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Sustainable employability research 6 factors & tips

Learn about the 6 factors and tips for sustainable employability research, including workload, cohesion, management support, and more. Discover how to enhance employee well-being and performance.


Aug 27, 2023

Research into sustainable employability has been conducted for years. You also come across the concept more and more in the strategic personnel planning or HR policy goals of organizations. The focus is on keeping employees healthy, and keeping their capacities up to standard, so that they can continue to perform (longer and longer). Doesn't this sound a bit outdated and one-sided?

Fortunately, there are more and more people-oriented organizations that see sustainable employability as a collaboration between employer and employee. This collaboration should lead to decent work at all levels and ages. Vitality and knowledge are not the only factors that play a role in this, but also less tangible and group-related topics such as cohesion.

In recent research we find that sustainable employability is higher when employees:

  • Feel committed, encouraged and intrinsically fulfilled
  • Are able to make a meaningful contribution to the organization
  • Feel at home in the organization

Partly because of these insights, we are in favor of the term sustainable employment. After all, employees cannot be held responsible for their employability if employers do not care enough about the work climate they facilitate. Sustainable employment practices are a preventive joint approach to allow employees to continuously work, learn and perform with energy and happiness.

Research sustainable employability: 6 factors

In the European Sustainable Workforce study, led by Utrecht University, 6 factors have been identified that have a proven influence on sustainable employability and thus the sustainability of employership. These are: 1. workload, 2. cohesion, 3. management support, 4. organizational citizenship behavior, 5. career opportunities and 6. commitment.

The Future of Work Hub of Utrecht University offers a scientifically validated benchmark measurement of these factors via the 2DAYSMOOD tool. In this way you can provide insight into the status of the 6 factors and improve (per team). You then receive all measurement results in an online dashboard and written report, supplemented with advice and practical tips from experts.

Good news, 2DAYSMOOD shares some of these tips in this article, so that you can immediately focus your positive attention on sustainable employability.


Tip 1: Dealing better with workload increases sustainable employability

Discuss what causes the workload.
Mapping out what exactly causes the workload or pressure in the job, makes it a lot easier to provide the right help. This can differ per person. Is it physical or psychological pressure? It may be about job insecurity, lack of clarity about tasks or lack of experience. You can find out by asking open questions about, for example, quantity, content and way of working and collaborating. Pay attention to both the positive and negative aspects. Assure your employees that all answers are appreciated and that they can be honest without negative consequences. You might also consider doing this through an anonymous survey to avoid socially desirable answers.



Tip 2: Strong cohesion makes employees sustainably employable, encourage this!

Encourage informal interaction and bring employees together.
To strengthen interaction and cohesion, you could, for example, organize an (online) team building or training activity. It is smart to ask whether a few employees want to play a role in this. Because participating in training activities, given by colleagues and managers, is strongly related to a sense of cohesion. Another idea, start your team meeting with the question: how do you feel today? And do not immediately kick off the prepared agenda. Or finish with an energizer. Example: ask a surprising question to a few colleagues every week. Which working day would you like to repeat? If you were the CEO for a day, what would you do? What are you most proud of when it comes to your job?



Tip 3: Good support from managers reinforces sustainable employment

Appreciate people for their efforts, but also grant them trust.
Make sure you show appreciation to your team members often enough. Do it when you believe they have successfully completed a task, process or project. But also appreciate their commitment, just if you notice that they are working hard or experiencing mild stress. For many employees, it is important to get confirmation and appreciation from their manager. This also has a good influence on their motivation and self-confidence. By focusing on what is going well, you will see that successes will increase. But watch out. Remind your employees (and yourself!) That working overtime says nothing about the quality of the work. Give employees enough trust, freedom and support to prioritize their private life or personal development where necessary in order to avoid unnecessary (structural) stress.



Tip 4: Employees who go the extra mile make a team sustainably successful

Search for sources of pleasure that encourage organizational citizenship behavior.
Do employees show intrinsically motivated behavior that benefits the organization, and that is not officially part of the tasks determined in their contract? Then they are willing to go the extra mile. This behavior is of course more common if the work generates energy and pleasure. It is therefore important to know what makes employees enthusiastic (in their work).

Have your team members make a list of the 10 main tasks of their own job position and ask them to indicate how much time they spend doing this and to what extent they enjoy it (eg scale 1-10). Together you can review whether there the list has a good balance, or whether it is good to make (small) adjustments (job crafting). For example, are there personal talents that are currently underused? Can certain tasks be made more challenging, or can tasks be added or phased out?



Tip 5: Sustainable employability is higher when employees experience career opportunities

Offer enough learning opportunities for young and old.
A career perspective in the form of promotions is important for sustainable employability, but that is not the only thing. It is especially important for employees to feel that they can become even better at their job. Younger employees often want to develop (at a rapid pace), you have to facilitate that. Older employees may need some more encouragement to learn new things. Show them that they are still able to learn new skills and how they benefit from doing so.

When organizing a training, for example, do not only look at the work content, but also at the personal growth opportunities of employees. Young people may benefit more from a course in "'personal leadership" or "presentation skills" and older people may benefit more from further training in subject-related content or new technologies. Ask your employees what they need and let them help each other!



Tip 6: Actively committed employees will enjoy working for the organization for longer

Continue to highlight the mission, vision and strategy.
Commitment is a fairly abstract but indispensable factor to increase sustainable employability. It is about the extent to which employees dedicate their hands, head and heart to the organization, based on intrinsic motivation. This motivation can be fed by the employer and work environment. For example, it is important to create a "WE-feeling". Make sure you keep repeating what the organization stands for, what the team's right to exist is and what makes employees proud. Regularly discuss this together, and don't forget part-time employees! Celebrate your successes and emphasize the positive impact each employee has had on the result for customers and for society! Certainly for generation of millennials, finding meaning in work is becoming increasingly important.


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