Finnair: a Finnish window on the world

​Flying to 40 European destinations, to nine Asian destinations and to North America, the airline Finnair is one of the most important windows on the world for Finland. The relatively remote geographic location of the country, on the very north-east corner of the European continent and with an extensive Baltic Sea border, makes aviation especially important here.

Finnair’s strategy recognises the centrality of internationalisation to the future prosperity of itself, of its customers and of Finland. The airline also understands that, like other Finnish companies, it must do more to reflect theglobal nature of its business in its workforce. “The truth is that the world has changed,” says Anssi Komulainen, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, at Finnair Oyj. “Globalization is a fact, it has happened already and it is necessary for us to be more international if we are to compete and survive. This is true from a Finnish national point of view, and the same goes for Finnish companies like Finnair. We have to know what the competition is all about for a start. Many surveys have confirmed that Finns are the best-educated people in the world, but no matter how smart or wise we may be, it isn’t enough. We can’t succeed on our own.”

Currently Finnair’s non-Finnish workforce is most significantly represented in customer service and sales, as well as ground services abroad and a number of Asian cabin attendants. “Although we are a Finnish-based company, 75 per cent of our turnover is accounted for outside Finland,” says Komulainen. “In the first half of 2010 we completed an update to our human resources strategy in which internationalism is a key word. It’s a clear statement that we are going to increase the number of international people in our organization.

“We want to state clearly that we are an international company fighting in international business and to be successful we need to be even more international,” he says. “We want to win the battle for business in Asia and in Scandinavia. We can tell ourselves we are the greatest people in the world but we still need help from outside if we are going to understand our customers properly.”

Finnair has developed its vision of offering the fastest routes between Europe and Asia with great success, but maintaining this success will require a nuanced understanding of the markets in which it operates. “We need to understand better the cultural differences of our customers,” says Komulainen. “In order to be the most desired airline in Scandinavia and one of the most desired in Asia, we need to be more attractive and to lure customers away from our competitors.”

Komulainen does not count out increased cooperation with Finnish universities and other educational establishments as part of its future drive towards a more international workforce. “After all, Finnair is a more international export company than many of the big Finnish export companies that are our customers,” he points out. “Even compared with other airlines, we are more dependent on the international market and we have to be continuously aware of this. Only an international winning team will ensure a bright future for Finnair.”

Written and photo by: Tim Bird