What did you want to be when you were a child? A pilot, a doctor, an ice-cream seller, or maybe a circus director? Having a profession is important, as we are what we do. All the more reason for us to introduce you to Lola, a product from Low Lands Assessments Systems, with which CPM/ITZU has entered into a partnership. Lola is a tool that helps identify your career options. Professor Filip De Fruyt, one of the ‘fathers’ of Lola, told us all about it.
What is Lola exactly?
Lola is the result of over ten years of interest in interests. Or, put another way: the tool is based on an interest in the things that drive human beings forward and puts that to use both for the purpose of academic research and also on a practical level when it comes to providing careers advice.
Lola, which was developed by Prof. Filip De Fruyt, Sjoerd Dingemanse and Prof. Bart Wille, is based on the tried-and-tested Holland’s theory with its six areas of interest (such as realistic, investigative and artistic), which, in Lola, have been refined to form sixteen domains. So what is the basic principle? If we make sure that people and their working environments are well matched, employees will experience more enjoyment at work and will also perform better. A win-win situation, in other words.
Lola’s target group is made up of employees and job applicants on the one hand and of companies on the other. Lola is a questionnaire – at the end, the output you receive consists of graphs and short explanatory texts. The fact that Lola is a questionnaire and not a test is important: it means that there are no right or wrong answers. To get the most out of this tool, Low Lands Assessment Systems provides users with a series of easy-to-follow tutorials.
Could it please be made more attractive?
The question that remains is how Lola differs from other tools and why CPM/ITZU therefore opted for Lola. Filip De Fruyt got the discussion under way by saying that “What Lola doesn’t do is narrow down the spectrum of a person’s interests to something that can then be linked to that person’s ideal job.” “It actually does the exact the opposite – the questionnaire actually prises open a person’s spectrum of interests. For individuals and companies alike, this actually plays a very important role in keeping sufficient options open. Today, we are faced with a shortage of workers. In other words, the ratio of vacancies to candidates is very tight.”
“If we want to remedy that situation, we need to be more flexible in our requirements,” Prof. De Fruyt continued. “What our job market needs is to become better at attracting people. After all, a job title in English and ten requirements that candidates must fulfil are anything but attractive. But that is still the way in which companies are presenting themselves to potential candidates. Lola helps by throwing things wide open. The best possible approach is not to regard positions as pigeonholes that need to be filled with people, but to create a situation in which individuals can experience fulfilment and job satisfaction. And you can only achieve that if you make sure that jobs are aligned with people’s interests.”
No-one gets left behind
Filip De Fruyt: “For the people themselves and the companies they work for, interests continue to be an important guide, not only at the time of recruitment, but also afterwards. After all, we know that interest and performance go hand in hand. A person who is interested in what they are doing will do it better and will stay motivated for longer. And if their interests and their work coincide, you’re less likely to receive the response “Is that it then?” Interest and retention are therefore closely linked. The same thing also applies to interest and learning new things. Nowadays, almost everyone is in agreement that we continue learning new things over the course of our lives. But what should we learn? Our interests are also an indicator of the things that drive our eagerness to learn.”
What is more, a person’s interests indicate how deployable they will be in the long term. “Employability – making sure that people continue to be valuable employees – is yet another way to combat the shortage that exists on the job market,” explained Prof. De Fruyt. “While employers have the best of intentions when setting up so-called ‘high potentials’ programmes, it’s important to consider what everyone else, who doesn’t form part of that select group, will think of that. With Lola, our aim is to help companies to keep everyone on board. Focusing attention on interests, which is the approach that Lola adopts, is also a type of management that aims to ensure that ‘no employee left behind’.”
Keeping an open mind and using interests as a guide
Filip De Fruyt is very well aware that given the demand for workers that exists in Belgium, there are around half a million of people without a job. Some of them also want nothing more than to be able to rejoin the labour market. “People over fifty are asking themselves how much effort they want to go do in order to complete the final ten to fifteen years of their careers. Meanwhile, for young people, the progression in life that is characterised by “job, house, garden and having children” isn’t moving fast enough … And by the time they reach the age of 35, they’re asking themselves: ‘What now?’,” said Prof. De Fruyt.
“The job market is not only tight, but there is also still room for improvement. Nowadays, we are no longer living in an age in which a person embarks on their career and then retires after forty years of loyal service with the same employer. So why is it that people in Flanders today want to have the full package as soon as they can, when they still have their entire career before them? Most importantly, and as a result of a persistent yearning for stability, people risk hitting a brick wall, whether that takes the form of a missed promotion, a merger, or a company that goes out of business. A better way to approach things is: Keep your options open and use your interests as a guide.”
Experienced interests and the Change Indicator
Filip De Fruyt continued: “The fact that we’re working to find out what a person’s interests are doesn’t automatically mean that they will change their job, of course. In that regard, Lola actually has two very important trump cards up its sleeve. First of all, the questions that appear in Lola make a distinction between informal interests and experienced interests. After all, if a person indicates that they’re interested in sport, it could either mean that ‘they don’t miss a single match of their favourite team’ ‘or that at the age of 14, they chose to attend a sports academy in the hope of becoming professional later on’. Lola actually makes it possible for us to chart differences of that type.”
“Another positive feature of Lola is that the tool is able to detect precisely how much the person completing the questionnaire feels the need for change. In the Lola report, we call this feature the Change Indicator. Of course, it could be that at the time that someone completes the Lola questionnaire, they may feel right at home in their current job. That too can be a valid outcome. For others, however, the need for change can be considerably more pronounced.”
A positive approach
Dominique Hendriks, a careers coach at ITZU, has discovered one of Lola’s other plus points: “If you ask people to identify the things that really get them going, they often find that question difficult to answer. But if you ask the same question to employers about their staff, the answer is even less obvious. The questionnaire used by Lola therefore offers people a vocabulary that enables them to talk about their interests and that fits perfectly with the positive psychology that we apply at ITZU. If you’re able to put things into words, it helps you achieve a greater insight. And if you are able to talk to people about their interests, the conversation suddenly takes a positive turn. That way, people automatically have an increased desire to share positive experiences and explore their interests. At the same time, it also makes them more resilient.”
“When providing careers coaching, outplacement and providing guidance to employees experiencing a burn-out, there is always a risk of a downward spiral,” explained Hendriks. “Especially in the case of employees who have undergone negative experiences in the workplace, such as being made redundant or suffering a burn-out, the temptation to remain in a frustrated state can be significant. Having an opportunity to unburden yourself to a coach is one thing, but what happens after that? If we take the person’s interests as our starting point, it turns the whole thing on its head. The discussion then shifts towards talking about the things that make someone feel energised, not the things that consume their energy. Instead of a downward spiral, you started things off using a questionnaire about a person’s interests as a way of ensuring positive communication, which is one of the important benefits offered by Lola.”
At the moment, one of the initiatives being pursued by the team at Low Lands Assessment Systems is a research project into dual careers, in other words, people who have more than one job at the same time. Sometimes, dual careers consist of combinations that may appear unusual, such as a person who holds down an office job for half their working hours and makes chocolates during the other half. “What we ourselves have experienced as we work with our clients’ companies is that older employees, people who have given many years of reliable service, are ‘sitting out’ their final few years while channelling their full enthusiasm into a hobby or a side job,” explained Hendriks. “Bringing that enthusiasm back to their main job is a challenge that we definitely should embrace in full. Instead of locking down the labour market by applying conservative patterns, what we actually should be doing is to throw it wide open. After all, the work carried out by a person who kneads dough isn’t very far removed from that of another person who lays concrete, if you look at things with an open mind.” What Lola does is to help reveal the scope that actually exists.
Like to know more about Lola? if so, please send an e-mail to Christine Van Velthoven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo source: Freepik