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We must create a tech industry that puts people first

We must create a tech industry that puts people first 1

By Ulla Hiekkanen-Mäkelä, Head of TalentBoost, Business Finland

With the race for innovation well and truly on, recruitment of specialised tech talent has never been more important for businesses wanting to stay ahead. Competition, however, is fierce with organisations now needing to work harder than ever to not only attract the right employees, but successfully retain them to assist with future growth. The pandemic has been a key driving force encouraging many employees to review their employment options – in fact, 2021 signalled the great resignation – a year when workers quit their jobs at historic rates. This, combined with the wealth of exciting technology start-ups, means that we are now seeing a momentous reshuffle of talent across the globe.

Finding the right talent is quickly becoming like gold dust. And now, more than ever, we must create a tech industry that puts people first in order to pave the way for innovation. My role in attracting talent to Finland has given me a unique insight into how a broad range of companies are leading the charge in this area and it has become increasingly apparent to me that success lies in focusing on a people-centric approach. But this means digging deeper than just the aesthetics – after all, talent attraction and retention is much more than trendy office spaces with ping pong tables and a complimentary fruit bowl. Here I wanted to share my three biggest learnings…

  1. Getting the work-life balance right

If we have learnt one thing from the pandemic it is that our home lives are so important. Working from home during lockdowns has truly shifted the work-life balance into focus and providing a good one is rapidly becoming table stakes for businesses wanting to attract talent. Businesses should consider how they can truly invest in the wellbeing of their employees.
For example, in Finland, regular working times allow employees time for family or free-time activities. Finnish companies also invest in free gyms or subsidised sports club memberships for their staff to keep them active.

The way in which businesses support employees and their families is vital – after all, we all have personal lives, and these should be considered carefully by the tech industry. Ways in which this can be done include offering generous family leave for parents or support with childcare. In Finland, all children are entitled to high-quality municipal daycare and affordable early childhood education allowing parents to return to work without worrying about daycare fees. What’s more, by law working parents can take care of their sick child until he/she turns 10 years with many companies offering childcare for sick children as an employment benefit. This idea of caring for families – that is so intrinsic to the Finnish way of working – is extremely important to ensuring equal opportunities for all including women with young children, as they are empowered and encouraged to continue to build their careers whilst still being able to raise a family.

  1. Focusing on partnerships and collaboration

When considering a people-centric approach to business, collaboration is key. Companies should be putting themselves at the forefront of innovation – finding their specialist area and collaborating with others to solve a problem and drive their industry forward. Finland, for example, has a strong ecosystem in developing quantum technologies, among many other areas in ICT and technology. Whilst Finland’s expertise in super cold environments is beneficial, it has been the partnerships and collaborations formed that have really underpinned its success. Universities, centres of excellence in research, startups and government are working hand-in-hand building world-leading applications and technologies. One example is IQM Quantum Computers, a technology spinoff from Aalto University. Multinational teams, including scientists and engineers from various countries, all contribute to the success of IQM. As a result, the Finnish quantum technology ecosystem is well connected internationally and has received significant funding from both EU and international investors.

Rather than waiting for a solution – Finnish companies make sure they are one step ahead, finding an alternative or innovation to solve the problem. Take the recent global chip shortage for example – rather than suffer from the shortage, Finnish companies have joined together to attract chip design professionals to Finland and teamed up with universities to educate future professionals in this field.

  1. Promoting international recruitment

The pandemic, amongst other things, caused work-based relocation globally to slow down in 2021. However, it should certainly not be off the cards for businesses when it comes to recruiting new talent. In Finland, we actually saw an uptick last year – with the Finnish Immigration Service receiving more applications for a residence permit on the basis of work than ever before. During the pandemic, remote working became the norm and with it, we quickly realised that working from anywhere can be possible with the right infrastructures and processes in place. For example, in Finland, the ICT and technologies companies are multinational and multicultural, with more and more employers investing in diversity and multicultural training. This has allowed Finnish companies to hire ICT specialists in India and other countries, by finding solutions where the new recruits start working remotely, or if the company has an office or subsidiary in India, the role has started there.

The Finnish government, chambers of commerce,  trade associations and cities are also encouraging companies to recruit international talents. They are making it easier by making training, services and funding available for companies, which take steps in hiring international talent. In addition, the government is making changes to legislation and speeding up the work permit and residence permit process, to fulfil the demands of the industry sectors.

The pandemic boosted digitalisation in every sector: remote working, digital schooling, online shopping, digital healthcare services, just to name a few. And this has increased the demand for automated services and software development across the globe. When it comes to hardware, the disruptions in the global value chain have resulted in a search for new channels, the application of new solutions and rapid automation. Today the opportunities for businesses in tech to grow and innovate are immense but it can only be successful if people are put at the heart of these growth plans.

By focusing on employee wellbeing, collaboration and thinking outside the box on how to attract global talent, the tech industry – and the businesses that operate within it – can stand a chance in today’s innovation race, where competition is hotter than ever.

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