Founded in 2003, Sievo is a global leader in procurement analytics. The company now manages over 350 billion euros in spendings yearly. They have also succeeded in building an incredibly diverse organisation with people from over 30 different countries working in their Finnish and USA offices.
To find out how they did it, we interviewed Janina Kurki, Head of Nerd Attraction & People Development Partner at Sievo. In the interview, we talk about challenges that recruiting internationally presents, finding the best talent from abroad, and tips to the companies planning to start hiring globally.
In addition to the company’s take on the matter, we also asked some questions from Sievo’s employee Aleksandr Shevelev. The Senior Software Engineer is originally from Russia, but in 2019 decided to move to Finland to work at Sievo. How was his relocation experience and how smoothly did he settle in? Let’s jump into the interview to find out!
People from over 30 different countries are working in Sievo. It might not seem outrageous for a tech-company in 2020, but Sievo has been hiring international talent since its establishment. Why did you choose to focus on hiring internationally from the beginning?
When Sievo was founded in 2003, the founders Matti Sillanpää and Sammeli Sammalkorpi built a procurement solution to help big companies globally. Our first client was a Danish company LEGO, and already the third hire was a non-Finnish speaking specialist. So our focus is not on hiring internationally, but on always having the best talent.
“Our focus is not on hiring internationally, but on always having the best talent.”
What are some of the greatest mistakes Sievo has made on this journey of hiring and relocating foreigners? Maybe you could share a specific story?
Hiring international people requires that the company has a working culture that fits for people from different backgrounds. I think Sievo has been exceptionally successful in that, but it might have made us assume it would be an easy thing to do and that relocated people would fit in Finland organically.
There has not been a crisis that I could think of, but it helps if things are well prepared in advance. There have been surprises on how many daily activities in Finland rely on e-bank credentials. Also, the taxation might hit hard when you see your first payslip. There cannot ever be too much information shared beforehand, and we should share even more information about the local ways of working. When you have a relationship of trust with people going through relocation, they will also trust your advice on managing the Migration Bureaucracy Jungle.
Aleksandr: Between companies, there are quite a lot of differences in management and working style. I am glad to say that Sievo’s values were quite helpful in making the transition between companies and countries. I was extremely happy to see that within Sievo I get a lot of opportunities to grow, which was one of my concerns during the relocation process.
How does Sievo find the best talent from abroad to relocate in the first place?
We do use different channels to promote ourselves; LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Meetfrank, etc. We take part in meet-ups and events, and our developers have good networks where they promote their work and teams. We have always been able to attract international talent, so it has helped a lot when we have much more diverse candidate pool potential.
We do not settle for the basic ways, instead, we are always looking for new ways and channels, e.g. we were also one of the first companies in Finland using Meetfrank too.
Aleksandr: When I started looking for a job in Finland, I visited a job fair organized by Helsinki Business Hub in the Consulate General of Finland in Saint Petersburg. At the event, I had the first interview round with Sievo and some other companies. A couple of rounds of interviews later I chose to accept Sievo’s offer.
How much do you have to convince people to choose Finland as a place to work? What are the country’s main attractions for potential employees, a wage level, culture or something else?
Actually, mentioning Finland makes it easier. Mainly people are worried about the climate, location and taxation. However, people are usually pretty positively stunned, after sharing the tips about surviving the cold and darkness, and what great things the high taxation rate brings (safety, clean environment, free schooling and health care). Also, the current situation with Covid-19 is just a concrete example of how well things work in Finland.
Sometimes it seems that Finland is the best-kept secret for IT professionals. It would help if Finland would be promoted as one of the best countries for developers as it is confirmed already by the latest research.
“Sometimes it seems that Finland is the best-kept secret for IT professionals.”
Aleksandr: I started to look for a job abroad due to general political, social, and economic problems in Russia. Finland became my first choice because of several factors, including being a well-managed country and its closeness to Russia. It is relatively easy to get to Saint-Petersburg via train without long queues at customs (if there wasn’t a raging pandemic).
What are the biggest challenges for foreigners while relocating to Finland based on your experience?
You cannot get things done without e-bank credentials and to have them, it takes multiple visits and a lot of bureaucracy. Also, getting rental accommodation as a foreigner (without bank credentials) takes longer than it should. Sievo provides accommodation to get started and helps with recommendations, references and even sets-up appointments with the long term renters, but it still might be time-consuming to get things sorted.
The Finnish bureaucracy has its ways, and it definitely might cause issues at some point. But we promise every new team-member assistance with any matters because moving to a new country is quite stressful already by itself.
Aleksandr: The main problem was the thinning or breaking of almost all the social and personal network connections. From the technical or bureaucratic standpoint relocation with Sievo’s support was quite a smooth process. There were some delays in getting the Finnish ID Card and renting a place to live, but it was mostly due to my inexperience with the local market.
When looking back, there were several means of support provided by Sievo:
Help with the paperwork
Financing the moving expenses
First accommodation in Finland
Lots of help and information in general about living and working in Finland.
Currently, European countries have closed their borders already for a second time this year, which makes relocation more challenging. On the other hand, people are working remotely more than ever. How has this year changed your views on recruiting?
As we have always recruited internationally, the remote tools have been used for years already. We are also very fortunate in a way because businesswise it is one of the best years in Sievo’s history – and we are recruiting probably more than ever. It has shown me that we have been able to recruit people that have a high tolerance for change and uncertainty.
I have not felt the need to make huge adjustments on our side, but candidate behaviour has changed. People think thoroughly if now is a good time to change jobs, so they check information about the company very carefully, including the financial data.
“People think thoroughly if now is a good time to change jobs.”
From a growth company point of view: we have been able to bring people stability in very unstable situation and been agile to adjust with the ‘new reality’ while enabling Sievo’s hockey stick growth.
How do you see the impact long-term? Are people likely to look for new challenges internationally?
International migration has already started. It is not just Covid-19 that makes people search for brighter futures. Climate change, political uncertainty and even warfare will make people leave their current homes. I personally hope we can globally make an impact for a better future for all, so migration wouldn’t be the only way to provide safety and prosperity to everyone.
Let’s look at the bigger picture for a moment. Hiring international talent to Finnish companies has been a hot topic over the summer. Why do you think the issue has gained so much attention this year?
I have been very surprised about the fact indeed, but it is definitely a good discussion and an important topic. I have been talking about the issue since 2017, but it hasn’t raised that big headlines until now. I believe the increasing need for talent and the shortage of experienced professionals are finally coming to a critical state where IT companies in Finland need to become more accepting of international talent.
When it becomes a business-critical issue, the change will happen. I believe it is inevitable. The difficult question is how well the companies can make that change – changing your work language and company culture is not a recruitment decision, it is a strategic decision to the core. And that takes time.
What would you suggest to companies that are only now making their first steps to attract talent from different backgrounds?
Before anything, I would recommend companies to think about why they are making the transition, what it means to them and what are the objectives. Also, the team has to be involved in the process as early as possible.
There are some cruel rumours about “international companies” where a couple of international developers are kept in a separate room “so they would have someone to talk to” as in the cafeteria the only spoken language is Finnish. Or similar cases where the official slide decks are in English, but the rest of the documentation is in Finnish.
In these kinds of cases, I would recommend the company to re-evaluate whether they are ready for international talents, and how they can help with the integration to the team. There are lot of companies that have done it already, the knowledge and information is available, it never hurts to ask help to have a better starting point for the change.
We have defined some key questions that job-seekers usually have about the companies. Such as the size of the team, the amount of investment, annual revenue, etc.
You can quickly fill in some additional fields to give additional context about your business.
Here’s how the facts about your company will look in the MeetFrank app:
4. Tell more about your product
The top talent wants to make an impact and work on purposeful projects.
Telling people about your product and what’s cool about it helps to get them excited about working with you.
We recommend mentioning the following things:
What product/service are you building?
What is your product’s main benefit to its users?
Why is it exciting to work on the project?
5. Boast about your office perks
Who wouldn’t want to work in a company with flexible working hours, snacks in the kitchen, extra vacation days and free gym membership?
You can list all the cool perks about working in your team.
Here’s a list of all the benefits that can be mentioned:
⏳ Flexible working hours 🌎 Remote work 🎡 Team events ☕ Free coffee 🍪 Free food 🚗 Free parking 🌴 Extra vacation 🏖️ Company retreats 💰 Tuition assistance 💪 Gym membership 👶 Free day-care 🦄 Stock options 👩⚕️ Health insurance 👩🎓 Student loan assistance
The more perks you can list, the higher the chance that people will get excited about working with you.
6. Showcase the media coverage
One company profile section we’re especially happy with is the media coverage sharing. You can link to other publications’ articles of your brand.
We recommend adding between 2-4 links of media coverage.
Tip: You can also use this section to link to your own blog articles.
7. Link to your social media profiles
Last not least, you can link to all of your company’s social media profiles. Only add the ones that are up to date and look great.
8. Use the MeetFrank job offers as a Careers page
Once you have filled in your company profile, hit the “publish” button and you’re all set.
If you put a decent amount of effort into your MeetFrank employer profile, you can use your MeetFrank job offers instead of a Careers page. After all, it has a professional layout and lists all the relevant information a job-seeker might have.
To publicly share your MeetFrank company profile, publish a job offer through MeetFrank and copy its link.
Et voila! You’ve got yourself a job offer 2.0 with high-quality images, lots of context and all social media profiles included.
MeetFrank is not a traditional job board, which means that you can create and target your job opening quickly and delightfully. Your company can also highlight it’s culture through the personalised job description, images and social media links.
Without further ado, let’s see how you can create a perfectly targeted job offer in seven simple steps.
Step 1: Define the target audience for your new opening
To reduce your recruiting workload, MeetFrank helps you to target the job offer to the relevant audience. The powerful AI-based algorithm actively invites the most suitable candidates to apply, even if they are not looking for a job. Yes, you might be surprised how many top talents are passive in the job market.
All you have to do is to start with picking the employment type, speciality, and seniority for your upcoming job offer: – Choose between Full-time, Part-time, Project/Freelance, and Internship type of employment. – Select the speciality from 19 options, like Sales & Business Development or Customer Support. – Add suitable seniorities from Entry level to Executive.
Your job opening will be compiled automatically based on the bits of information that you select. Or if you are in a hurry, simply send us the job opening link, and we will set up the vacancy ourselves.
Step 2: Choose a clear and attractive job title
Clear and familiar job title leaves a favourable first impression to the potential candidate. For example, a salesperson already has an understanding of what are the responsibilities of a Head of Sales.
Adding some context to the job title helps to attract the best candidates. In case you need a Head of Sales to work with B2B clients worldwide, you might title your job as Global B2B Head of Sales. If you are looking to fill a technical position, you might mention a few required programming languages.
Pro tip: On MeetFrank, the job titles written in English tend to work the best, as the platform has a global talent pool.
Step 3: Pick the required skill set
Choose up to six skills that the ideal candidate should have from the pre-selected list of options. You can also add requirements for language and industry experience.
If there is one skill that the candidate possibly could not do without, select it as a “Must Have”. This option informs our algorithm to search only for the fitting candidates.
Step 4: Use the potential reach for your advantage
As you create your job opening, you will see the potential reach change in real-time. After your every move, our algorithm evaluates how many people might be interested in and qualified for your job offer.
How to use this number to your advantage? If the potential reach is very high, then you might spend more time filtering out the candidates who are not well-suited for the job. The solution is to add a few additional requirements.
If the potential reach is low, then you might not find enough qualified candidates to fill the position. Consider loosening the requirements to attract more applicants. With a little help, you’ll quickly find the perfect reach that suits your needs.
Step 5: Pick the target location and salary range
You can select up to five cities where you would want to look for talent. To further broaden the talent pool, consider choosing either option for remote work or target your job offer globally. We believe that talent is borderless, so this could give you up to 5x more candidates.
Also, specify the gross salary range you’re willing to pay. If you are ready to offer the candidate a higher salary than their current employer, choose the pay increase option as well.
Pro tip: Check Job Market Insights by MeetFrank to find out in real-time what salaries the job seekers expect and how competitive is the market for talent.
Step 6: Write a Job Description
In the job description, give an overview of the duties in the role. You may also expand on the requirements for the candidates.
A welcoming job description is crucial to get the potential candidate interested, so this is the ideal place to really be personal and display the tone of your company. End the message with a clear call-to-action to encourage candidates to submit their application.
Step 7: Publish the offer!
Good luck with your hire! Now we will take over and make sure to boost your job opening with direct notifications to relevant candidates. You just sit back and relax.
Event-tech start-up Brella is doing so well that they need to hire new talents to keep up with the demand. In the middle of a global pandemic.
How did they manage to capture the newfound opportunity in hybrid and virtual events? As it often is the case, the secret is in the company culture. To find out more, we interviewed Hanna Kontinen, Brella’s Head of Talent & Culture.
In the wide-ranging conversation, we go deep into Brella’s humble approach to developing diversity and inclusion. But also, inside look into the state of the event industry, how to recruit A-players and tips to people starting out in the tech sector.
Brella is one of the leading event networking platforms in the world. This year, however, has not been business as usual for the event industry. So my first question would be simple: how is Brella doing right now?
Better than ever. 🙂 The industry was pretty much in a state of shock in March, but our company was in a better position to cater to virtual environments than many others.
We were fortunate enough to have a quick turnaround in production and thus gain quite aggressive traction within the virtual event space. The bottle-neck was actually handling the volume of interest coming our way, thus we’re now in need of new hires.
What did you learn as a company this year while tackling all of the challenges?
I think we’ve learned a lot about our capability to make an impact whilst working together as a team. The company hadn’t had to face as significant hardship before, so this one really brought the team together. The crisis took a measure of our culture, processes and ability to be agile, all of which thankfully have been important topics for us over the past few years.
Our most significant learning was that we need to continue to cherish and invest in our people and culture, as it is the only reason we’re doing so well at the moment.
The growing amount of evidence suggests that we will be in this partly closed economy for a while, maybe even for the next few years. This means a lot of soul-searching for the event industry, as there is a need for new virtual and hybrid event concepts. How do you see the future of the industry at Brella?
We can already see from the industry research and movement that at least hybrid event experiences are here to stay. Large conferences are on a pause for at least a couple of years, global attendee gatherings maybe even more.
We as people will still be drawn to F2F experiences in the future, and the live elements of events are coming back. However, there is a lot of innovation that needs to happen meanwhile. Attendees and event sponsors will become more accustomed to the new virtual offerings, thus demanding a different set of expectations from the organizers. How the event organizers can adapt to those requirements and create a business out of it is the real challenge.
You recently started hiring again for quite a few roles. And with that, you have renewed your focus on building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Why do you see it as a key to your future success?
Yes, it has been pretty busy recruiting fall for us, and we have also started our D&I journey along the way. We are still at the very beginning of this journey, but the goal is to start building a strong foundation for our future growth!
We have 14 different nationalities and people from very different kinds of backgrounds, so diversity has always been part of our daily work. However, we understand that diversity is so much more than just different nationalities, so we are now planning to take a more proactive approach to embrace both diversity and inclusion.
We believe that diversity unlocks innovation by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard. Also, diversity and inclusion in the workplace make all employees feel accepted and valued. When employees feel accepted and valued, they are also happier in their workplace. Put the people first, and good things will follow. 💜
We believe that diversity unlocks innovation by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard.
How do you measure success when it comes to a diverse team and inclusive working culture at Brella? Do you have long term goals and KPIs for that?
We are still at the beginning of our journey, and this will most probably be a lifelong journey for Brella. I mean, can you ever really be ready with these themes? It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
We are planning to launch anonymous D&I survey to measure these themes. We want to give our Brellaneers the voice so that we know how we could develop Brella as a company. Our long term goal is that D&I would not be a ‘thing’, but just a normal part of our daily work.
Could you share some key learnings from your experience in building a diverse and inclusive work culture so far?
1. D&I is something that both employees and candidates value a lot. 2. D&I is a very sensitive topic, and companies should be quite humble when developing these areas. 3. D&I is definitely a competitive advantage. 4. Companies should participate and listen to their employees. It’s all about collaboration! 5. Employees are asking a lot of questions, and they will challenge you, which is great! Just make sure you are ready to discuss it with an open mind.
How does Brella take D&I aspect into consideration when making a new hire, including during the recruiting and onboarding process?
This is a million-dollar question! We are talking a lot about this topic, and we are planning on organizing unconscious bias training for both our Brellaneers and our hiring managers. We have a lot of people participating in the hiring process, which hopefully makes the decision-making more transparent. Also, we want to ensure that psychological safety is always there, starting from the very first interview round. Earn and extend trust. Build it, keep it, and be an example for others.
How do you usually find the candidates to hire in the first place? Do you publish a job offer and just wait? What % of hired candidates has been sourced and headhunted?
The dynamic has changed a lot during the past few years as the candidates often have the power to choose between companies. Employer branding is everything: companies which can communicate their “WHY” throughout the recruiting process will win the war for attraction.
Our Brellaneers have excellent networks, A players know other A players. 😉 So at the moment, the sourcing percentage is only around 5-10%.
Do you use any other channels for finding different talent? Do you have a different approach to hiring for specific roles?
Absolutely, different roles need different approaches, especially in tech fields. A company needs to reach out to the technical people, not the other way around, which is why we have partnerships such as with Junction and Dash. 💫
Also, our working language is English which provides us with a great opportunity to hire globally!
What advice would you give to people looking to get hired in a fast-growing tech company like Brella?
1. Be active and try to build good networks. People are usually ready to help, but you need to be proactive. 2. Do you lack relevant experience? Be open to volunteer works as well! These are usually great experiences and give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in a fast-paced growth company. 3. Know where to look. For example, platforms like MeetFrank and TheHub are great places if you are looking for a job in a growth company.
To end the interview, let us focus on the state of diversity at a workplace in Finland for a moment. The international evidence seems to suggest that diverse teams perform better. For example, some studies have found that these teams are more innovative and generate higher profits. If D&I is, at some level, just good for the business, then why do you think there is still a need for a lot of educating and progress in the area?
Great question! Sometimes change is slow, and unfortunately, not everyone has realized this competitive advantage. Also, we have a lot of historical baggage on our shoulders, so it takes some time to change the habits of our working life.
However, we truly believe that inclusion encourages success. We trust that if employees feel welcomed into a work environment where success seems attainable for everyone, it encourages them to bring their best selves to work. And every employer wants that, right? This is also one of Brella’s values – humility, respect, and integrity are all easier to carry than a large ego.
We truly believe that inclusion encourages success.
Thank you very much for your time! At the end of every interview, we ask five rapid-fire questions.
What is your favourite question to ask at interviews?
“Can you tell us about a work project you are most proud of? What made you succeed?”
What is the biggest mistake that job-seekers make when applying to a new job?
For some reason, most people still seem to write very generic job applications. Show your personality! 💫 Also, use concrete examples instead of just fancy words. 👌
What is the biggest challenge when hiring people to Brella?
We want to keep the bar high when it comes to culture, so we have to find people who are ready to live our Brella values. Innovation, Growth mindset, Brella spirit & Collaboration are the magic words. The biggest challenge is assessing these values during the relatively short hiring process.
What are your favourite recruitment tools and channels?
LinkedIn, MeetFrank, and the amazing networks of our Brellaneers. 💜
If you weren’t a recruiter, what would you do?
That’s a tricky one, I love my job! 😅 I would most likely work in a role where I could somehow develop today’s working life. We are on a good track, but there are still many things we could do better. 🙏