Nordic Talent Shortage 2019


Over 200 Executives, HR and Recruitment professionals from a wide industry specter gathered on dedicated a busy morning to discussing the future of Finland, keeping Finnish companies’ competitiveness on global scale and sharing experience and views. They shared concrete steps that have been taken and what the future work life looks like.

The Nordic Talent Shortage event was set to address a continuously growing issue in an aging and modernizing Finnish and Nordic ecosystem.


“Every year we must acquire more talent to Finland to keep up with the demand for workforce overall as well as the demand for specific missing competence.”, says Minna Vanhala-Harmanen, Barona’s CEO. She opened the event with some interesting statistics to start the discussion. The issue is a growing concern in Finland. In 2018 studies have shown that 45% of companies in Finland reported experiencing difficulties to hire. While workplaces are being lost to automation, it is important to remember that this will most likely increase the need for a workforce as specialist roles will continue to increase in demand.

Competence is one of the key issues today concerning all innovative and tech industries. Competition has become more intense and for example Singapore faces the largest shortage of talents with almost 80% of companies reporting difficulties in hiring. Nordics are not far behind. A rough comparison between Sweden and Finland, showed that Finland is falling behind in terms of the volume of expert talent entering the country.

This time's Nordic Talent Shortage event hosted two panels aiming to facilitate an-experience-sharing discussion on concrete actions we do in Finland to attract and retain international talent.

The panelists were Andrew Kolokolnikov, Head of Talent Acquisition at MaaS Global, Daniel Rahman, CEO of Integrify, Ilya Mikhalev, Technical Recruiter at, Esa Johnsson, Head of Global Mobility at Outotec, Veronica Gordon, HR Business Partner at Nordic Investment Bank and Kirsi Korhonen, International HR Specialist at University of Helsinki.

2019.12.11 - Nordic Talent Shortage by George on December 11, 2019 at 103451

Mindset change

"There is a severe talent shortage and it is up to the decision makers to adapt the policies.”

-Minna Vanhala-Harmanen

Outotec has been growing internationally for over 10 years and for them this change is obvious:

“In today’s global economy we want to recruit the best”, says Outotec’s Head of Global Mobility Esa Johnson.

Outotec made much progress by opening their job listings globally. Career paths are open for anyone in the company. One of their foreign acquired talents has even been promoted to a top-level position in the company. Outotec partners closely with Barona Relocation to ensure a smooth relocation, handle the  paperwork and co-develop new services for their employees and their families. Esa mentioned that the acquired international talent tends to be more satisfied and retains for longer than local employees.

The panelists agreed that a part of the solution is shifting the mindsets of Finnish business owners and team leaders. They discussed the need to re-educate parts of the Finnish business culture and our leadership roles to work on multicultural platforms. We often forget that the change needs to be aided on the Finnish side instead of only the families or employees relocating. We really need to address this because there is a sense that we need to train the people coming in, but we need to train ourselves and understand that we are all recruiting from a global talent pool.


Keep the focus on hiring the best talents instead

Diversity and inclusion were the big topics of today and Kirsi from University of Helsinki mentioned that the shift needs to happen in the thinking. We need to start thinking:

“Hey maybe I can start looking at a different pool?”

“There is a community of people seeking relocation to Finland and to reach them, you should start looking globally actively”, says Andrew from MaaS Global. “If you find good talent from abroad, you should just go for it!”

In today’s global market (especially with the start-up companies) talents seek to find working environments where they can thrive. The discussion is no longer about the cultural differences, but rather about having the same interests, similar targets and the right skill-set.

In an off-panel discussion with’s Ilya Mikhalev, he mentioned that there is a shortage in Finland for engineering talent, as many of us know, but it is especially difficult to find product owners for projects from inside the country. The best experts must be found elsewhere. This topic was also one of the main themes at this year’s Slush with a full day dedicated to it and was based upon their global research. is a Finnish company that houses over 400 employees from all over the globe and has received an award from the President of Finland for their international success. They are off to set an example of how today’s working life looks like.

Looking at another industry, Esa talked about Outotec’s progress towards a more diverse work community. He said today the cafeteria looks completely different and much more diverse compared to just four years ago.

“If you want to open your employer branding and unleash a new talent pool, then align your strategy with that and have everyone on board”

Ilya Mikhalev,

2019.12.11 - Nordic Talent Shortage by George on December 11, 2019 at 111842


“Talk to relocation offices, like Barona Relocation or other partners – help is out there, and good service is available! It is a new phase of life and it is very personal and very important to be addressed well”

Kirsi Korhonen, University of Helsinki

The panelists were unanimous that one of the key aspects to retaining talent on long-term is the personal touch and taking the family into consideration in the integration process. They gave several examples of hosting in-office and off-site events for the whole family including the children where they learn about Finnish culture and also get a chance to meet each other and build their contact network.

"Finnish people are very helpful and friendly"

Veronica Gordon, Nordic Investment Bank

NIB hosts nationalities from 25 countries. In Veronica's experience the companies that have a cultural fit do not have anything stopping them from hiring international talent. This can be a huge advantage as the talent pool is much bigger. Veronica says that for her the move back in the days went very smoothly and that the relocation services really made great impact to her settling in.


Finland as a Global Brand

2019.12.11 - Nordic Talent Shortage by George on December 11, 2019 at 094747-1

Integrify's CEO Daniel Rahman reminded that we are competing for talent with London, Berlin and Ireland. We are not only in competition on an international level in this rapidly modernizing work life, but the global economy is open to and ready to acquire Finnish talent. For example, Denmark’s National Reform Program provides international high-skilled talent with tax benefits for the first years of employment.

In Finland, the City of Espoo sets an example in the talent race with adding English as one of the official service languages. Another great example is International House Helsinki service concept – a one-stop-shop where international talent can do all their local authority registrations at once, serviced in English (in addition to other foreign languages) by specialists, trained to address issues of foreign experts. The local authorities have joined forces to improve their service to respond to the increasing demand and volume of foreign talent.



In the friendly atmosphere packed in the Helsinki Library Oodi's Theater, all the speakers noted to have had great experiences in recruiting international talent locally and from abroad or being personally recruited from abroad. Three main topics that kept appearing were:

  1. Finland has the features to be a great brand and is valued by international talent.
  2. Our companies need to have a global mindset from the beginning when acquiring talent. All the serious competitors are already doing it and we need to keep up in this race.
  3. Integration works well, when the employee’s family is taken into the conversation from the very beginning. There are many services that help the family integrate and a happy family is a happy employee.


Small steps can make a big difference

Melanie Dower, from Supercell finished the seminar by sharing her personal story and some practical points. She relocated from New Zealand when her husband got a once-in-a-lifetime job offer by Supercell. She shared her first hand experience as a spouse, leaving a professional career path back home and relocating to a country with a substantially different climate, culture and language.

Melanie made sure to give very practical examples and advice on how to ease this transition for others:

  • Even knowing one person in Finland can be hugely important in the relocation process and for making contacts, friends and getting information. For her this helped the relocation process from New Zealand.
  • Moving can free up time to do what you have been wanting to do. "The Finnish winter" can be pitched as a real opportunity. What could you give a try that you haven’t tried before?
  • Always remember the spouses. If someone is not happy at home, they are not happy at work. For example, at Supercell they take the spouses into the interviews to both bring up the benefits of the local lifestyle and also to manage expectations of the move.
  • Many people, coming from huge cities are tired of commuting and sitting for 2 hours to get to the office. That is a big draw card for Finland.
  • Aiming to support families and spouses at creating their own network, Melanie considers herself as a matchmaker facilitating peers into independently finding their way into settling.
  • Finns are curious about foreigners but don’t really know how to get started. Facebook groups are already out there, so just help them connect with fellow employees and spouses.
  • Making adjustments to facilitate this change do not need to cost you much, just provide the ground for it and encourage people to be pro-active in the change.

2019.12.11 - Nordic Talent Shortage by George on December 11, 2019 at 114121-1

The event ended with lively discussions and spontaneous networking between the guests on the way out as well as online. As one of the hosts, we were happy to be reaffirmed that this topic is extremely relevant. We are also very encouraged to keep facilitating this discussion, hence new Nordic Talent Shortage seminars will be held in the coming months as well. Contact Barona Relocation for more information on relocation, sparring on your internationalization or suggestions on topics you'd like to hear about here.