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Employee-driven Innovation in Welfare Services
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare. (Health and Welfare in Multicultural Working Life)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8045-797X
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Industrial Economics and Organisation. (IEO)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6823-4925
Independent Researcher, Sweden.
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Health and Welfare.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0282-2820
2014 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, ISSN 2245-0157, E-ISSN 2245-0157, Vol. 4, no 2, 159-180 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is a growing interest in both employee-driven innovation (EDI) and innovation in welfare services, but a lack of empirical studies addressing innovation from the employee perspective.

Accordingly, this study was designed to contribute with well-grounded empirical knowledge, aiming

to explore the barriers to and opportunities for participation in innovation experienced by employees of the Swedish welfare services. In order to reach the aim, a qualitative thematic analysis of

27 semi-structured interviews with employees in four municipalities was performed.

The study identified three main themes, with a great impact on the innovative performance of the studied organizations: support, including leadership and innovation processes; development, including creativity and learning; and organizational culture, which includes attitudes and communication, all essential ingredients in EDI. Experienced barriers for innovation were unclear or non-existing innovation processes with ambiguous goals, insufficient learning, and deficient organizational slack, thus creating a tension between day-to-day work and innovation and hindering reflection and exploration.

Attitudes of colleagues and lack of communication were also barriers to implementing innovation, suggesting the need for better management support for a communicative and open culture.

Opportunities were found, including commitment to innovation and willingness to try new ideas, but the employees must be given the mandate and sufficient time to develop the potential that emerges from continuous learning, time for reflection, and user dialogue. The conclusion was that incremental innovations existed, but the full potential of these did not benefit the entire organization due to inadequate communication and lack of innovation processes.

The study improves our understanding of how employees regard their involvement in innovation.

It also discusses how to make better use of employees’ resources in innovation processes andcontributes to important knowledge about EDI in the public sector. On the basis of our results, we suggest a model of EDI for use in practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Roskilde University, Roskilde, 2014. Vol. 4, no 2, 159-180 p.
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25879OAI: diva2:744205
Available from: 2014-09-07 Created: 2014-09-07 Last updated: 2016-03-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Innovation in Municipal Welfare Services
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Innovation in Municipal Welfare Services
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates, analyzes and discusses innovation efforts and the use and understanding of the innovation concept and related policies in municipal welfare services. There are two main themes in the study, policy and practice. It is based on interviews with employees and managers in four Swedish municipalities. Also, an analysis of related policy documents on both a national and local level was done. Methods used were document analysis, thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis.

The results indicate differences between management levels in the view of innovation and what was achieved. Senior managers stressed the importance of innovation, but experienced obstacles in the form of old structures, ways of working, and employees lack of time for innovation. Employee innovations achieved were accordingly not acknowledged.

Middle managers and employees experienced opportunities for employee-driven innovation (EDI). However, barriers such as time and lack of internal communication existed. The study suggests that an excessive control, insufficient empowerment and limited autonomy for employees may be of hindrance for innovation.

Local authorities stressed the importance of innovation in strategic documents, but the dynamic resources of the municipalities were not used to support and develop innovation.

Innovation procurement was prominent in central governmental policies, but concrete elements were otherwise missing. The documents were also influenced by New Public Management, for example on control and efficiency.

Research on welfare services innovation is limited. The study contributes with an understanding of the challenges management meet and knowledge of what barriers and opportunities employees experience for their taking part in innovation. It also raises several fundamental questions about innovation in welfare services, such as if a different approach to innovation in welfare services may be needed as compared to other sectors or if innovation is less important in this context.

This study develops welfare sector innovation research, from empirical knowledge to concept development and a better understanding of the conditions for innovation in welfare services. Further research is needed, addressing the question how innovation, if at all, ought to be managed within the context of welfare services.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University, 2014
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 164
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Studies
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25883 (URN)978-91-7485-162-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-11-19, Paros, Mälardalens högskola, Västerås, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-09-09 Created: 2014-09-07 Last updated: 2014-12-08Bibliographically approved

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