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01 January 2022
European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
Special Issue Editor(s)
Pascale Le Blanc,
Eindhoven University of Technology
Beatrice Van der Heijden,
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Ans De Vos,
Antwerp Management School
New frontiers in employability research: Towards a contextualized perspective of employability development
Organizations and their employees are currently facing dynamic environments that emphasize the importance of flexibility, adaptation, and innovation (Hall et al., 2018). At the same time, in most industrialized countries, the retirement age of employees is increasing because of the proportional increase of the ageing working population (Komp, 2018; Kooij, 2015). As a consequence of these trends, careers are becoming longer and more complex. Therefore, protecting and further enhancing the employability of the workforce across life- and career stages is of vital importance for economic as well as societal reasons (De Vos, Van der Heijden, & Akkermans, 2020; Le Blanc, Van Vuuren, & Van der Heijden, 2017).
Employability has become one of the most popular research topics in the field of career studies in recent year (Akkermans & Kubasch, 2017; Lee et al., 2014). Despite this growing scholarly interest in the topic, there are still clear challenges to move the field forward that connect with the societal trends described earlier. In this special issue, we address two key challenges that would pave the way for employability research to develop to the next level.
The first key challenge is that employability research needs stronger theoretical and conceptual frameworks that can capture its dynamic nature across life- and career stages. Although there have been life-span theories available for quite some time now, such as Super’s Life-span Life-space conceptual framework (1957, 1990), Vondracek’s Developmental-Contextual model (Vondracek et al., 1986), and Carstensen’s Life-span Socio-emotional Selectivity theory (1998, 2006), one of the problems in the literature is a lack of innovative, theory-based, empirical studies that explore and explain intra-individual developmental and dynamic changes in employability. Employability research that explores the dynamic relations between work and work behavior (cf. De Lange et al., 2006; Mäkikangas et al., 2012; Van der Heijden et al., 2016), and the diversity of intra-individual, short-term as well as long-term change trajectories across time (see, for example, Martin & Hofer, 2004) is greatly needed. This calls for an integration of the literature on employability with other disciplines, such as research on career transitions and career stages, as well as life-span developmental perspectives.
The second key challenge is that employability research needs a more contextualized approach that can shed light on antecedents, consequences, mechanisms, and boundary conditions among specific groups of workers. Studies on employability have mostly fallen prey to the blind spots of ignoring the interdependent and contextual nature of the phenomenon (Forrier et al., 2018). Indeed, they have mostly adopted a ‘generic approach’ of employability, whereas there are still few studies on employability within specific groups or categories of workers, such as for workers on different occupational levels (i.e., blue vs. white collar jobs), contract types (i.e., permanent vs. flexible workers, entrepreneurs) among different life- and career stages (e.g., graduates, mid-career professionals, bridge workers) as well as among the unemployed, and on workers in different cultural/national contexts. Furthermore, it is likely that significant others have an impact on one’s employability development. For example, the quality of interactions with the organization and with one’s supervisors might impact on employability to a large degree (cf. Philippaers et al., 2017). Accordingly, more in-depth psychological research on contextual factors and interdependencies regarding employability is needed to move the field forward, and to formulate evidence-based recommendations for policies and practices at the societal, the organizational, the job-, and the individual level.
With this special issue, we aim to assemble a collection of papers that strongly advance scientific knowledge on these two key challenges in employability research. Thereby, we hope to stimulate new directions in employability research that give rise to more ‘tailor-made’, evidence-based employability policies and practices aimed at specific groups or categories of workers. Research questions could include, but are certainly not limited to:
- How dynamic is employability across life- and career stages? What are the between-person and within-person dynamics of employability development?
- Which novel theoretical frameworks can be used to better understand the dynamic process underlying employability development across the life-span? How do they help us to understand the phenomenon more clearly?
- To what degree is employability agentic vs. contextually determined? How do, for example, peers, supervisors, and family impact on an individual’s employability?
- What contextual factors can act as boundary conditions for employability development across life- and career stages? Is the nomological net of employability different among different occupational groups, career stages, and in different countries and cultures?
- To what degree is employability malleable? Can interventions enhance employability? Are the working mechanisms of such interventions different among different groups of workers?
- What are methodological approaches and designs that are suited to studying employability across life- and career stages, and among different groups of workers?
- What are appropriate time lags to study employability? How dynamic is employability on the short term vs. the long term?
We primarily aim for longitudinal quantitative and qualitative studies that can probe employability development, though conceptual papers are also welcome. We strongly encourage interested authors to submit a brief abstract of their intended submission. This will allow the Guest Editors to offer preliminary feedback about the potential fit with the special issue and suggestions for potentially improving the fit and scope of the intended study.
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We seek innovative contributions and encourage high-quality theoretical/conceptual and empirical papers across a range of methodologies and analytical techniques. In particular, we invite original papers that represent novel and significant efforts to look beyond existing employability knowledge to ‘close the gaps’ in the body of knowledge and chart new pathways for future research. Please note that the regular author guidelines of EJWOP apply.
Papers should be submitted through the journal’s online submissions system via the 'Submit an article' tab on the journal's homepage, as a submission for this Special Issue.
For more information or to discuss ideas for the Special Issue, please contact any of the Guest Editors.
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