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How Fingrid nurtures a dynamic expert organisation

Sanna Leppaluoto, Tiina Miettinen | Sept. 18, 2017

Fingrid has found a formula to attract top talent and elicit optimal performance from its workforce. Professional development opportunities are intrinsic to the job. Consistent efforts to establish and reaffirm core values of fairness, efficiency, transparency and responsibility have made it one of Finland’s leading places to work. Kestria Finland’s Sanna Leppäluoto takes stock of the company’s tireless pursuit of an open, regenerating and target-oriented working community culture.

Fingrid Oyj is a publicly traded company based in Helsinki responsible for electricity transmission in the high-voltage grid in Finland. Fingrid is an expert organisation with 315 specialists, 81% of them with university degrees. In order to grow and maintain transmission capacity according to the company’s mandate, it has cultivated an exemplary and inclusive corporate culture by fostering the development of expertise within its ranks to ensure the working community is productive, innovative and healthy. From a human resources perspective, it is fundamental to the development and transformation of business operations to ensure the entire organisation bears responsibility for implementing the company’s progressive policies and strategy.

Fingrid is primarily engaged in domestic operations, but the nature of its business is very international given interconnections across Europe, and personnel need to meet increasingly high standards to achieve and maintain relevant competencies. Fingrid is one of the leading companies in its field, at the forefront of technological and regulatory changes impacting the power sector. The company’s employees must work closely with customers, electricity market stakeholders and regulators accordingly, which requires seamless internal cooperation and a dynamic approach to get the job done. The effectiveness of Fingrid’s operations is apparent in the company’s transmission rates, which are among the lowest in Europe.

Tiina Miettinen, Senior Vice President, Fingrid Oyj

Put Core Values to Work

The company was established in 1996 and operations were brought underway by a talented group of highly qualified experts. There were only a few organizational changes in personnel in the company’s first few years in business. Employees were highly motivated at the young company, experienced and willing to engage for the long term. Gradually, the business environment changed, largely due to Finland’s EU membership and the growing market. The organisation took on new mandates and created new positions. Some members of staff also began to approach retirement. It became important to put more effort into management change and to strengthen the human resources department as a strategic partner. It was also critical to assimilate principles of personnel wellbeing and the company’s core values.

Fairness and efficiency are the company’s founding core values. The company identified transparency and responsibility as additional core values when it updated its strategy in consultation with employees in 2016. “Our people have been very actively part of the strategy work and therefore it is natural for us to follow the stated values in daily life,” according to Senior Vice President Human Resources and Communications Tiina Miettinen.

A new HR policy, drawn up in late 2016, dictates management must continuously aim to improve Fingrid’s performance. Strategic human resources management at the company requires managing the abilities and expertise of employees, involving them in decision-making, implementing a competitive reward system and improving cooperation and the overall transparency of the organisation.

The policy is governed by three overriding principles: That human resources management is strategic and necessarily involves the perspective of personnel in developing business strategy, culture and change drivers; that management’s approach is goal-oriented and inclusive, wherein the entire team is granted decision-making authority and activities require working together; and that the skills and career progression of employees are ensured by way of clear supervisor and specialist career tracks supported by competence development.

Highlighting the perspective of personnel as part of the company’s strategy has strengthened the position of employees, evident in the improved results of internal surveys assessing the workplace environment. “These positive results reflecting a cultural change and the well-being of employees have also strengthened our customer experience. As a monopoly, we have to reaffirm our position every day because electricity market operators challenge us more and more,” Miettinen said.

Foster Core Competencies

Fingrid has, since inception, been an expert organisation, with operations based on knowledge of the state of the power system, the condition of the electrical grid and the dynamic electricity market.

The company has learned that change- and future-oriented strategic management that rewards and inspires employees and utilises individuals’ expertise protects employees from burnout. Awareness about being a member of a healthy working community increases employee motivation, commitment to work, trust, health, ability to manage stress, and overall morale, in addition to improving job satisfaction.

The company has defined its core competencies around attracting and developing expertise among its specialist employees and management. Knowledge and skills related to the power industry are core and must be actively nurtured by the company.

The company has sought not only to attract the right kind of expertise, but also to retain employees who readily embrace Fingrid’s corporate culture. The executive management group has defined a target culture as part of the personnel and competence-oriented strategy. Fingrid promotes an open, communal, regenerating and target-oriented working community culture. The aim is to increase flexibility and team spirit, and also to be more open, proactive and efficient.

The target culture is promoted by the company by encouraging employees to work together and care about one another, grow professionally and learn from others and deal with tasks efficiently and reliably to deliver exemplary results.

Supervisors are charged with managing cooperation and inspiring their peers while taking responsibility for achieving established targets. Supervisors encourage personnel to work together and share knowledge, promote brainstorming and self-development, and simultaneously ensure that demanding work and tasks are completed on time and with positive results.

Align Recruitment and Corporate Culture

The target culture is taken into account when recruiting Fingrid employees. The company retains experts based on their education and qualifications, while also aiming to ensure they bring the right attitude and are well poised to mature into their positions. Fingrid employees must also be able to function in domestic and international environments. “When we are recruiting, it is important to also assess how an applicant interacts with other people and their ability to function in demanding specialist tasks while simultaneously promoting Fingrid’s goals and building bridges between Fingrid and various stakeholders,” Miettinen said.

One of the special features of recruitment at Fingrid is a long-term focus combined with efficiency and active development that adheres to core company values. A person’s ability to work in as part of a team and share information is just as important as their job-related expertise.

Each Fingrid employee is a representative of his or her own expertise as well as their specialisation, both within and outside the company. As such, it’s critical that each new hire has a genuine desire to develop into a networking representative in their specific field. The duties of these individuals are often unique and a Fingrid employee may be the only specialist in his or her field in Finland.

Enable Career Development

Fingrid has implemented a dual career track model where the company’s specialists can pursue careers as either a supervisor or specialist and also change career tracks if desired. For example, the specialist career track allows an employee to advance from specialist to expert, then to senior expert and senior advisor. Career advancement requires additional professional skills and experience, but it also requires participating in development work and sharing competencies within the company.

Ongoing professional development and sharing competencies are important components of Fingrid’s corporate culture and contribute to employee expertise. Some retired Fingrid employees continue working for the company as advisers on a part-time basis. This allows them to stay sharp and keep up with the times and, on the other hand, they also enjoy the freedom of retirement without the accountability associated with working life. The oldest retired part-time employee is 70 years old.

Fingrid employees work as individuals and also in cooperation with their colleagues. This is why all employees are expected to have strong team working skills, regardless of their job description. The company involves several individuals in the recruitment process and uses an external expert to administer an aptitude test to applicants to ensure new hires have strong cooperation skills.

Fingrid nurtures professional development and renewal as a core competency among its employees, critical in the rapidly changing context of the power industry. Every employee is required to have a responsible, hands-on and collaborative working style, as well as the ability to change and a desire to learn new things. “We have done active employer branding in social media and involved many of our engineers in presenting our values in different videos and clips. This is really something new in our industry,” Miettinen noted.

The dual track model requires that employees develop their expertise and continuously monitor industry trends. Demanding employees have a healthy curiosity about the surrounding world helps them maintain awareness and provides the sensitivity needed to identify changes and trends.

The company’s goal in nurturing a healthy and productive working community requires every Fingrid employee to: understand the significance of their work for customers and society; Act as part of a team – to appreciate, help and support others; Take responsibility for their own work, efficiency, renewal and results; Actively share information and skills, and communicate in an understandable manner; Be bold and open to new ideas, question assumptions and propose new solutions; and offer and receive feedback in a constructive manner.

Monitor Success and Employee Well-being

Fingrid takes several steps to maintain and develop its employer image in order to attract new skilled employees. The company monitors the development of its corporate culture by participating in workplace and personnel studies. These show Fingrid to have one of the best workplace environments in Finland. In 2016, the company ranked tenth in the medium-sized organisations category of the Finnish Great Place to Work list, ten places higher than in the previous study. A PeoplePower employee survey conducted by Corporate Spirit, a Finnish HR intelligence firm, gave Fingrid the best possible rating (AAA) for personnel commitment and rated it second-best among Finland’s most inspiring workplaces in 2017.

Careers at Fingrid are long, employee turnover is relatively low, employees are well educated, the rate of absences due to sickness is less than 2% and the average retirement age is 65, all testament to the effectiveness of the company’s human resources strategy and nurturing corporate culture.

Fingrid has taken great strides in developing and continuously updating its human resources strategy by combining a long-term investment in recruitment with personnel development, This has proved to be a sound business practice and the company’s image as an employer has improved accordingly. Fingrid is much more attractive in the job market than it was 10-to-15 years ago. The company’s tireless efforts to refine recruitment and support supervisors in the process, develop personnel and focus on innovative management have transformed the company into an exemplary employer and a profitable enterprise with corporate social responsibility in its DNA.

Executive Summary

Building a dynamic expert organisation takes consistent effort and buy-in at every level. Fingrid has found success as a leading dynamic expert organisation by ensuring:

  • Core values are affirmed and reaffirmed for each and every employee, from recruitment through to retirement
  • Organisational core competencies are identified and satisfied
  • Human resources and business development strategies are well aligned
  • Managers and specialists are offered regular professional development opportunities
  • Open communication is fostered among staff and between internal departments
  • Success and employee wellbeing are monitored internally and by independent third parties
  • Internal and external feedback is shared throughout the organisation

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