Working for longer means working from free will

Sustainable employability goes hand-in-hand with high-quality motivation. Because anyone who finds the motivation to work within themselves automatically keeps the desire strong. This is one of the results of research by Securex (January–February 2017): employees who find their jobs meaningful want to work an extra four years. Sustainable leadership plays a crucial role in this.

Not everyone finds their job as nice, interesting, valuable or meaningful as other people. Belgians are now working less and less ‘because they want to’ (what we call autonomous motivation), instead working ‘because they have to’.

This is reflected in the statistics: autonomous motivation has dropped by 7 per cent since 2009. A concerning evolution. Because autonomous motivation is crucial if people are going to work for longer:

  • Employees who are autonomously motivated want to work until they are 60 years old.
  • Employees who are not autonomously motivated want to work until they are 56 years old.

A significant difference of four years. The proposed age of retirement, 67 years, is still not within reach. However, the solution is in front of us: further investments in ‘I want to work’ motivation. This increases the commitment in the long term and reduces susceptibility to absenteeism and burnout.

But how do we turn the tide? How do we make sure that employees will work for longer of their own free will? Securex recommends ABC motivation. It’s a focus on:

  • Autonomy – more self-determination
  • Belongingness – more connection to the job.
  • Competences – more attention to skills, talents and interests.

Sustainable leadership is a necessary prerequisite for this. It concerns a form of coaching that takes into account the individual human factor: the preferences, ambitions and personality of an employee.

The leaders and managers need to replace an atmosphere of control and obligation with an atmosphere of trust, meaning and commitment. This way, the employee has room in which to develop themselves by following their own opportunities. And to arm themselves for the future. It’s possible that the leaders will first have to adjust their attitudes. A mindset of positivity, trust and learning is an unmissable characteristic of team leaders and managers who are working towards sustainable employability.

Of course, part of the burden falls on the shoulders of others:

  • The employee needs to examine their own passions and goals. Ideally, every employee will have a Plan B in the back of their mind, an answer to the question: What would I do if my job fell through tomorrow?
  • The government needs to adjust the legal and budgetary framework for flexibility and self-direction—as a replacement for the ‘must’ story.

In short: working on employability and commitment through motivation is the responsibility of all members of society who are involved.