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The World at Finland's Doorstep – Sneak Peek to Busting the Myths of Foreign Talent with Bruce Oreck

Uutinen   •   Touko 04, 2016 13:50 EEST

Bruce Oreck served as the United States Ambassador to Finland from 2009 until 2015. Currently Oreck is an Executive in Residence at Aalto University in Helsinki focusing on business and entrepreneurship. Known for his views on promoting inclusion of foreign talent into the Finnish workforce he was invited as the keynote speaker at FIBS´ and Posti Group´s seminar Maahanmuuton myyttien purkutalkoot, (Busting the Myths of Foreign Talent ). FIBS met with Mr. Oreck to get a head start on the topic.

More and more foreign students are coming to Finland to do a degree. However, many are leaving after graduation. What will Finland lose if we don’t take advantage of our highly educated foreign talent?

If they don’t stay Finland loses everything it has invested in them. Look at the United States. Why is it that so much of what defined the 20th century and now the 21st century was invented there? (Television, nuclear power, solar panels, personal computers, the internet, cellular phones, Google, Facebook, You Tube – just to name a very few.) It´s not that the people are smarter, superior or better educated in the U.S. Rather it is that America is a country of continuous immigration - a true melting pot of cultures. It is the mix of ideas and people and the push and pull of cultures that creates the new. No business is vibrant or sustainable without people from different backgrounds.

We have witnessed a record braking flow of people into Europe. Should companies be stepping in and taking responsibility over the growing migration population in Finland?

Look, it is important to distinguish between the refugee problems and business immigration. In the long run companies that don’t embrace proactive internationalization across their organization will not prosper. Companies have a duty to their shareholders to grow and succeed. Internationalization serves those goals. Moreover, diversity cannot be just window dressing, it should be in the company’s DNA. In the end it’s the ideas that matter, not the origin of people.

We often hear about what makes integration into the Finnish culture difficult, but in what ways does Finland have an edge in the competition for foreign talent?

What’s compellingly good about Finland is it´s beautiful nature, clean water & air, a society that’s honest and open and the wonderful education system. These are very significant assets when companies are looking to recruit foreign talent. Finland has all the fundamental building blocks right and no lack of good ideas or creativity. But, Finland seems wedded to rules and bureaucracies that cannot keep pace in a world where everything is moving faster than ever before. Just look how fast companies like AirBnb or Uber have disrupted older business models. The luxury of long studies, or “getting back later” simply is no longer a workable business condition. Finland has shackled itself with rules and laws that no longer serve it in this century. For example, the world is open 24/7 but Finland is basically out of business two days a week. If you ask any entrepreneur what is the biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur in Finland, they will answer Finland’s rules, not the lack of passion, good ideas or hard work.

Our event on 13th of May will be all about busting the myths of foreign talent and migration. Which immigration myth do we Finns need to most desperately bust?

Businesses should ask themselves two simple questions. First, do they want/need talent? Second, does all talent reside in Finland? If the answer to the first is yes and to the latter no, then recruiting foreign talent is a clear goal and it is time to reexamine one’s biases. Further, language shouldn’t be a barrier. There are 5 million people in the world who speak Finnish and 7 billion who do not. If businesses let talented people with good ideas slip away just because they cannot speak Finnish, those businesses (and Finland itself) will find itself more isolated from the world and global opportunities.

Many companies would like to benefit from people with different backgrounds in order to be more innovative or to help find new markets. What tips or solutions would you give a Finnish company thinking about hiring a foreigner?

Just do it! There are so many areas were Finland could be the world leader and attract the most talented people on the globe. Yet there are so many ways Finland is blocking its own success. For example, the famous management consultant Tom Peters asserts that the formula for business success is no longer, “ready, aim, fire,” but rather needs to be, “ready, fire, aim.” That is what Finland should do too – aim and plan less, do more. Only by trying and testing we can find functioning solutions.It is not about perfection, but rather iteration. Just take a look at Apples iOS - It´s 9.3.1, not iOS 1. Do it, launch it, iterate it. Finland is a democracy with only 5 million people, it should be blindingly fast in adapting to best practices. Instead of being the sick man of Europe Finland it could be the country to watch.

Interview and photo: Tuuli Nummelin,

Learn more on how to build diverse and multicultural work communities and better utilize the potential of highly educated international talents at FIBS´s upcoming seminar Maahanmuuton myyttien purkutalkoot. More Information: Riina Kasurinen, Manager, riina.kasurinen(a)

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