Original interviews and text by freelance author Andruta Ilie. Edit by Eero Miettinen, Business Tampere.
The second annual Talent Boost Summit took place in Tampere, Finland and gathered under the same roof some 300 important decision makers, companies’ representatives and entrepreneurs to promote employment of international talent. Most notable about the event were the powerful and thought-provoking speeches on workplace diversity, inclusion and country branding. Relating to their own experiences in Finland, Yacine Samb, Miriam Holstein and Kamilla Sultanova among others challenged leaders to think globally and create diverse workplaces. Otherwise, Finland will only continue to lose ground in talent retention and prevent its businesses from growing.
Diversity is good for economy and good for people
Just like other parts of the world, Finland is also seeking to attract more and more international talents to keep its growing industry locomotive on the move. Many experts in Finland agree that the demand for foreign talent in Finnish industries is currently more critical than ever before. Globalization and internationalization call for new skills and so does technological development. According to Director General Antti Neimala (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland):
“Diversity is good for economy and good for people.”
To him, international and intercultural cooperation is a quality-of-life thing. New perspectives create new ideas, and new ideas create new businesses for everyone’s benefit.
Keynote speaker Yacine Samb (Google inc.) also points out the benefits of diversity in business. She was very impressed by the multicultural audience at Paja Congress Centre in Tampere:
“I think there’s a new generation coming. The audience here is very international – a multicultural and diverse audience with a professional background. If we understand the richness, create the synergies, and maximize the input of those people’s capacities, that’s when the magic happens.”
The biggest win could come from intersectoral collaboration
One key learning from the Summit was, that Finland’s key industries and their key decisionmakers tend to act siloed in. The trend is still to conduct individual talent attraction processes without cross cutting cooperation or discussions with other industries. A lot of effort is going in individual parties and organizations entities trying to build Finland’s image. According to Product Marketing Manager Yacine Samb (Google inc.) national branding work should be conducted in cooperation with everyone:
“If we did it altogether, the impact would be in a more coordinated way.”
One way to enable cooperation around country branding would be to support a feedback loop, so that decisionmakers receive direct feedback from the consumers and people. “You can always hire great specialists to fix governance, strategy and technology, but culture is the part that we need to build ourselves”, Yacine states.
Companies and government already do a lot of work because they need to attract the talent to Finland. According to Yacine “the biggest win for Finland could come from intersectoral collaboration – ensuring that different sectors are closely collaborating.”
The most acute risk that may arise from non-coordinated talent attraction activities can be that we miss international talent potential by appearing more confusing and bureaucratic than we actually are. When the industries present clear outlines for their talent demand, it is easier to form nationwide statistics and marketing material for targeted audiences, further strengthening our global attractiveness.
The significance of talent retention
The discussion on talents often revolves around the topic of talent attraction. Many are seeking for the best talent attraction tips or tools. Instead, many company representatives and experts alike tend to emphasize the other edge of the sword. According to many, the critical problems lie in talent retention – how to keep the existing talents up here in the North. The Summit of 2018 sought to uncover the best talent retention practices that companies have implemented in their organisations.
CEO Miriam Holstein (Bayer Nordic) offers one solution for maintaining a strong grip with the existing talent pool. In Bayer new employees receive a ‘buddy’, with an emphasis on foreign expats of course. According to Miriam the importance of Bayer’s onboarding activities are “a key tool to help people settle down faster, and to avoid loneliness.” The company also offers mentoring to new employees to help them settle down in Finland.
A strong focus on the employee’s family is also critical in order to help the retention process. According to Miriam “the local HR processes need to be clear, simple and easy to follow, as they are much more than just the administration of people issues.” People desire to feel welcomed, supported and valued, not just for themselves but also for their families.
Country Manager Anil Joshi (Tata Consultancy Services) also talks about the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence tools, or AI, in talent onboarding. According to Anil, “utilizing AI to understand the overall context helps not only onboarding the new employees to companies, but also to develop talent.” AI tools are also useful with supporting talents in upgrading their competencies.
According to Anil it is sometimes easier to introduce companies with the digital and the technology to fasten company processes, rather than changing the ways of working. Artificial intelligence can be used to onboard new employees by taking care of access procedures in a short time.
While companies have a great responsibility shaping their company cultures in order to welcome internationals in larger numbers, individuals may face challenges when building their initial social networks. Entrepreneur Kamilla Sultanova (Global Dignity Girls & Boys assc.) stresses the importance of individual commitment by the incoming global talents. Humbleness and confidence are important virtues in the Finnish job market. Finding one’s place in the Finnish society may take time, and it can be difficult, especially if you move here when you are older. According to Kamilla it is ultimately up to each individual to actively break into the social networks that are already in place for many people.
Obtain the global mindset – now!
Many of the Summit keynotes talked about the work-life-balance and quality in Finland. Finland is a relatively easy country to relocate to due to the high number of English speakers. Nowadays Finns grow up speaking English and new generations are noticeably more global than past generations. Summit keynote speakers Topi Koskinen (COO at Gofore) and Kamilla Sultanova both stress that if companies aim to conduct international business, they must think and act like international businesses think and act. The global mind-set has to be obtained and maintained.
According to Kamilla Sultanova, the issues in internationalisation are quite often located in the very basics of entrepreneurship. Such examples include a much too narrow selection of website languages or a far too small selection of target area specified marketing materials. Kamilla also mentions that in today’s world it is also important to think about the ways a company promotes their job ads.
One key learning of the Summit was that a strong mismatch still exists between how we promote diversity inclusion in Finland and what the Finnish work culture really is like.
“Leaders should fuel ambition for diversity as part of their company’s growth”, Kamilla says. “By doing that it will be proactive, not reactive.”
She recalls a research from 2016 on Finnish working life and Finnish workers’ ambitions by Aalto’s professor Olli-Pekka Kauppila, that in today’s Finland the work culture does not widely note the word ambition. The work culture’s backbone has traditionally been hard working and trustworthy personnel, and on a strong sense of community.
To conclude, the balance between ambition and the existing sense of community and togetherness in the Finnish culture is a challenge that Finland and Finnish industries must find answers to.
Key learnings and future plans for Talent Boost
The Finnish government launched the Talent Boost program in 2017, with the main focus to promote internationalism for Finnish companies. The event was co-organised by the Ministry of economic affairs and employment, Business Finland, Business Tampere & City of Tampere, Turku Business Region & City of Turku and Amcham.
The Summit has become an important platform for talent attraction stakeholders to meet and share ideas. Business Tampere’s Summit team sends its warmest thank you to all participant parties for the fruitful cooperation. Next year the summit will be held in Turku – see you all there!