ISO/TR 30406:2017

Human resource management — Sustainable employability management for organizations

ISO/TR 30406:2017 provides guiding principles for developing and implementing sustainable employability policies.

Sustainable employability is relevant on different levels: government, organization, and individual. ISO/TR 30406:2017 focuses exclusively on the organizational level.


0.1   General
Sustainable employability is a relatively new term reflecting a component or strand of the larger business sustainability movement. The term “sustainability” itself refers to the capacity to endure, and in this instance reflects a commitment to creating value for a business, its workforce, industry, community, society, and the economy through embedding the capabilities and capacities necessary to deliver enduring or ongoing employment over the long term.
Broadly, sustainable employability also refers to a person’s ability to gain or maintain quality work throughout their working lives, and to have the opportunity and the appropriate work context to be able to transfer knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to another job, organization, or future role. In addition, sustainable employability refers to an organization’s commitment to balancing the well-being and job requirements of workforce members.
Globally, the world of work for both large and small-to-medium-sized organizations is in the middle of fundamental changes resulting from factors including demographic shifts, technological advances, changes in types of work, globalization, the increased interest of individuals in working at the location and hours of choice, and the diminishing viability in the world economy of some industries. Among the most significant changes is the fact that in most economies, the concept of a “job for life” is no longer applicable to all industries or individuals. A manifestation of different methods of work involves flexible workforces at different professional levels in different industries and with different working patterns. However, as organizations and individuals also operate in very fast-paced and competitive environments, the new world of work requires workforce and skills planning, as well as a workforce that is agile and adaptable to regularly learning new skills, in order to keep pace with organizational and industry/discipline developments.
0.2   Benefits of focusing on sustainable employability
The phrase “war for talent” was first coined by Hankin of McKinsey and Co. in 1997, before being adopted by Michaels, Handfield-Jones, and Axelrod as the title of their book in 2001. The phrase emphasizes the importance of talent (in the form of KSAs) to an organization’s success. This can also refer to the demand for certain KSAs at a given time. Organizations can find that they lack the necessary KSAs when needed. At the same time, organizations can find that they have a surplus of KSAs that they no longer need. Either factor or both can result in excessive spending on recruitment and buying in talent, expensive layoffs of workforce members that are no longer needed, and/or falling behind in the organization’s market. However, an approach to sustainable employability can help organizations save money and build agility in their own operations.
Such an approach involves:
  •  assessing market requirements;
  •  planning the workforce’s KSA needs and retraining and redeploying its workforce to meet changing business imperatives;
  • considering workforce members’ individual life cycles and lifestyle requirements.
Sustainable employability also relates to the balance between the physical and mental demands of the job and the physical and mental abilities of workforce members.
Competitive organizations support, nurture and promote sustainable employability for their workforce through monitoring and keeping an inventory of KSAs necessary for current business requirements and the workforce's existing KSAs, training workforce members in under-represented KSAs, and looking ahead to changing business conditions to ensure workforce members are prepared to adapt to KSAs required in the future. On a macro level, organizations also promote sustainable employability by working with industry and local, regional, and national authorities on KSA availability inventories and by exploring the nature of transferrable KSAs in diminishing industries that can be redeployed in others.
While it is widely acknowledged that the financial impact of environmental sustainability on business profits has been difficult to measure, metrics for determining the value created through sustainable employability are more tangible because of costs resulting from laying off staff, recruiting new staff, lack of organizational continuity and other related financial impacts. The white paper “Sustainability Value Management: Stronger metrics to drive differentiation and growth”[4] asserts that consistent application of new valuation approaches to identify and measure the value of sustainability to business and society will foster better decision-making and value generation.
At the time of publication, there are already metrics available in the area of sustainability that can also function for sustainable employability. For example, the Global Reporting Initiative defines environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors and metrics for sustainability. Savitz and Weber connect environmental, social, and economic factors with sustainable organizations.

NOTE Human resource metrics are addressed in other documents developed by ISO/TC 260, notably ISO/TS 30407.

The benefits of focusing on sustainable employability include the following:
  •  reduction in:
    •  absenteeism;
    •  burnout;
    • costs related to recruitment, absenteeism, liability, and outplacement;
    •  workplace accidents and incidents;
    •  underemployment and unemployment;
    •  liability;
  •  improvement in:
    •  positioning as an organization of choice;
    •  staffing cost management;
    • workforce commitment, attitude, and loyalty;
    •  flexibility;
    •  innovation;
    • organizational agility and ability to adapt to changing markets;
    •  planning capabilities;
    •  productivity and performance;
    •  product quality;
    •  right talent at right time;
    •  staff retention;
    •  workforce morale;
    • labor relations;
  • quality improvement programs:
    • map and track the organization’s overall sustainable employability;
    •  map and track an organization’s health profile long term.
0.3   Aim of this course
This course can form a bridge between human resources and other business units such as the executive board, management, operations, and occupational health and safety.
This course can be used to start a conversation in an organization about sustainable employability and its relationship with the future of the organization and the individual.
This course can be linked to strategic and tactical, or short-term to medium-term, objectives.
There are multiple solutions to improve sustainable employability within an organization. This course can assist in identifying which elements can be important for an organization.
This course has been developed to assist organizations and the workforce to sustain employability.
This course describes a transferable methodology for organizations of any size or type, whose purpose is:
  • a) to help facilitate a common understanding of sustainable employability;
  • b) to build capacity and capability.
For each sector and organization, the importance of the factors that affect sustainable employability differs, which gives an organization an organizational and/or industry-specific mix of policies. In addition, sustainability policy cannot be separated from general policy, quality policy, the improvement cycle, etc., but forms part of this.
Figure 1 displays the three clusters of sustainable employability and the relationship between the organization, person, and business performance. If within an organization, attention is paid to all factors (i.e. to effective workforce planning, opportunities provided through the work environment, and to organizations' and individuals' attention to skills development and well-being issues), a beneficial impact will be felt on both organization and individual, as well as more broadly on the economy.
Figure 1 — Sustainable employability: Relationship between the organization, person, and business performance
(source iso.org)

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