What kind of knowledge do small companies need to improve their working environment?

Ann-Beth Antonsson, Peter Hasle

    Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review


    One of the main obstacles identified for small companies´ improvement of the working environment is lack of knowledge.
    To discuss what kind of knowledge is required by small companies if they are to be able to improve their working environment and the pros and cons of different kinds of knowledge from a small company perspective.
    There are several different ways of describing knowledge. From a working environment point of view, knowledge can be divided into knowledge about risks, risk assessment and control measures. Control measures can in turn be divided into knowledge about the concrete control measures and the management routines needed in the company. Another kind of analytical framework has been presented by Rasmussen, who divides knowledge into skill-based, rule-based and knowledge-based behaviour. Rasmussen describes that skill-based knowledge is the automated knowledge that is so integrated that we do not even reflect upon it. Rule-based knowledge requires a decision to apply and follow a rule whereas the knowledge-based require more time and reflection to arrive at a conclusion. The risk of making mistakes and arriving at wrong conclusions is increasing when moving towards knowledge-based behaviour. Additionally the time required increases when moving from skill- to knowledge-based behaviour. On the other hand, skill-based behaviour lacks the ability to solve problems and adapt to new situations.
    In the working environment risk assessment as well as the development of management routines are typically knowledge-based activities, whereas the application of good practice is more of skill or rule-based.
    For small companies, time as well as knowledge is an important constraint for the work environment management. Therefore the conclusion could be to focus on and provide skill- and rule-based knowledge to small companies. Description of good practices is one way of doing this. The good practices should however focus on control measures in order to be helpful to small enterprises. In fact, small companies often ask for concrete advice on how to solve problems, rather than routines for risk assessment or risk management. However, there is a lot of criticism towards this kind of good practice, ranging from that it can easily be used for behavioural control to the problem with odd working environments and the need for tailoring the solutions to each workplace.
    The pros and cons with providing different kinds of knowledge will be discussed from a theoretical point of view. This question will be further scrutinized in the project SESAME, which aims at developing strategies to improve the working environment in SME:s.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnderstanding Small Enterprises : USE 2015
    Number of pages1
    Publication date2015
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventUnderstanding Small Enterprises : USE 2015 - Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands
    Duration: 21 Oct 201523 Oct 2015
    Conference number: 3


    ConferenceUnderstanding Small Enterprises
    LocationHanze University of Applied Sciences
    Internet address

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