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Employers’ Experience with Foreign Recruitment

Read why Bigbank, Swedbank, Velvet Creative Alliance and Skano Group have decided to hire foreign specialists and how they have benefited from it.

Agne Sokolov: We carefully considered the decision to recruit employees from other countries

When recruiting foreigners to work in Estonia, there are many aspects to consider, from cultural differences and the weather to finding a doctor or a kindergarten spot for the employee’s kids, Agne Sokolov, Bigbank’s support services lead, writes in Estonian World.

“Estonia is clean, quiet and safe,” says an employee of Bigbank who has come to work in Estonia from overseas. Another one adds that Tallinn has free public transport, it is easy to use the ID-card and it’s nice to ride a bike on the illuminated roads. These are every-day things for Estonians, but important factors for foreign employees when choosing their career and place of residence.

At the moment, the bank’s Estonian office employs 12 foreigners who have come to work both at the company’s technology area and customer service positions. Some have found their way through a public advertisement, others have been recruited by headhunting. Why have these people come to Estonia and to work for us?

We are a bank specialised in loans, which includes both regular banking positions, but also such exciting positions as data migration lead, scrum master, site reliability engineer and many others.

As we operate in nine European countries and the people at our headquarters often communicate with all countries, we have also unified many official titles. This way the employees at different countries can understand the work of their colleagues in a more similar way. Our goal is digitalisation and so the technology area constitutes 17% of the whole bank’s and 31% of Estonian staff. In recent times, we have recruited the most to the technology area.

Most of our foreign employees have started work in the past few years, as we understood that recruiting IT workers from the domestic market was more and more time consuming and expensive. We also organise campaigns for the employees of our company where we pay a bonus of e.g. €2,000 for a person recommended to us. Both the employee campaigns and the good work of recruitment companies have been successful in finding hard-working people.

The people who come to work for us decide to come to Estonia, for example, because they have an Estonian girlfriend and are therefore looking for a good job; or because Estonia has stood out to them as an innovative place with potential for development, where a person can continue to develop their career. For example, according to employees from Brazil, the IT labour market there is so competitive that finding a good and well-paid job while competing with a million other people working in the field is very difficult.

We carefully considered the decision to recruit employees from other countries, but understanding its daily implications took some time. Our official internal language is English and the internal documents are mostly in English, but first, we understood that even though we may use English at the company level, people tend to talk to each other in their mother tongue. Thus, a foreign employee can easily be left out of the communication around them. What helped and is helping is constantly reminding the staff that in the kitchen or in the room there are also people who do not speak Estonian. Within the last year, we have recruited employees who have at least a basic level of English.

Secondly, we realised that cultural differences are an issue that needs to be discussed both among foreign employees and also existing employees. It is necessary to discuss different behaviours, traditions and established rules, which may be ordinary for Estonians, but could scare a foreign employee. For example, while in Spain it is completely normal to begin meetings with a 15-minute delay, in Estonia it is considered rude. This year, we are planning a separate training in cultural differences in cooperation.

Naturally, our climate is also an issue and it is not to be underestimated. It is not enough to tell a person that it is cold here, as in Brazil or Ukraine, “cold” can mean temperatures way above freezing.

Once, we have had to even turn to the prime minister of Estonia to get an employee through the border control. If the employee happens to have a pet, we also need to consider when the pet is vaccinated or whether the pet needs to be quarantined to be even allowed to enter the country. Now, these are fun stories to remember, but the stress and wasted time have been great for both the new employee and us.

As a bank, we also check the background of every new employee and it could be a stumbling block for foreign workers from third countries. It is difficult to find reliable sources; problems are caused by the number of people of the same name and the difficulty of obtaining proof.

We have also learned that a new person might not have enough available funds to make the down payment to a rent a flat or to pay the €200 fee for opening a bank account. Also, there have been difficulties in finding an English-speaking GP, as their lists are full.

Ülle Matt: Recruiting Foreign Employees must be a thought-out decision

Swedbank Human Resources Director Ülle Matt directly links foreign recruitment to reassuring business success. “One of the main ways for an enterprise to drive business is to find the best people to contribute to it. We must first and foremost consider the expertise we are lacking that would greatly contribute to the improvement of business,” Matt says. In addition, foreign recruitment enriches the working environment. “It brings a new perspective to everyday work, increases internal tolerance and drives creativity,” Ülle Matt adds.

At the moment, Swedbank employs people of over 25 nationalities, one of them is Thomas Etzlstorfer from Austria. Thomas found his way to Swedbank through his expertise – he previously worked for small technology businesses that proved to be an excellent stepping stone to Swedbank. Settling into the everyday work life was easy thanks to helpful co-workers. “I discovered a great ice breaker for initial conversations – introducing myself by my middle name Leopold,” Thomas says. “The most difficult part was handling the language barrier, yet thanks to my colleagues and the Estonian courses provided by Swedbank, I have now managed to overcome this,” Thomas adds. “I believe that enterprises should not fear change. If the change calls for expanding and entering a new market, enterprises should not be sceptical of recruiting foreigners as it will only benefit themselves,” Thomas Etzstorfer explains. Ülle Matt adds that prior to foreign recruitment, an enterprise should determine whether they are ready to do so and whether the team is willing to make the changes necessary for facilitating the comfortable transition to a new living and working environment. In order for employees to be satisfied and work to run smoothly, the person from a different environment must integrate into our way of life, understand the cultural background and our language. Understanding and helpful colleagues are irreplaceable guides in this. “Competent employees with novel ideas help to enrich our working environment, as well as increase openness and tolerance,” Matt says.

Janno Siimar: The greater the fear, the more vital the change

Senior Creative Director at design agency Velvet, Janno Siimar recruited his first foreign employee in 2007 at a bar in Barcelona. “My colleagues and I were visiting the annual OFFF festival and I happened to be talking to a graphic designer who I incidentally asked to come to work in Estonia. The young graphic designer Rubi took the bull by its horns and decided to take the offer. Rubi’s exciting approach to everyday work inspired me to look beyond the border when recruiting new employees,” Siimar explains.

Velvet offers foreigners an apartment as well as a tight-knit and helpful team that makes the settling easier. “In creative work, thinking outside the box is a huge bonus. Over the past 12 years we have completed 7,000 projects for over 1,000 clients and each of these has been a challenge in themselves. As the technical side tends to get repetitive, the situation requires finding a contrast. This is where a distinctive team with broad horizons saves the day in finding innovative solutions,” Siimar adds.

At the moment, Velvet employs Iranian Amid Moradganjeh who has officially been living in Estonia for over a year. Although he previously worked for Velvet for a couple of months, he decided to travel the world in search of new challenges. Prior to his return, he lived in the USA and worked for IDEO and Google, yet decided that working on his own projects and in Velvet was his calling, and moved back to Estonia.

“It was easy to get settled in Estonia as people are so open and straightforward. Since Estonia is so small, I have managed to gain a noteworthy social network over the past years, so I can say I feel quite at home here,” Amid adds.

According to Janno Siimar, hiring foreigners does not lead to any difficulties. “It is worth to do it just for the cultural shock alone, it truly helps you grow as a person. The greater the fear of hiring a foreigner, the more sure I am of its necessity,” Siimar says.

Foreign expertise brought new life to Skano Group

According to the Marketing Manager Lauri Treimann of Skano Group AS, producer of furniture and wood-based fibre slabs, hiring foreigners broadens people’s minds organisationally. “They bring with them a new breathing and innovative ways of looking at things, which is necessary when people are stuck in a rut,” Treimann adds.

At the start of 2014, an American Greg Grace joined the Skano Group and started as the Head of Sales. Greg has lived and worked in Estonia already for 20 years, is acquainted with the local way of life and has managed sales and marketing in different large enterprises.

“In Skano Group, my challenge has been to increase export volumes and create new partnerships,” Grace comments. “Skano Group has shown remarkable results in the neighbouring markets, yet I see a great potential to go even further. I believe that my international background combined with knowledge of Estonia and the product selection contribute to successful sales,” Grace says.

Marketing Manager Lauri Treimann adds that Greg has brought about a change in the way the whole team sees things. “Greg has encouraged us to think bigger and see ourselves as more than just a manufacturer, to realise our potential in sales and services and to market these aspects. In sales, durable partnerships are the key and these have also been our goal,” Treimann says. “Employees with an international background are highly valuable salespersons, because of their trustworthiness and the ability to incorporate matters also important to our foreign partners,” Treimann adds.

Loe eesti keeles: Tööandja kogemused välisvärbamisega

Loe, miks on otsustanud Swedbank, Disainibüroo Velvet ja Skano Grupp välistööjõudu värvata ning kuidas see neile kasu on toonud.

Ülle Matt: Välistööjõu värbamine peab olema läbimõeldud otsus

Swedbanki personalijuhi Ülle Matti sõnul on välismaalaste värbamine otseselt seotud ärilise edu tagamisega. “Ettevõtte üheks suurimaks võimaluseks äriedendamise puhul on leida parimad inimesed, kes sellele kaasa aitavad. Eelkõige tuleb silmas pidada kompetentsi, millest endal on vajaka ja mis äri arengule aga suuresti kaasa aitaks,” sõnas Matt. Lisaks edendamisele rikastab välistööjõu värbamine töökeskkonda. “See annab igapäevasele tööle juurde uut perspektiivi, suurendab sisemist tolerantsust ja ergutab loovust,” lisas Ülle Matt.

Hetkel töötab Swedbankis 25 eri rahvusest inimest ning üheks neist on Austriast pärit Thomas Etzlstorfer. Tee Swedbanki leidis Thomas oma kompetentsi tõttu – ta töötas eelnevalt väikeses tehnoloogiaettevõttes, mis kujunes heaks hüppelauaks Swedbanki. Igapäevasesse tööellu sulandumine oli abivalmite töökaaslaste tõttu lihtne. “Avastasin, et esmase suhtluse puhul sulas kiiresti jää, kui tutvustasin end keskmise nimega, milleks on Leopold,” nentis Thomas. “Peamiseks raskuseks oli minu jaoks keelebarjääriga toimetulek, kuid tänu kolleegidele ja Swedbanki võimaldatud eesti keele tundidele, olen sellest tänaseks päevaks üle saanud,” sõnas Thomas. “Ma leian, et ettevõtted ei peaks kartma minna kaasa arengutega. Kui areng tähendab, et on vaja laiendada piire ja minna uuele turule, siis ei tasuks karta välismaa tööjõu värbamist, sest see tuleb ettevõttele endale kasuks,” arvas Thomas Etzstorfer. Ülle Matt lisas, et välistööjõu värbamise puhul tuleks enne kindlasti läbi mõelda, kas ettevõte ise on selleks valmis ning kas meeskonnas ollakse valmis tegema vajalikke muudatusi, et teha sulandumine uude töö-ja elukeskkonda võimalikult mugavaks. Selleks, et töökohas silm säraks ja töö hästi laabuks, peaks võõrast keskkonnast tulnud inimene kohanema meie eluoluga, mõistma kultuurilist tausta ning keelt. Mõistvad ja abivalmid kolleegid on selles asendamatuteks teejuhideks. “Värske vaatega kompetentsed töötajad aitavad rikastada meie töökeskkonda ja suurendada avatust ning tolerantsust.” sõnas Matt. 

Janno Siimar: Mida suurem on hirm, seda hädavajalikum muutus

Disainibüroo Velvet vanem loovjuht Janno Siimar värbas oma esimese välismaise töötaja aastal Barcelona baaris. „Käisime kolleegidega iga-aastasel festivalil OFFF ning sattusin juttu ajama graafilise disaineriga, kelle kutsusin nii muuseas Eestisse tööle. Noor graafiline disainer Rubi haaras härjal sarvist ja otsustaski tulla Eestisse. Rubi põnev lähenemine igapäevasele tööle innustas mind üha enam vaatama tööjõu värbamiseks piiri taha,” sõnas Siimar. Välismaalaste jaoks on Velvetil välja pakkuda korter ja kokkuhoidev ning abivalmis kollektiiv, mis muudab kohanemise sellevõrra lihtsamaks. „Loovtöös on teistmoodi mõtlemine suureks kasuks. Me oleme 12 aasta jooksul teinud 7000 projekti, enam kui 1000 kliendile ning iga klient on omaette väljakutse. Kui tehniline pool võib pahatihti korduda, siis on vaja leida eristuvus. Sel puhul on kasuks kirev ja laia silmaringiga seltskond, et leida uudseid lahendusi,” sõnas Siimar. Hetkel töötab Velvetis iraanlasest Amid Moradganjeh, kes on ametlikult Eestis elanud ühe aasta. Varasemalt on ta ka mõned kuud töötanud Velvetis, kuid käis vahepeal maailma avastamas ja uusi väljakutseid kogemas.

Enne Eestisse lõplikult kolimist elas ta USA-s ja töötas IDEO’s ja Google’is, kuid siiski otsustas, et tahab töötada oma projektide kallal ja Velvetis ning otsustas tulla tagasi Eestisse. „Eesti ellu oli lihtne sulanduda, sest inimesed on väga avameelsed ja otsekohesed. Kuna Eesti on nii väike, on mul mitme aasta peale kokku kogunenud juba märkimisväärne sotsiaalne võrgustik, mistõttu tunnen ma end siin väga koduselt,” lisas Amid. Janno Siimari sõnul ei ole välismaalaste värbamise juures mitte midagi keerulist. „Juba kultuurilise šoki pärast tasuks seda teha, sest see annab tegelikult inimestele nii palju juurde. Ja mida suurem hirm on ettevõttel välismaalaste värbamise eest, siis seda kindlamalt võin väita, et see on hädavajalik,” sõnas Siimar.

Skano Group sai välismaise kompetentsiga uue hingamise

Mööbli ja naturaalsete puitkiust ehitusplaatide tootja Skano Group AS turundusjuht Lauri Treimanni sõnul avardab välismaalaste värbamine organisatsioonisiseselt Inimeste mõtlemist. „Nad toovad e t te võt t e s s e värskust ja uudset mõtlemist, mida on vaja juhtudel, kus on kinni jäädud oma harjumuspärastesse tegevustesse,” lisas Treimann. 2014. aasta alguses liitus Skano Groupiga ameeriklane Greg Grace, kes alustas ettevõttes müügitöö juhtimist. Greg on Eestis elanud ja töötanud juba 20 aastat, kohaliku eluoluga kursis ning juhtinud müüki ja turundust erinevates suurettevõtetes. „Skano Groupis on minu väljakutse olnud suurendada ekspordimahtusid ja luua uusi partnerlussuhteid,” sõnas Grace. „Skano Group on teinud suurepärast tööd lähiturgudel, kuid ma näen suurt potentsiaali areneda ka kaugematele turgudele. Leian, et minu rahvusvaheline taust ning teadmised Eestist ja müüdavatest toodetest tulevad edukale müügitööle kasuks,” lausus Grace. Skano Group turundusjuht Lauri Treimann sõnas, et Gregi liitumisel meeskonnaga toimus muutus  ogu ettevõtte mõttemaailmas. „Greg julgustas meid mõtlema suuremalt ja mõtlema endist mitte ainult kui tootmisettevõttest, vaid ka müügi ja teenusettevõttest ning vastavalt end ka müüma. Müügis on väga oluline püsivad partnerlussuhted ja selle poole me ka püüdleme,” sõnas Treimann. „Rahvusvahelise taustaga inimene on väärtuslik müügiinimene, sest on usaldusväärne ja suudab tunnetada teemasid, mis on ka meie välismaa partneritele olulised,” lisas Treimann.