Study sees co-sourcing as a solution for longer careers

7 November 2017

Flanders currently has just under 700,000 over-50s in the workforce. This figure has more than doubled over the past twenty years and is now equivalent to the number of working people in their thirties. A higher retirement age paired with the high cost of an ageing population requires organisations to keep their mature employees active and motivated. Creative solutions must ensure that work remains feasible and should discourage the practice of bridging pensions and the system of unemployment with an additional company allowance (Régime de Chômage avec Complément d'Entreprise (RCC)/Stelsel van Werkloosheid met Bedrijfstoeslag (SWT)).
  • All over-50s who take advantage of co-sourcing learn things in their new position and believe they add value to their new company
  • This departs from the stereotype that mature employees are no longer a source of innovation or are no longer willing to learn
  • Study shows positive co-sourcing return for companies, employees and the government

Co-sourcing is an inventive way to approach the issue of longer careers. It enables senior company employees to work for other companies while maintaining their contract with their original employer. The employees remain on the original employer's payroll. The companies using the employees' services cover some of the employment costs. The difference is much more beneficial for the original employer than an RCC/SWT arrangement. The Experience@Work platform has promoted the concept of co-sourcing in Belgium for a while now. Sixty people have already started to work for new employers since it was set up. Employment Minister Kris Peeters is an firm supporter of the initiative.

Co-sourcing is a win-win situation for all parties

David Stuer and Professor Ans De Vos of the Antwerp Management School interviewed several Experience@Work participants as part of the SD Worx chair. The interviews show that co-sourcing can improve mature employees' job satisfaction in Belgium by offering them a new challenging job at another company. All employees believe that their skills can add value to their new organisation. At the same time, 80% still consider themselves to be ambassadors of their original employer. All respondents also confirmed that they are learning new things in their new positions. Two-thirds indicated that this was no longer the case in their previous position. Three out of four respondents also feels that the new position allows them to make the most of their competitive advantages. The employees 'on loan' can also be sources of innovation for the new organisation.

Lucien Van Dijck: “I am an employee at KBC. Co-sourcing gave me the opportunity to work for social enterprise De Sleutel. While this is a very different sector, this new challenge gives me a great deal of satisfaction and renewed energy. You could compare it with skydiving with a double parachute: you take the jump into a new organisation, but you do not have to give up the security of your old employer."

The initiative offers benefits to the employees, the companies and society as a whole. Companies with employees out 'on loan' through co-sourcing can keep their staff satisfied for longer and reduce the risk of them becoming bored. Organisations that send employees out 'on loan' can offer new career opportunities to their younger employees and reduce the costs of bridging pensions and RCC/SWT schemes for their mature employees. Companies that receive employees 'on loan' have the opportunity to use the experience of mature employees for the cost of a junior profile.

Inge Janssens, Experience@Work: “Co-sourcing removes the salary barrier for mature employees. This is very important, because the over-50s we spoke to indicated they did not want to compromise on their wage package."

Co-sourcing is also extremely valuable for society, as the experience of mature employees does not go to waste and they can continue to work for longer. A study by HazelHeartwood demonstrates the project's positive social return on investment (1.93). In other words, every euro invested in co-sourcing generates an equivalent value of 1.93 euros for all stakeholders involved – the companies, the employees and the government – such as by reducing the number of long-term absences through illness.

Experience@Work helps companies to co-source in Belgium

Experience@Work is a good example of a co-sourcing platform that can improve the final years of an employee's career. HazelHeartwood, KBC, Proximus and AXA established Experience@Work in 2015 with the support of SD Worx, VDAB and The Shift. It allows employees to use their skills and experience with several employers until they reach retirement age while maintaining their link with their original employer. Eleven employers have joined the platform so far. Sixty people have started to work for a new organisation through Experience@Work. At present, these are primarily non-profit companies. However, other organisations can register in order to attract experienced employees at a reasonable cost.

These results will be presented at the Proximus Lounge in Evere, Belgium, on Friday 10 November from 8:30 am. Entry is free.