5 December 2016

Diversity includes differences among employees in age, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, family situation, work ability, disability, language, religion, or ideology.

“Work communities in Finland are very diverse, and will become more and more so as immigration increases,” states Senior Adviser Barbara Bergbom from FIOH.

Diversity enriches the perspectives of work communities. HR professionals estimated that it has a positive impact on relationships among colleagues, especially through increased variety and tolerance.

Diversification is also a feature of the clients and co-operative partners of organizations. A diverse personnel has the capacity to offer high-quality services to its clients and stakeholders.

Common language is a top priority

The language skills of employees with immigrant backgrounds have a complex impact on the activities of an organization, and may create challenges for occupational safety and communications. Poor language skills may also hamper employees’ possibilities to learn new things and advance their careers.

Most respondents felt that improving the Finnish skills of immigrants should receive more attention: “Finnish language skills are crucial. As are knowing Finnish culture and understanding its values,” a participant of the survey stated.

On the other hand, the respondents pointed out that an increasing number of clients also have immigrant backgrounds. This change in clientele should also be taken into account in the organization’s operations, e.g. in its recruitment policy.

Clash of generations

“The representatives of different generations sometimes seem to speak different languages, and reaching a common understanding can be a challenge,” Bergbom notes.

“But the skills of older and younger employees can complement each other, and in the best case scenario, they can teach each other and bring different perspectives to work and how to develop it. As an HR professional put it: “The meeting of the generation that wears hats indoors and the generation that still prints their e-mails creates a positive energy boost in the work community.

Better self-management skills required of everyone

HR professionals consider self-management skills and general IT skills to be the most important areas in need of development in organizations.

“As many as 73 per cent of the respondents stated that self-management skills needed at least some development,” says Researcher Minna Toivanen from FIOH. “However, for immigrants, the most important area for development is Finnish/Swedish language skills.”

HR professionals hope to see management and supervisors committing to and taking more responsibility for the management and utilization of diversity. The whole issue cannot be left to the HR department; rather, diversity should be visible in the activities and operations of the entire organization.

The Diversity Barometer records the views of HR professionals concerning the state of diversity at Finnish workplaces. The study covered diversity-related areas such as age, gender, family situation, ethnic background, language background, sexual orientation, disability, partial work ability, religion, and ideology. A total of 255 HR professionals participated in the Diversity Barometer. The barometer was implemented as an online survey in early 2016 in co-operation with Henry ry and KT Local Government Employers. It was previously conducted in 2007 and 2011. New themes in 2016 include career advancement and competence. The Diversity Barometer is a part of the Compatibility of competence and work at the multi-cultural workplace (Osaamisen ja työn yhteensopivuus monikulttuuristuvilla työpaikoilla) project, which is funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund. Twitter #moniosaa

Further information

Senior Adviser Barbara Bergbom, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 43 824 3765, barbara.bergbom[at]ttl.fi

Project Manager, Researcher Minna Toivanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 43 824 4506, minna.toivanen[at]ttl.fi

Senior Researcher Ari Väänänen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 40 582 4540, ari.vaananen[at]ttl.fi

Research report: Monimuotoisuusbarometri 2016 – Fokuksessa monikulttuurisuus ja osaaminen, Barbara Bergbom, Minna Toivanen, Auli Airila, Ari Väänänen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2016.

See also: Well-being at work for foreign-born entrepreneurs (2015–2017)