Accenture aims to be a Great Place to Work

As long as someone has the right skills, the door is wide open. That is how Michael Pegg, Senior Director of Accenture Finland, sums up the company’s recruitment policy. “We are a complex organization with many dimensions,” he explains, “and we do not make a distinction between Finns and non-Finns.”

The Finnish branch of Accenture, the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, must be doing something right. In 2010 it was voted the best workplace in Finland by its employees in the Great Place to Work Institute survey – for the fourth consecutive time.

“We have a policy of Making Accenture a Great Place to Work,” says Pegg, “and  that includes a lot of initiatives, covering aspects such as corporate responsibility and male/female and cultural diversity. We have a cultural awareness network inside the company in Finland – but we don’t have an active, positive discrimination policy and we do not recruit outside Finland for posts here. We are a service company and people come into the company with a particular skill for which there is a demand and with which they can serve our customers. We are driven completely by the needs of our customers, so if the client needs work in the Finnish-language, we have to provide it.”

In this situation, a non-Finn is not placed at a disadvantage – as long as he or she has a knowledge of the Finnish language. “In general, if you want to be a consultant you need to be able to consult in the language of your clients,” says Pegg. “Even so, English can be used in certain sectors, such as high technology and industrial equipment. However, if you want to communicate effectively in other sectors, such as health and public services, you need a good grasp of Finnish.”

English by birth and married to a Finn, Pegg came to Finland first in 1991 and returned after a stint back in the UK to make sure that his two children were brought up in a bi-lingual environment. He is part of an Accenture workforce in Finland that includes Britons, Australians, Germans, Ukrainians, Russians and many other nationalities. Some 8 per cent of the pay-rolled workforce are non-Finns while delivery centres based outside Finland increase the percentage of non-Finns working for Finnish clients.

“Under our cultural awareness programme we provide Finnish language training to improve the service in the local language. No soft landing facilities are provided. But if we have colleagues from delivery centres in Riga or India who have no reason to come to Finland apart for a particular project, we have to make sure they find their feet very quickly. We can’t allow them to have problems like trying to find the nearest railway station. In these cases we offer  a ‘Buddy Programme’ where we pair off somebody who is coming from offshore with a Finn who is on the project already to help answer really simple questions.”

'Discussion in the Finnish media about the immigrant workforce in Finland is, he thinks, focusing too much on the contribution of a workforce of foreign cleaners and bus drivers.

“My view is that Finland is an export economy country and if you are going to export you need to have insight on and be able to communicate with the rest of the world. There have been many Finnish success stories, sure, and there could be many more if we were able to exploit the insight gained by having more people here who have a natural incentive to see themselves as even partly Finnish. For example, if we want to work in China, it's absolutely critical to retain a Finnish-Chinese element to bridge the gap between these two cultures.”

Finland’s facility of paying the fees for foreign students attending Finnish universities is already a step ahead of other countries, says Pegg, but more needs to be done to retain these students in the country and to ease their transition into the workforce when their studies are complete. Ensuring Finnish language skills should be a central element of this process, he believes.

Written and photo Tim Bird