Communication is caring

Ilona Kangas, Director of Communications and Customer Relations

Advisory services are an important part of our work, but we also contact our members regularly through surveys and letters. Such communication is a visible way to convey the strategy of the organisation, and hence it is important to us. But why do we communicate so much? What do we strive to achieve with it? What do our members think about it?

I received feedback from our member about excessive communication. The member felt that they had received lots of e-mails from YTK recently – in their opinion too much. The message was friendly and constructive, and included good proposals for development. Vexation was also understandable, because we have asked our members many questions recently, and during the coronavirus pandemic our communication has also otherwise been exceptionally frequent. The contact inspired me to write more about the subject.

Why do we need to feel the pulse of the members?

We conduct a Member Pulse survey with our half a million members three times a year. We map out current feelings about the working life, outlook for the future, and images of our activities, and often we also ask questions about current topics. We initiated the Member Pulse in spring 2020 after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as the uncertain situation called for the genuine voice of our members to support our forecasts. We believed that our members could provide a good picture of how it feels at the workplaces. Will there be more layoffs, will the pressure begin to ease, will the employers’ funds last etc.?

The purpose of an unemployment fund is to pay earnings-related security to those who apply for it. To ensure that in the confusing conditions caused by the coronavirus – as well as in normal conditions – we need to be able to make the right decisions so that the benefits payable to our members are not unreasonably delayed. To reach the goals, we have to have, for example, an estimate on the number of staff we need. In addition, we pay out monthly around 50 million euros to our members, so there needs to be enough money for making the payments in a long enough term. Preparing calls for reliable forecasts. To be able to anticipate, it is good to obtain information from several sources to support us.

As we provide the services with the money of our members and society, we want to do it as efficiently as possible. When the unemployment rate increases or decreases, it directly affects our operations. Our membership fee is also adjusted once a year according to that. We want to keep the membership fee affordable in such a way that we can at the same time guarantee high-quality services that are developed further. That is why it’s good to know the pulse all the time.

And what difference do the feelings of our members make?

Now that is a fascinating question! We do ask you about feelings, too. We have roughly two kinds of members: those who apply for benefits and those who are employed. Those people are not the same each month, but there is quite a lot of variation during the year. An unemployed person applies for earnings-related daily allowance on average for 4–5 months and then finds a job. And someone who is currently employed may apply for a benefit next month.

The moment when a member contacts us is filled with emotions. The situation may be new and therefore confusing, the provisions of the law are complicated, there may be bad feelings due to termination of employment, or insecurity about your own future. We want to be the party that does not add to the customer’s agony in a difficult situation. Sometimes we must reject a benefit applied for because the law does not allow its payment. Even in those situations we must achieve humane encounter and give our member a chance to understand the reasoning for the decision.

So, we aim at offering a safe, open and humane channel for contacts. How do we achieve that? Such a sensitive relationship cannot be created instantly, but we believe that it can only be generated through a long-term process. For a member to be able to manage their affairs confidently with us, we need to have built that confidence for a long time.

For that reason, we map, for example, how much our members feel that we care about them. We began to examine that question this year, and we have now reached 8 on a scale from 1–10. We think that it’s good, but not good enough. Confidence is built of different elements for different people: one wants conciseness, another openness, third communality, fourth a chance to choose the method for contacting us.

By conducting surveys and gathering understanding on our customers we will better understand what kinds of ways to affect the matters we need to develop for each customer. And that way safety and confidence are built.

Who is then interested in the thoughts of the members about e.g., the shortage for labour?

Well – it should be of interest to quite a few different parties!

YTK is the common denominator for over 500,000 Finnish employees. That accounts for a quarter of all Finnish employees and provides great view on where we are heading.

So, our members are an extremely valuable source of information! And we are very happy about it! At best as many as 80,000 people have responder to our surveys. The members of YTK represent widely our entire society: the unemployed, employees, women, men, from all over Finland. As we have no limitations based on occupation, the members comprise of all professions. We get a very broad perspective for topical issues.

If a clear majority of the members of YTK agree on something (e.g., about taking a coronavirus vaccination – 70%), it sends a strong message to the decision-makers. We consider it our obligation to publish the view of our members to everyone. So, the information also serves the decision-makers and different stakeholders. That is important, because we also consider it to be part of our work to help the decision-makers and legislators to improve the unemployment security further.

Ilona Kangas, Director of Communications and Customer Relations