How to plan a work ability management system

Careful planning is necessary to create and adopt a successful work ability management system that meets your company’s needs.

Put together a planning team

Involve your company’s key personnel, staff, occupational health services and insurance companies in the planning. This gives you the best chance of building a successful and evolving work ability management system.

This planning stage also gives you a clear image of your company’s current situation. At the same time, you are creating a vision for the work ability management. It is important to involve all of your company’s key personnel that you need for continuous improvement.

Assess the current situation

Start the planning process by assessing the current situation. Together, look into

  • what operating models you have for work ability risk management and prevention
  • what weaknesses and development areas you can identify in the models
  • what the goals are for the work ability management system
  • what kind of action plan will help you achieve your goals.

Also ensure that senior management is involved and that you have their approval for the building of the work ability management system.

Assess internal instructions, approaches, processes and resources

Involve your company’s supervisors, occupational safety delegates and shop stewards, HR specialists and other employees in assessing how you benefit from the current operating models. Also, if necessary, discuss and assess the operating models with occupational health services and your pension and accident insurance companies.

Together, identify what you are already doing, what you have achieved and with what operating models, how your selected indicators have worked and whether you are happy with the results. Go over and assess the internal instructions, approaches, processes and resources related to work ability management. Above all, assess whether you are impacting your company’s work ability risks at the moment. Ask yourself whether you are doing the right things or whether your actions are more focussed on work satisfaction and well-being at work rather than work ability risks.

Assess together the following operating models and processes:

  • occupational health, safety and work ability risk management programmes, OHS action programme
  • early support model and drug and alcohol policy
  • monitoring sick leave data and returning to work
  • different options for continuing at work/returning to work: accommodating or reducing work, work trial, alternative work
  • recruitment, hiring and orientation policies and practices, leadership practices and terminating employment contracts, also taking into account persons with partial work ability
  • collective agreements, e.g. what they stipulate concerning alternative work, flexible working time, holiday accrual
  • other instructions, procedures and practices, e.g. an equality plan, ground rules for appropriate behaviour

Also assess

  • whether they work in daily life
  • whether goals have been set for the activities
  • whether the operating models and processes are furthering the set goals
  • how you will develop them

Then identify the weaknesses, obstacles and opportunities of the existing operating models and processes. You can use a SWOT analysis to assist you.

Define targets and create an action plan together with the business

Once you have identified the development areas, define and document your company’s long- and short-term work ability management goals. Consider not only your company’s operating and business environment, but also statutory requirements such as collective agreements, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Occupational Health Care Act. Prioritise the goals and start with the most urgent and impactful issues. At the same time, take into consideration your company’s resources: what you can do and what you have time for.

Next, agree on the indicators and monitoring methods for the goals. Select indicators for which the necessary information is available in your company’s systems now or in the future. More slowly reacting indicators can be set for long-term goals. These can be, for example, the contribution category and the employer image. Interim targets need more quickly reacting indicators, such as different types of sick leave indicators, diagnoses causing sick leaves, pulse surveys and the health percentage (share of persons that have remained healthy the entire year without a single sick leave).

Select both quantitative and qualitative indicators. Quantitative indicators show the development direction and qualitative indicators can reveal the underlying reasons. Qualitative indicators are, for example, the open-ended responses in personnel surveys and various interviews.

It is important for business representatives to participate in the dialogue and in decision-making on the goals and methods of work ability management. This makes work ability management part of the business management system, which takes work ability into account as part of business management, i.e. strategic management.

Draw up an action plan

Next, select the measures and methods for achieving your goals and make them into an action plan.

An action plan includes:

  • a more detailed description of measures
  • indicators and monitoring methods
  • a timetable for measures, interim targets and long-term targets
  • defining roles and responsibilities: who does what, who reports, who are reported to, over what period, who owns the overall plan
  • a budget estimate
  • a communications plan

Remember to monitor and assess the results of the work ability indicators regularly. Use the monitoring information to help you update the model. The goal is continuous improvement in line with the PDCA cycle.