Sustainable careers and sustainable Human Resource Management in UAE: living a happy, healthy, productive career life

Organizations are dangerous, because too often we have organized the jobs in them according to old models of efficiency without considering human needs. They are dangerous when we allow ourselves to think that some specialized knowledge or past achievement will make us secure; technology and organizational needs shift so rapidly that it is only our ability to learn and adapt that prepares us for the future (Dalton, 1989:107).

This excerpt shows the importance of agility, resilience and adaptability of individuals in contemporary careers, given the harsh context of the current labour market.  As

Blustein (2017:180) stated: “precarious work in jobs that do not offer stability, fair remuneration, or a commitment to the growth and development of individual workers … (is) becoming a hallmark of the current labour market.”

Sustainable careers

These realities of the contemporary labour market are crystallized in the concept of a sustainable career- a career that enables being at least reasonably healthy, happy and productive across the lifespan (De Vos & Van der Heijden, & Akkermans, 2020; Heslin, Keating & Ashford, 2020). A sustainable career includes human and social capital, such as skills, qualifications, status, and relationships, as well as personal traits like proactivity and fortitude that help in managing one’s career.

Sustainable HRM

  • Psychological, physical and technical changes over time can herald sustainable career challenges. This highlights the need for sustainable People Management, also called ‘sustainable HRM’. Sustainability principles can be implemented into SHRM practices, with the result of providing long-term well-being for professionals in terms of physical, social, and economic benefits (Genari & Macke, 2022; Van Buren, 2022). Hence, sustainable HRM entails HRM practices that contribute to both positive ecological/environmental and human/social outcomes, with the intended purpose of achieving economic results (Kramar, 2014). Sustainable HRM focuses on how HRM can contribute to more just organizations that are also better placed to create competitive advantage. It offers the possibility of linking people management to employee welfare, societal well-being, and other outcomes related to social and environmental sustainability.
    • The need for more sustainable careers and sustainable HRM begets an investigation into

the complex, multi-faceted, and interdependent components of a sustainable career across the lifespan of careerists. Furthermore, it begs the question, ‘In what ways do organizations practice Sustainable HRM to achieve both positive ecological/environmental and human/social outcomes?

This is imperative as organizations increasingly seek to align their HRM practices with sustainability goals.

Five Pillars of Sustainable careers

  1. Work-life balance and well-being

One of the most prominent themes is the importance of work-life balance and personal well-being in creating sustainable careers. Employee welfare and sustainability are now seen as critical units that impact an organisation’s overall performance.

  • Career growth and development

Career growth and development are vital in creating sustainable careers. Employees emphasise the importance of having opportunities for advancement and growth within their current organization, as well as the need for ongoing learning and skill development to stay relevant and competitive in their fields. In this endeavour, interviewees underlined the value of challenging and pushing oneself outside of the comfort zone for personal and professional growth. Proactive training to differentiate oneself from peers, constant learning, social skill development, and exceeding KPIs for regular promotions are essential components of a sustainable career.

  • Alignment of career and personal values

Many employees highlight the importance of finding a career that aligns with their interests and values, as well as their personal and professional goals. Meaningful work and a sense of community and belonging emerge as elements of a sustainable career.

Self-care, self-motivation, goal-setting and stepping are essential for achieving sustainable careers.

  • Job security and stability

Job security and stability is another important theme related to sustainable careers. The need for stable and secure employment, including employee benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, are vital to support a sustainable career.

  • Workplace culture and environment

The importance of a positive workplace culture and environment is ever so prominent. supportive and respectful managers and coworkers lay and important role in creating sustainable careers. A healthy work environment includes flexibility in the workplace, such as remote work options or flexible schedules that can help individuals to better balance their work and personal lives. Workplaces that match their programs to the values and well-being of their employees foster a culture of commitment that also fosters creativity and productivity

To establish a sustainable career trajectory, it is essential to embrace key elements such as fostering internal connections, staying attuned to external changes, and actively engaging in personal growth. These practices empower individuals to take charge of their professional journeys.

What can organizations do to implement Sustainable HRM?

A clear vision, mission, strategy, and well-defined Employee Value Proposition (EVP) are crucial for talent management, development and retention.

Corporate social and environmental responsibility

Including sustainability in HRM procedures enhances a company’s reputation. The following tactics are available for use:

Documents and Reports

Provide reports that showcase the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives and contributions to environmental and social problems.

To establish a good reputation, distribute these reports both inside and beyond the company.

Participation in the Community

Involve staff members in volunteer and community service initiatives. To show the organization’s dedication to social responsibility, highlight these initiatives in CSR reports.

Businesses that put sustainability and worker welfare first unavoidably improve society. This beneficial effect is amplified by transparent reporting practices that highlight CSR initiatives and advance social and environmental causes. Producing and disseminating these reports enhances the organization’s internal and external reputation by projecting a positive image of social responsibility and environmental awareness. Community involvement is necessary to promote a positive perception of corporate social responsibility. Employee pride and a feeling of community are fostered by staff involvement in volunteer and community service projects, which also demonstrates the organization’s social responsibility.

Fostering Transparent Communication

Managers and employers should emphasize the importance of open communication with their employees, the should be able to listen to their concerns and be responsive and respectful when it comes to their wants and needs which can help build trust which is essential in employee engagement and well-being.  Transparency fosters a common vision among all parties involved in a business, increasing the likelihood of successful implementation. An atmosphere of openness and keep employees informed and engaged in the team’s pursuit of organizational objectives.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees should cater to the needs of their employees and allow them to work flexibly under any circumstance. If employees feel the need to work from home on a certain day for personal reasons, employers should grant them that request; however, employees should not abuse this flexibility.

Employee Training and Development Programs

Developing employees is essential to creating a staff that is knowledgeable and flexible Organizations can promote training and development programs where employees can

learn new skills as well as enhance their existing ones. Furthermore, implementing such programs can allow employees to do better at their job tasks and can prepare them for future opportunities.

Coaching: Apart from training programs, organizations can adapt coaching and mentoring programs that can offer guidance and support to their employees which can pave the way for them in their careers.

Rewarding Employees: Rewarding employees for their exceptional work and their high achievements is very crucial in an organization and can contribute to their engagement and well-being and thus can allow them to implement such achievements in other careers.


Organizations are realizing the benefits of integrating Sustainable Human Resource Management practices on employee engagement, well-being, and overall organizational success. Implementing sustainable HRM practices requires a thorough, strategic plan that aligns with organizational goals. Additionally, these practices must be adaptable and pertinent in various cultural contexts. HR initiatives that are adaptable and culturally aware ensure that sustainable practices are suitable for a variety of organizational environments. Organizations that focus on increasing employee engagement, improving well-being indicators, improving organizational performance, developing sustainable HR initiatives, and enhancing their reputation for corporate social responsibility can foster a positive workplace culture and help ensure long-term success.

Employers can create more sustainable careers through sustainable HRM that offers opportunities for growth and development, promotes work-life balance, creates a positive culture and work environment, and provides competitive compensation and benefits packages. By implementing sustainable HRM practices, organizations in UAE can create more fulfilling and sustainable careers that support personal well-being and contribute to the organisations and the greater common good.


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Dalton, G. W. 1989. Developmental views of careers in organizations. In M. B. Arthur, D. T. Hall, & B. S. Lawrence (Eds.). Handbook of career theory(pp. 89–109).Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

De Vos, A., Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M., Akkermans, J. (2020). Sustainable careers: Towards a conceptual model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 117: 103196, ISSN 0001-791. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2018.06.011

Genari, D. & Macke, J. 2022. Sustainable Human Rrsource Management Practices and The Impacts on Organizational Commitment. Revista de Administração de Empresas. 62: 10.1590/s0034-759020220505. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-759020220505

Heslin, P. A., Keating, L. A., & Ashford, S. J. 2020. How being in learning mode may enable a sustainable career. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 117: 103324. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2019.103324f-initiated expatriates.

Kramar, R. 2014. Beyond strategic human resource management: is sustainable human resource management the next approach? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(8): 1069-1089.

Van Buren, H. J. 2022. The value of including employees: a pluralist perspective on sustainable HRM. Employee Relations: The International Journal, 44(3): 686-701. DOI 10.1108/ER-01-2019-0041

Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M., & De Vos, A. 2015. Sustainable careers: Introductory chapter. In A. De Vos, & B. I. J. M. Van der Heijden (Eds.). Handbook of research on sustainable careers(pp. 1–19). Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar.

Vaismoradi, M., Jones, J., Turunen, H. and Snelgrove, S. 2016. Theme development in qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice 6(5): 100-110. DOI:10.5430/jnep.v6n5p100

Yin, R.K. 2016. Qualitative Research from Start to Finish (2nd Ed.). New York, USA: The Guilford Press.

Reimara Valk

Reimara Valk

Assistant Professor of Management
American University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dr Reimara Valk has over 10 years of teaching and research experience in the field of HRM, well-being, Global Mobility, and International Business, having previously worked for-profit and non-profit organizations in multicultural, global work environments in The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Australia, China, Malaysia, and Iraq. Dr. Valk’s research interests are in global mobility and sustainable careers; employee engagement and wellbeing, and happiness; food, nutrition, health & disease.

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