We all must, and we all shall, be employed for a longer period of time. Thereby, the question arises what is necessary to ensure that this is not a case of “having to” but of “wanting to” for employees. Organizations are faced with the challenge of creating ‘workable work’ for employees of all ages, with an eye to their employability and their growth potential throughout their career.
This requires a thorough redrawing of the career policy. Co-sourcing, or organizations sharing talent, offers a possibility for this. It implies organizations joining in a network to face common challenges. Prof. dr. Ans De Vos and researcher David Stuer studied the opportunities and success factors of co-sourcing, offered within the Experience@Work project.
Experience@Work is a mobility platform of several different companies that share the professional experience of their senior employees (aged 50 or over) with other organizations. It offers a specific format of co-sourcing and allows experienced employees to be employed in another organization for a longer period of time. It transcends the boundaries within which a career policy is traditionally shaped and aims to deploy senior talents as long and usefully as possible on the labor market along with the other organizations involved. The platform was set up as an experiment with opportunities to become mainstream.
The lending organizations that take part in the Experience@Work employers’ platform struggle with the question of how to handle an ageing working population and careers with a longer duration, while at the same time keeping experienced workers employed in a meaningful way. Additionally, user organizations participating in the project have a global demand for experience and expertise.
To gain insight in the reasons and critical success factors of co-sourcing, we surveyed participants of Experience@Work as well as their former and current executives. Currently, co-sourcing is still a small-scale initiative, but by surveying three different parties, an enriching image arose of the reasons and success factors of co-sourcing.
Three spheres of influence can be detected from the conversations with employees. They are the reasons why employees take the step towards another organization and also explain whether this step is experienced as successful. The first sphere of influence is authenticity. It refers to a personal need of the individual to be able to deploy their own strengths and do justice to themselves. This need may emerge due to changes in the organization or changes within the individuals themselves, which leads them to experience a mismatch with the organization in which they were employed for several years. This need for authenticity is very individual, so the concrete motivation of the participants varies enormously.
Mastery & trial
A second tension exists between ‘mastery’ and ‘trial’. Whoever partakes in a co-sourcing trajectory finds himself in the paradoxical situation of being “senior” and “junior” at the same time. On the one hand, the individual has already gained a lot of experience. On the other, he takes up a substantially new job in an organization in a completely different sector, in which he is employed as a novice. It is up to the employees, but up to the lending organization as well, to use an employee based on his strengths and weaknesses, while at the same time giving attention to the reception and the guidance of the person as a newcomer in the organization. It is this mix of old and new competences which is experienced as very stimulating by the people involved.
Old and new context
A third tension can be found between the old and the new context. The individual experiences an internal contrast between how the new organization works compared to the old organization. A recurring element in that process is the contrast experienced between the usually very structured context in the original organization and the more informal, flat structure of the new organization.
These two final tensions may give rise to innovation within the new organization. Here, social integration in the new context is very important. When new employees can communicate with the existing team on a regular basis and they mutually appreciate each other, new ideas might come around rather quickly. The executive in the new context may play a pivotal role in this, for example by organizing workshops in which the experienced employee shares knowledge or by brainstorm sessions for the whole team.
Experience@Work seems to entail a lot of potential as an end-of-career initiative. Participants unanimously indicate they experience more usefulness and challenges in their job, in a context that aligns with their own norms and values. At the same time, they also bring their old context with them, and they are the ideal people for innovation in the new organization. Therefore, our findings exceed the persistent stereotypes in terms of the older employees’ motivation and the willingness to learn.
Finally, it should be noted that people often participate because the changing organizational context compels them to it. In their experience, Experience@Work signals a new era for their career and makes them work with enthusiasm once again, while they probably would not have done this without that “push”. User organizations have gained a valuable experience as well. For them to fully benefit from the knowledge that the new employee brings along, the right context must be offered.
Participants involved spontaneously reported a positive impact of the project on their well-being, the lending organization and the user organization. 60% of the employees did not learn new things in their former job, but all employees are once again learning in their new organization. Moreover, no less than 80% had the feeling that they are able to deploy their strong points in their new function. In addition, 80% of the hired employees still feel strongly connected with their original employer, to the extent that they show a significant degree of loyalty as an ambassador for their original employer. Finally, all employees in the project feel that they can apply competences gained during their former job in the new organization.
Despite the positive effects identified by all parties, we have to mention that certain framework conditions affect the potential of an initiative such as Experience@Work to become mainstream. For example, participants mainly seemed to be employees who had already changed jobs (internally) in their former career, and there is a need for sensitization and a transparent framework for executives. The preservation of working conditions needs to be debated as well. All respondents also indicate that, in retrospect, their renewed motivation is much more important than the preservation of their wage, yet they would not have taken the step if they would not have had that certainty.
Are you curious to find out about the added value of Experience@Work?
Read the white paper in Dutch or contact us for more information.