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Hiring a non-native speaker into the organization

In our blog series The Multicultural Workplace we have interviewed companies that have embraced a more international work culture here in the Joensuu region. Adapting the company culture to better facilitate non-Finnish speakers and making English the second or even the primary business language allows businesses to tap into the potential of international professionals, grow into the international markets and gain new perspectives.

We sat down with Nigel Kilby and Janika Kinnunen from NK Lexicon Business Services (NKLBS) to discuss the importance of creating more internationally minded workplaces. NKLBS helps Finnish companies in all matters related to the use of English in their business operations. Kilby stresses that everything starts with understanding the importance of being able to communicate and listen to ideas in a common language and recognizing the value that international professionals can bring to a company.

”We are acutely aware of the fact that there is a need to bring workers in from outside of Finland. They will bring with them new ideas, new approaches and that is something of value to any company. I have seen some resistance and rather unrealistic expectations regarding Finnish-language skills when employing people from the outside. This can lead to companies missing out on a wonderful opportunity to bring in people who can look at the same issues from a completely different perspective and bring with them essential skills that cannot currently be supplied by the workforce market in Finland ”

Integration is a joint effort

When hiring a non-native speaker, support will be needed during the recruitment process and after onboarding. Taking the first step in hiring a non-Finnish speaker might be challenging because of the perceived language barrier or even very practical obstacles such as employment contracts, work safety documentation and introduction material being available only in Finnish. The step becomes easier to take, when the company understands the value of bringing in international professionals; That’s when attitudes start to change.

”First and foremost the company needs to understand the importance of the individual they consider employing and then there needs to be a change in the culture within the company”, says Kilby. To successfully make this change and build a more international working culture, Kilby stresses the importance of bringing in a respected third party to facilitate this process.

Adjusting to living and working in a new country is challenging, and the employer should consider what the company can do to facilitate integration. As we Finns are still famous for being shy to use our – often good – language skills and small talk isn’t really our strong point, it is important to coach both the Finnish team members and the new international addition to the company. The team needs to understand the added value of the new employee and get some encouragement to communicate in English. On the other hand, when communicating with their new Finnish colleagues foreign employees can feel excluded unless they build an understanding of the Finnish culture and communication style.

”It’s about making the individual feel welcome in the company. That their colleagues are actually glad that they are there”, says Kilby.

When the welcoming attitude is there, taking care of the administration becomes less daunting. With the help of professional translation services all the documentation and introduction material  needed to onboard the new employee can be translated into English. Leadership plays an important role in creating a positive workplace culture of equality, diversity and inclusion.

When we discuss the future of worklife here in Finland, Kilby simply wishes that in the future there wouldn’t be a need to have this conversation. Increasing the use of English at workplaces plays a key role in tapping into the potential of international professionals, while they are still getting settled in and learning Finnish.

”This needs to be made a priority and in the end it’s just a matter of implementation”, says Kilby.

Janika Kinnunen (left) and Nigel Kilby help Finnish companies in all matters related to the use of the English language in their business operations.

About NK Lexicon Business Services:  NKLBS provides various tailored services, including coaching of company employees to become more relaxed and more confident in using English in their company’s business operations in abroad markets, consultation and help with the preparation and submission of EU business grant applications and translating and editing company documents and web pages.

Companies in the Joensuu region interested in hiring international talent can also turn to Business Joensuu and Luotsi Joensuu.

Text: Anne-Maria Kankaisto