Helping people deal with change in the workplace   (for adults, requested by Anna Croce )

Some thoughts from Finland.

In our country we have several traditional occupations.  In the past we used to hunt the wildlife, capturing bears and reindeer, and any creature that would provide us with food or fur.  Things have changed a great deal in the last century.  We have become mechanised, integrated, specialised and at the same time the need for flexibility has arisen.

The artisan has needed to learn computer skills.  He may still ply his trade but now the world has become his market.  He sells his goods on the internet.  Small co-operatives have sprung up where previously individuals worked alone.  Within these groups specialisms have arisen.  In general they all understand their trade but those most skilled in production, those most artistic and accomplished crafts people continue to produce their artefacts.  Others within the group develop skills of marketing, advertising and selling the goods.

We have found it most effective to learn several skills in order to deal with modern demands.  One market closes and another opens.  Individuals are required to be flexible and prepared to learn and change.  That way we can respond to the market quickly and keep ahead. 

My family provides an example of this flexibility.  We have a white wood furniture business.  There is a high demand for our beautifully designed kitchens in Europe and America.  We have watched recessions come and go.  The work force has fluctuated somewhat, but we always try to keep as many as we can employed.  We find that those who are most skilled and specialised are the ones who are worst affected in recessions, so we have a policy which deals with this problem.  We insist that all employees train to work in at least two or three departments.  Sure, it costs us money, but it means we have a flexible workforce able to adapt to changes and confident that if their preferred work dried up they could do other kinds of work.  This could be within the company or they might need to work outside the company in their second or third area of expertise. 

This approach makes for a calm resilient workforce grateful for their opportunities to develop their skills.  They are loyal to the company but know that they could cope if they have to leave.  That is our solution to anticipating the changes in this fluid market and employment situation.  What are your solutions?


How does company policy on health affect people’s flexibility and attitudes?  Are employees encouraged to look after their health in positive and constructive ways?

Is there a genuine system in place that allows people to air their concerns without fear of retribution?

Is there a counselling and advice service available to employees, or within a small company a person who is trained to deal with confidential matters?