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Blog 07.10.2022

Diversity in Business Finland: An international trainee's perspective

All successful organizations have one thing in common – diversity and inclusion. Diversity in the workplace is critical for business success and it shapes the company's culture and values. Business Finland's international trainee Meenu Chauhan shares her views on the topic.
Meenu Chauhan

Talent Boost trainee

Finnish work culture is all about independent work and freedom. I absolutely adore these aspects as they make Finnish culture stand out among other cultures. I have studied and resided in Finland for over six years now and at the moment I am working as a Talent Boost Trainee in the Work in Finland Unit.

Even though six years may sound like a lot of time but it’s not enough to completely understand any culture. Joining Business Finland turned out to be a bit overwhelming in the beginning as it can for anyone with limited knowledge about the know-hows of another culture. With constant struggle to fit-in and without the knowledge the ´basics´ it can be easy to feel lost.

My team members in the Work in Finland unit have done their best to involve me into the work. I think it was easier for my team members to understand my challenges, as in Work in Finland Unit we are responsible for international talent attraction, retention, and their integration. Diversity is in the core of Talent boost work. 

What does diversity mean?

Diversity is a complex topic, and the definition of diversity varies from person to person. Being an international and after working on various Talent Boost projects for some years now, I believe that organizational diversity is not just limited to hiring internationals and communicating in English at workplace. Diversity is incomplete without the inclusion and integration of the international workforce into the company´s culture.

Inclusion and integration are important factors to create a deeper sense of belongingness

When an employee feels that they are part of a team, their opinion matters, their work can create impact and when they can truly connect themselves to the mission and goals of the organization, only then can an organization be called diverse and inclusive in a true sense.

What can we do to positively impact diversity and inclusion?

Since most of the communication in the workplace is limited to work related matters, it can be hard for any team members to understand the different cultures around them. While communicating with colleagues every team member should bear in mind at least these simple guidelines:

1. Acknowledge the different backgrounds

Every team member should feel respected regardless of gender, religion, race, cultural background, home country, and sexual orientation. Always use neutral and genderless language.

2. Close language gaps and pay attention to vocabulary used

Language, accent, vocabulary, and slang play a big part in a conversation. Consider that not all phrases or sayings translate well among different cultures or generations. What’s culturally acceptable for one may not be acceptable for another. 

3. Most importanly: ask and listen

We perceive things differently and even set expectations for others which we might not be even aware of. There are a lot of  `default & unsaid rules´  in every culture which an international quite possibly may not be aware of. As there is no written code, internationals just rely on their observation skills, but observations can go wrong in many ways.

On an organizational level, leaders and HR department plays a crucial role in setting the tone for a highly functioning diverse workplace, promoting non-discriminatory work environment, and determining the culture and values of an organization.

An efficient diversity and inclusion strategy, timely discussions and culture sensitivity training can significantly change the overall cultural quality of the organization.

Even if you’re not a part of the HR or management team, you can still do your best to be culturally aware. Communicate with your international colleagues and not just work-related topics but try to get to know them better: ask questions, practice active listening, and most importantly, listen without forming any judgments.

As Microsoft's Global Diversity and Inclusion manager, Gwen Houston once said, "Building an inclusive organization is not just about the diversity scorecard data we track to measure our progress. It is as much about our attitude and behaviors as leaders and having a sense of empathy for the different experiences that people go through.”

Read more about working in Business Finland