leadership tool Martela


Comprehensive personnel experience creates well-being as well as strong performance

The Martela Group has gone through an interesting transformation of its identity. Over the past few years, the Group has grown from a traditional furniture manufacturer into an expert in new kinds of working and learning environments. Founded more than 70 years ago, this Finnish family business is internationally recognised for its high-quality school and office furniture. Martela has now also established a strong foothold as a leader and expert in user-centric workspaces. The company’s personnel have been strongly involved in this process of renewal and they have shown enthusiasm towards developing their work as well as Martela as a whole. Martela One is an approach that is shared by everyone throughout the Group.

“Many of our personnel have been with the company for a long time, but everyone has shown a lot of enthusiasm in getting involved in these changes. It’s important for us to operate the same way we tell our customers to operate – we take our own medicine,” says Maija Kaski, Vice President, Human Resources. “Long employment relationships affect the way individuals’ own identities are constructed so, understandably, deploying our new service offering has required a lot of effort and dedication throughout the organisation.”

Martela’s new organisational culture encompasses the desire to be a leader and a company with a strong capacity for renewal

Martela is a strong brand that the company’s personnel are willing to make a commitment to. The company’s products are familiar to practically everyone in Finland, as the Group manufactures workspaces ranging from classrooms to offices and public sector agencies. Martela’s Finnish employees, in particular, are very proud of their employer’s strong brand awareness. The Group’s foreign units, for their part, have received praise for the Group’s courage to transform itself.

This renewal-oriented industry leader anticipates the transformation of work starting from primary school classrooms

Martela keeps a close eye on global megatrends and strives to anticipate transformative changes in how people work. According to Kaski, the digital transformation that is currently having a strong impact on how work is performed should not, however, be a defining factor when it comes to workspace. Instead, work environments should be implemented on a user-driven basis. “We believe that the world of schools will also undergo substantial changes. For example, the Juteinikeskus school in Hattula, which we designed, is an exceptional learning environment that was developed in collaboration with pupils and teachers. The Finnish school system is globally admired, and this learner-centric school has impressed a number of visiting experts from different parts of the world,” Kaski explains.

Thank God It’s Monday – A pleasant work environment makes Monday feel like Friday

According to Kaski, job satisfaction starts from knowing your place in the working community and having clear expectations regarding your work. The Martela Talent programme, which is used for internal competence management at Martela, starts from the employees’ individual strengths and leverages them to give people more spark and inspiration in the work they do. Each function in the organisation has its own defined higher level competencies linked to the strategy, and development efforts are based on the employees’ areas of interest.

Martela uses the employee survey as a genuine leadership tool

“Teams prepare their own action plans based on their employee survey results and the implementation of the plans is monitored at the organisational level. The results of the survey are regularly revisited when discussing topics such as team structures and organisational development. The results also indicate how we in the HR function can support supervisors or their supervisors in development efforts,” Kaski adds. Teams with weaker results in the employee survey receive special support. Designated HR representatives have helped supervisors resolve issues by, for example, participating in team meetings and result review sessions.

Regular follow-up on action plans has engaged supervisors in the development of operations

Kaski says the aim is to approach the development process from a positive perspective, guided by the goals of the unit supervisors. One area that requires further improvement is ensuring that supervisors who have received critical feedback, in particular, perceive the development process as a useful exercise rather than an obligation.

Leadership is presence, authenticity and openness

In Martela’s flat hierarchy, the management is easy to approach. The organisation is currently implementing extensive system reforms that have created challenges in internal communication. In problem situations, the management’s role is to support the personnel and look for solutions to the challenges by setting the right example. “For us, leadership is presence, authenticity and openness,” Kaski says.

Work environments provide purposeful support for the new operating model

“During the system reforms, Martela has placed particular focus on communication. The use of internal meetings and electronic communication channels, for example, helps people know what is going on and work together to solve problems. Our work environments also support communication and the day-to-day development of operations,” Kaski explains. While the changes that are currently being implemented have been reflected in the results of the employee survey, Martela’s ambitious goal is to become one of Finland’s most inspiring workplaces.


The Martela Group is one of the Nordic leaders specialising in user-centric work environments. Established more than 70 years ago, the family business has production operations in Finland and Poland, and its main markets are Finland, Sweden and Norway. In 2016, the Martela Group recorded revenue of EUR 129.1 million and had approximately 530 employees.