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The importance of sustainable employability

Blog by Ingrid van Tienen, deputy director at ORMIT

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By Ingrid van Tienen

Deputy director at ORMIT

18 July

No one denies the importance of sustainable employability. But who really puts it into practice? Take control of your own career, says Ingrid van Tienen. How? With self-insight, ownership and courage. An open culture will make that a whole lot easier.

Sustainable employability? Invest in yourself

Thereis no such thing as a  job for life in today's rapidly changing labour market. That's why employees and leaders have to invest in personal leadership skills, the key principle behind sustainable employability. Five tips based on our everyday experiences at ORMIT. 

"Talk about things that really matter, look for new experiences, boost learning value and learning agility, reinforce your resilience & agility and talk about health."

1. Talk about things that really matter

An open culture, in which continuous talent development is normal and employees are given responsibilities and take ownership, can contribute to developing sustainable employability. This requires leaders who can create a pleasant, safe and inviting, yet challenging workplace environment. Leaders who appreciate employees for their talents, give them honest feedback, inspire them and give them (practical) support throughout their development.

2. Look for new experiences

To remain successful, organisations must be agile. However, there is no such thing as an agile organisation: it's the employees who are agile! Employees who are capable of continuously adjusting to, or rather, anticipating changing requirements. Looking for new experiences, also known as mobility, contributes to your professional and personal development. This need not necessarily involve moving to employers: you can even stay in the same organisation or in the same job. The main thing is that you keep looking for new things to learn in your job!

3. Boost learning value and learning agility

The learning value of your job is the extent to which you can keep learning new things, skills and expertise in your job. New experiences force you to leave your comfort zone and help you develop new skills and gain new perspectives. Once you have been in the same job in the same organisation for a while, its learning value will decrease. However, there are often plenty of ways to boost learning value, such as job crafting, a temporary project, new colleagues in your team, etc.  

As a traineeship specialist, ORMIT experiences how young talents impact their direct surroundings every day. With their enthusiasm, keenness and open-mindedness, they shed a different light on things and challenge the status quo. Setting up a ‘vanguard' of employees who set a good example to inspire others, like Achmea has done, is another good example of how this can work.  

Work on your learning agilitywhich is your ability to develop new behaviour based on new experiences. People with high learning agility look for new challenges, make the most of their experiences by consciously reflecting on them, want to change and are open to feedback.

4. Reinforce your resilience & agility

Resilient, agile employees are capable of dealing with today's rapidly changing environment. Workloads are only increasing. That's a fact. As such, the answer is not trying to reduce workload, but helping employees cope with the inevitable increase. This starts with boosting the self-awareness and personal leadership skills of you employees. You can do this by giving them greater insight into their own talents, motivations, ambitions, values or dreams, and by helping them take ownership of their career. It takes courage to follow your heart. Don't choose convenience and security, but go for challenge and uncertainty. After all, a ship is safe in harbour, but that's not what ships are for!

5. Talk about health

Healthy, energetic employees are more employable. When employees experience health problems, employers have to deal with their physical and mental limitations in a smart, appreciative manner: how can people, despite their limitations, still make a valuable contribution and enjoy their work? A preventive approach can be making employees aware of their lifestyle. This can be a difficult conversation for employers to start, as employees might feel they're intruding into their personal lives.  
 
At ORMIT, we have seen that young people, on the other hand, often appreciate talking about these things with their manager. They seem to have a more conscious attitude towards creating an optimal work-life balance. The insight that your own behaviour and lifestyle determine 40% of your happiness (rather than your predispositions or circumstances) might help people take this topic more seriously.