The Finnish Centre for Pensions

Työelä – concept design for an online service using participatory methods

The Finnish Centre for Pensions (ETK) is the central body of the statutory earnings-related pension scheme and an expert in pension provision. Together with ETK we renewed Työelä By focusing on the target audiences and engaging them in the development of the service, we built a solid foundation for creating human-centered online services for citizens.

Työelä in a nutshell

  1. Why?

    The Finnish Centre for Pensions was looking to renew Työelä to better meet user needs. The client wanted to use participatory service design methods and gain actionable models for future use.

  2. What?

    We engaged the target audiences with an online survey, an online panel and a design game. The customer insight we gained was used as an input for the concept design, broken down to the design drivers of the project and harnessed in workshops with ETK specialists.

  3. Then what?

    The result is a more user-friendly and clear Työelä online service and participatory models for the use of ETK.

Challenge: “I don’t care about pensions, even though I should.”

Työelä is an online service that offers information about earnings-related pension for Finland’s working-age population. It exists to make pension-related information accessible for all. Työelä aims at educating people about what their pension funds consist of and how to make informed decisions about matters relating to their pensions. Additionally it aims at improving the image of and creating trust in the pension system. People can also use the service to check their own pension record.

Our primary challenge was to make relevant information about earnings-related pensions easy to find and approach. By listening to and engaging the end-users we wanted to create a clear and user-friendly service that increases the transparency of earnings-related pensions and makes it easy for people to find the information they’re looking for – with mobile and desktop devices alike.

The project, which relied heavily on service design and participatory methods, was also aimed at creating a solid foundation for creating human-centered online services in the future. ETK wished that the project would leave a legacy of concrete models for participation which they could deploy in upcoming projects within the organization.

Image of the ETK web service on three mobile screens

The what and how

Our concept design process consisted of two crosswise entities which were closely intertwined: defining the concept together with ETK specialists in workshops and engaging citizens in the development of the service.

We began engaging the target audience by carrying out a qualitative survey which ended up reaching more than 140 respondents. The survey was completed by representatives of all age groups within the working population, and we got responses from both entrepreneurs and wage earners. Some of the respondents were then invited to an online panel, which gave us the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the target audience and their wishes.

Young wage earners and students in particular were involved in concept development through a design game, which we brought to the campus of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. The game consisted of tasks that centered on the questions that young people might have about pensions, and their needs for pension-related information. With the game, we managed to find answers to questions like: what pension-related things might young people find puzzling, in what kinds of contexts do these topics arise and where do these people seek information about pensions – if they do so at all.

The data we gained through the design game was used as an input for the concept design, broken down to the design drivers of the concept and harnessed in the workshops we facilitated for ETK specialists. At the end of the project, the customer insight, wishes and ideas we had collected were shared with a larger group of specialists within ETK. This was done through a participatory intervention at an annual pension event hosted by the organization.

Image of the ETK web service on a computer screen

Result: a more user-friendly service and a palette of participatory methods for ETK

By involving end-users in the concept design, we were able to formulate a clear understanding of the similarities and differences between the information needs of different target audiences. We became aware that the need for pension-related information depends mainly on a person’s current life situation, and that the need to find information about pension is more acute during transitional periods in a person’s working life.

We were also able to bring forward critical insight to content design by suggesting that the information should be arranged contextually; organized by situations and presented thematically, with concrete examples. Furthermore, we recognized the need to further develop the service with various calculators, which were frequently brought up by the target audiences as a solution for making the service even more concrete, personal and tailored.

ETK also wanted to adopt service design principles and participatory methods for internal use. The participatory methods used in the project were first evaluated as a group, which was intended to help the organization recognize the most valuable practices for future use. The design game was also identified as a valuable tool for various development projects within the organization.


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  • Service design
  • Concept design


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Maija Typpi-Häkkinen

+358 50 566 2819
Client services Maija Typpi-Häkkinen