Finnish company Futurice’s focus on innovation and employee satisfaction has caused it to be named the best place to work in Europe.
Tuomas Syrjänen had a problem.
Syrjänen is the CEO of Futurice, a Helsinki-based software agency that offers consulting, design and training to help clients develop digital businesses. The company maintains offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, London and Tampere, which has made it difficult for Syrjänen to have personal contact with the far-flung staff. His solution was to have a 30-minute “speed date” with every employee once a year.
“We have 150 smart people working at Futurice, with lots of great ideas, know-how and desires,” explains Syrjänen. “As the company has grown bigger, I cannot have a personal day-to-day connection with everybody at Futurice anymore. This is why the speed date idea came about and that’s why I like it most.”
The innovative speed date solution is indicative of the way Futurice runs its business. As the company grew, they decided to find an alternative to adding layers of management into a strict hierarchal structure.
“A significant part of our culture is always seeking to improve and find better ways to do things,” Syrjänen continues. “One way we nurture innovation is to endorse autonomy that is based on accountability. A person has the freedom to do and try things he or she believes in and at the same time the person is accountable for results.”
Innovation the Finnish way
Founded in 2000 by engineering students from the Helsinki University of Technology, Futurice works for customers in a variety of industries, including telecommunications, media, banking, insurance, retail and logistics.
“Our way to build software is to have really competent people in small and cross-functional teams close to the customer,” says Syrjänen. “We use modern technologies and methods that are lean and agile to produce results fast while caring about what we do.”
Although the company is international, they make an effort to draw upon some very Finnish traits. Syrjänen cites the report Mission for Finland! How Finland will solve the world’s most wicked problems – a high-level endeavour by some of Finland’s elder statesmen of business, culture and politics, seeking to emphasise Finland’s strengths and brand identity.
He paraphrases the report: “Functionality combines two aspects that are characteristic to us: on the one hand, reliability and mutual trust, and on the other, an unconventional, non-hierarchical way of solving problems.”
“Trust, caring, transparency and continuous improvement are the core of Futurice culture, and the description of functionality is just about that,” Syrjänen says. “This functionality – open, down-to-earth, low-hierarchical way of doing things – makes Futurice’s culture different from German or British work culture. This is something that fascinates our foreign customers, too. Functionality is the thing Futurice brings abroad.”
Europe’s best place to work
The great effort expended to make employees happy has resulted in Futurice being named the best place to work among small and medium-sized companies throughout Europe by the Great Place to Work Institute.
“This has brought positive publicity and even new business – our customers believe that happy people make better results,” says Syrjänen. “Business is doing great. We recently opened new offices in the UK and Germany, and the business is growing. [The year 2012 marks growth of] some 30 percent in employees and revenue.
“Happy employees are a part of the positive cycle of happy employees, happy customers and happy end-users. When you trust your employees, they also take responsibility. When you show that you really care about them, they care about your business and customers. Positive feedback from customers and end-users motivates employees to do even better work. Great results are made by happy people.”
By David J. Cord, November 2012