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Kati Järvinen uses Howspace for strategy work in Wärtsilä Energy

Creating better employee engagement: How Wärtsilä Energy involved all levels of the company in strategy work

By Hanna Liimatainen on May 9, 2021 2:30:00 AM , updated on May 14, 2021

Wärtsilä Energy is a global leader in sustainable energy solutions. With the ambitious goal of leading the transition towards a 100% renewable energy future, the company needed a bold and unique organizational growth strategy to get there.

Developing new ways of working within a long-standing, traditional organization is not a breeze.

But that’s an everyday job for Wärtsilä’s Talent development lead Kati Järvinen, who started to work for the company in the middle of the strategy process. As the previous growth strategy was done traditionally, with little input from employees, Wärtsilä Energy was ready to integrate every employee’s insights into the process of identifying strategic capabilities.

“We had been used to a quite stable business, but now we are facing a totally new situation in the market. The energy transition is huge, all the market requirements are changing, and our competitors challenge us all the time. That’s why it’s time for us to direct our whole organization to the more agile ways of working,” Järvinen explains.

“We have to make sure that people know what’s expected from them so that they’re able to execute on the changing strategy. We also want to encourage our people to be agile enough to try something new, not only rely on old habits and ways of working,” she continues.

Engaging every member of the organization in implementing the strategy

Wärtsilä Energy chose Howspace to roll out strategic planning for their Leading Learning Program, with the aim to connect the competencies, operational capabilities, and strategic capabilities together in the energy business strategy. As part of this work, they first identified capabilities within their Energy Management Team (EMT). It was then time to engage all of the senior leaders and HR business partners globally in a conversation to understand advanced capability thinking through a train-the-coach approach. All of that was done digitally, as people are located all over the world.

 “I think involving all of the people within the organization as a part of this process was the boldest move in the whole case.”

“Due to the COVID-19, we were not able to get together and spent days in strategy workshops with different groups. We had to be efficient and work within small, 1–2 hours sets now and then. We had to create and facilitate a different journey than before and keep that process up for quite a long time. We also had to teach the capability framework and speak about the theory behind that to all participants. We also educated our management team and senior leaders as we went along,” Järvinen says.

According to Järvinen, one of the highlights of the strategy process was engaging all employees. In a continuously changing environment, uniqueness and competitive advantages need to be identified and implemented within the organization–top-down and bottom-up.

“Rather than sticking to the old fashioned way of creating a strategy, we have to be able to support our people to think and learn new things: what’s expected from them, and how does the new strategy affect every employee's work, development discussions, goal setting, and ways of working,” Järvinen clarifies.

After the strategic capabilities and critical competencies had been developed with the group of leaders, Wärtsilä Energy wanted to reach out to the whole personnel with the strategy message. Every employee was invited to study the strategy in a self-study program. 

“We came up with a Leading Learning self-study program which was intended for all of our 4500 people. We put all strategy materials on their tables, asked them to get familiar with the strategy, and learn what it is to work in a learning organization. It’s crucial to learn how to take the role as a contributing member of the organization and what's the role of a leader in an agile, leading learning organization,” Järvinen says.

“We wanted all of our people to be prepared for the development discussions in a different way than before. We expected every professional to link their daily work to the strategy and be very explicit about it. I think involving all of the people within the organization as a part of this process was the boldest move in the whole case,” she adds.

The core competence of HR lies in digital facilitation

One of the biggest challenges for the strategy work was that the whole process was fundamentally different from before. Working both synchronously and asynchronously, no matter where people were and when they wanted to join the process, everyone was able to contribute to the shared strategy initiatives.

“Nowadays, the core competence of HR is digital facilitation. HR is not a support function but a strategic function.” 

“With Howspace, people were able to join the process whenever, wherever. It was wonderful that we had some pre-study before the workshops and during and after the events. People learned on the go, in small pieces, and when they had the motivation. We also had some quizzes and polls that immediately gave us excellent insight on how people experienced our strategy,”, Järvinen says.

“One of the best things with Howspace was that we were able to offer learning opportunities that relate to daily work and support the fun and easy ways of learning and reading,” she continues. 

Modern ways of working are one of the main things Järvinen talks about when summarizing the best parts of the ongoing strategy work. According to her, HR’s primary responsibilities are lowering learning barriers and incorporating learning into daily life. In the digital era, this means focusing on digital facilitation and creating a dialogue with the personnel.

“Nowadays, the core competence of HR is digital facilitation. HR is not a support function but a strategic function. We are the ones leading the learning and development of the organization to achieving and executing the strategy and vision ambitiously. We’re living in a world full of heavy employee questionnaires. However, it’s still good to remember that sometimes just asking something very briefly, and taking all of the people onboard already creates the atmosphere of collaboration,” Järvinen outlines.

Creating transparency and better engagement with the AI-powered sense-making

Howspace’s AI functionalities supported Wärtsilä Energy throughout the process to analyze and refine content. Through a train-the-coach approach, the EMT first identified the strategic competencies and capability thinking around which the HR business partners were invited to have discussions.

Howspace’s ease-of-use, AI functionalities, and robust technical infrastructure made the EMT and Järvinen’s HR colleagues' work much easier.

“AI helped us to understand what was essential among the massive amounts of data and opinions.”

“The use of AI was critical when we identified our strategic capabilities, as we gathered a lot of data from our personnel. We got a lot of comments, opinions, and experiences from people in a written format, and the AI helped us to understand what was essential among massive amounts of data and opinions,” Järvinen recalls.

“When facilitating that kind of a process face-to-face, I would have been typing post-it notes for the whole day, but now it all happened in the workspace. By only clicking a few buttons, I could have a good listing of the most important topics our participants were discussing. That enabled sense-making in a new way.”

The right tools are the key to boost collaboration

Wärtsilä had used Mural, Miro, and a few other tools for collecting thoughts and shaping strategy, but these tools lacked good digital facilitation. Prior to joining Wärtsilä Energy, Järvinen had already worked with Howspace and knew the product well. 

“In the beginning, I made an analysis of the tools we were already using in Wärtsilä. We had plenty of mind mapping and e-learning tools within the company. Still, we didn’t have any ways for digital facilitation: to lead and facilitate the process, collect the data, and share learnings. That’s why I wanted to introduce a new way of working for the organization.”.

Using Howspace analytics, Wärtsilä Energy was also able to raise the quality of employee development and planning.

“With the traditional e-learning programs, we don’t have the visibility of how people are using the shared materials and how they move forward with the different phases. Howspace allowed us to follow the participants’ journey with different kinds of activation elements. That also gave us the possibility to encourage people who haven’t yet joined the discussions, and support our organization to get the maximum benefit out of the process we were offering them.”

Wärtsilä Energy’s technical review board reviewed the security of Howspace and the SSO (Single Sign-On) capabilities and gave the green light to go ahead.

“We wouldn’t have been able to run this through without Howspace. Our mission statement is 100 % renewable energy, and we were even able to live that mission true. Think about how much we saved the planet by not flying around the world to get together to work on the strategy. We are really here to save the world,” Järvinen rejoices.


If you want to learn more about inviting all of the employees in organizational change or strategy work in a digital environment, download your free copy of our ebook How to Effectively Implement Organizational Change in a Digital Environment.”

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