I had the great opportunity to meet Petra Rosvall, Chief People Officer at M-Files, a document management platform supporting companies in the digital “work from everywhere” world.
She has been part of international teams in the US and Finland, working with colleagues from various nationalities. She admits that she loves working with people, and Diversity is a matter of value for her.
Petra Rosvall, Chief People Officer at M-Files
“We need to be aware and do what we can to make the world a place where everyone has the same opportunities, and inclusion for me means belonging, so really making sure that once we have diversity, everyone can have a voice and contribute”.
Diversity and inclusion are the way to collect the best aspects of different experiences, skills and perspectives, and that is when great teams and opportunities start to bloom.
We had a warm conversation, and I had the opportunity to ask her questions about the DEI approach and its importance for companies and international people coming to Finland.
What are your newcomer policies for your new employees? How do you make them feel comfortable and included during the onboarding process?
So, we start the onboarding process before the person begins. Hence, we send them a welcome package including some short videos of employees and the CEO to say welcome and guiding principles that will make them feel comfortable. There is also a culture booklet to share a little bit about the central pieces of the M-Files culture, and this booklet also includes information about our company’s DEI approach. This ensures that everyone knows what is expected and how we should work together before they start.
And once new employees start, the People and Culture Team invites them to a virtual lunch to get to know each other and let them know that we are there to support them, and if they need any peer-to-peer support, we also provide it. The team manager also ensures that the newcomer gets to know the team and the work environment.
How diverse is the corporate culture, and how do you see this trend will evolve in the upcoming years?
I have been with M-Files for almost three years, and I can see the inertia of evolving from a very Finnish company to an international company. However, I think this offers the opportunity to consider a little broader. The more people we have with experiences from different countries and more variety in their social networks, the more natural Diversity becomes.
For example, it has been very natural that we now have English as our working language, which has not always been the case. I believe this is a significant shift to start speaking another language, and there are people still working at M-files who have had to make that shift from Finnish to English. That has been an enormous step, and I am pleased about that because that opens up more opportunities for more people of different nationalities. That inertia has taken us forward, and the value of bringing in people from different backgrounds and experiences has been an excellent achievement for our company.
That inertia has taken us forward, and the value of bringing in people from different backgrounds and experiences has been an excellent achievement for our company.
Out of our over five hundred jobs, we have only a few jobs, especially in the marketing department where native language skills are required.
How do you embrace the DEI approach at your company, and what are your plans and strategies to bring it to the next level?
I think there are kind of two sides to it; one is the more organic that we have been talking about, that there is this positive inertia towards it; we just have to feed the movement and let it grow. But we also have specific programs in place externally, like recruitment-wise and internally, with our employees and teams. The more we can meet people with different experiences, the better we can achieve natural Diversity. We ensure that there are a lot of meetings and social activities among various departments because there are sometimes stereotypes even among the team of the same company.
We also have programs like the “Roihu” leadership program. The program consists of employees from different departments and various backgrounds. It has been a great experience seeing them come together and form a very colorful and influential group.
We also have another program called the Cross Team Pod which came to light during the pandemic and focused on the engagement of members from different departments. They were able to share their experiences and create new connections with each other, and we had great feedback. During these programs and gatherings, teams will have a theme or an activity to do together so that everyone can contribute and feel included, for example, volunteering. The teams then tend to share their experience, which makes them unite around the same shared values.
In my opinion, the best practice to melt away many unconscious biases is meeting people, engaging with them, and getting to know each other better. This will make inclusion and Diversity the new normal as they should be.
Creating metrics for D&I initiatives and hoping you attain them isn’t enough to make real and meaningful progress. You’ll know you are making real and significant progress by attracting, cultivating, and retaining diverse talent and allowing your workforce’s Diversity to organically shape and guide a more inclusive company culture where all employees feel valued. Is your diverse workforce organically shaping an inclusive culture?
I feel fortunate about that. One of our company’s core values which is part of our mission statement is “help others” and help others in our working environment at M-Files means, for example, assuming good intentions, being kind, being a good teammate, reaching out for help and admit that you don’t know everything. So, this kind of humble attitude and kindness already in the culture is perfect for fastening Diversity and Inclusion.
Taking about Bias, let’s discuss another crucial topic. In your opinion, how much does gender-based Bias influence women’s employment, especially in the IT industry?
Well, I have a memory from 15 years back. My sister graduated from Lappeenranta University with a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering; at her graduation, there were seventy men and my sister. That was pretty shocking for me, and I thought it was polarised around gender. I was not expecting an equal amount, but I was at least expecting a couple more women there. By then, I realized that we have to give young girls role models and empower them into even more technical roles if this interests them. We should make them believe in themselves and support them in their career goals, and for children, that means sometimes having someone who represents them, and they feel connected too. Skills can be taught, and they can be successful.
Many professions are still very gender-based. So, for example, if we see teachers and nurses, most of them are women, and if we talk about statistics in more technical and information technology roles, they are still man-based.
There has been a lot of improvement in this direction, but we have much more to do.
What are your three pieces of advice for multilingual and new Finns?
It is worth being yourself, and you have to believe that everyone can bring something to the table entirely. Use your voice because I think that most of the time, you will find that people will be interested and respectful. Diversity doesn’t fulfill its full potential if people don’t believe they can have a voice and bring their unique aspects to the table.
Try to avoid complete assimilation and trust yourself. And Welcome!
Interview by Ina Bilaj, coordinator of DEI for SKY