Sustainable labour force participation in inclusive organisations

Work and health

To improve the sustainable employability and participation in the labour force of people at a distance from the labour market, knowledge and development are of crucial importance. This is why we focus on innovative research. Together with municipalities, professionals, companies and job-seekers, we are able to contribute to an inclusive labour market.

Inclusive technology

Is inclusive technology helping more people to find work? Download our white paper and find out how.

Diversity and work

Diversity is everywhere. People are different from each other, both outwardly and inwardly. These differences make us human and unique. That these characteristics should play a role in recruitment, selection and retention and career advancement and so influence the position of individuals on the labour market is undesirable. Research shows that candidates with whom there is the best ‘connection’, are often preferred. This has consequences for different groups in society.

Equal opportunities?

For example, Dutch people with a non-Western migration background are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than Dutch people without a migration background. They also relatively often remain in lower positions and experience limited advancement to higher positions. Employers are increasingly recognising that this is unacceptable, and that everyone deserves an equal chance to work. But many employers are struggling with how to address this issue.

The role of unconscious bias

Differences in labour market opportunities and a lower labour market position are only partly due to differences in education, study course or work experience. More important is the role of implicit, unconscious stereotyping (bias) about one another. This plays a role in the application process, but also in the retention and advancement of people within the organisation. This bias is very human, but not desirable. In our studies we look at how to prevent people from taking action based on bias. For example, by objectifying processes and increasing inclusion.

Solutions that work

Influencing unconscious discrimination in the recruitment and selection process is not easy. Moreover, a solution that works in theory is not always easy to apply in practice. We are therefore exploring with and among employers how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Which interventions in both the recruitment and selection process and those which ensure retention and advancement of diverse staff actually work in practice? And where, as an employer, do you start? This enables us to gain insight into what is possible and what is not, and together to arrive at solutions which also work in practice.

Three research areas

With research and innovation in three different areas, we help reduce the distance to the labour market and contribute to a more inclusive society.

The fact that people are at a great distance from the labour market, is sometimes because they have difficulty with certain activities. Either because they are physically unable, or because specific work is too complex. Given the appropriate technological support, they may well be able to ‘simply’ return to work. One example is the exoskeleton.


Video about the exoskeleton: from rehabilitation aid to application in the workplace. Aijse de Vries (TNO) explains the difference between passive and active exoskeletons, and talks about the computer model that can predict the effect of an exoskeleton on certain activities.

Technology and heavy-duty work

Innovative technologies provide support for people in demanding professions. Think of technologies such as augmented reality, the aforementioned exoskeletons or cobots (robots that perform tasks in collaboration with people). For example, they support people with disabilities, enabling them to carry out work which would otherwise be either impossible or too complicated. Together with Cedris and SBCM, we have founded the Knowledge Alliance Inclusion & Technology (KIT) to set up a number of pilot projects together.

Technology works

Two pilot projects have already provided the necessary information regarding the potentialities of inclusive technology. People with disabilities are effectively able to perform more varied tasks thanks to technological support. For example, self-operated robots that can take over difficult tasks. Or an Operator Support System (OSS), which tracks the actions of the employees during complex tasks, and using lights to guide them from one step to the next.

Questions regarding application

Precisely because the first pilots were successful, research questions arise about the practical application of such techniques:

  • Who does it work for and who does it not work for?
  • How flexibly can the technologies be deployed?
  • What investments are needed regarding supervision and training of employees?
  • What is the cost of the equipment?
  • Do these investments pay off?
  • What are the social costs and benefits?

Teamwork from various experts

To answer the above questions, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team. This team consists of our experts in the fields of:

  • sustainable employability
  • ergonomics
  • man-machine interaction
  • mechanical engineering
  • more inclusive entrepreneurship

Together, they need to arrive at a reliable, scientifically-based picture about which technologies are suitable for which vulnerable groups. Naturally, with attention being paid to the effects on the various target groups. And a method for measuring social costs and benefits.

Cost-benefit tool

What are the costs and benefits of investing in sustainable employability? To give organisations insight into this, we developed a cost-benefit tool based on national data.

Read more

Everything indicates that it helps when people at a great distrance from the labour market have a significant voice in the guidance process. The importance of the voice of jobseekers is gaining more and more attention. Nevertheless, the development of knowledge about the positive effects of constructive cooperation between professionals and jobseekers is still lagging behind.

The voice of jobseekers

What voice do jobseekers have and want in this guidance process? What do they consider constructive cooperation, and what effect does it have? What methods of cooperation are promising in the domain of Work and Income in the light of legitimacy issues that also play a role in the support process?

Effective collaboration

These questions form the basis of our research within Inclusive Work. It is not just about the ideas and wishes of jobseekers. It is also about how professionals interpret and deal with cooperation in practice. This should lead to concrete tools which enable both jobseekers and professionals to work together effectively.

‘Shared decision-making’

In health care, for example, much research has already been done into the effects of strengthening the voice of patients within the care process. This has led to models such as ‘shared decision-making’, with the following results:

  • higher patient satisfaction
  • decrease in costs
  • improved effectiveness

It is expected that similar findings will also apply within the Work and Income sector.

Read more

Based on their vision of social entrepreneurship, many companies want to offer opportunities to people who are at a distance from the labour market. For example, elderly people, refugees or people with disabilities. Or companies find that due to staff shortages, they need people who would normally have more difficulty in finding a job. We develop knowledge in a three-step rocket that can help companies achieve this.

The key to success?

As a company, you may want to hire people who are at a distance from the labour market, but there is a world of difference between intention and everyday practice, where these employees can work productively and remain doing so in the long term. We examine step by step what obstacles may arise, and how a company can overcome these successfully. In addition, we look for factors that encourage companies to become more inclusive. This allows us to develop change strategies.

Exploring factors of social entrepreneurship

In an exploratory study, we look at companies which already have a plan for employing -more- people from vulnerable groups:

  • what they do
  • how they do it
  • what factors influence the success of those plans

This happens, for example, in companies that have a prospective PSO status. You can find more information about PSO, Social Entrepreneurship Performance Framework, and about which companies have obtained PSO recognition on the website of PSO Nederland.

Research on effective approaches to social entrepreneurship

In addition, we conduct a survey in which the same companies repeatedly complete a questionnaire. This is how we find out which factors determine whether a company wants to be, and is able to be, inclusive. And preferably also in the long term. Our ambition is to use the knowledge gained to predict whether a company can (continue to) do business in a more socially inclusive way. Such a model is useful not only for the companies themselves, but also for developing effective approaches to employer services delivered by Employer Service Points.

Change tool

The third step is to look at how we can influence these factors. What are we able do to effectively help these companies? What behavioural and change strategies can we implement? How can we encourage and support inclusive employer behaviour? We are developing a handy toolbox for companies, WSPs and advisers, with which companies can get to work immediately. This includes:

  • tips
  • interventions
  • key points

Read more

The Inclusive Work knowledge programme

Our projects are part of the knowledge investment project Inclusive Work: getting more people at a distance from the labour market into work. In this project, we support municipalities and companies in finding and implementing effective approaches for a more inclusive labour market. We are aiming for 3 or 4 ‘inclusive frontrunner regions’ in 2021, which together with municipalities, companies, client and professional organisations and knowledge institutions, apply new and existing knowledge and innovation in order to help people furthest from the labour market to find work.

Target group participation

In order to achieve successful interventions and technology, we work intensively with stakeholders within the Inclusive Work projects. Want to know more about the approach? Then read the Guide to target group participation (pdf). It provides tools to work together with the target group in a meaningful and plan-based way.


Curious to know which innovative projects we worked on during the period 2018-2021 for a future-proof labour market? Read, watch and listen to the stories about our projects in which we describe how, with public and private partners, we develop innovations for future-proof work.

Download the e-brochure ‘Innovations for future-proof work’ (pdf)


Together with organisations, we want to assume shared responsibility for creating a stable and sustainable labour market. A labour market in which everyone participates. We do this through large subsidised projects and private sector projects. As an organisation, this is where you can take steps and make a difference. We use the research we have done, and are continuing to do, as a guide to advise companies or sectors. But we are also always looking for partners with whom we can develop and test new interventions. Please feel free to contact us to discuss the possibilities.

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