The 31-year-old Leväniemi Activity Centre is a true millennial. An innovative motivator that nurtures environmental values and responsibility, and uses social media skilfully. This company is celebrating its anniversary in the autumn, and it will have an even stronger employer image in the future.

Maintained by the Kuntoutus-, koulutus- ja asuntosäätiö (Education, Rehabilitation and Housing Foundation), Leväniemi Activity Centre employs more than 50 people, making it one of the largest employers in Heinävesi.

The centre has space for a total of 65 clients. The largest resident groups are people with developmental disabilities and those recovering from mental health problems. In addition to enhanced round-the-clock residential care, assisted living and support housing, Leväniemi residents have access to care, support, and employment and daytime activities.

Heinävesi became part of North Karelia in 2021, which also opened the doors to cooperation with Business Joensuu.

– Heli Hirvonen contacted us and wanted to come for a visit. It wasn’t long before digital guru Marko and two fellows named Timo also came to see us, says Terttu Rantala, Director of Leväniemi Activity Centre.

Business Specialist Heli Hirvonen is the person responsible for Heinävesi at Business Joensuu. She had one important question for the people at Leväniemi – how could Business Joensuu help them? Strengthening the employer image was highlighted as a clear development target.

After Hirvonen’s visit, Business Specialist Timo A. Hartikainen and business coaches Timo Hartikainen and Marko Soikkeli created a tailored service package for Leväniemi.

The activity centre joined the DigiGrow programme. This involved turning digital skills into tools that would make the process of building an employer image more systematic in the future. The practical work was done in, for example, workshops.

– Of course, we had used social media earlier, but now we had a more systematic approach and a plan for the process. Social media visibility has become a more concrete part of marketing and our employer image and branding, explain Terttu Rantala and Service Director Raila Koponen.

The Leväniemi management group and its personnel were all involved in building the employer image. The participants cooperated to refine the text format of the job application form, develop a clear process for social media posts and create ideas for improving website communication.

Along with enhancing their digital skills, Rantala and Koponen took part in personnel management coaching.

Dealing with a negative image

– Business Joensuu’s active approach felt really good. This collaboration has produced new ideas and plenty of enthusiasm, says Raila Koponen.

According to Koponen and Rantala, communication skills are essential when building a company image at a time when national news outlets are painting a very dark picture of the entire care sector. Although the negative message is all-encompassing, it’s actually a long way from the reality at Leväniemi.

Leväniemi’s largest employee group is care staff – registered nurses, practical nurses and social workers. Other employees include professionals in the areas of food services, cleaning and property management. A doctor and physiotherapist also work in the building.
Recruiting is a very current and highly challenging issue in the care sector. Urgency, fast-paced work and a lack of resources are commonly linked to the field.

– In contrast to many other places, the pace of work here is quite relaxed. We have time to chat with colleagues during coffee and meal breaks. Above all, we also have time for our clients. A safe and open multidisciplinary work community means that employees can make independent decisions, explains Raila Koponen. She adds the organisation’s positive attitude towards training to its list of strengths. Leväniemi is also characterised by the organisation’s desire to develop its operating methods and other competence.

Support, encouragement, commitment

Working with people who have developmental disabilities is rewarding but can also be quite tough psychologically at times, explain Koponen and Rantala.

– We may have to deal with aggression, and our residents can have complicated life situations. Things don’t always go well. The residents’ disappointments, difficult life situations and fates also place a burden on employees. That why we focus on supporting and encouraging our employees.

Leväniemi has been successful in terms of recruiting. We’re also delighted that retired professionals are ready to help out when we have acute staffing needs.

– We have professionals that continue working after their retirement. Based on our social media visibility, we receive applications from potential new employees all over Finland. After finding a job, these people move to Heinävesi.

Strength from nature

The power and nurturing capacity of nature can be seen in daily life at Leväniemi – among residents and employees. The residential unit on the shore of the crystal-clear Lake Juojärvi and the workshop located 10 kilometres away in Karvio were built specifically for activity centre use.

The foundation was established more than 30 years ago by Liisa Hallikas, Raija Juvonen and Päivi Ojala-Tamminen. This threesome was linked by friendship and their work on behalf of people with developmental disabilities.

– Decades ago, developmentally disabled people were shut away from the world in institutions. Several people might have lived in a single room. These three women wanted to provide a home-like option for people with developmental disabilities.

They looked all over Finland for a suitable location, eventually choosing the beautiful natural setting of Leväniemi, even though none of the founders had any connection to Heinävesi. According to Rantala and Koponen, foundation-based ownership is a valuable asset. The foundation is a non-profit organisation, so there’s no need to compromise on service quality in order to maximise profit.

In addition to round-the-clock care and a safe environment, Terttu Rantala and Raila Koponen say that nature, peacefulness, as well as outdoor and gardening work that vary according to the seasons are a blessing and refuge for many Leväniemi residents. People come to Leväniemi from all over Finland with payment commitments or service vouchers from different health care and social welfare regions.

The story is made possible by the Competent Recruitment – A Reforming Working World project, which is funded by the European Social Fund, the ELY Centre for South Savo and Business Joensuu.

“Building an employer image will be more systematic in the future”

 

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Photo: Jarno Artika