Four courses of action for job security

21.03.2023 In today’s digitalised working world, leaders are delegating more responsibility as employees strengthen their social skills and self-competence, managers become learning coaches and professional development reinvents itself. Jonathan Bennett and Peter Neuenschwander discuss what we can do as a society for increased job security.

Zwei Frauen sind in einer Besprechung.

Changes to today’s working world introduce challenges for employers and employees alike. While the workforce ages, the very nature of work is constantly (and ever more rapidly) evolving owing to digitalisation.  

Across sectors, addressing these simultaneous processes of change will attract the attention of HR managers and executives in the future. At the same time, employees are increasingly being asked to adapt to new tasks. 

1 Agile workflows spread out responsibility 

Digitalisation demands greater agility in the workplace, which in turn challenges traditional hierarchies and processes. Leaders in agile workplaces delegate more responsibility to relatively autonomous project teams, which expands employees’ room for manoeuvre. 

In this demanding setting, such employer obligations as healthcare remain very important. At the same time, employees’ increased professional freedom goes hand-in-hand with their assuming more personal responsibility. 

For one, they must foster a sense of initiative and take advantage of professional development opportunities. Qualified workers are in short supply, so chances are good that favourable terms can be negotiated with employers for such training programmes. And secondly, workers need to realise that expertise alone no longer ensures a long-term career. However important it is to keep this knowledge up to date, workers also need to invest more in interdisciplinary competencies. 

2 Soft skills are becoming more important 

Of all the interdisciplinary competencies, soft skills – sociability and self-competence, in particular – will be among the most important in future.  

Socially competent individuals work with others in a professional and appropriate manner, whatever the situation. They know how to build and shape relationships and approach conflict in a solution-oriented way. Self-competence is found in those who respond to change constructively, reflect on personal behaviours and adapt their own learning and work processes to new circumstances.    

A readiness to adapt and accept inevitable, constant change is becoming more important, as is resilience – the ability to master challenging circumstances. Resilient individuals are better equipped to deal productively with shifting conditions and demands. This keeps them attractive on the labour market. 

3 Leadership turns to coaching 

The workforce at large companies invariably represents a broad range of educational backgrounds and prerequisites. Interdisciplinary skills like idea development, workshopping and target group-oriented communication are increasingly relevant, but cannot be taken for granted. Leadership must therefore learn to recognise potential for development among employees – or a need to catch up – and to discuss and implement suitable measures with them. This is especially true when it comes to interdisciplinary skills. In other words, bosses should try to become more like coaches.  

Because this much is true: the half-life of specialist knowledge is decreasing, while interdisciplinary skills are increasingly regarded as key competencies for maintaining employability. 

4 Continuing education under pressure to innovate 

The emphasis on interdisciplinary skills raises some interesting questions, especially for educational institutions. There’s fresh attention being paid to the benefits of continuing education programmes that do more for students than merely update their specialist knowledge.  

Whether it’s building social capital, dialoguing with professionals from other sectors or exploring direct implementations of one’s training in workplace projects: what were once considered fringe benefits are now what make continuing education programmes so attractive.  

This has fundamentally altered the role of lecturers: they initiate and accompany tailor-made learning processes (largely self-directed by participants) and teach in-person lessons that allow students to interact with peers and expand their interdisciplinary specialisation.  

About us

Prof. Dr. Jonathan Bennett: Co-head of Institute on Ageing: applied research and development in the focus areas of care in older age, age work in communal social space, ageing society

Prof. Dr. Peter Neuenschwander: Deputy Head of Institute for Social Security and Social Policy: applied research and development in the focus areas of professional and social integration

Further information

MOZART: Project page: Models for the Future Labour Market 45+

Labour Market 45+ Charter

Follow-up project ‘Working in retirement’: reasons and possible success factors 

SBB Project Case Study: increasing workforce flexibility 

City of Bern Case Study: career models for older and disadvantaged employees 

Boxenstopp tool: SBB raises awareness for the future of the labour market