Perspectives on evaluation research : Personnel in the midst of restructuring municipalities

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Linna building, auditorium K 103, address: Kalevantie 5.

Esa Jokinen

Doctoral defence of M.Soc.Sc. Esa Jokinen

Näkökulmia arviointitutkimukseen : Henkilöstö kuntauudistuksessa (Perspectives on evaluation research : Personnel in the midst of restructuring municipalities)

The field of science of the dissertation is Social Psychology.

The opponent is docent Pauli Forma (University of Helsinki). Professor Satu Kalliola acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

The evaluation study sheds light on the changes and their explanations in the municipal sector reforms

Information on the effects of the municipal and service restructuring (Paras reform) was collected through an evaluation study in 2008-2012. It was a multi-actor and multidisciplinary research project co-ordinated by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. The research project sought a high-quality research set up and operated as a platform for dialogue between the various stakeholders in the municipal sector and universities.

The impact of the reform on human resources was measured by changes in the quality of working life (opportunities for influence, internal rewards of work, work community functioning, open management of conflicts and supervisory work). The quality of working life was better than the average in reform municipalities compared to others, and it improved as the reform wave proceeded. The explanation was rather linked to the organizations’ operating culture, human resources management and social capital. Structural factors therefore hardly predicted the quality of working life according to the data used.

The quality of working life of municipal personnel was a very stable phenomenon, as well as the differences in the quality of work life between different sectors. The “ranking order” of the quality of working life between municipalities was also very persistent during the reform years. The sub-dimensions of the quality of working life were most explained by the level of social capital.

Based on the manifold evaluation data, the municipalities did not utilize any information and management mechanisms that would have helped them to interpret changes in the personnel. This could be considered a weakness of Paras reform, which as a complex, co-operative change project evidently required a well-developed understanding of the interaction between personnel and reform.

On the basis of the results, in order to achieve lasting results, the reform should have been more real - not necessarily just positive - also for the personnel. This is one way to operationalize the distinct impact that reform delivers. The systemic change would require many things simultaneously: monitoring the staff’s experience, involving personnel in the pragmatic change process, seeing it as an active player in human resource management and as a strategic partner in the changing theories as well as management mechanisms of the reform. This was not the case with the Paras reform, and one may wonder whether such a systematic change idea is included, for example, in current ambitious structural reforms.

The study focused on 40 municipalities in Finland. Two extensive personnel surveys were conducted (in 2009, N = 3710, response rate 60, and in 2011, N = 4618, 52%) and analysis of municipal strategy documents was done. A second reading was made of the results and implementation of the evaluation study on personnel impacts, and also autoethnographic approach was applied.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2285, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1788, Tampere University Press 2017.

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