The Changing Role of a Guidance Practitioner in the City of Tampere Employment Services

By Anu Turunen-Kaukovirta, The City of Tampere Employment and Growth Services

In 2017 – 2018, City of Tampere took part in a pilot that aimed to design and create new service models for a comprehensive multidisciplinary service for the clients of the Employment Services. Primary goal was to give clients a designated guidance advisor, who would assist them with anything that hinders employment. They were called OMA Coach that derives from the following words that were guiding also the guidance professionals in their work (O – skills, M – motivation and A – activity, OMA means in Finnish Own).

Each OMA Coach was given employment duties and resources from both the state and the city. The mandate from the city also allowed a vast array of services that the OMA Coach was able to provide, everything from education to health and social services. During the pilot, also cooperation with different organizations was developed and strengthened.

Photo by Laura Vanzo via VisitTampere

The teams consisted of members, who had not previously worked together. Civil servants, who came from the states organization TE Services (Employment and Economic Development Office), had strong employment expertise but because they had previously worked with a case load of several hundred clients it meant that they had not had much face to face contact with their clients in their previous work. The civil servants, who came from The City of Tampere for example The Multidisciplinary Joint Service or social work background had a strong expertise in taking a client as an individual and finding the best individual path for each client, sometimes from a very complicated and bureaucratic network of services. When these two different worlds merged into one team and a new united service model, the beginning was naturally challenging and confusing even at times. There was no rehearsal time, the work started swiftly and much of the day-to-day work was based on learning by doing. Clients were transferred almost overnight and the following months required dedication, commitment and strong solidarity for fellow colleagues to make the teams work in a unique pilot that was carried out in five regions in Finland in the search of a modern and efficient way to serve our clients.

What emerged from this ambitious pilot? Teams that were vocal and dynamic and had members, who relied on each other in their daily work, regardless of age, gender or years of service. The break room became the hotspot for constant consultation and no one was shy in asking for help from others. This would not have been possible without the help of managers, who gave a permission to fail and to aim high. They allowed to use unconventional ways to succeed also at the risk of failure. It was a rule that try a new way of doing, if it feels sensible to you; you can always stop it if it does not prove to be beneficial.

Photo by Marja Tuomisaari

After the initial shock from also the client’s part trying to figure out why employment officials asked about feelings and life in general, many became to trust and rely on their OMA Coaches assistance in finding new and perhaps even unprecedented paths to find work. OMA Coaches sent their clients an introductory letter with their contact details and they were encouraged to contact them when needed even before the initial face-to-face meeting. Clients seemed to love the concept that they could talk to one particular person and could contact their OMA directly by calling or by e-mail. Many clients felt they were seen for the first time as individuals and gave feedback that they received advice that they had not thought of for themselves before. The fact that the teams were so tight-knit and there was a psychological factor of not needing to know everything yourself meant that the clients benefitted from that as well. Many a time there was a group of specialists from different areas of expertise huddled over a client’s conundrum and that combined with creativity and the desire to find the best solution for the clients to take their next steps proved to be many times a successful approach. This was also manifested in the glowing review of the customer service feedback.

In January 2021 a new pilot, this time at national level will commence in Finland. We still have a good understanding of which actions were beneficial and which less so in the previous pilot. Now that we have all had a little breather, it is perhaps easier to utilize the concepts that became invaluable and see the big picture from a little distance. Once again, at the heart of it all in order to succeed will be – Good Guidance.