As an employer, you want your employees to be able to continue to do their current and future work healthy, productive and with pleasure. So that your organization remains flexible and competitive in the market.
But as an employer you have the dilemma: what if I invest in my employees and they all leave? What if I do not invest and they do not have sufficient knowledge, skills and competences?
Another challenge is often how you tempt employees to work proactively on their own employability. In practice, that does not seem so easy at all.
In this article I give 17 concrete tips to promote sustainable employability of employees. Apply all tips? No, that certainly does not have to.
With this article I hope that you recognize which opportunities you can use and/or which employability risks you can take away. With these tips you can determine your own approach that suits your situation.
I start with tips for organizations, then tips for managers and finally tips for employees.
Be sure to read further.
Tips for organizations
Tip 1: Invest in the dialogue
A pitfall where you can step in as an organization is that you want to control the employability of employees only with HR tools and procedures. This makes your employability primarily an individual affair. You do not immediately entice your employees to conduct that increases their employability.
What both parties can do better is to research together what is needed to achieve an optimal balance between challenges and skills. An interview in which both parties have an eye for their own interests and the interests of the other.
The best tip I can give you is to invest in the dialogue.
Put the focus on taking your managers and employees along in the approach to sustainable employability!
This will lead to better solutions and create a higher level of involvement for the subject. In the extension of this is tip 2.
Tip 2: Organize an ’employability-meetup’
A meetup is a small-scale event where people come together to share knowledge about a specific subject. Organize an employability meetup in which the future discussion is central. By talking about opportunities, challenges and demands in the work and needs of your employees, you increase the awareness of sustainable employability.
To begin with, it is recommended that you anchor sustainable employability in the culture of your organization (the DNA).
It must be very common to have a good conversation about employability in his time.
Relevant topics for the future discussion may be shortages on the labour market, aging, longer working life, flexibilization of the labour market and technological developments.
Professions that are more likely to disappear due to automation are, for example, interpreters, accountants, librarians, stockbrokers, tax consultants, taxi drivers, truck drivers, warehouse staff, secretaries and brokers.
Attention to employability is therefore not a luxury problem, but a bitter necessity.
For a higher educational institution, I once was allowed to carry out an assessment for a new employee. The institution’s HR policy was that employees could work in a position for a maximum of five years. The new employee was asked at the start of the job to reflect directly on his own professional development aimed at the future. The educational institution started to facilitate the personal employability plan of the employee with money, time and development opportunities.
Tip 3: Focus on 3 basic psychological needs
As an organization, you are well advised to take measures that meet three basic psychological needs of employees, namely autonomy, competence and social solidarity. The fulfillment of these basic needs is an important condition for optimal functioning.
Autonomy stands for the freedom to make your own choices. This is about choosing the challenge that suits what you want.
Competence refers to the need to participate in activities that are optimally challenging. This is about the feeling being good at something and being challenged.
Social solidarity refers to the need to build positive relationships with others, to feel valued and to be of significance to others.
Employees who feel autonomous, competent and connected are more satisfied with their work, more vital, are more open to change and perform better.
One of the ways to find out to what extent the basic needs of employees are fulfilled is by asking for progress interviews or a mini-survey using questionnaires.
Tip 4: Use job crafting
It is important that there is a good fit between person and working environment, so that usable options can actually be converted into performance.
Job crafting is an approach for this. With job crafting, employees can reorganize their job responsibilities, working relationships, outlooks on work and their work environment in such a way that they fit in better with what they can, want to do and continue to do.
Which job crafting techniques are there?
Job crafting can be applied at different levels. This allows employees to adjust the task content, influence the interactions and relationships, view the role or meaning of work differently and adjust the work environment actively.
An additional advantage of successful job crafting for your organization is that you can keep employees interested and bound in an increasingly tight and aging labour market for a long time.
You can best offer job crafting as a method in the form of a training.
Besides job crafting, you can also stimulate sustainable employability through other strategies. I come across the strategies below.
Tip 5: Re-arrange the current function
As an organization you can also take measures to redesign the current position of employees in order to make better use of their capacity and motivation.
You can think of job redesign (job broadening, job enrichment and role change) and workday design (independent planning of tasks and flexible working hours).
Jobredesign can stimulate employees’ motivation because the work becomes more varied and meaningful for them.
Check whether this is desirable and possible within your organizational context.
Tip 6: Increase the knowledge, skills and competencies of your employees
Employees who continue to develop their knowledge and skills throughout their careers are more vital and work longer.
Employability increases when employees can get better in their jobs and career prospects.
I advise you as an organization to invest in a development strategy.
Which measures are covered by a development strategy?
Training, development programs, making knowledge sources available in the workplace, learning-on-the-job, mentoring, intervision and internships fall under the development strategy.
Do you want to know which development advice fits which function role? Read my article about 6 golden tips for talent development.
There are valid tests on the market to promote the sustainable employability of employees. Read here which tests I often use.
Tip 7: Choose for life-phase conscious personnel policy
With a lifecycle-aware personnel policy, you as an organization influence the balance between the burden and the capacity of your employees, so that they can work longer and more vital.
Which measures fall under life-phase-aware personnel policy?
These are mainly deliberate measures such as extra leave, task lighting, exemption from irregular work, adjustment of working hours and exemption from overtime.
Do you employ (older) employees in your organization who have less physical or mental capacity? Perhaps the emphasis on life-phase-aware personnel policy is an outcome for their employability.
Tip 8: Invest in the vitality of employees
Health is the most important basis for the functional capacities of your employees.
Is vitality a problem in your organization? Do not limit yourself to lifestyle interventions, such as more exercise, healthier nutrition and more relaxation. The vitality of employees is determined by various factors. In addition to lifestyle, the fulfillment of the three basic psychological needs is also relevant to the vitality of employees. And last but not least, a balanced work style and organizational culture also influence vitality. In short, influencing vitality is comprehensive.
Do you want to draw up a thorough vitality management plan?
I advise you to use Professor van Vuuren’s 5 step plan for this. This is a good way to structurally tackle vitality and determine your interventions. Read here how you can apply this in your organization or team.
Tip 9: Set up a mobility center
The organization of a mobility center promotes the internal and external mobility of employees. With that they can use their possibilities more broadly in a valuable way. This way you increase the employability of employees.
What measures can you think of?
Think of outplacement, from work-to-work mobility or relocation in other incriminating functions. These are measures aimed at transition to another job, department, organization or sector.
People who do physically heavy work (such as firefighters / women) have an increased risk of dropping out due to physical and psychological complaints. Instead of a scheme to stop early (between 55 and 59 years of age), they are now being encouraged to work early on a career switch, so that they can be deployed sustainably and can work longer.
Tip 10: Evaluate the effects of your employability program
When you start with an employability program, it is important that you monitor your participants. To what extent does the program live among people? Are they thinking differently about their career and/or their future?
The challenge is always how to reach the employees who are actually not interested in participating. This is a role for the manager. That is why tip 12.
Tips for executives
Tip 11: Make sustainable employability negotiable
Do you put sustainable employability on the agenda of your team meeting?
When you start discussing the theme as a manager, focus on the tension between the short and long term and between deepening and broadening. Because employees can specialize but also broaden so that they remain attractive for possible career alternatives.
Let your employees reflect on how they want to deal with their own sustainable employability: choose to broaden or deepen?
Bonus Tip: questions that you as a manager can ask your employee:
- What do you attract in your work? Which tasks do you address less?
- Why does this function suit you well? How does it fit your needs, interests and talents?
- Why can this function (possibly) constitute a employability risk?
- What is a future desirable work situation for you?
- What can you do in the short, medium and long term to shape your desired work situation, to strengthen the connection with your work, to take advantage of opportunities or to eliminate a employability risk?
Tip 12: Make ‘tailor-made’ appointments with individual employees
As a manager, you want your employees to take responsibility for directing their own career development.
Do you offer your employees enough space to (partly) determine which goals are relevant? The point is that they themselves develop initiatives to set new challenging work goals and want to develop themselves during their career.
It is important that you make tailor-made arrangements with individual employees tailored to their specific needs and wishes. In this you record matters such as training, (change in) the content of the work and the coordination between work and private life.
Tip 13: Empower, stimulate and inspire
Sustainable employability is best off the ground in a generally supportive work climate in which managers are empathetic, offer choices, provide feedback and stimulate initiative.
Your management style therefore influences how employees work with their employability.
As a manager, give positive feedback on steps that your employees take. This stimulates their motivation.
Sharing knowledge also works inspiring. Ask employees who have received training to share their experiences with others.
As a manager, you can of course give a good example yourself. You can tell about your own employability and the steps you have taken.
Tips for employees
Tip 14: Improve the balance between load and capacity
As an employee, you can improve your own vitality and employability by balancing the burden (task content, working conditions, work relations and working conditions) with your capacity (motivation, attitude, values, norms, competences, knowledge, age, health and private situation).
You can therefore (learn) actively shape your own job by giving what you have to offer and what the job requires you to better balance.
Involve your supervisor or the HR advisor. Research together what changes are needed and what is needed for this.
Tip 15: Formulate (learning) goals
Lifelong learning and development has become the norm for sustainable employability. It is therefore important that you are competent and keep up to date.
In order to influence the direction of your career yourself, it is important that you act proactively and flexibly. And that you set clear (learning) goals for yourself.
Setting and achieving goals ensures that you continue to feel motivated, energetic and resilient. That is why goals are so important.
Formulate your goals as SMART as possible (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound).
Bonus Tip: as an employee, consider the following questions:
- What are the risks and opportunities for employability in order to better align your work with your personal qualities, needs and/or capabilities in the future?
- What can you tackle in your tasks, work relations and your view of work in order to maintain or promote the personal connection with your work?
Tip 16: Increase your confidence in your own abilities (self-efficacy)
Self-efficacy refers to the confidence that you have that the effort you make will lead to success.
Why is that important?
Studies show that confidence in one’s own ability plays an important role in career choice.
How does that work?
Someone with a lot of confidence in their own abilities will take on a more challenging career, then put more time and energy into it to be successful and be more persevering in difficult situations than someone with little confidence in their own abilities.
In this way, career choice depends not only on your personal interest in a particular profession but also on your confidence in your own abilities.
And by gaining success experiences in fulfilling difficult tasks, you increase your confidence in your own abilities, so you are more inclined to take on new challenges. This is called the upward spiral of self-efficacy development.
Self-efficacy is therefore relevant for your career choice.
Bonus Tip for increasing self-efficacy:
- Take note of everything that goes well in your work.
- Ask yourself how you have managed this.
- Give yourself positive feedback.
- Also consider what others do well and how they can do this.
- What do you get out of it? What are you going to apply to yourself?
Last but not least. If unexpected opportunities come along, grab them. Temporarily taking over a task or project from a colleague does not only ensure that you learn new skills, but also that you increase your self-efficacy.
Tip 17: Write your personal employability plan
Research your career opportunities and convert them into new career steps.
ACTION PLAN: write your own personal employability plan
When writing your personal employability plan, four questions are important:
- What do you think is necessary to shape your desired work situation?
- What do you think is necessary to strengthen the connection with your work?
- What opportunities do you think you can use?
- What do you want to do to remove any employability risk?
Put always in your personal employability plan:
- Which goals you want to achieve.
- What development activities you want to carry out and want to follow possible courses.
- Which support you appreciate from your supervisor / organization.
Discuss your plan with your supervisor and/or HR advisor.