Country Managers praise Finland for its first-class resilience and can-do attitude amidst the global pandemic.
While Covid-19 has posed serious challenges to companies around the world, the Finnish business ecosystem has demonstrated remarkable grace under fire. As the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK surveyed the top international business leaders living in Finland on their experiences of Finland’s management of the Covid-19 crisis, the respondents found, for instance, that Finland has successfully managed the crisis, thus solidifying its reputation as a safe and organized society.
The survey – conducted in the summer – was answered by over 60 respondents holding significant leadership positions in corporations or growth companies based in Finland.
Proven resilience in the crisis may yield intriguing recruiting opportunities, as well. One third of respondents believe that the Covid-19 crisis will have a significant impact on getting foreign talent to Finland in the future. A safe environment and a highly organized and digitalized society are Finland’s unique selling points that can be marketed to foreign talents, the survey finds.
As the AMCHAM Country Manager Network held a webinar in June, the opinion of the 30 country managers – representing big international investors into Finland – largely echoed the findings of the EK survey. In the webinar, the country managers voiced their appreciation that Finland has, so far, managed the Covid-19 crisis well and stayed almost fully operational during the first wave. What’s more, looking at the development of GDP for the European countries in Q2 2020, Finland was clearly the best in the bunch, taking only a minor hit (-3.2%) due to Covid.
According to the country managers, Finland has been considered, in the past, a “peripheral” destination as a regional HQ location by global companies. However, Finland’s success with increasing virtualization of managerial and knowledge work is seen by country managers as a genuine opportunity to change this perception.
Tuomo Haukkovaara, Chairman of the Board, IBM Finland, says that within a big, international player such as IBM, there have been significant differences in coping with coronavirus around the world.
“The best operational capability exists in the Nordics. Elsewhere there have been reports of serious challenges that slow down business,” Haukkovaara says.
Performance-wise, Finland has been at the very top, with Finns taking up remote working in a drop of a hat. Haukkovaara says that the digital savvy of the Finnish workforce has always been very solid – but Covid-19 has pushed it to “the next level”.
“We’ve had these digital tools and connections available to us for quite some time. Now we’ve seen a large-scale deployment of these assets.”
At IBM Finland, the digital approach has taken the company to brave new frontiers: for example, important negotiations have been carried out, from start to finish, without any face-to-face interaction at all.
“This ‘virtual negotiation room’ has worked so well because all our processes from materials acquisition to signatures were already digital.”
Erno Muuranto, Managing Director for GE Healthcare Finland, agrees with his colleague: Finland has really hit the ground running when it comes to dealing with coronavirus. GE Healthcare’s people – both at the plant and at the office – have responded superbly to the challenge, says Muuranto.
“For our Helsinki factory, we hired 200 new people and started working in three shifts. Previously, there were 120-130 people working in just one shift,” Muuranto describes the “huge transition” that the production has experienced recently. As GE Healthcare manufactures several critical products for e.g. hospital intensive care units, this ramp-up has been a key part of the total effort against the virus.
“Despite the magnitude of this transition, we’ve been able to execute it safely.”
Similarly, the GE Healthcare office workers – numbering about 500 in Finland – have taken to remote working extremely well. Working homebased has been highly effective which is something that Muuranto credits, at least in part, to the national character of the Finns:
“It’s a big advantage for us that the workers are so independent and take ownership of their tasks.” Add to this, the required IT skills, digital tools and fast connections, and you have a real winner – also on the international scale.
“Within GE Healthcare, there was a global inhouse recognition in April 2020 when it was reported that the Helsinki operations performed the best in the entire world during that month,” reveals Muuranto.
Antti Aumo, Executive Director of Invest in Finland, believes that the country has world-class talent: smart, empowered and committed.
“Combining this with superb digital infrastructure and performance-oriented corporate culture has enabled international organizations operating in Finland to stay productive during this difficult time,” comments Aumo.
“When the coronavirus outbreak started, the initial discussion in the business world revolved around resilient value chains. I think it is now time to start evaluating resilient business locations – and globally Finland is a top choice,” he concludes.
Executive Director, Invest in Finland
antti.aumo (at) businessfinland.fi
+358 40 5050 477