Why should you promote the employability of your employees (and how to do it)?

Employability is not just an HR fad. It is a mutual commitment that guarantees both the performance and sustainability of a company, while ensuring job security and career prospects for employees.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), employability is defined as “the ability of each individual to find and retain a job, progress at work, and adapt to change throughout their professional life.” Workers must therefore quickly adapt to changes in their profession to maintain their performance. Companies, for their part, have every interest in investing in their employees’ development to remain competitive.

Employability can be assessed based on several essential criteria: firstly, technical skills (hard skills) such as proficiency in languages, tools, software, and programming languages. Next, behavioral skills (soft skills) like autonomy, initiative, and effective communication play a crucial role. Academic knowledge and professional experience are also taken into account.

This continuous assessment is usually conducted by the manager during annual reviews and discussed with human resources during professional interviews. How can we ensure the maintenance of employability over time? How can we incorporate the complexity of contextual changes into this evolution?

Employability: Why should we focus on it more?

Remaining employable is primarily a right. Article L.6321-1 of the French Labor Code states that the employer must ensure the adaptation of employees to their position and maintain their ability to hold a job, considering technological and organizational changes. Employers can offer training, including digital training, and combat illiteracy. Failing to meet these obligations exposes the employer to potential litigation. An employee dismissed for professional inadequacy can contest their dismissal by proving that the company did not invest in their training or adaptation to the position.

If that is not enough, Luc Bretones, founder of NextGen and an expert in new governance, highlights four key reasons why employee employability is essential:

1. Volatility of Roles and Shortening Skill Lifespans: Professional roles evolve rapidly, and skills become obsolete faster. In 2018, Philippe Burger, a former Human Capital Consulting Partner at Deloitte, warned that “the half-life of a professional skill (the period after which 50% of its impact or relevance disappears) is now less than five years, whereas it was around 30 years in the 1980s.” According to OECD data, a technical skill has a lifespan of 12 to 18 months. It is therefore crucial to have employees constantly updated on market developments to remain competitive.

2. Need for Skills to Maintain Innovation and Differentiation: For a company, “enhancing the employability of its employees is a major imperative in terms of performance,” emphasizes Luc Bretones. Ensuring that each individual possesses the necessary skills to effectively carry out their missions is essential for maintaining market competitiveness. Our expert Céline Méchain, a freelance HR director, supports this view, stating that “investing in employability is investing in the future.”

3. Ease of Managing Professional Transitions: In an increasingly fluid and diversified labor market, high employability facilitates professional transitions, whether for the employer or the employee. There has been a significant increase in professional reconversions: in 2022, 35.8% of employees undertook a professional transition, compared to 26.2% in 2017, whether by choice or necessity. Current professional careers are becoming less linear, ending traditional straightforward trajectories.

4. Autonomy in Career Management: In a context where careers are less linear and employment models are evolving, particularly with the rise of platforms, employability strengthens individuals’ professional independence. As Céline Méchain points out, “if employability is a shared responsibility between the company and the employee, each individual must be aware of the importance of their own professional development.” This allows everyone to take charge of their professional project, which is essential in an environment where the relationship with work is changing.

Companies: Five actions to foster the employability of your teams

“Employability is primarily an individual matter; employees should not solely rely on their company,” states Céline Méchain clearly. Her recommendation? Everyone should adopt a holistic and proactive view of their career, focusing on continuous training, regular exchanges with HR, and technological monitoring.

Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, companies have much to gain by promoting the employability of their teams. Luc Bretones proposes five key measures to implement.

Advice #1: Make every mission a learning experience

According to our expert, every mission or project allows individuals to develop new skills. This model, similar to that of consulting firms, promotes the transfer of skills through hands-on know-how that employees can disseminate within the organization, via their peers or teams.

Advice #2: Create skill networks

In addition to traditional training, which often takes time to set up, informal networks are increasingly forming around specific internal skills. “These communities spend time sharing knowledge through mimicry, best practice sharing, and structured client case studies,” explains Luc Bretones. For these networks to function, they need to be structured. “To facilitate cross-learning and knowledge pollination, implementing a methodology and a communication tool (social network) to circulate information is important,” he recommends.

Advice #3: Encourage shadowing and capturing real work

Direct observation of work and practices of the best performers allows for immersive and effective learning, “often more suited to operational challenges than top-down and standardized training.”

Advice #4: Implement and disseminate internal monitoring

Companies must listen to market trends and client needs to choose which skills to develop. “This is the role of internal ‘champions’ or community leads in expertise: they are at the forefront of topics as they are generally tasked with writing about their favorite subjects or participating in events to stay attuned to trends.”

Advice #5: Call on external experts

“Sometimes, companies are not always clear on the topics to address or how to disseminate them within their internal networks. Experts can offer concrete cases and practical examples, such as use cases in artificial intelligence.” This can take the form of conferences or support for internal communities to help them formalize appropriate training aligned with business issues.

By Laure Girardot, Luc Bretones and Céline Méchain, via Welcome To The Jungle