www . hamk . fi

Career planning:
Finnish labour market
and professional life
Salla Niittymäki
Project Manager / Pajatso Project
HAMK University of Applied Sciences
0400 127 815
Working in Finland guides
• Guide to working in Finland by the national labour
market confederations of Finland:
• Ready for working life - a guide for students by AKAVA
• Working in Finland guide by Ministry of Employment and
the Economy: http://www.teservices.fi/te/en/jobseekers/work_finland/index.html
Finnish economy
Finland has gained a strong position as a technological forerunner.
The main industries are electronics, metal, wood and paper industries.
The main export industries are metal and transport products, pulp and paper products and
chemical products
The role of service industries is becoming quickly more and more
Finland is undergoing a period, when the baby-boom generations are
retiring. This means a downturn in the supply of labour.
Job creations in anticipated to be especially strong in healthcare and social
work and in the services that support business life. Finland will also need
new entrepreneurs.
Most of the job vacancies in Finland are in the retail, service and industrial
work professions.
Finnish working life
• Finnish working life has changed rapidly and in a multitude of ways:
traditional tasks require an ever-increasing number of new skills and
• Employees are expected to be highly educated and constantly
updating their skills
• There are several different careers during life
– 85 % of employment relationships are based on a permanent contract
– Short-term employment has become more common
– Part-time work is not yet as common as it is elsewhere in Europe (more
than 10 % of employees)
• Unemployment rate is 8-10 %
• 39 000 foreign jobseekers
• The average monthly salary for men 3 340 € and for women 2 740
Segmentation of Member companies of the Federation of
Finnish Technology Industries:
Lot of
Trade Unions
• Approximately 80% of Finns are members of a trade union. The
International Labour organization (ILO) has ranked Finnish unions as
amongst the most effective in the world.
• The main purpose of a union is to safeguard and improve the benefits
and rights of its members. This includes, for example, income
development, employment security, and quality of work life.
• Students can join trade unions as student members and benefit from
various membership services, for example get salary counseling and
work search advising.
• Tradenomiliitto (Union of Professional Business Graduates in Finland)
is the most common trade union for business students
• Uusi Insinööriliitto (Union of Professional Engineers in Finland) for
engineering students.
Finnish professional life and
professional culture
Source: www.worldbusinessculture.com
Communication style
Communication style is formal. Finns do not engage in much small talk and
prefer people to speak succinctly, not to discuss themselves or their
interests, focusing primarily on work related issues.
Finns are limited communicators but very proficient in foreign languages –
the fear of making mistakes limits their communication
Silence is golden in Finland; do not feel the need to fill every silence that
occurs in a meeting.
Body language and feedback are limited and difficult to read. Do not be too
disheartened if your presentation does not meet with the rapturous
applause you had anticipated.
Don’t be overly enthusiastic about your proposals. It is necessary to look at the
possible downsides before succumbing to optimism. Some would call it pessimism,
but Finns think it as realism.
Finns are direct and prefer to get down to business quickly. They say what they think
and expect you to do the same.
Maintain eye contact while speaking.
Management style
and decision making
• Finns support a collaborative and participative management style.
• Low hierarchy and little, if any, antagonism between grass root level
and management.
• Finns like to know exactly the perimeters of their responsibilities and
will expect to be allowed to take the decisions which fall naturally
within those perimeters.
• “Official” decisions tend to be taken in a collegiate style by a small
group of senior managers. These major decision making processes
can take a long time.
• “Smaller” decisions can be made quickly and implemented as
• Finns are very concerned with quality.
Time management
• Finland is a controlled-time culture, and
adherence to schedules is important and
• In Finland missing a deadline is a sign of poor
management and inefficiency, and will shake
people’s confidence.
• Punctuality is important!
Time management and meetings
• Meetings can seem strange affairs to people not familiar
with Finland or the Finns - long but quiet.
• Meetings are well-structured, follow a pre-set agenda
and are orderly with one person speaking at a time often seeking permission to speak through the Chair.
• People will be well prepared, as you are not expected to
speak unless you have something concrete to
• Finns tend less towards consensus than their Nordic
cousins, expecting individuals to take responsibility
Working together
• Building relationships with co-workers
– Relationship building often takes place outside the office: in a
restaurant or the sauna. Never turn down an invitation to use the
sauna, as it is an entrenched part of the Finnish culture and an
important part of relationship building. There will be minimal, if
any, small talk.
• Team work
– Finns are more individualist than collectivist
– But still comfortable working in teams
– Finnish idea of team-working would tend to be that of a group of
capable individuals being given the opportunity to complete welldefined tasks which, when put together, will enable the team to
reach its goals.
Other things to notice
• Dress code: a wide variety of styles and levels of formality
can be observed – observe how your colleagues dress.
• Employees have been very loyal to employers with little
job-hopping taking place (specially in smaller
• The Finnish working culture is based on equality.
• Women have historically played a major role in business
life and women are found in the most senior positions in
large Finnish companies.
• Diligence, individuality and initiative are highly valued,
together with strict observance of agreements and agreed
Code of conduct
• Many companies have a code of conduct,
which explains the principles of how how
to behave in different situations when
working in the company
• See HAMK code of conduct: