Orientation plays an important role in making everyone feel they are part of the work community, and that they know everything they need to know – both about their work duties and about the customs and practices of the workplace. The supervisor plays a major role when it comes to the atmosphere, as well as understanding and following instructions.
Content of the orientation
Orientation must always be tailored to the needs of the individual. This is even more important if the new employee has no previous experience of the work culture in Finland. A good supervisor enquires about the starting employee’s expertise and does not expect them to know things.
Failure to take individual needs into account can expose the employee to microaggressions, for example.
A good team leader is empathetic. Ask people how they are doing, coping and feeling. Have conversations both personally and collectively.
One of the biggest challenges for a leader is to build trust. People who have lived safely in Finland their whole lives cannot even imagine the worries and fears of those who have fled war, for example. Problems with concentration and mistakes are not necessarily due to a lack of understanding or motivation.
Bend the rules so that everyone is heard and finds their own strengths.
Belonging to a group
People have a natural need to feel they belong. We want to share memories, experiences and humour. In a successful team, everyone is understood, and there is no need for anyone to explain or hide their own backgrounds and experiences. But you don’t have to share everything with your co-workers, so read the situation.
A good supervisor makes sure everyone is involved in discussions. If a new employee is shy, one-on-one conversations can break the ice.
Coherence can also be created by uniform work wear and workstations, a name tag on the chest and other external symbols.
All company rules should be written down. This applies to even the oldest non-verbal practices. As the rules are written down, it is necessary to examine whether there are any problematic practices.
In Finland, the lack of language skills is used as an excuse to maintain structural racism.
If competence in Finnish is not essential for work tasks, it must not affect recruitment. The workplace is therefore an excellent place to actively develop your skills, as it can be practiced on a daily basis in a versatile and practical way.
During orientation, particular attention must be paid to ensuring that the new employee understands everything that is needed, even in the absence of a common language.
A team’s trust can only be achieved if verbal, non-verbal, written and oral communication is consistent.
In successful communication, cultural differences, situational sensitivity, diversity and truthfulness are taken into account.
The more multilingual the team, the greater the role of non-verbal communication. In addition to language skills, we also need cultural ‘literacy’. In many cultures, it is non-verbal communication that conveys the real message. Non-verbal communication includes looks, gestures, expressions, but also customs – politeness, courtesy and interest.
Sincerity is conveyed and forgiven more easily. A smile goes a long way. Cultural mistakes have the most weight if they are based on arrogance.
The company’s own mentoring programmes are effective. They promote integration, the formation of support networks and the adoption of unwritten knowledge and practices.
The importance of mentoring is especially emphasised if a person’s background differs greatly from the rest of the work community. Focus areas may include work culture, unwritten rules, expectations, behaviour and dress standards, and communication style. Methods for handling conflicts, presentation and meeting practices are also important.
Successful mentor pairs which cross race and gender boundaries dare to speak openly about inequality, discrimination, harassment and invisible barriers.
For example, a man often has no idea how different a workplace can be for a woman. There are even greater gaps in understanding between different ethnicities.
A great place to work
In a great place to work, everyone is treated as a person, a co-worker, a supervisor, even a friend. Not as an immigrant, a woman, an old person, a handicapped person or a person categorised in any other way.
Even differing opinions and ideas are heard from people as individuals and as professionals – not as representatives of a minority group.
The team makes sure everyone feels they genuinely belong to the team. The first morning is critical in determining whether a person feels welcome and important.
The culture of conversation is open, and no one is left alone. Let’s be receptive and not reject anybody!
People are given space to be themselves, and a safe atmosphere is created. The principles of a safer space are helpful here.
Checklist for an exemplary supervisor
What’s a good supervisor like? There is no unambiguous answer, but this list will get you started.
|Get to know your team|
|Commit to continuous self-improvement|
|Participate in joint projects by sharing information, communicating experiences and encouraging learning|
|Create broad social networks beyond differences|
|Set an example by respecting the value base and diversity in practice|
|Adapt and be flexible in different situations and practices|
|Pay attention not only to what you’re doing, but also to what you’re not doing|
|Ask for and listen to feedback. Don’t be afraid if it’s negative|
- Lahti, Leena 2014. Monikulttuurinen työelämä: hyväksi ihmiselle, hyväksi bisnekselle. Helsinki: Sanoma Pro.