DNA: In Finland’s best place to work, capabilities form the core of the strategy

DNA has invested in the well-being and competence development of its employees over the long-term. Recently, they were selected as Finland’s best large workplace in the Great Place to Work survey.

“Together with our employees, we have been building a corporate culture that focuses on freedom, responsibility and trust,” says Marko Rissanen, DNA’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources.

The idea of developing DNA’s strategic capabilities together with HRM Partners was born about eighteen months ago. The cooperation has grown into a trusted partnership that has progressed quickly and achieved good results.

“From the outset, we wanted to ensure that we have the right competence now. The capability model we created with HRM Partners helped in identifying how we will stand out and continue to succeed against tough competition,” says Rissanen.

There is a revolution happening in working life with technology challenging current competencies. The content and ways of doing work will have to be re-defined. Automation will replace roughly 30–50 % of jobs and the rest will be divided between humans, machines and algorithms. There will be a need for new competencies and for re-education personnel.

“Too often, companies focus on setting financial goals and then they jump directly into action,” says Paula Kilpinen, CEO of HRM Partners. “The goal of defining strategic capabilities is to clarify the company’s competitive edge and how to implement the strategy. What kind of competence, processes or knowledge does achieving business goals require?”

Building capabilities and competencies takes years, and that makes identifying the required capabilities early on all the more important. Otherwise, the disruptive changes taking place in the industry can hinder the company’s operations.

Identifying capabilities is also responsible – the company takes responsibility for the direction in which operations and personnel are developed, and creates opportunities for its employees to develop according to future needs.

A competent partner motivates and develops thinking

The implementation of development measures often starts with the management team. DNA searched for a model of strategic capability development that would become a part of its operations. DNA wanted to get people involved from the beginning and started defining strategic capabilities from the operational level.

“It was a bit challenging when management didn’t issue any direct policies. On the other hand, motivation, learning and commitment have been on a completely different level because people were involved in developing the vision and in the building,” says Rissanen.

Over fifty people participated already in the planning stage, which creates a good basis for continuing the process.

“We first defined what capability means for DNA. In addition to competence, capability also includes a way of working, technology and partnerships. All areas need to be in order,” says Rissanen.

“HRM Partners’ CEO Paula Kilpinen has strong expertise and good facilitation skills when it comes to capability management. She managed to develop our thinking and the way we work. She passed on her competence and interest in this area to the members of our executive team and other participants,” says Riitta Vuoristo, DNA’s HR Partner.

“We are a unique organisation, where few ready-made models work. It required a lot also from our partner to be able to cooperatively create and refine a model that fits DNA,” says Rissanen. “HRM Partners did excellent work, all the way from managing the whole project to documentation and summaries.”

According to Marko Rissanen and Riitta Vuoristo, a good partner can act as a driver and get things moving. However, the commitment of the company’s management and personnel always remains the key to success.

“We have top team, which immediately understood the significance of capability development. The participants were motivated and very satisfied – structure and models were provided and they got to focus on creating the content,” says Rissanen.

“From the very start, we wanted operations – not HR – to take ownership of the capabilities and commit to implementing them. I can say we succeeded splendidly in this,” says Vuoristo.

Work continues and develops

The basic work has now been done – company level capabilities have been defined.

“Originally, our point of view was that of strategic competence, but our understanding was considerably broadened during the process. The work culminated in a good overall project that can now be perceived as strong links into strategy and technology. In other words, it always pays to take a wider point of view,”concludes Vuoristo.

“You could put it like this: we have moved from annual planning of competence development to long-term strategy. We can look at personnel development from a long-term perspective and anticipate things better. Which competencies do we develop ourselves and what do we buy from partners?” says Rissanen.

“Now, we will define actions and indicators to follow up on achieving our targets. We will also create tools for managers to support everyday learning,” says Riitta.

The work became concrete in competence discussions held during the autumn, which leads from company level strategy to competence development on the personal level.

“The next step is to make the identified capabilities visible in our business,” says Rissanen.

It is expected that the effects will be visible not only as developed competence but also in the competitiveness of the company and personnel satisfaction and stability. A top-notch team will still be a top-notch team five years later.

HRM Partners’ tips for capability management

  1. Capability management is at the core of business management. Many companies still view the challenge of competence development as the responsibility of HR – failing to understand that it is at the core of business management.
  2. In capability management, it is important to identify what competence will be needed in the future. Often, a future perspective is missing and companies are too stuck in their current competencies.
  3. Capability management is the company’s and the individual’s responsibility. Both the company and the individual have their own responsibility when it comes to competence development. A responsible company clarifies future direction and provides its personnel with opportunities to develop.
  4. Capability management requires focus. You must understand the kind of competence that sets the company apart and genuinely creates a competitive edge. Focus on that.
  5. Capability management is more than just competence development. In addition to competence, capability includes the correct processes, data and structures that allow the capability to manifest. When all areas are made to support the organisation’s capability, it is no longer dependent on competence at the personal level, nor can it easily be copied.

Original text in Finnish: Minna Sütö