Meaningfulness of work felt to be now more important than before
Finns willing to work hard at a fun job
When a boss is fair, when his or her management is systematic, and when the work is perceived to be meaningful, employees are happy to work. When job satisfaction is high, personnel generally do not mind hard work.
In a study commissioned by the Ministry of Labour, University of Helsinki researcher Juha Antila interviewed 2,856 people in 2003 and 2004. The clear message of the responses was that the sense that a job has meaning is the highest priority. For a job to be seen as meaningful, a boss needs to have an understanding of his or her tasks, and the content of the work should be sensible.
Having a positive view of a job is seen as more rewarding than a fat paycheck.
The importance of meaningful work as the main factor in job satisfaction has been underscored in the past two decades. Whereas in the early 1980s, 67 percent of wage earners put a high priority on the meaningfulness of work, by the present decade, the figure had risen to 87 percent.
"People expect more of their jobs, and they work for more than just money", Antila explains.
Finnish employees tend to see their jobs as fairly meaningful. Respondents to Antila’s survey gave an average school grade of 7.6 (in Finnish schools, the highest mark is 10, while the lowest - a failure - is 4), which suggests that most are reasonably happy with their jobs.
"This indicates that there are jobs where things go really well, and others where they are really bad." At most workplaces there is an attitude of "well, it’s OK", which Antila feels could be significantly boosted with small improvements.
The higher a position that a person has in the organisation, the more meaningful he or she is likely to perceive the job. Only two percent of those in managerial positions rated the meaningfulness of their work as "fair" or "poor", while 40 percent gave it "excellent" marks.
One in five ordinary employees gave the meaningfulness of their jobs fair to poor marks, but a relatively large number gave excellent marks.
Women were generally more satisfied with their work than men. Young people, on the other hand, were more critical than those of other age groups.
"This is something to be concerned about, because the young are the people who will create the work atmosphere of the future. This kind of a signal should be taken seriously at workplaces", Antila says.
The greatest cause of differences in how employees experienced their work stemmed from different management styles. At workplaces with competent management, employees were the most satisfied.
Employees were not found to place unreasonable demands on managers. Antila says that personnel generally want humane treatment, encouragement, openness, feedback, and a willingness to listen to ideas.
"Unfortunately, at many workplaces, the prevailing feeling is one of fear, uncertainty, and a lack of possibilities to influence matters. So there is much room for management training", Antila says.
Both Antila and Minister of Labour Tarja Filatov (SDP), who received the study, feel that the reputation of a workplace will have an increasingly important significance. Already now there are recruitment problems at many workplaces, because there are not enough knowledgeable workers. When an increasing shortage of employees emerges, it could be that there will not be enough personnel for workplaces with a poor reputation.
"The notion that money must not be wasted, but it’s all right to waste people will not go very far. There will be productivity, when work is meaningful", Filatov says.