Diversity and a look into the HR mirror

The workforce in Finland is internationalising. New studies, by YLE, Helsinki University and other groups have found that there are several problems which come with this diversification.

• issues with the Finnish language
• issues with pay inequality
• issues with retention

Working around the globe has its benefits. One of the benefits I personally experience is being exposed to a variety of ways HR around the globe solves issues related to diversity.

One of these things is diversity within HR. In most countries where we do a lot of our consulting work, HR as a function, and especially at a top level, is rather diverse gender wise and age wise.

Not so in Finland. When we restarted the international chapter in 2012, I was the only man, the only one below 30 and the only foreigner. Much as I like to be the poster boy, I did find this to be troublesome because it points out a serious problem with diversity within the HR ranks in Finland.

Research has shown that we like to recruit those we can identify with the most, simply because we are biologically biased to trust those who are like us more.

Given that in Finland most professions appear to have a gender bias (HR mainly Finnish women, Tech mainly Finnish men, etc.) with very little diversity in terms of nationality in boards (95% Nordic, even in “international” Finnish organisations) there appears to be a structural bias in favour of recruiting more of the same people. Which is a problem when you can’t find these people and are forced to look for different people -as the differences scare most people. New initiatives like a job portal for English speaking professions are nice but won´t work if there is no diversity among the recruiters looking for and hiring new talent.

In my last blog post I pointed out that I´m a forester. Forestry provides a wonderful metaphor for diversity. The more diverse a forest stand is, the more likely it is to be able to withstand sudden changes.

For recruiters to be able to recruit people with a non-standard profile, they would need to be able to recognize talent when it stands in front them, even when this talent looks different, writes different, acts different.

In quite a few countries where we have consulted, for recruiters and line managers managing international teams, there was one simple condition. You need a “license to work internationally”. Meaning that if you have never lived and/or worked abroad, you should not be put in a position where you have to evaluate people who are different from the norm – Mentally most people who have only ever lived in the same country, will not be able to be culturally adaptable and sensitive enough to understand the value of non-standard cv´s and diverse work experience can bring.

Long story short – how diverse is your board, your management team, your HR team and your line managers?

Successful diversity does not just happen. And as HR you have the power to start by showing the right example and diversify your HR group.

Egbert Schram

Egbert Schram is a Dutchman, residing in Finland. He acts as the Group CEO of Hofstede Insights, a global cultural advisory, advising individuals, organisations and governments on the impact of culture on work life. Currently having operations in 60+ countries, and a global practice of about 150 people (of which 93% outside of Finland).