At the birthplace of Talent Boost – interview with Laura Lindeman
When there is talk about the Talent Boost programme, the name Laura Lindeman comes up sooner or later. Lindeman has been involved in the planning and implementation of the plan from the very start. As Talent Boost was being established, Finland was experiencing a shift in the debate on immigration. The refugee crisis of 2015 and the lively debate on immigration that followed prompted Finns to look at the phenomenon from a new perspective. There was now more understanding of the shortage of skills facing Finland and this opened up new opportunities to discuss the economic policy aspects of immigration.
Talent Boost – creating growth and prosperity in Finland
“When I started work in the ministry, we began by adopting a new perspective on immigration in the ministry. Until then, immigration had been seen as a separate issue and not as a matter connected with other policy sectors. We decided to approach the matter from a perspective in which immigration and economic, innovation, education and employment policies are treated as sectors closely related to each other,” Lindeman explains.
Lindeman and her colleagues first examined whether there is interest in issues concerning international talent in the ministry’s departments. The discussions led to an understanding of the scope and cross-administrative nature of the issue. It became clear that further progress would require close cooperation and a customer-oriented approach to problem-solving. At the same time, a study of international talent by Mika Raunio prompted many actors to consider immigration as an inno-vation policy issue. There were also those who wanted to shift the focus of the debate to expertise and value added that immigrants would bring to Finland, irrespective of their reasons for entering our country.
“Talent Boost was born from the observation that we wanted to create more growth and prosperity in this country. However, Finland is in a very different position than Central European countries, for example, which are highly attractive to foreign labour. We have to do things differently. Finnish companies should be more internationally oriented so that international talent can create growth in Finland. If the bottlenecks exists because of employers who do not want or know how to recruit international talent, all other efforts to promote the matter are irrelevant. The first thing was to shift the focus towards companies and business operators.
The key challenge was to lobby the right parties and people that are in a high enough position.” Decision-makers began to show more interest in the matter after the data based on Ministry of Finance calculations indicated that we are facing a shortage of talent and labour.
According to Lindeman, Jari Gustafsson, who was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment at the time, played a key role in the successful development of the Talent Boost action plan. Gustafsson was also in charge of the original project steering group. Gustafsson also persuaded high-ranking public officials responsible for economic development in other ministries and local government to support the objectives of the action plan. The matter assumed more importance and began to be discussed more thoroughly at higher level and as a result, more resources were allocated to it.
“We noticed that we were dealing with a very wide-ranging matter and that the authorities might be able to slow down or prevent entry into Finland. This was not the only or not even the biggest problem but it was nevertheless an issue that had to be solved by the state and for which a lot of work is still being done,” Lindeman explains.
Joint efforts by the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment created the basis for a network of government agencies to promote the objectives of the action plan. There have been changes in the division of responsibilities between the parties over the years. After the labour immigration administration had been transferred under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the ministry began the development of official practices and permit processes to tackle the bottlenecks slowing down the immigration of international talent. Lindeman emphasises that success and growth can only be achieved through joint effort, taking of responsibility and commitment to goals.
More opportunities for companies through international talent
In the efforts to attract and recruit international talent, companies play a substantially larger role than individuals and government agencies. According to Lindeman, shifting of the focus to companies has served as an eye-opening process that has prompted employers to consider the perspective of the individual. Employers have a significant responsibility, which the public sector can support with its action. Tools and instruments have been developed for companies and employers within the framework of the Talent Boost action plan.
In Lindeman’s view, employers can produce wide-ranging benefits by taking responsibility and by acting through their organisations. Companies are able to internationalise through internal action and identify a wide variety of different growth opportunities. Companies can also find new ways to respond to the need for talent.
“Companies can draw on a substantially larger supply of talent when they expand their recruitment drives beyond Finland. In that case, they can compete for top experts,” Lindeman notes.
Ecosystem challenges call for ecosystem facilitation
During her career, Lindeman has adopted a number of good practices that help her to succeed in her work and to cope with work-related pressures. The circular image originally used in Talent Attraction training has served as a guideline over the years. The image has the following components: attracting talent to Finland, recruitment, entry into the country, settling in, integration and reputation. Each component must function without hitches so that the system as a whole can work properly.
“It is not rocket science but a simple principle that has accompanied me all these years during my career. This image comes to mind whenever somebody asks why improvements are not sought by correcting only one component.”
Good practices also include comprehensive action supporting the ecosystem. According to Lindeman, arrangements in which nobody is responsible or is unable to resolve matters independently can lead to a situation where no progress can be achieved. Ecosystemic work requires ‘orchestration’ so that different types of organisation can apply their own practices but nevertheless move in the same direction.
“In ecosystemic cooperation, the customer is always at the core and the top priority. Determining who provides the service is not the key thing; the key is to ensure that the customer gets the right service and the challenge can be solved. In that case, organisations can also be proud of what they have achieved within the ecosystem and advertise their success,” Lindeman says, describing ecosystemic cooperation.
Towards an open and welcoming Finland
“For me, it has always been important that Finland is an open country welcoming all people coming here. My hope is that the country of origin would only be a positive factor in this respect. People can bring new innovations to Finland. We are such a small country that the principle of no immigration is unworkable. The fact that Finland is becoming more international only brings positive things to us, especially if we act in the right way. I hope that in my new inspiring position, I will be able to rely on the same unbelievable common will and spirit that has characterised my work with this topic in the Talent Boost network.”
The article is written by Amani Al-mehsen. Amani was an intern at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in the summer of 2022.
Laura Lindeman is one of the original professionals responsible for establishing the Talent Boost programme. Lindeman has worked as a chief specialist and team leader in the international talent and workforce team of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment for six years. Before that she had a long career in international tasks involving expertise and recruitment. In autumn 2022, Lindeman started as the head of the new Work in Finland unit of Business Finland. In her work on internationalisation issues, Lindeman has accumulated valuable expertise on operating models and tools that benefit international talent and actors.