Sustainable employability

In the Netherlands, more than 150 collective labour agreements set out requirements on sustainable employability. Sadly, many organisations don't know where to start. No surprise perhaps. After all, it’s become a catch-all term that elicits different opinions and definitions. This means sustainable employability is likely to be missing from the management agenda of most companies, along with any practical solutions. So, let's start at the beginning. What is sustainable employability?

Habilis Wellbeing at Work uses the definition that was formulated by TNO in association with the NPDI: Sustainable employability is the capacity of employees to deliver and experience added value in the workplace, now and in the future.

Combining a bird’s eye view with a detailed analysis

Sustainable employability is still a broad term. Therefore, to channel it effectively, we use several models and instruments such as employability scans and in-depth questionnaires. The former identify the employability of employees; the latter look at issues like stress, enthusiasm and lifestyle. Questionnaires can also be used to give employees tips and insight into their own employability and obtain corporate insight into an organisation’s pain points.

The added advantage of our working methods is that all the data collected is digitalised and standardised. This means you can compare the data from your own organisation or industry against a benchmark.

What does this mean in practice?

Each organisation benefits from well qualified, motivated and healthy employees who can work for most of their life and deliver performances that are expected of them. Employees who enjoy going to work, continue to develop themselves, invest in their vitality and shoulder their responsibilities. Organisations that commit to sustainable employability help and support their employees. That pays back dividends in all kinds of areas. The following five factors contribute actively to that.

"We are committed to ensuring that our employees go home with more energy than they had at the start of the day"
— Macaw, nominated for the Kroon op het Werkprijs 2016

In the Netherlands, most employees can do their current job—physically and mentally—until they are 62.7 years old (CBS), and almost two thirds of people have no energy left after they've finished work for the day (Fonds Psychische Gezondheid). Those figures are concerning, but they're not surprising considering the ever demanding world in which we live.

So it is incumbent upon organisations to invest sustainably in the working ability and fitness of their employees if they want to maximise and sustain productivity. That goes far beyond offering healthy food in the canteen and including a gym subscription in the fringe benefits package.

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"
— Confucius

When you consider that enthusiastic employees are at least 10 to 12 % more productive*, you understand that motivation and commitment are the fuel for an organisation's performance. Being motivated for your profession is the basis of maximising employability in the short and long term. Organisations that realise this and offer a work climate in which motivated employees can excel reap the benefits in the long run.

* Source: Wilmar Schaufeli, Dutch labour and organisation psychologist, clinical psychologist and professor of labour and organisation psychology at Utrecht University, the Catholic University of Leuven and Jaume I University at Castellón.

"Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to"
— Richard Branson

Our knowledge is obsolete just three years after leaving school, according to professor and organisation psychologist Aukje Nauta. So, if we're to carry on doing our work, we have to continue expanding our knowledge and skills and keep up to date with trends in the labour market. That requires scope for development and insight into the necessary knowledge and skills, now and in the future. The task of helping and encouraging employees to do just that falls to organisations.

"Tomorrow is usually the busiest day of the week"
— Loesje

Work and personal life are closely connected, but in these hectic times the combination is becoming much more difficult to handle. Research from Maurice de Hond in 2012 shows that Dutch employees find combining work and personal life very stressful. Only 8% of respondents admitted to having a good balance. Employers who offer their workers flexibility so they can focus and excel in both personal and business areas will see big improvements in performance.

"Personal leadership is the process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with them"
— Stephen Covey

Shake-ups in the workplace are increasing in tempo thanks to new technologies, globalisation and social changes. The same applies to tomorrow’s labour market. Jobs and tasks that exist today will eventually disappear. Conversely, those not yet invented will soon emerge. It’s important that employees take control of their employability and actively pursue their future. Employees will only remain sustainable and widely employable if they remain resilient, mobile and versatile (on and off the traditional career paths) and take responsibility for this themselves.