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The Business Lead Programme adds diversity to our people and culture

Adding diversity to our people and culture

The Business Lead Programme is an award-winning initiative run by Hanken & SSE Executive Education. It aims at integrating highly educated immigrants

The Business Lead Programme is an award-winning initiative.

— The Business Lead Programme changed my life, says Jacqueline Weinberg, a Tax and Accounting specialist originally from Brazil, who now works as a Tax & Legal Senior at KPMG. She joined the Programme to learn about Finnish business life and, ultimately, just to get a job.

KPMG joined the Programme with two motives in mind: it allowed KPMG to promote social responsibility in practice and added diversity to our people and culture. Only a small minority of our employees are currently other than native Finnish or Swedish speakers. 

— We need to understand different backgrounds and business cultures in order to serve our clients in the best possible way, points out Eija Mylläri, Tax & Legal Senior Manager. It was her team that welcomed Jacqueline as an intern last summer.

Stepping out of the comfort zone

Jacqueline felt she had to start all over again as she moved to Finland. She was an experienced professional with an international career, but she had never been an immigrant before – nor unemployed. She found it hard to enter the job market as a non-fluent Finnish speaker.

— The program was a big opportunity for me, she says. 

At first, she felt totally out of her comfort zone, however.

— I felt like an elephant in a china shop on my first day at KPMG. I was even afraid to walk, since it was so silent at the office! But I very much wanted to learn about Finnish business life and make a contribution myself, she recalls.

— Hiring a foreigner means that the employer must step out of the comfort zone, too. The newcomer needs to be open-minded and willing to learn and network. But the company also has to adjust to different working styles and business cultures. After all, it takes two to tango, adds Eija.

Practising what we preach concerning diversity

So how can a company help newcomers to integrate? In Eija’s view, the best way is to let them follow how the incumbents do their work in practice. An experienced newcomer is able to ask insightful questions and make perceptive comments, thus providing added value for the team almost immediately.

Jacqueline appreciated trainings that were available in English and the well-structured induction process. It was important for her to learn about the company and to know whom she should ask for advice.

— I felt very well supported, both emotionally and in practical matters, she says, but admits nevertheless that she was very anxious at the beginning to get down to some serious work and show the value she could add to the team during her three-month internship.

— Originally, we didn’t have a vacancy in our team, but when we read Jacqueline’s CV and realized what vast experience she has, we wanted to see how much she could contribute. We were also eager to get a team member from South America. We now have five different nationalities in our team and Jacqueline fits in very well, says Eija.

Eija and Jacqueline agree that having employees with diverse backgrounds and perspectives is a big asset.

— Diversity boosts innovation, and all companies need innovation. It’s easy to preach about the need for diversity in theory, but we also need to practise what we preach – both as individuals and as companies, notes Jacqueline.