The traditional FRS seminar on international mobility was held on Thursday May 12th in the main cabinet of the famed Savoy restaurant. The lofty cabinet gave a beautiful view of sunny Esplanadi, which was decorated with the Finnish flag in honor of the Finnish Identity Day. The house was full of men and women dealing with the recruitment and management of international professionals in a number of diverse companies and organizations.
Our seminar was opened by director-general Jorma Vuorio, who is responsible for the immigration department of the Ministry of Interior. According to his data the amount of foreigners both in the general populace and proportionally in the workforce has increased in Finland despite the economic fluctuation. Almost three quarters of the over 20,000 residence permits granted last year were granted on the basis of work, family, or studies.
The current government’s (Sipilä 2015-) immigration policy states, that Finland will seek to increase work-based immigration. Although this is generally viewed as a positive thing, the policy of labor market testing will be continued primarily as it currently stands. It must be noted however, that the policy of labor market testing only deals with work-based residence permits, not the so-called specialist’s permit application process.
Mr. Vuorio also told us about the oncoming “Investors, entrepreneurs, and specialists” initiative that aims to create a quick and smooth residence permit system serving these three groups in slightly over a year. The definitions and legislations dealing with specialists is to be updated to match the needs of today. Currently there are no applicable residence permits to investors or entrepreneurs in Finland, and the initiative will look into the possibility of creating such a permit. In addition, the Ministry of the Interior has awoken to the growth potential hidden in particular in technology- and innovation-based startups. The business environment of these companies is fast-paced and they compete globally for the same resources. It is great to see that public officials have the desire to stay on the cutting edge.
Our second speaker was Alexei Koveshnikov, PhD from the Aalto University. Koveshnikov’s career is built on the international mobility of talent. Under his guidance we delved into the theories of cultural adjustment and gained concrete information on the global trends of working abroad. One of these is the increasingly clarified role that spouses and families play in the success of foreign assignments and work. We also discussed the support role of the receiving organization’s employees, as well as methods with which the host country nationals could be involved in the settling-in process of a foreign employee.
Cultural adjustment is a complex and challenging process, and one which has been extensively studied. Often these studies come to the conclusion, that the support features companies have in place are oversimplified. One of Alexei Koveshnikov’s students is currently writing her Master’s thesis for us on the subject of the adjustment of spouses of foreign employees in Finland, and how this influences the employee’s enjoyment of his work and his new home country. Expect to hear more on this in the near future!
At the end of the event we heard from our clients, both the employees and their spouses, about their experiences and thoughts on moving to Finland and living here. Four of our clients, all coming from very different cultural backgrounds and companies ranging from local startups to international corporations, shared their personal experiences. The interesting panel was composed of Alexandar Markovic, Lillian Jiang, David Fornué and Adriana Godoy. This group shared with the audience of HR-professionals invaluable advice on what to consider when dealing with foreign professionals and how they can be better attracted to Finland. The ones with families spoke highly of the outstanding school system of Finland and all panelists praised the Finns’ language skills. We also heard humorous real life examples of how different working- and gender roles between Finland and the previous country of residence conflicted and finally were resolved. The most important message to the employers was clearly, that foreigners appreciate Finland as a country, Finns as people, and the assistance and support their employers provided them with during the immigration process.
Our seminar this spring was a resounding success, and based on the input from the attendees was extremely useful for their work. We will continue our tradition of breakfast seminars in the future with interesting and topical matters. If you are interested in something in particular, please let us know. We will gladly accept good ideas and implement them as possible!