As immigration has increased since the mid-2010s, there has also been a lot of public debate in Finland about immigrants and their integration into the Finnish workforce, among others. There has also been much research into the adaptation and success of immigrants who came to Finland in the labor market. It has been noted that it is difficult for them to achieve jobs to match their education and abilities, which makes a lot of skills unexploited in the labor market. In response to this challenge, the development of multicultural competence in Finnish workplaces has been proposed. Human resources management professionals believe that ethnic diversity enriches the competence of the entire company, adding perspectives and bringing new ideas, and improving customer service. Generally, multicultural issues have been characterized as difficult and multiculturalism is perceived as a challenge. Facing other cultures, reconciling with them and adapting to multiculturalism are not one-fold and fast processes, but require time, open debate and a desire to develop as a community. Understanding and appreciation of different cultures enriches and diversifies communities, which is why there should be an effort to have a balance between them and an overall atmosphere of appreciation.
The development and improvement of both professional competence and workplace competence is necessary in every workplace. The development of workplace competence contributes to its functionality and in the long term increases the competitiveness. Productivity and performance are guaranteed by skilled employees who develop their own working skills and those of the whole work community. Of course, the increase in immigration can also be seen in workplaces where the effects of multiculturalism are directly visible. In multicultural working communities, there are special features associated with the development of the knowledge and skills. In multicultural workplaces, in addition to the professional competence is the so-called workplace competence also required, that is based on the shared understanding and language. Workplace competence involves a lot of culture-specific features, about which debating and an equitable understanding is particularly important in multicultural communities. It is important for a worker with a migrant background to be able to know the rules, policies, language and culture of Finnish working life, and it is for the good for all parties if support in learning these matters is offered.
Competence, in particular organizational competence, is built in cooperation with others, and therefore the development of competence must not be solely the responsibility of employees, but also the need for organized practices and situations in which competencies can be developed together. There are common practices in good workplaces that enable and support the development of competence and the well-being of all employees. Workplace competence and its development are particularly emphasized in multicultural workplaces, because of the varying language skills of workers and different cultural backgrounds. Workplace competence, that is, a generally shared and accepted understanding of work, workplace practices and policies, can and should be constructed consciously. The development of workplace competencies requires time and opportunities for discussion and tools to help illustrate and concrete the discussion that has taken place.
The final report of the research project Moni osaa! conducted by the Occupational Health Institute (2018) illustrates the fourfold table of skills development, the tensions and the means in the multicultural workplace. Tensions include the role of the employee as an active — a passive player in the development of skills and the working community, and the pursuit of similarity — an effort to address multiculturalism and diversity in the workplace. The fourfold brilliantly presents the challenges associated with the coordination of cultures in working communities. On the other hand, it has also summarized the ways in which these challenges can be met. Means include providing similar information to all members of the community — providing information in a cultural-first way, while taking into account the differences of workers, as well as interactions that develop competencies collectively — developing competencies in interaction and taking account of the differences.
In terms of the overall (work) welfare, better attachment of the immigrants to work and opportunities for development in employment and productivity, multicultural skills in the workplace play a key role. Multicultural competence is at the center of Burgal’s activities and we are definitely advocates for it. It is in everyone’s interest if companies understand its importance and take into account the value of people with different ethnical backgrounds in the working community.