Jan: Welcome to the Perfect Match podcast series focusing on talent management.
My name is Jan Laurijssen, and we are joined today by Ans De Vos, Professor at the University of Antwerp, the Antwerp Management School, and holder of the SD Worx chair: “Next generation work: creating sustainable careers”.
Ans: Thank you, Jan. Nice to see you again.
Jan: Yes, it's been a long while.
We tried to cover some of the main themes or topics in talent management throughout these podcasts. Maybe for our first one, focusing on a statement, a harsh statement maybe: “Many employees seem hesitant to take control of their careers and aren't motivated to develop their talent.”
Harsh or true, Ans?
Ans: I think it's a long-standing statement that we hear often from HR managers or people managers, complaining that people are kind of reluctant to change jobs, and that they want to hold on to their jobs, tasks, and performing in a way that they have been used to. And in a way, it's not new.
But you might say maybe today it's even more pertinent than ever before that we make really steps into creating a more mobile organisational culture when it comes to careers. And that means, indeed, that we not only have to work on making people aware that there are many other possibilities outside of what they're currently doing, but that also means that we have to install a culture of career empowerment. Which I believe that we still are lacking today, which might help to explain why so many people are a bit reluctant to take control and to take steps out of their comfort zone.
Jan: Because, if I look at some of the research that we, but also our competitors and you yourself, have been doing, there were quite a number of people that indicate when you ask them: “Are you considering a job change or a job swap or whatever”, I mean, up to 40 to 50% sometimes say they do.
Ans: They do consider it. And still, considering something mentally, there is still a big difference between having that idea and putting it into practice. And there are many reasons for that. For the majority of companies, and for the majority of people, they're still looking for a long-term relationship. They're not looking at employment on a day-to-day, very transactional basis for their payroll employees. And that also means that for a big majority of people, they do have this long-term perspective that is maybe too much focused on their job rather than on their employment in the organisation.
Looking at the numbers coming out of your research, we see that two out of three is confident that they will be able to keep their job. So, if you are sure that you can keep your job and you can predict what will be happening there, why give that up for maybe an uncertainty about something else, where you don't know whether you will be able to keep the job, whether you will be able to perform as expected, where you have to meet new people, etc.
And we do see there is a substantial population of people who thrive through mobility and who feel sometimes frustrated because of the rigidity of the structures that are impeding their mobility. But still, for a big portion of employees the context in which they work might well also help us understand why this confidence that they can keep their job kind of creates a mental stability or unwillingness to take steps and limits their talent development and ability actually, to ensure that they stay employable and stay good at what they have to do in their current job.
Jan: Isn't that a bit strange, willingly ignoring the situation where all indicators are saying that amounts of jobs will be lost due to automation and artificial intelligence? The OECD reported 27% of jobs will be lost within a period of time. Aren't people aware of the fact that they need to change jobs? Or they need to adapt their careers?
Ans: I think we need to really, let's say, dive down into the mindset of individual people when it comes to their job and the organisational context. We have a lot of macro data, indeed. But it's just like having those talks about how the employment rate needs to be 80% to be able to pay for Social Security, etc.
That doesn't necessarily mean that every individual, in their daily decisions, is keeping those macro tendencies as a reference frame. As long as you don't experience that in your immediate environment, it will not determine your behaviour. And that is something I really believe that, from an organisational perspective, you need to take steps to work on that in the context of the organisation, and as closely as possible to the job that people are doing.
We know from behavioural research that if people look ahead at their future, they might look ahead, but what they do on a daily basis is just in the present. They make decisions to perform in a certain way, to apply for another job or not. And whether they do that is to a big extent affected by their past. By how it has been going on in the organisation until now, by what they have learned from themselves or by looking at others around, like at what you need to do to be successful, what this job requires, what customers require, much more than what the big general data says about what is going to change.
So, you cannot underestimate kind of the weight of the past that signals things to people in their behaviour much more than when we talk about the future in general terms. And at an organisational level, you need to step into that conversation to make people aware of what those macro trends might mean for themselves, concretely, and not only maybe in the far distant future, but already tomorrow.
Jan: To which extent does the, let's say, the cultural context or the geographical context play a role? I mean, it has been said in some regions, some areas, there is more mobility, that people are more likely to change jobs.
Ans: If we compare this across countries, you do see that of course the macro context has an impact in the sense that if Social Security systems or unemployment legislation, etc. are more focused on supporting people to make moves. When there is more training focused on reskilling and supporting people to take another direction in their occupational choice and reskill themselves from working, for instance, as a nurse, to working as a commercial person in a private company…
If that kind of support is happening more on a macro level, of course that helps people to see in a tangible way what is expected, what is valued, but what is maybe also being punished. And that might also encourage people to take steps out of their current job.
Jan: Okay. Thank you very much Ans. For this first podcast, the main takeaway for me is that changing behaviour is not that simple, not only when we talk about careers, but context is important, and the initiatives that we take. We’ll be talking more about this, the skills-based organisation, the role that technology plays in this.
Thank you so much for this first conversation.
Ans: Thank you.