“Employability”, what an ugly word. Now, about employability, in 8 key points:
- SITUATION. In a whitepaper which Securex has published recently, the employability of Belgian workers is scrutinized. New legislation has increased the current pension age (65 yrs) to 67 yrs in 2030. Politicians have explained why these measures are needed: in order to maintain our social welfare system. Some even claim that this increase to 67 years is not sufficient, and that more stringent measures are needed, given that life expectancy in Belgium has now surpassed 80 years.
- PROBLEM: an increasing number of workers report that, when assessing their (professional) future, they will not be able or they are not willing to work until the legal pension age. On average, workers think they are able to work until 62. And on average, they are willing to work until 60. And what about reality ? In reality, the average worker retires at 59. The other way round: of all workers between 55 and 65 years old, only 42% is working.
- WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THIS GAP? The Securex report tries to “explain” the gap between legal pension age, and the ability/willingness to work. A large part of this gap is due to “ability”. Due to physical and mental health-related reasons, workers do not reach the legal pension age. This is related to the work environment, but also to personal lifestyle. The health of the average worker (and his/her perception of this) is decreasing. Only 2 out of 3 workers believe that their health will allow them to reach legal pension age.
- HELLO GOVERNMENT? As Vigez points out, there is a big role for government to play in the promotion & stimulation of “Health@Work” policies. It’s easy to increase the pension age, but currently, we see government policies that promote unhealthy behaviour & lifestyle (cfr.the current fiscal stimulus of using company cars for both professional and private use, etc.). Idem dito for the lack of a sustainable, green Mobility policy: traffic jams increase every year, and these are reported to be a major source of stress, etc.
- IT’S MENTAL. In earlier reports, mental health was reported to be even more worrisome than physical health. In the 2015 numbers of the Securex report, this seems to have further worsened. Less than 50% of workers think that their current mental wellness will allow them to work until pension age, a.o. due to stress, workload, work-life balance, a lack of job security, etc. Technology has improved dramatically, resulting into more efficiency and more flexibility for employees. But the “always on” modus comes with its downsides, e.g. if workers feel that they must respond to emails within 5 minutes, etc. Having a great email policy on paper doesn’t fix this, until implemented effectively.
- ORGANISATIONS have an important role to play, when it comes to promoting a healthy lifestyle: e.g. with regards to prevention, helping employees when they get in trouble, etc. In this respect, organisations have to cover a wide range of topics, from offering healthy food & fruit, to helping their smokers to quit, to ergonomy, to stimulating workers to be more active (sports, walking, moving), etc. Organisations have a major impact on mental wellbeing, too. ambitious talent development, great employee engagement, etc. are all critical success factors in today’s environment. General managers and people managers, HR Teams, Health&Safety responsibles, etc., they all play a pivotal role in securing the mental wellbeing of employees. This may sound trivial, but a whopping 68% of workers think their talents & passion are not used optimally. That’s quite a large gap between theory (every organisation has an org chart with the right players in the right positions), and reality.
- INDIVIDUAL WORKERS have a big responsibility too: individuals need to improve their “resilience” (“veerkracht”), with regards to this topic, also see an earlier Blog post about resilience. Whether we like this or not, organisations have to change, and they have to change rapidly. Organisations have to adapt to changing environments or they become irrelevant, sooner or later. And the trend is: sooner, rather than later. Luckily, most workers join in, and they embrace change. However, no less than 37% of workers are convinced that the changes in their organisations are not needed, and/or will not lead to improvements. In this respect, an alarming result from the Securex report reads like this: “Many workers think that the initiatives they can take themselves, in terms of employability, talent management, etc. will have little impact. Perhaps they shift the full responsibility for their career and their employability towards the organisation ?”
- SOLUTIONS? In order to increase employability, a total package needs to be implemented. This was also outlined in an earlier blog about Wellbeing at work. The total package will change from organisation to organisation, and from individual to individual. But quite often, it will include the following elements: a) the organisation, its management, and each employee need to work on awareness and reflection (e.g. performance & career reviews), etc. b) In yearly surveys, the development in this field has to be reviewed in all openness. c) If and where reasonable, the organisation has to be supportive in case of individual problems. d) A culture of open feedback helps a lot to ensure that problems can be discussed at an early stage. e) Both organisation and individuals need to set time aside for development, training, and personal growth. f) Last but not least, “internal mobility” is key, this offers new challenges & growth to employees. This is not easy though, in smaller organisations!
MY PERSONAL & FINAL TAKE on employability goes like this:
If you do not go after what you want, you will never have it.
If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.
And if you don’t step forward, you will always be in the same place.