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A Respectful Dialogue and Assistive Technologies help to adapt in the Change of Work

Due to the changing world of work, almost every work assignment and task requires the mastering of basic skills. In production of goods the process may change weekly according to customer sales orders. This requires amendments in working methods, devices, customer service etc.  Digitalisation, robotization, and the constant amendments in production require basic skills, constant learning and the adaptation of new skills every day. 

Basic skills are the core in all learning. There is no longer a workplace or assignment where you could manage without reading an instruction or manual, writing a report or filling in a document, using digital technology and information. In the changing world of work we need to understand better how to make learning both efficient and desirable for everybody at work, also for those, who lack in basic skills and feel fear and shame in opening up about their learning disabilities.

In practice, learning disabilities at work appear, for example, in understanding instructions, making mistakes without acknowledging it, in learning foreign languages, perceiving time or keeping up with the time, calculating, concentrating on a topic for a longer period of time or in completing a task or assignment. When experiencing such challenges at work, one easily avoids getting on with them. Yet, we all have skills, creativity, and potential capacity which can be useful when facing these challenges. A safe and encouraging environment with open dialogue and support of cognitive ergonomics helps everyone to feel secure to speak up about their challenges in learning and to find tools and assistive methods which allow utilizing the full potential of each individual. For the benefit of the employer, this increases wellbeing, health and safety at work.  

The web-based material “Työ sujuvaksi!” (Assistive Technologies at Work), www.tyosujuvaksi.fi, gathers together information about learning disabilities and diverse learning needs, narratives of challenges experienced, how challenges may occur and impact the work as well as tips for identifying and addressing problems in a respectful dialogue. In order to work together and to find solutions that serve the entire working community even at team level, it is important to identify whether difficulties in basic skills and learning are experienced at work. The material contains a questionnaire suitable for this purpose as a part of a staff survey.  

An anonymous mapping survey will provide a good basis for opening a dialogue in the work community in order to identify the strengths to build upon, to discuss diverse learning challenges and difficulties and thereby to find appropriate solutions to improve the working conditions and the capacity to work. The results of such a survey should be discussed with supervisors. This will help them to identify more clearly where the staff is experiencing learning challenges. Clarifying the communication and information flow, better introduction and job guidance are some of the issues that need more attention at work. This will not only help diverse learners; everybody benefits!The material “Työ sujuvaksi!” consists examples of assistive technologies taken into practice in a multi-service company SOL, a bus company Väinö Paunu and a food company Fazer. In cooperation with workers’ representatives the supervisors created assistive solutions such as 360 picture and video clips where specific parts of work instructions were visualised in detail. Very soon after applying the video instructions in practice the failures decreased, and productivity increased. 

The material has been produced in an ESF project in cooperation with trade unions, work organisations and business managers, supervisors and employees' representatives. It is available in Finnish.

Workers’ Educational Association WEA in Finland (TSL) and other project promoters will continue the discussion on adult learning difficulties and diverse learning needs in working life. The material provides a good starting point for finding and utilizing assistive tools, software applications and solutions to support learning in the changing world of work. 

More information on the topic: Mrs Mervi Ylitalo, project coordinator, Workers’ Educational Association, WEA Finland, mervi.ylitalo@tsl.fi 

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