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Blog 22.04.2021

Attracting International Talent Through World-class Workplace Culture

When it comes to workplace culture, Egbert Schram has the experience and the data to help companies increase both productivity and worker satisfaction.
CEO of Hofstede Insights
Egbert Schram

"Workplace culture is to business as oil is to an engine. Without oil, even the most superb engine components will jam, just as excellent individual employees cannot excel without the smooth ointment of an enabling workplace culture."

While the most recent data has shown positive results for foreign direct investment in Finland during the pandemic, Finland as a Business Location Barometer showed us that sustainable business growth in the future will continue to depend on attracting highly-skilled foreign workers.

The report also indicated that Finland can attract talent by leaning on its reputation for providing a satisfying work-life balance and extensive workplace benefits. We asked Egbert Schram, CEO of Hofstede Insights, what companies in Finland can do to attract and keep the best talent in a fiercely competitive global environment – especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Non-financial benefits attract talent too

The unprecedented changes that have impacted workplaces over the past year can be seen as an opportunity to further improve company culture, Schram points out. Many companies have taken an economic hit, but they still need to address the important question of how to attract and retain top talent.

Schram and his team study how employees in different national cultures have distinct values and priorities that can addressed by an employer. In Finland, for example, long-term career prospects are not as important to individual employees as are other factors, such as job security and predictability. This contrasts with some other countries, like Germany and Japan, where long-term career prospects are important to employees.

This is partly due to socio-economic factors. In Finland, the rate of youth unemployment is high (16.4% for 2020) and younger generations feel they stand to earn less than previous generations, and that they have less contractual security. Schram calls this "a massive trauma" that must be recognized and addressed by employers.

Providing workers with predictability can be seen as a non-monetary benefit to attract talent. Schram, for example, gives all of his workers a permanent contract after the initial trial period.

Stability and predictability can also translate into more flexibility for the company itself. By offering benefits – such as allowing employees to work from home, paid internet and phone subscriptions, meal vouchers, etc. – in lieu of a higher salary, a company can improve its bottom line. Employees gain too, as benefits are often subject to a lower tax rate than salary, and working from home saves on commuting and other costs. The result for the company is more financial flexibility in times of disruption, while employees enjoy security and predictability.

Build a culture of trust and empowerment

Schram points out two prerequisites for this kind of work environment: strong trust and effective management.

Trust translates into employees being empowered to self manage. Paradoxically, companies must also have employees whose sole task is to manage people. The distinction, Schram says, lies in the definition of management.

"A manager is like a garbage man," says Schram. "The manager should take away anything that prevents employees from doing their jobs and should focus on having a longer-term view to ensure that working practices remain relevant 3-5 years from now. It is a cost that must be budgeted, but that will bring long-term productivity and savings."

On effective management, Schram says the most hands-on management is often the most hands-off approach. This means that (especially in Finland) managers should learn to not do certain things and should rather enable team members to do them.

Work is, of course, more than an activity done in exchange for wages; it is also about connection and cohesion. Schram emphasizes that a company must build an infrastructure of touch points – including both virtual and physical meeting places – where employees can come together for a sense of belonging and to discuss matters of mutual importance.

Finland is prepared to handle the change

"One thing we've learned from Covid-19 in the business community is that people can adjust easily," says Schram.

The dramatic change in workplace norms made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that people can change overnight when it makes sense to do so, and when they are in an environment in which they will not be judged for behaving differently. For small and large companies alike, re-thinking the workplace can bring benefits to both employees and employers – resulting in more satisfaction and productivity.

Fortunately, Finland was and still is well prepared for the challenges of a global crisis. Many functions were already online before restrictions came into effect, and many workplaces, public service and school systems were prepared to tackle the challenges of remote operations. Statistically, international talent is drawn to Finland for an excellent work-life balance and a smooth-running, high-trust society that fosters a healthy life for employees and their families.

The content is created together with Amcham Finland.