Should you turn your team international?
I had drifted into a very exciting situation a few years ago. A couple of years after my graduation, I was leading a 12-person team on a 100% Finnish web company. We were recruiting a new web programmer and by far the best applicant was an Englishman. What to do?
There are no textbook choices for situations like these, so I decided to put it out for open discussion with our team.
“How would you feel about working in English?”“Well, we can at least try it out…”
(We had a strong culture of trying things out back then. Inspect & Adapt, as the agile dudes say.)
When I think about it no, it feels like a no-brainer to me. Finns tend to be great English speakers, although we can be a bit timid about our skills. Finland is quite a small market, so many Finnish companies pursue international growth (this was also the case for our company). Turning your own team international feels like the natural first step for going international, but still our original choice was to put job ads out in Finnish, because it felt… easier I quess. So I have Google Translate to thank for the enlightening experience that started.
So we turned our team international and saw a shift on our culture. Suddenly we were an international company and international customers didn’t feel so distant anymore. Suddenly we had new kinds of POVs present on problem-solving. We even had a more alluring company in the eyes of new job candidates – we started getting more applications from Finns and international talents. And went on to hire more of both soon.
We can really benefit from the distinct personalities, different kinds of skills and diversity that international talents can bring to local Finnish companies. What’s great about this relationship is that it benefits both sides – the internationals and the local business. That’s why I’m striving to get our story around and open people’s minds.
Aleksi is a startup entrepreneur at Agendium Ltd (www.agendium.com), an active participant on the Talent Tampere and Tampere All Bright! Ambassadors -networks and an advocate for diversity and online collaboration tools.