The popular understanding of the concept of employability is an individual’s ability to gain employment. However, the definition of employability has another aspect attached to it, besides the ability of an individual to gain a job. Employability also implies the ability to keep and maintain the job in an organization. In their paper “Employability: A psycho-social construct, its dimensions, and applications”, Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth defined employability as follows –
“Employability is defined as the ability to gain and maintain a job in a formal organization”
Employability has always been a pressing subject socio-politically, and it is more relevant than ever before now – because of the increasing talk around automation’s potential impact on jobs, and the grim employment outlook because of an absence of jobs in the market, and a lack of formal skills in people in India. The country has an acute case of unemployment, as the analysis on employment outlook reveals. The factors of unemployment can be categorized into two broad categories – cyclical factors and structural factors.
“Cyclical unemployment is because of a decrease in aggregate level demand for goods and services, which results in fewer jobs. Structural unemployment refers to a mismatch between the qualifications employers seek and the skills of the available labour force,” defines a research paper “Employability and career success: Bridging the gap between theory and reality” by Robert Hogan, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, and Robert B. Kaiser. India is suffering from both types of unemployment. And the unemployed are only going to increase – according to ILO, the number of unemployed in India is expected to rise by 1 lakh in 2017, and a further 2 lakh in 2018. The quantum of unemployed will go up to 18 million next year. The future outlook about jobs is also pessimistic. “The RBI survey said that as much as 43.7 per cent of respondents believed current perception about employment has ‘worsened’, which is much higher than the 31.4 per cent in November 2016,” reports the Indian Express.
“Employability depends on identifiable personal characteristics that can be assessed and possibly trained.”
The developing discourse on unemployment makes the discussion on employability equally important. In this article, we discuss the concept of employability, sourcing it from academic research. We look at the three determinants of employability and the integrative model of employability as discussed in the research on Employability and career success by Hogan, Chamorro-Premuzic and Kaiser.
The Three Determinants of Employability
Numerous researches on employability conclude with a long list of attributes as pre-requisites in individuals to either gain employment or maintain employment. The research “Employability and career success: Bridging the gap between theory and reality” identify and define the determinants in a much simpler way. According to the researchers, "both career success and employability depend on behaving in socially desirable ways, especially when interacting with recruiters, employers, and managers." And "the ability to do this depends on a surprisingly small set of competencies" The research identifies three competencies - interpersonally skilled, smart or able, and compliant.
It is the employer who determines whether an individual is employable or not. If the employer perceives the individual to be employable, then the individual gains employment or climbs the career ladder. So, a combination of individual’s competencies and the employer’s perception determine the employability of that individual. Employers assess whether a prospective candidate (both for a new job and for a promotion) will make a positive contribution to the organization. It is that assessment that determines their employability. The researchers underscore three determinants of the employer’s perception and thus eventually of employability –
- Is the candidate rewarding to deal with
- Is the candidate able to do the job
- Is the candidate willing to work hard
The competencies required in candidates, the factors which make employers perceive that an individual will make a contribution to the organization – combined together – form the integrative model of employability.
The basic premise of selecting a candidate is assessing is (s)he has the prerequisite skills for that role and checking whether (s)he would be able to do that job if (s)he comes onboard or is elevated. It isn’t always essential that the candidate has to be 100% skilled for that role – because some skills can be taught and sharpened on the go. The minimum pre-requisite ability is a must though. For instance, when hiring a writer, the candidate needs to have good writing skills. If the role wants immediate impact, erstwhile experience of delivering quality content at speed is essential. However, if the role can afford space for someone who is learning, then a fresher can be hired. Even if (s)he is devoid of prior experience, (s)he should know how to do research write quality content.
Individuals do not work in silos in an organization – they are a part of something bigger. And collaboration has breached the boundary of an employee’s team, and extends to other teams as well. Employees are expected to collaborate for projects across teams and work with different stakeholders. They need to possess social skills that enable them to be agile enough to work in different teams and with different people all the time. These social skills are what makes an employee a cultural fit in an organization and it is essential if (s)he is to become a part of the company or progress in the firm. The candidate will be employable if (s)he has the ability to, first manage himself, and then manage co-workers. A high degree of emotional intelligence is essential to be employable.
The last determinant of employability is willingness or drive – the motivation to finish a task till it is complete. It is the attitude of getting the job done. As the researchers put it, “. Ability and social skill may be considered talent; but potential is talent multiplied by drive as this will determine how much ability and social skills get put to use.”
All the three determinants of employability can be measured both via observation (interviews), and scientific methods (skill assessment tests and psychometric tests). As per the research, the inference that the employers can draw is to keep their talent identification rather simple and concentrate all their employability determining activities within the boundaries of willingness, ability, and social skills. As for employees, especially those struggling with becoming employable, they should focus equally on the three determinants, instead of predominantly working on one of three determinants. One maybe considerably strong in one aspect, and average in another; but it is important to have all the traits to be employable, especially in such a competitive, scarce, and volatile job market.