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Changing employment practices in the labour market

Author: Merete Grimeland
Published Date: 26 September 2014

In Norway and the Nordics an impact startup trend towards building companies that exist to employ someone who is generally treated as unemployable by the rest of the society. These companies are set up to employ the unemployables while matching a need in the market the company can deliver value to.

What I really want for this trend is that these companies will push the culture that enables this discrimination. In other words, in order for that systemic change or for it to be a social convention, we need our labour markets to change. 

As we discussed and exemplified with Medarbeiderne/The Co-Workers in episode two of our SIX Nordic podcast we looked at a few different social businesses in Norway whose purposes are similar; create opportunities in the labour market for people who would otherwise generally not get the chance to enter it.

Facts about Medarbeiderne/The Co-Workers

They employ people who have been through treatment for drug use and are drug free. The company help these co-workers if they want to advance their career by connecting them with other companies and organisations. The service The Co-workers offer is a monthly subscription on collecting recyclables from consumers and companies in Oslo.


Different methods to introduce people to the labour market
The social businesses use different methods although they have the same purpose in mind. Some are set up to give people, mostly young people, some work experience. In order to learn and to build a resume.  Thus, to give them access to the labour market they first need experience and references, which the social business help provide. Others build on this experience and training by also operating as a stepping stone brokering the transition for the employee after the experience training and matching them with the right company. There are some other companies, at the other end of the scale, that are providing permanent work for their employees designing opportunities that build on their special skill sets. 

As we discussed in our podcast, one company alone cannot employ or give job training to all those in need, and in order to create change in this culture, it is of vital importance that the idea needs to spreads further. 

The ecosystem around the business
In order to deliver this value, the company has a strong need for an eco-system much like a value chain. I think these collaborations are often cross-sectorial and that it is inside and through this ecosystem that the idea can spread.

Looking at how this can be done, the application the diffusion of innovation theory which entails introduction of new ideas into communities can prove helpful. This theory is built upon “the systematic study of the ways in which new ideas are adopted by communities and has its root in the examination of the ways in which new agricultural technologies were introduced into both developed and developing countries. Over time these studies have been expanded to the introduction of new ideas, practices and technologies in other disciplines, including health.” Theory in a Nutshell, Nutbeam


The introduction and spreading of the idea has everything to do with who you are introducing it to. 

the innovators are those who adopt new ideas the quickest. In this case let´s say these are the social entrepreneurs or the social businesses themselves as this has to do with the people who employ. 

the early adopters are those of the population who may be more mainstream within the community, but within the mainstream they are the most open and responsive to suggestion, and also have some of the personal, social and financial resources to adopt the innovation. In this case they may be a partner of the social business, such as in Medarbeidernes eco system where we find the rehabilitation centre and Franzefoss which help them take care of the recyclables they pick up from their customers. 

early majority are open to change and have become persuaded of the benefits of adopting the innovation. In this case, we do not really know who these are yet. 

late majority are the sceptics of the population, and are reluctant to adopt new ideas until such time as the benefits have been clearly established. 

the laggards are the final part of the population that are seen to be the most conservative. They actively resist the introduction of new ideas. 


Being the change agents
These companies can help move us towards creating systemic change by being role models and pushing their partners to do so as well. They can shift us towards a convention where who we view as employable is changed, and do so as part of their job; helping to influence the spread of this idea.