before to help steer us into the future.

“Employer branding has often been misunderstood and is definitely undervalued. The more I work in this space, the more I see how impactful it is. There is so much potential here. I want to add value any way I can, whether that’s through project support, research ideas, or adding unique methodological perspectives.”
Tahlia Robinson

About the Author

As Employer Branding Australia’s Commercial Marketing Storyteller, Tahlia Robinson communicates our fantastic, imperfect organisation’s story to the world. With a background in PR for non-profits, she specialises in connecting organisations with their audiences in positive, meaningful ways. Tahlia is keenly interested in accessibility, activism, and keeping up with current trends on social media (while constantly wondering if she’s too old to be on TikTok).

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