You can read the article in Finnish: Hyvistä käytännöistä vauhtia kansainvälisiin rekrytointeihin
A recent study by the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce shows that 57% of companies in the region have positive experiences of international recruitment. However, the readiness of companies to hire foreigners varies greatly.
In future, the Chamber of Commerce wants to support companies more closely in international recruitment. One way is to highlight the successful experiences of companies and the practical lessons they have learned.
“We encourage companies to share good practices that help with international recruitment,” says Johanna Larsson, Project Manager at the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce.
She has gained much and varied experience in immigration and employment management from both the private and public sectors.
“I am happy to exchange ideas and give tips on how to get started in international recruitment and what kind of related services are available.”
International talent potential already in Finland
In Larsson’s opinion, it is often easiest to start by recruiting international experts already living in Finland. However, according to the Chamber of Commerce’s survey, only 16% of companies had taken advantage of this opportunity.
“Companies have also not yet discovered the talent potential of the international students who are already in Finland. Only a fifth of the respondents had taken advantage of their skills, for example through a thesis, internship or summer job,” Larsson says.
A quarter of the companies that responded to the survey said that their capacity to recruit international experts is very weak or weak. The greatest challenges were related to language skills.
A quarter of the companies did not know where to start looking for international experts. According to Larsson, the Chamber of Commerce can help by finding the right partners and networks. In matters concerning international recruitment, companies can use the services offered by public and private operators. In the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, for example, International House Helsinki offers a wide range of government and advisory services.
“The Chamber of Commerce’s lawyers can also help in matters related to international recruitment,” Larsson says.
There is room for improvement in the cooperation between the private and public sectors. The Chamber of Commerce has proposed a national digital Finland Talent Match service as a possible remedy for the talent shortage. This would also work to attract new international students and experts to Finland.
Competitiveness requires internationalisation
In November, the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce will publish the first in a series of articles presenting various companies’ successful practices and good experiences in the recruitment of international experts.
Johanna Larsson feels that it is important for companies to hear about such experiences from each other, as this lowers the threshold for hiring a skilled person who has moved to Finland from abroad.
“The population of Finland is greying at a rapid pace. To maintain our competitiveness, it is vitally important to integrate international talent into our workforce. We have a huge pool of untapped talent in Finland,” Larsson says.
Vaisala, which manufactures state-of-the-art measurement technology in Vantaa, is a good example of successful international recruitments. For a company operating in a global market, the promotion of the internationalisation of personnel is a matter of course.
Joel Kinnunen, Leading Talent Acquisition at Vaisala, says that increasing diversity in the work community is part of the company’s strategic policy. According to the policy, it is important for future success and a culture of innovation to continue the recruitment of the best experts and ensure their smooth integration into the work community.
“We are constantly working to ensure that we are an increasingly inclusive workplace for people from different backgrounds, be it a matter of origin, culture or gender identity.”
According to Kinnunen, there is no other option if the company wants to remain a competitive and attractive employer.
Vaisala employs approximately 2,200 people of nearly 60 different nationalities. In addition to Vantaa, this figure includes the company’s offices around the world.
Fresh ideas through diversity
International studies have shown that companies benefit from diversity, as it usually increases productivity, innovation and wellbeing at work.
This has also been noted at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Team Leader Anna Schoonover says that a diverse workforce is vital for innovative solutions.
“A team that is too uniform will easily slip into group think, where ideas are not challenged creatively.”
VTT conducts top international research in many fields. Its more than 2,200 employees represent 55 different nationalities.
The strengths of a diverse work community have also been noticed in GA Telesis, which repairs aircraft engines at Helsinki Airport. Galina Alkvist, the company’s HR Manager, says that, in addition to personal competence, each employee brings to the table the strengths of their own culture.
“We try to make the most of these strengths. Diversity helps with problem-solving and allows us see things from many perspectives.”
A study conducted by Business Finland last year also highlighted the benefits brought to business by international employees. These benefits were reflected in increased income, new customers and networks.
Consider changing the working language
Many international experts wish that Finnish working life were more flexible in terms of language skills requirements. For example, employers could reconsider whether Finnish skills are absolutely necessary for holding certain jobs.
At present, VTT only requires fluent written and oral skills in Finnish for some administrative tasks, such as handling legal matters or reporting on government transfers.
Vaisala, too, only requires proficiency in Finnish in the positions where it is strictly necessary. However, the company still has teams whose members are all native Finns.
“Changing the working language to English is a big change when the first international expert joins the team, so it is good to discuss it openly and start preparing for the change well in advance. Change requires challenging traditional ideas,” says Joel Kinnunen.
Inission Lohja, a contract manufacturer for the electronics and mechanical engineering industry, has long supplemented its workforce with experts recruited from abroad. The factory’s working languages are Finnish and English.
“Teams are made up in such a way that sufficient language skills are always available. Employees with better Finnish or English support others as needed,” says Pekka Väyrynen, CEO of Inission Lohja.
Careful induction important
Successful international recruitment also requires proper management and induction of new employees.
“We operate in accordance with Finnish law and values. At the same time, however, we take into account the special characteristics and religions of people from different cultures,” says Vesa Leppänen, Chief Operating Officer of Inission Lohja.
In his opinion, the induction of foreign employees must be done with special care so that they can work safely, productively and with high quality from the very start.
“Insufficient language skills may require more time for induction. The best way to give guidance work tasks is to demonstrate how they are done.
“Especially in occupational safety matters, it must be ensured that new employees have definitely understood everything,” Leppänen says.
Management fundamentals always apply
Aarno Hakanen heads a department at the GA Telesis aircraft engine workshop where two thirds of the 15 employees are from abroad. In his opinion, the same principles apply to the management of an international team as of a team consisting only of native Finns.
“A balanced mix of control and division of responsibility is required. In addition, everyone must be considered equally and people must be flexible on both sides,” Hakanen says.
Pekka Väyrynen from Inission Lohja considers it important that the rules of the workplace are the same for everyone. They must be internalised by every employee.
“We have absolutely zero tolerance against, for example, racism and all forms of discrimination. Any incidents are dealt with immediately. Inappropriate behaviour will very quickly result in a warning,” Väyrynen says.
Potential workforce already in Finland
Foreign experts and degree students already living in Finland are an important resource to VTT in the search for new talent. More than half of the international employees recruited by VTT this year were already living in Finland.
Most of the international talent working at Vaisala Vantaa have been recruited in Finland. Some of them came to Finland to study and stayed for work, while others studied in their home country, built careers elsewhere and followed a partner to Finland.
Vaisala has recruited people from an immigrant background who were already living in Finland for both production and expert tasks. The company only recruits directly from abroad in exceptional circumstances.
“For example, product development may require special expertise that must be sought outside Finland’s borders,” says Joel Kinnunen.
Welders from the Philippines
Finnish companies look for skilled workers for production tasks abroad if they cannot find them in Finland. Škoda Transtech, a rolling stock manufacturer based in Otanmäki near Kajaani, has sought skilled labour from the Baltic countries and Ukraine, among other places.
The worsening labour shortage in Europe has now forced them to cast a wider net. Škoda Transtech recently hired 16 welders from the Philippines.
Leena Manner, the company’s Director of Public Affairs, says that successful international recruitments require careful preparation. It is important to carefully consider what kind of expertise is needed and where it could be found.
“We have gained a lot of experience in the best ways to recruit foreign employees and to work with them through the different stages of the process,” says Manner.
“Good partners are also essential. We use reliable and professional staffing agencies in international recruitments,” says Manner.
Škoda Transtech is primarily looking for good employees. However, the company hopes that the new employees can also bring their families to Finland at some point in time.
“Families bring permanence,” Manner says.
A staffing agency hired by Škoda Transtech helps to arrange matters for families moving to Finland. Help is typically needed with applying for social security numbers, registering with the authorities, opening bank accounts and arranging day care for children.
“We also strive to find work for spouses either at Škoda Transtech or in other companies,” says Manner.
GA Telesis also offers employees moving to Finland relocation services to help them get settled and take care of practical matters.
The company can also offer support with, for example, moving arrangements and apartment search.
“We try to make getting settled in Finland as easy as possible, so that the employees can focus on their work,” Galina Alkvist says.