Speaker on June 30, 2023

Jessie Koen
Senior researcher Future of Work at TNO and is affiliated with the Department of Work and Organization Psychology, University of Amsterdam
Speaker on June 30, 2023

The paradox of proactivity: how the social and institutional context can help and hinder lifelong development initiatives

Self-direction, proactivity, and lifelong learning are important themes in our society: these behaviors are necessary to remain employable in a rapidly changing labor market. Yet, if you experience insecurity about the future of your job and career, it can be difficult -if not impossible- to take career initiatives such as building a network or learning new skills.

Put differently, the exact thing that requires workers to learn and develop new skills is, paradoxically, also what obstructs such learning and development.

Unfortunately, merely telling, training or coaching people to be proactive and develop new skills doesn’t seem to help them much. In this presentation, I will outline why we should shift our focus from stimulating people to be proactive to creating an environment that enables them to do so.

Based on recent findings, I will address questions such as: which environmental factors contribute to (proactive) learning? Are these factors the same for all workers in all situations? How can we (re-)design jobs and careers in such a way that they enable workers to learn and develop? And how can we use AI and technological innovations to achieve this.



Hoe zorgen we dat mensen ten tijde van onzekerheid tóch bezig blijven met hun loopbaan? Blogpost
en animatie over: Koen, J., van Bezouw, M.J. van Veen, M. (2021). Rapport Perspectief Initiatief. Deelproject 1: inventarisatie. TNO / Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Zo zorg je dat werkgevers voor jou in de rij staan. De Ben Tiggelaar Podcast (November, 2022). BNR.


Koen, J. & van Bezouw, M.J. (2021). Acting Proactively to Manage Job Insecurity: How Worrying About the Future of One’s Job May Obstruct Future-Focused Thinking and Behavior. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.727363

Koen, J. Parker, S.K. (2020). In the eye of the beholder: How proactive behavior alters perceptions of insecurity. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 25(6), 385-400. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000198

''The people who would benefit most from lifelong learning are the ones who are unable to do so.''

''We should move beyond the idea of stimulating people to engage in lifelong learning and shift our focus to creating an environment that enables such continuous learning.''