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Inclusion and beyond. Assessment and monitoring development of the work capacity of people with limited work capacity

Author(s): Gemma M. C. van Ruitenbeek
Publication date: Thursday, 14 December, 2023

It is generally recognized that employment contributes to psychological wellbeing and health gains. There is even a scientific tendency to consider work as medicine. But despite increasing shortages in the labour market, people with limited work capacity face obstacles in finding and keeping a job. This target group is defined as a very diverse group of people with a wide variety of skills and competencies, who cannot find and keep paid work that fits their capacities in the current labour market without support. Limited work capacity is not a feature or characteristic of an individual, but must be considered in relation to contextual factors that do not match the person's actual capacities.

As a result of technology-driven and economically driven developments, the work requirements in the labour market have increased significantly in recent decades. Consequently, the competences of a growing group of people do not match with the demands of the labour market, which has a ‘disabling’ effect on people. In order to increase inclusion of this group of people into paid work that fits their capacity, insight into their work capacities in relation to work outcomes is needed. The following central research question is formulated: How can the work capacity of people with limited work capacity (LWC) be measured in relation to work outcomes, and how can their development be monitored during work? In order to answer this, three research questions were formulated that are discussed in chapters 2, 3 and 4.

Chapter 2 addresses the first research question of this dissertation: : What are the most relevant measures for psychological resources in relation to work outcomes, and what is needed to make these measures accessible and reliable for people with LWC? Measures were selected that are assumed to predict work outcomes (e.g. work performance) in literature, specifically mental ability, conscientiousness, self-efficacy, and coping. Two studies were then conducted to test the reliability of the question sets. Results indicate that when measures are tailored to this target group, people with LWC seem to be just as capable as their significant other to provide adequate answers to questionnaires regarding psychological work resources.

Chapter 3 answers the second research question: What are the most relevant work outcomes of people with LWC, and how can the relation between the psychological resources and these work outcomes be explored in order to test the predictive validity, and thus validate the measures? Based on a literature review, two important outcome measures were selected to validate the question set from Chapter 2, namely one for task performance and one for work behaviour. To test the predictive validity statistically, data was collected from four sources at two time points. Overall, results indicate to a large extent the validity of the psychological resources in predicting work behaviour and task performance of people with LWC.

Chapter 4 addresses the final research question of this dissertation: How can the development in work capacity of people with LWC be measured during work, and to what extent is their development influenced by contextual factors? In literature, mental ability (or cognitive functioning) and work behaviour are viewed as key factors for employment success. Therefore, development of these aspects in people with LWC was explored while they were working. Moreover, ‘acceptance’ and ‘support’ are indicated as contextual factors that can influence the development of our target group. In order to investigate these assumptions, data was collected at three time points after the target group started working. A growth curve modelling approach was used for the statistical analysis. Results showed a significant development over time in the self- and observer scores. The study also shows that the growth curves of several variables are moderated by the extent to which people feel accepted and supported.

Finally, Chapter 5 provides a summary and overview of the main findings of each chapter, and discusses the scientific and practical implications and the main conclusion of this entire dissertation. Finally, Chapter 5 describes the main conclusion of this thesis: the instrument validated in this thesis (Maastricht Work Capacity Monitor (MW©M)) has paved the way for including people with limited work capacity in work that fits their capacity, and to facilitate development during their work, i.e. 'to go beyond inclusion'.

Keyword(s): Arbeidsvermogen , Assesments , Banenafspraak , Coaching , Competenties , Duurzame arbeidsparticipatie , Employability , Jobcoaches , Maastrichtse Workability Monitor , Onderzoek , Participatie , Tools , Werken en leren