Strategic work ability management

You, as the employer, can promote work ability activities and improve the prevention of disability with strategic work ability management. Operative work ability management is marked by successful but isolated work ability support principles, models and approaches. The strategic work ability management system joins all of these under the same goal to form a whole that supports the business. This increases the impact and benefit from the activities.

Being systematic makes for effective work ability management

Work ability management means taking into account factors related to the personnel’s work ability in all management. That means that work ability management is not a separate area that you should try to find time for in between other areas of management (business-driven work ability management). Instead, there is one management whole that also takes into account the personnel (business management that takes work ability into account).

From individual projects to strategic action

Excellent results have been achieved in Finland in improving occupational safety. This has required instructions and tools improving safety, but the real advancement was seeing occupational safety as part of the general management system. Each employee and supervisor must commit in all of their activities to safe working methods and to improving the safety culture. If an employee or supervisor does not commit to safety management, there will be consequences.

The same consistently good result can be reached in preventing disability by taking a quantum leap from operative activities focussed on separate models and projects to strategic work ability management.

Finnish workplaces have a long tradition of activities upholding work ability and of co-operation with occupational health services. This forms an excellent foundation for a quantum leap towards strategic work ability management. When operative measures are made part of a whole that supports the business, daily measures promote the personnel’s work ability and reduce disability risks.

Work ability management’s own system

Leadership is supported by various management system standards, which have already established themselves in the occupational safety and occupational health sector. What better proof of a company’s commitment to occupational safety and occupational health than a certified system! These occupational safety and occupational health standards also support work ability management. However, they do not replace the standard created for work ability management, which was published in Canada in April 2020. It is based on research and best practices, and is intended for companies of all sizes in all sectors.

Harmonising operations supports work ability management

This work ability management system involves requirements and instructions based on research and best practices, describing how work-ability-related needs are met so that the threat of disability is minimised. What is needed is a systematic approach that clearly defines and documents the operating principles, procedures and practices in order to ensure clarity and harmonised activities. To guarantee the suitability of the approach, it must be assessed regularly using the principle of continuous improvement.

Management system takes you from operative to strategic work ability management

In addition to the management system’s structure, the standard provides principles, criteria and instructions on planning, developing, applying and assessing a work ability management system and the requirements for the competence of people in critical roles.

Management system principles

  • decisions are based on researched evidence
  • information is used to support management
  • the approach is systematic
  • decisions take into account diversity and accessibility
  • the employee’s viewpoint is highlighted and supported
  • work is adapted and a timely and safe return to work is promoted
  • responsibility is divided up between management, employees and their representatives
  • compliance with law

Management system criteria

  • employee’s needs are the focus
  • the focus is on the remaining work ability, which is used as much as possible
  • good medical care
  • disability is not seen as simply a medical issue; it is impacted by the working culture and environment and workplace relations
  • a safe and timely return to work is the focus after the sick leave

A well-functioning work ability management system

The system has an impact on possible barriers preventing employees from continuing at work on many levels:

  • social security pitfalls
  • ineffective occupational health services
  • local sick leave culture
  • interpersonal relationships and family and friend networks
  • workplace limitations
  • people’s attitudes and opinions

The system contains measures that span the entire career:

  • recruitment, hiring and employment
  • working (incl. competence development)
  • sick leave management
  • support for returning to work
  • quality of life
  • end of employment

Definitions of terms related to strategic work ability management

  1. Disability is an impairment or a functional limitation that can be physical, mental or intellectual or related to learning, interaction or sensory functions. It can be permanent, temporary or recurring. Together with social barriers or barriers related to attitudes or the environment, it affects the person’s ability to participate fully and equally in working life.

  2. Work ability management is a function that is related to managing the work ability of the company’s employees. It includes recruiting and hiring employees with partial work ability and enabling them to continue at work.

  3. A work ability management system is a framework of operating principles, processes, action plans, procedures and practices that allows the company to achieve its work ability management targets and which spans from recruitment all the way to the end of the career.

    The key players in the work ability management system are upper and lower middle management, supervisors, work ability/well-being at work specialists, HR, occupational safety, occupational health services, employees and their representatives.

    The operating principles of the work ability management system must be aligned with the company’s other operations. They must be integrated into the company’s other management systems, such as a quality management system or occupational health system, and compliance with the requirements of the relevant standard must be monitored in a spirit of continuous improvement.