Students examined leadership at Alma Media

The project also surveyed employees' dedication to their work and emotional commitment to the organisation.
Räätälöidyn opiskelijoiden yritysprojektin ryhmä, Case Alma Media
Elina Kukkonen, Alma Media (left), students Kirsi Alahuhta and Maria Lehto, and on the right Joni Mäkinen, Alma Media.

In addition to financial indicators, many companies regularly measure the job satisfaction of their employees, customer satisfaction and brand awareness. Areas such as employees' commitment to the organisation and enthusiasm and motivation for their own work are assessed less often. However, these elements will be increasingly important as work becomes more demanding and competition gets tougher. Alma Media was interested in finding out how leadership can have a positive impact on employees' commitment to the organisation and their own work tasks.

Kirsi Alahuhta and Maria Lehto are master’s students in management studies at Aalto University School of Business, and they performed the research with Assistant Professor Olli-Pekka Kauppila as their advisor.

‘Our goal was to find out how leadership at Alma Media could be developed to better meet the basic psychological needs of employees, which are ability, independence and a sense of community. Supporting these needs can strengthen areas like dedication to work and emotional commitment to the organisation. These are key factors in terms of employee well-being and performance, and therefore critical to the success of the entire organisation,’ explain the students.

They used scientific studies as the basis for compiling a quantitative online survey that mapped the expectations and experiences of employees in relation to different management activities. The survey also measured the employees' dedication to their own work and emotional commitment to Alma Media. In addition to the survey, Kirsi and Maria interviewed some of the respondents regarding different themes of the research. Based on a data analysis, they produced concrete proposals to develop leadership.

A highly successful project despite the corona situation

Kirsi and Maria say that the project provided the opportunity to apply everything they had already learned in practice, and they also gained a lot of new knowledge in a very short period of time. They found the project themes very interesting, the teamwork that had to be done remotely because of corona restrictions went smoothly, and they complemented each other in terms of competence.

‘Working on this project was really rewarding. Being part of it and having the Alma Media people and our academic advisor put so much trust in us was an amazing experience. In addition to focusing on the basic psychological needs of Alma Media employees, we noticed that working in this kind of tailored business project also met our psychological needs very well,’ say Kirsi and Maria. 

Academic advisor Olli-Pekka Kauppila is also very satisfied with the outcome. ‘Concepts like commitment to the organisation and dedication to work are surprisingly abstract in nature, which means that researching them is not a simple process. The students developed a conceptual understanding of the topic very quickly, and they were able to recognise these issues in the Alma Media organisation. I’m so proud of the motivated, intelligent and independent students we found for this project. It was also a pleasure to work with Alma Media. Their openness, assistance and enthusiasm provided an excellent starting point for a successful project,’ says Olli-Pekka Kauppila.

Alma Media was also very pleased with the project. ‘This young and dynamic pair of researchers did outstanding work and they were really dedicated to our project. The research was carried out in a highly professional manner in exceptional working conditions during the spring, and the quality of the research and the usefulness of the results exceeded our expectations,’ says Joni Mäkinen, People Development Lead at Alma Media.

‘We want to develop the Alma style of leadership in an more service-oriented direction, and we’re going to implement the research results in our management coaching, while the proposals made by the students will be utilised in our development projects. It was wonderful to be involved in this project, and I also learned a lot myself.’

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