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Kamilla Sultanova: Hanken HIT – from initiative to recognized model for other Finnish HEIs

 | Opinion

During the last 1,5 years I have been part of a growing Hanken School of Economics’ programme for international talents integration and retention. It is called Hanken International Talent™ and is recognized by Business Finland as one of the best practices to integrate and retain students in Finland.

One of the best parts of working with this project was to be exposed to a rich diversity of students that come from nearly all continents and engage with them before and during COVID reality. I also cooperated with Finnish employers, Helsinki region municipalities, over 30 Finnish universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as trade unions that deal with workforce development.

The rewarding work of this matchmaking is to connect the dots on a human-level. One mentoring connection can lead to varieties of opportunities for each Hanken HIT couple.

How does Hanken HIT work?

Internationalization is a big topic along with diversity, equity and inclusion for Finnish society and business. In a nutshell, a university is also the first community for students to feel home at. It is important for the universities to step up their game in building visibility and employment enhancing services for all their students equitably.

Hanken International Talent™ programme was launched in 2017. Annually there are about 30 master students from 20+ countries who come to Hanken to study, among others marketing, business management, finance, accounting, supply chain management and intellectual property law.

When working with HIT, couples have been matched via 20 minutes interviews. Each company mentor and mentee have then been able to plan their cooperation based on the company situation. Thus, the mentoring element has been a strong part of the program which has also facilitated building new professional networks and increased likelihood of finding a student-employer project (student job, thesis cooperation, summer job).

The companies have also benefitted from the students’ expertise and input for 2–3 months. Onboarding the master students have been able to help a company test new ways to run or optimize the business or develop new products or services. The cooperation has helped companies to develop their employees’ social capital and the company’s diversity efforts.

The program has real impact

Measured over a longer term, the employment rate in Finland has been 85% for those participating in the programme, and the overall retention rate stands at over 90%.

Another way of measuring the programme’s impact is in recruitment cost savings, which are measured to be at approx. € 20–30.000 per full-time recruitment and onboarding per person (source: Hofstede Insights Finland). There are several barriers documented in Finland which prevent recruitment of culturally diverse workforce, from language to cultural reasons, to prejudices, and lack of professional networks.

At the same time, 70% of managers in Finland are not prepared for cultural growth in their teams (source: Hofstede insights Finland). Programmes such as Hanken HIT give an opportunity to an easy and risk-free collaboration and build awareness and company preparedness to diversify their teams.

One student reported that despite applying for 40 jobs, not a single application resulted in a job offer but the first one in her home country Germany did. So, there is still way to go and support international students with programmes like Hanken HIT.

There are now many videos endorsing students, employer testimonials, and various visuals that are used to brand international students in the workplace and in the society. During two years, we have had 27 company/mentor collaborators who all have supported students one way or another.

COVID has not slowed down matchmaking

During COVID, universities had to adapt their teaching to fit physical distancing requirements of the pandemic, which also was true for Hanken HIT program. It was adapted to remote format and more focus was put to mentoring where work-related employer-student engagement was not possible.

Despite the expected difficulties, it has been the best year for matching international students, as 23 out of 30 have been matched and I already have heard messages of full-time employment and secured several positions for summer jobs. Positive change is definitely there.

International students do know their worth and are willing to consider few options before making a commitment to company internship offers even during COVID. This requires employers to improve their job offering for being the preferred employer in a specific field.

International students today shape their own communities and help companies thrive across Finland. I have no doubt that also universities can be true changemakers by bringing employers and the talents of tomorrow together.

I wish everyone to stay safe and stay inspired despite COVID-19 pandemic!

The writer is a keynote speaker, event host and community builder as well as project manager for Hanken International Talent™ 2019–2021.

(***Since April, Hanken HIT is developed by career coordinator Henna Konsti)

Kamilla Sultanova’s photo: Niki Strbian

More information

1 min teaser of the programme
Hanken HIT website
Read more about the programme on Talent Cook Book 2.0

Tips for university colleagues for talent management programmes

1. Collaborate: Organize a team of stakeholders with admission, comms and alumni relations
2. Lead with code of ethics & stay vigilant to diversity, equity and inclusion topics
3. Hire international talents, those who represent your talent pool & engage continuously with students
4. Commit to marketing, video, digital content to attract, integrate and retain international students
5. To make talent management pool wanted, brand it and make it personal to both employers and students
6. Engage international students and alumni in blogs, podcasts & interviews to build further visibility of career progress in Finland


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