Vulnerable Workers’ Employability Competences: The Role of Establishing Clear Expectations, Developmental Inducements, and Social Organizational Goals

  • Mieke AudenaertEmail author
  • Beatrice Van der Heijden
  • Neil Conway
  • Saskia Crucke
  • Adelien Decramer
Original Paper


Using an ethical approach to the study of employability, we question the mainstream approach to career self-direction. We focus on a specific category of employees that has been neglected in past research, namely vulnerable workers who have been unemployed for several years and who have faced multiple psychosocial problems. Building on the Ability-Motivation-Opportunity model, we examine how establishing clear expectations, developmental inducements, and social organizational goals can foster employability competences of vulnerable workers. Our study took place in the particularly relevant context of social enterprises, which have a primary goal to enhance the employability competences of vulnerable workers. Multilevel analysis of data from 38 CEOs of social enterprises, 121 leaders and 594 workers, demonstrated that establishing clear expectations and developmental inducements enable vulnerable workers to anticipate and optimize their employability competences. Furthermore, a positive association was found between establishing clear expectations and the balance dimension of employability, yet only in social enterprises that prioritize social organizational goals, suggesting the need to recognize the extent organizational goals shape opportunities for vulnerable workers. Establishing clear expectations and developmental inducements can therefore enhance vulnerable workers’ employability competences in supportive contexts; however, there may be detrimental side effects to drifting away from social organizational goals.


Employability competences Vulnerable workers AMO model Establishing clear expectations Developmental inducements Social organizational goals 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Management ResearchRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Marketing, Innovation and OrganisationGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Open University of The NetherlandsHeerlenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.University of KingstonLondonUK
  5. 5.Hubei UniversityWuhanChina
  6. 6.School of Management, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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