Employable Me

There’s a BBC program called “Employable Me“, about the employability of the mentally ill. The program is about people with psychiatric disorders and the labour market. Now if you watch this video you might say that these people are simply unemployable. And yes, there is a scene showing a man suffering from full-blown Tourette who is looking for a job. And he has trouble finding it.

The program “Employable Me” shows people who are at the side of society due to extreme behavior that makes people feel uncomfortable. But this person has a high IQ and has many skills. And he cannot find a job. So a lot of potential is lost to society. And it’s such a waste.
But thinking about this, I thought about how it would be like to hire someone like him. And what keeps us from doing this. It’s easier to hire someone with a physical disability than it is to hire someone with a mental problem. And yet, to hire someone with a physical disability could requires effort too. You need to adapt the work space, the work tools, the furniture, the work instructions, … All of this is changing the physical context of work to the physical capacities and limitations of a person. It’s advanced ergonomics.
But if you’d translate this approach to people with a psychiatric disorder, it would require to adapt the mental context to the mental capabilities and limitations of a person. But how do you adapt the mental context if that mental context is also a social context? The social context does not suffer from the physical adaptations to physical qualities of a person. But the mental disorders disturb the social context. We feel uncomfortable. We need to adapt to peculiar behavior. Is that more difficult?
We are able to adapt to the mental capabilities of a developing human being. From childhood, there’s a long way to go to adulthood. But we get used to that. Why? Because we know there are stages every person must go through to become an independent person. Puberty is an ordeal for most parents and yet most of the parents seem to be able to get through it somehow. Parental behavior during puberty sometimes digresses towards less elevated behaviors.
But on the work place you cannot have this. And yet, it is possible – it must be possible – to hire people with different behaviors due to a mental disorder.
Let’s have a look at the data.

  • In the U.S. only 12% of people with a serious mental illness are employed full-time, with another 10% being employed on a part-time basis.
  • 99% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia have worked at a certain point in their lives, showing that they are able to work. But after the diagnosis only 5,8% of people with schizophrenia are employed.
  • 66% of people with a severe mental disorder are willing to work.

Let’s face it. The labor market is still exclusive. Hiring who do not fit the profile remains a challenge. And if you think of it, the same goes for education.
I recommend you to watch Employable Me. It confronts us with our own prejudice and embarrassment. And maybe we can use those emotions to maybe look for ways of becoming more inclusive. Or welcoming. Or humane.
Employable Me deserves a TV award. It has probably done more for employability programs than any government program could have. I recommend all employers, CEOs, HRDs to watch it and to think about how we could open up our minds for people who have skills and potential, but have a different behaviour than most people.

Check these sources on Employability

Energy Shortage?


In Belgium, a possible local shortage of electricity (an organized “black-out”) is menacing many companies, individuals and families, spread over 6 areas in the country. Because of this news, all actors have become fully aware of the risk of running out of light, electricity and even some basic infrastructure. The temporary closing of two nuclear power plants, suddenly made the people aware of their dependency of electricity and gas. Awareness is the first and necessary step for starting an effective change process.
Now consider this question: How do you prepare yourself for such an energy black-out?

  1. Personally: You gather relevant information. You foresee some nice candles and blankets in the house. You’re turning off some devices to save energy, … .
  2. The people around you: You inform your family. You share some best practices with your neighbours. You talk about the upcoming problem with your friends (maybe they can give you some advice too).
  3. “The house” : You consider structural measures to improve your energy consumption. You need to ask some questions. Is my house energy-proof? What are the alternatives? How can I gain some sustainable energy instead of wasting it? You can ask for a temporary energy advisor/coach who coaches you.
solar panels
(C) Franky242 on freedigitalphotos.net

Personal and Company Energy Level

Now back to business: What about your personal energy level? Do you feel still comfortable?  Are there enough provisions to go through the next reorganization within your company? And what about the general energy level of your colleagues? Are they aware? Are they pro-actively taking actions?
What can we as (HR) business professionals learn from the above phenomenon? Just consider the same question: what do you do to prepare yourself for not falling out of energy?

  1. Personally. You are individually responsible for driving your career. Sometimes you go fast and you’re using plenty of fuel. Sometimes you slow down a bit. Compare your long-term employability to the weather seasons. They also come in cycles. Your career goes from spring to summer, and from autumn to winter. And then spring starts again. Each season requires a different energy level. In what season is your career now?
  1. The people around you: As HR professional, you help to increase the skills and development of the mindset of the leaders in your company to become real people managers. They are the (energy) coach of their team. They should be aware of the long term employability of their team members. Leaders who are investing in the professional and personal development of their employees, are taking care of the structural energy level of them. They focus on the strengths of their people and are succeeding in discovering the unfold potential.
  1. “The house”: In order to anchor the structural energy level of the whole company, HR should also contribute to design “an energy-saving company structure” (just like the construction of a passive house). The result should be a sustainable collaboration culture, that is adaptable to multiple changes (both inside as externally driven). This means that organization structures should be sufficiently flexible. It also means that we don’t depend on function descriptions but mostly act based on roles and projects rather than on departments. And most of all, it means that there is trust within the company.

energy scale
How does your company rate on this energy scale?

Each house in Belgium that is for rent or sale on the real estate market must have an energy performance certificate.
How does your company should score on such a scale? Think about it. And manage your energy.