Press release 29.11.2023

Survey: Few companies are at a strategic level in their work ability management – planning and monitoring are the weakest links

In Finland, sickness absences and disability cost billions of euros. Meanwhile, many companies struggle with a labour shortage. Nevertheless, according to a survey by Ilmarinen, few companies systematically manage their employees’ work ability.

Ilmarinen’s survey asked more than 300 business decision makers how the work ability of employees is managed in their company: what works and what needs improving.

The survey found that few companies are at a truly strategic level in their work ability management. Planning, measuring and monitoring need improvement the most. Only 40 per cent of the companies set measurable goals for their work ability management, and a third have a written plan to follow.

Work ability management is not yet a part of the companies’ strategy

Operatiivisen tason toimintaa sen sijaan on paljon. Esimerkiksi työkyvyn

Despite the low level of work ability management, however, operational activity is at a high level. For example, early support for work ability, work ability assessment, occupational health negotiation and job modification are methods familiar to most of the companies. The larger the company is, the more often these methods are used.

“It is not a matter of lacking methods for managing work ability. The activities are simply not very systematic, goal-oriented or a natural part of the company’s business strategy,” says Ilmarinen’s leading expert Heidi Furu.

Many companies lack resources for work ability management

Companies experience a shortage of skills, time and tools for work ability management. In half of the companies, the key personnel do not have enough know-how to manage work ability. Just as often, too little working hours are allocated for it. Additionally, 40% of the respondent companies feel that they do not have digital work ability management tools that meet their needs.

“However, all of these could be easily fixed with some quite simple measures,” Furu points out. 

Personnel is an underutilised resource

Vain puolet yrityksistä kysyy henkilöstön näkemystä suunnitellessaan ja

Only half of the companies ask the opinion of the personnel when planning and developing work ability management.

“However, including them would be useful. Not only because it would make them more committed to the activities, but also because they probably have a view of the work and its flow that the management can’t? have,” Furu explains. 

Do companies view their work ability management in an unnecessarily positive light? 

Ilmarinen’s survey describes the situation in companies that have already taken the first steps on the path to work ability management. Therefore, the results cannot be generalised to all Finnish companies. Additionally, the respondents may have viewed their own actions in a more positive light than an outside observer would.

“Work ability management does not yet have a long tradition to lean on. In Finland, no party has been authorised to audit work ability management systems, and globally only one standard for work ability management has been published so far. Therefore, it is impossible to know how good the activities are when the respondent assesses the activities of their own company as ‘good’,” Furu says.

The results of the survey serve as excellent reference material and provide guidelines for companies that want to improve their work ability management.

“Hopefully, the survey brings some structure and sense to a matter that has been found somewhat ambiguous and makes it easier to continue developing it,” Furu concludes.

The survey ‘Status of work ability management in 2023’ provides comprehensive reference material 

  • ‘Status of work ability management in 2023’ is a questionnaire study that was carried out by Ilmarinen in March 2023.
  • Over 300 companies responded to the survey. The majority of the respondents were HR directors and CEOs in large and medium-sized companies.
  • The survey looked into the level of work ability management in Finnish companies and which aspects of it still need improving.
  • The survey provides developers and trainers in work ability management with researched data. The survey results also serve as unique benchmark material for companies that want to compare their work ability management to that of the other companies already investing in it. 

Read more:

For more information, please contact:

  • Heidi Furu, M.D. Spec. in Occupational Health; leading expert, Ilmarinen,
  • Annukka Lalu, Communications Manager, tel. +358 50 563 4211,