In this blog post, we discuss a recent Finnish Institute of Occupational Health publication. This publication discusses the views of Finnish employers on digitalization at Finnish workplaces. The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of digitalization on organizations in Finland.
Previously, we discussed the connection between digitalization and occupational change in Finland. We have also discussed how the attitudes employers have toward digital tools and digitalization affect their attitudes toward remote work. We also have a separate blog post on platform work in Finland.
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Background to the study
Selander and Alasoini based their analysis on the MEADOW-surveys. These surveys are a part of the Work2030 program. In this program, different stakeholders in the Finnish labor market develop and test new practices. The purpose of these practices is to improve Finland’s employment rate, economy, competitiveness, and work-life brand.
One part of the survey targeted employers that employ more than 10 employees. Those answering the survey were management and executive-level personnel such as CEOs, COOs, and HR directors and managers. There were 1478 respondents. Three-quarters of them were from the private sector and the rest from the public sector including both governmental and municipal employers.
Selander and Alisoini weighted the responses so that they can be extended to describe all Finnish organizations employing more than 10 employees.
They also conducted another survey of the personnel of these employers. The responses received can only be used to analyze these specific organizations and cannot be used to describe Finnish employees as a whole.
Questions addressing digitalization at Finnish workplaces
In the survey, Selander and Alasoini wanted to know whether the employer thinks they had
- developed their products and services;
- developed their production and service processes;
- organized work differently;
- improved the knowledge and skills of current employees;
- recruited new employees;
- decreased their personnel numbers;
- outsourced some of their functions; or
- used subcontractors working through digital platforms
due to digitalization.
They gave the employers the possibility to answer on a scale from one to 4. “1” meant “to a large extent”, “2” stood for “to some extent”, “3” for “not yet, but in the near future”, and “4” meant “not at all”.
Now, let’s look at the survey results.
Digitalization at Finnish workplaces
Survey results show that employers feel that digitalization has had a huge impact on their organizations. Employers say that of them
- 75 % developed their products and services;
- 82 % developed their production and service processes;
- 82 % organized work differently;
- 83 % of employers have improved the knowledge and skills of current employees;
- 48 % recruited new employees;
- 13 % decreased their personnel numbers:
- 33 % outsourced some of their functions; or
- 36 % used subcontractors working through digital platforms
due to digitalization.
However, Selander and Alasoini wanted to learn more. They conducted a factor analysis to reveal any potential factors connecting the different survey questions. They revealed two such factors.
The first factor connected questions probing the development of new products and services, the development of production and service processes, the organization of work, the improvement of skills and knowledge of current employees, and the recruitment of new employees.
The other factor connected questions addressing potential decreases in personnel, outsourcing, and use of platform workers.
According to Selander and Alasoini, the first factor describes how with some employers digitalization is deeply rooted in the organization, its processes, and functions. The other, instead, describes how digitalization can thin out organizations.
More about the results of the employer survey
Selander and Alasoini discovered that while digitalization as a whole has impacted Finnish workplaces to a large extent, how it has done so varies.
In general, it is more common in Finland for organizations to have digitalization deeply rooted in their operations. It is less common to see the thinning-out effects. This contrasts with international contexts where these latter effects are discussed more.
Often, however, organizations have felt both effects. Both the deep and the thinning-out effects are more common in large organizations than in smaller ones. Similarly, in software and IT industries as well as in finance and real estate industries these two effects are stronger than in others. The municipal sector reports both effects while the governmental sector instead has experienced more of the deep effects.
Although there were some differences in the impact of digitalization based on the organization size, industry, and market orientation (internal Finnish markets vs. exports), the largest differences were based on attitude.
Both types of impact were most strongly felt in those companies where employees identified the organization as a digital trailblazer. 21 % of organizations self-identified as trailblazers.
The difference in the size of the impact between trailblazer companies and others was especially true with the deep effects. Employees of such companies clearly saw how digitalization had impacted the development of the organization’s products and processes and the way work is organized.
Thus, the size and type of impact digitalization has is not so dependent on the size, industry, or market orientation of an organization. Rather, it’s more dependent on the attitude of the organization toward digitalization.
Employees’ impression of digitalization at Finnish workplaces
In the employer survey, Selander and Alasoini tracked employers’ impressions of how digitalization had affected the organization, its processes, and personnel decisions. In the employee survey, in contrast, they ask how digitalization had affected
- the quality of the products or services of their employer;
- their independence with respect to their tasks;
- their physical safety at work;
- the ergonomy of their work;
- the supervision of their work;
- their possibility to be creative in their work;
- their sense of control over their work;
- the work tempo; and
- their team cohesiveness.
The applied scale was digitalization has “increased”, “decreased”, or “had no effect”.
While the overwhelming majority of employers said that digitalization had improved products and services, only 50 % of employees felt that way. Selander and Alasoini were not able to explain this difference. They suggested, however, that employer representatives and employees may, for example, define process and service quality differently.
Overall, employees tended to see more positive than negative effects. 52 % of employees felt that digitalization had increased their independence with respect to their work. Similarly, about 45 % felt that digitalization had increased their sense of control over their own work. 36 % also felt that there were more opportunities for creativity with digitalization.
On the other hand, 54 % said that digitalization had increased the tempo of their work and 36 % said that team cohesiveness has decreased. 10 % and 11 %, respectively, had the opposite opinion.
39 % also said that work ergonomy had decreased with digitalization. Only 11 % said it had increased.
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