Agility in the Labour Market: Myth or Reality?

aut2 2015 In late September, Ascento organized a Talent Mobility Symposium that focused on employability.  About 200 HR professionals, including AHEAD’s Guy Vereecke, attended to hear an eminent line-up of speakers from political, academic and corporate worlds.

Geert Volders, Director of Ascento, began by outlining the multiple challenges for employers today. They face a slow growing economy; they have to motivate their employees to work longer; some sectors such as the retail is facing new competition from the web, which may cost over 30.000 jobs in the coming years; and other studies claim that up to 20% of the workforce is disconnected.

Minister-President Kris Peeters made a case for more pleasure in one’s work and underlined the need for an increased employability for our workforce.

Professor Nele De Cuyper from the KUL afterwards explained the results of her recent research, which studied the employability of our workers. This study was done by focusing on participants of outplacement programs and looked into the need to increase their employability, especially the relationship between work and pension and work and unemployment. She started by saying that there is little research done on these subjects. One of the first findings of her research was that the employability rises at the beginning of our careers, reaches a top (at the age of 36) and then declines.

Professor De Cuyper also found a sort of Matheus effect, whereby those who are perceived as employable, get more training (both organized by their employers and individual initiative) which leads to even better employability chances. As is often the case with the outplacement candidates, those without a job receive little extra opportunity to learn new skills which diminishes further their employability chances. She also found that the younger participants in outplacement are often more selective about chasing new opportunities; whilst older participants are often more actively chasing a new job.

Employability is at the intersection of taking opportunities, seeing opportunities and receiving opportunities. She made a case that where today our companies try to keep workers longer in the labour process by offering part-time jobs with the purpose to retain them, this is contra-productive and that it’s new challenge that keeps people employable.

'Everybody is the CEO of their own career.'

In the discussion afterwards interesting points were made by Saskia Van Uffelen, CEO Ericsson Belux that today everybody is the CEO of their own career and that professional success is a mutual responsibility from both employee and employer.

A strong case was also made by Filiep Spinnewyn, HRD of Swissport Belgium to tap into the potential of the workforce by giving them the possibilities to be creative and innovative in the way they organize their work e.g. by creating pilot projects whereby workers can find a solution for daily issues at work. In doing so, you increase their self-confidence, which also helps to create a better climate.

Jan Van Acoleyen, Senior Vice President & Chief HR Officer Barco disagreed with the age-related HR approach. He finds that a company should offer opportunities for all its workers regardless of their age.

Overall this was an interesting evening certainly with some food for thought.