Blog: Finnish working culture and international talents
The World Happiness Report 2018 put Finland at the top of among 156 countries, using criteria such as income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Interestingly, this report includes information on subjective well-being of not only locals but also of immigrants. Having lived in Finland for 16 years, I certainly recognize country’s challenges, but this report shows that something has been done in a right way.
Work is certainly among the most important issues in people’s lives. The average person spends 1/3 of his or her life at work. So, let me concentrate on several issues about Finnish working life, having in mind that they are generalities.
To my great pleasure, everything mostly works as promised: people are on time and they respect deadlines. I would say that daily working life in Finland is predictable; you have tasks, you mostly plan your working day yourself, and you are supposed to follow the rules. This way you show your respect to your workplace and others. Boring? No, I would say this is a great environment to get things done. In addition to that, remote work is available for skilled workers.
Finnish people speak in a low tempo and sometimes they are even silently sitting in the same room next to each other. This was not always easy for me, trying to fill the silent moments with some comments or questions, like “what a great rainy day today” or “there is a lot of snow on the streets, don’t you think?”. Finns are polite and they will always answer your questions, but they are also completely fine with silent moments. They say that a Finn only talks when he or she has something to say. And you know what? Finns are carefully listening!
During business meetings, Finns discuss a lot, share their experiences and tell their opinions straight. Not like in many other cultures, with Finns, you do not have to read between the lines. Usually, Finns do not interrupt and when something is agreed upon, they expect it to be done.
Coffee and lunch
The world’s biggest coffee drinkers, Finns, consume 12 kg per person, per year, according to the International Coffee Organization. Finns drink it at work and always offer coffee before and during the meetings. Foreigners eventually get used to it and start drinking coffee as heavily as Finns. There is no choice. And there is a separate time for lunch, which they eat quite early, around 11 o’clock.
The great news is that Finnish working environment has become multicultural and international talents are a part of Finnish working communities. Still there is a room for improvement.
A lot of foreigners graduate each year from Finnish universities. They have cross-cultural skills and the right degrees but still finding a job is a problem for them. Having in mind that the number of international graduates in Finland is increasing, we still cannot say the same about their employment pace. At the same time, Finnish companies search talent to go international.
Surely, Finnish companies should benefit from international experiences these people have. International talents are a great source for companies in many ways: they have good cultural knowledge of the potential markets and people, they look at things differently, and often they can use their networks they have in their home country. I understand that sometimes these talents are “hidden” from the companies.
In the North Karelia region, TalentHub Joensuu (a part of the Finnish Governments’ action programme Talent Boost – International Talents Boosting Growth) takes action to search for solutions. The programme brings together the regional businesses and international talents, so that businesses are able to utilise the competences of the international talents more efficiently in their own operations relating to internationalisation processes.
In the summer of 2018, two companies, Joensuun Sänkytehdas Ltd. and Hansa Kontakt Ltd. started their cooperation with international talents using the help of TalentHub Joensuu. Together, we identified the needs of the company and searched for the right person to help.
Picture 1. Matti Yrjänä from Hansa Kontakt Ltd. and a trainee Juliet Mumbi.
Picture 2. Pauli Jämsen from Joensuun Sänkytehdas Ltd. and a trainee Olga Donkovtceva.
Having very different needs, both companies were satisfied with the expertise they got from the project and their trainees, who worked for the companies for a one-month period.
There is a lot of work to be done in the future. And it is up to us if the happiest country will manage to achieve both goals - getting Finland more attractive to international talents and getting Finnish businesses to the new level of internationalisation.