Vaasan yliopiston alumni Tiia-Maria Kinnula työskentelee Employer Branding Specialistina Wärtsilässä.

Employer Branding Specialist, alumna Tiia-Maria Kinnula: “Offer international students internships and you will get highly committed employees”

Sini Heinoja
Jonna Elomaa
Wärtsilä, a company that is leading decarbonisation in the global marine and energy markets, is investing heavily in recruiting international talent. Why is that? Employer Branding Specialist Tiia-Maria Kinnula who studied human resource management at the University of Vaasa has the answer.
“The more diversity, the better results, decisions and ideas you get.”

– The more diversity – in terms of nationalities, educational backgrounds, genders and so on – the better results, decisions and ideas you get, explains Kinnula.

An internship at Wärtsilä has been a stepping stone to an international career for many, including our alumnae Freeha Hussain and Adriana de la Garza Musi. In 2021, the company received an honourable mention in a campaign on responsible summer jobs for opportunities to international students.

Wärtsilä has more than 200 locations in 68 countries and globally, the company employs 139 nationalities. In the Finnish locations alone, the number of different nationalities is 61. So, there is definitely a long history of international activities within the company.  

Offer an international student an internship – get new perspectives in return

For a company that has no experience in international recruitment yet, internships and work trials are quite risk-free ways to increase international skills and diversity in the work community. Both the employer and the trainee will benefit from an internship.

– If you allow an international talent to show their skills and gain work experience locally, it is important to the employee, but it will also benefit your company. You will gain new perspectives and ideas and see how it works.

“People who come to Finland to study and get their first job opportunity with us here are very committed.”

At Wärtsilä, offering internships to international students has proved to be a way of getting highly committed employees.

– People who come to Finland to study and get their first job opportunity with us here are very committed, to begin with. We give them a chance to show what they can do and don't nitpick about language skills, for example. They are active and truly loyal employees who want to develop their workplace and take themselves forward and end up making a career with us. It's really nice to see that they usually stay for a long time.

On the other hand, Kinnula thinks that you should not hesitate to do an internship even if there is no permanent job available afterwards. It is always easier to find a job when you already have work experience in Finland.

Is recruitment based on skills or assumptions?

Many international talents feel that it is difficult for them to get job interviews in Finland, even if they have relevant education and valuable work experience in their own country.

According to Kinnula, one of the reasons for this can be unconscious assumptions that people may have.

– People don`t usually think that they are biased or discriminative. We like to believe we are objective, but that is not usually the case and it is also the company’s responsibility to ensure that the hiring managers understand what being truly objective means and how to identify issues that affect decision-making without your knowledge. Managers may relate to a person and select them for that reason.

The solution is to increase training and awareness. At Wärtsilä, the fact that the teams already are international also helps in recruiting others as you can get insight from specialists from other countries. Without any experience, it can be difficult to recognise or relate to the skills of international talents from the point of view of the recruiter.  

“We should help students see how to approach employers in Finland and how they could stand out from the crowd.”

On the other hand, the cultures of job-seeking differ from one country to another.

 – I talk about this with students a lot. We should help them see how to approach employers in Finland and how they could stand out from the crowd, says Kinnula.

Kinnula also points out that skills may not be best shown in traditional recruitment processes with applications and interviews. She would like to shake up the traditional recruitment process in Finland. A good example is utilising hackathons that have helped students get summer jobs in the Vaasa region.

English as the company's working language is an advantage in recruiting international talent

Language requirements are one of the stumbling blocks that an international talent can easily encounter when looking for work.

At Wärtsilä, the working language is English which is a huge advantage in recruiting international talent. In some positions, Finnish or Swedish skills are also required, but the job adverts clearly describe the language requirements. However, there must be good grounds for other language requirements, and sometimes you can be flexible with them if the candidate is otherwise good for the task.

– Here in the office you hear a wide range of languages because there are usually many people who speak the same language and then at times switch to their native language. It can be Finnish, Swedish or something else.

Different cultures are also reflected in small talk. For example, while Finns tend to go straight to the point, an international colleague may start the discussion by asking how you are doing and what you did during the weekend.

– It's really fun to see because I'm also such a straight-to-the-point type of person. It's nice when someone genuinely asks how you are, Kinnula smiles.

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one is watching” – Verná Myers

From diversity to belonging

Wärtsilä is ahead of many other Finnish workplaces in the diversity of the staff and the positive attitude towards it. Different languages and cultures are a natural part of the everyday work-life there, so international projects and cooperation go smoothly.

Although diversity is a part of everyday life, also a global company like Wärtsilä needs to develop itself.

– If a company thinks that they are all ready when it comes to diversity and inclusion, they are in trouble. I feel that you can never be ready in matters that are related to identifying skills and finding talent because the world is in constant change.

Nowadays, in addition to diversity and inclusion, we also talk about belonging. Kinnula explains the terminology with a comparison by Verná Myers:

– ‘Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one is watching’.

– We are now thinking more about how to bring diversity to the point where everyone feels that they belong here.

Did you like the article?