The Swedish model was a political system that emerged in the 1930s born as a compromise between the capitalists’ interests in economic growth and profitability, and the social liberals’ efforts for social policy equalisation. This foundation of compromise evolved into the idea of ’the people’s home’ – a kind of unwritten social contract with ideological roots in a culture of consensus.
All eyes are on HR and in our role as behaviourists we are tasked with reimagining the future. This is not the time for followship, this is the time to go to core/ism. Who are you, what is the challenge at hand, what are we trying to solve for and what does our new nirvana look like?
With that, it occurs to me that the Swedish model is relevant in our ‘new normal’ in terms of how it can advise us on what path to take when we consider the workplace and workforce. Using this ideology based in consensus, means that we can make decisions without losing ourselves, our professionalism, our data sets, beliefs and bets.
The Saltsjöbad Agreement
The Saltsjöbad agreement was the original compromise that instigated the Swedish model. And what made this labor market successful was the balance of power and mutual recognition from all parties (the state, business and the trade unions), that the first and foremost priority was reaching a consensus that would serve industrial development and growth in order for a prosperous society.
It also led to a consent from the state to leave wage movements and other labor issues to the social partners to settle without state intervention. This pushes a shared responsibility on the parties to ensure that wage developments are compatible with a balanced economy.
On reflection, a prerequisite for the balance of power is the high degree of a people-first approach, along with the high degree of organisation on the employer’s side. It’s this template of agreement with it’s balance of power that has contributed to the high coverage rate of collective agreements and the prominent role in regulating working conditions.
The Really Old Could Easily Be The New
So, why do this historic odyssey? Because one of our bets is that some of our new ways of working are built on who we are (our DNA) and our culture and values (Band Manifesto). Instead of throwing out everything we knew and liked before CV-19, we’re inspired to build on all the great possibilities, drawing on new data and desired behaviours, without being misled by some of the new forced behaviours, or let’s be honest, ‘trends’.
Stating that a workforce will never work in an office again might be a bit premature. If you are hearing this statement from your employer you should read into it that they have decided to not offer an office. Our reflection is that when employees are given the chance to decide themselves, there is no clear consensus – most employees would like to have their cake and eat it.
Of course, we have no desire to revert back to 1938, but using the Swedish Model is guiding us even if most of our global band members have never heard of this model, the same way that most had not heard about Swedish parental leave before we decided to tweak, design and launch our global parental leave policy in 2015. And whilst we use the principles of balance and consensus, the trade unions and legislations themselves are obsolete in an industry like ours. Laws and legislations need to be updated, and updated fast. Instead of doing the job they were put in place to do – protect employees, the legislations are actually hindering employees by blocking flexibility and freedom, in today’s digital and globally connected world. Employees might crave a hybrid model or even wanting to become digital global nomads, but labour legislation was written when borders, employers, people and work was not as fluid, flexible and certainly not when talent was scarce and the war for them was fierce and global.
Our Band Manifesto will navigate us in this new new of ours
We look to the future with optimism and excitement. We also keep in mind that we should have a workplace that remains dedicated to Spotify’s core values — collaboration, innovation, passion, playfulness, and sincerity. So, we will proudly base our future on our history and remind ourselves of what brought us here, even if we have to develop, iterate, innovate and dare to pressure test new and old chosen truths. Therefore, our plans will stem from our origin of i) autonomy with responsibility ii) competence and skills development iii) benevolence and iv) belonging. And, if we have been reminded of one thing, it’s the need of human interaction to feel good, get energised, be creative, be truly inspired and grow and thrive as individuals, teams and organisations. This approach will mean that our Band Manifesto and dedication to our unique company culture will provide job fulfilment. And job fulfilment in today’s world is even more beneficial to employees than just employment security from a trade union agreement. These days, when you have to look long and hard to find the right talent, then reward, develop and retain your talent, collective bargaining has become obsolete, even if the ethos on which it was built can still act as an inspiration.
We hope that leaning on the principles of The Swedish Model can help us to achieve growth within diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging, in the shape of creating a workplace diverse, inclusive and flexible (within reason) workplace, and an employment model and workload that leaves time for playfulness, innovation and collaboration. We will definitely continue to be transparent and open with our mission, strategies, focus areas, and key results, as well as our leadership criteria. And we’ll always strive to be a workplace where creativity and intellectual property is valued – where we do not have patience with entitled egos. All of this will come about with keeping our roots in balance. The perfect balance of a people-first approach, and our business. This way we’ll be able to keep treasuring a culture where a good idea is a good idea whoever hatches it.