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Employing immigrants is a large investment

More than a quarter of the delivery staff employed by Alma Media’s distribution company Alma Manu are of non-Finnish origin. The supervisors must ensure that the permits of foreign delivery staff are in order. Working with the authorities takes time and effective information systems.

Hasib Khurshid from Pakistan (shown in the photo above) is used to driving around the slippery nighttime roads of Tampere’s suburbs. Newspapers must be delivered by six in the morning, which marks the end of the shift for this 28-year-old engineering student.

When he gets home, he gets some sleep before spending time with his family and on his studies. He is working on his master’s thesis at the Tampere University of Technology. He heard about the possibility of working as a deliverer two and a half years ago from a friend who was employed by Alma Manu. Today, six of Khurshid’s friends deliver products for Alma Manu in the Tampere region. 

Khurshid is by no means an exception on Alma Manu’s payroll. 

“Half of the delivery staff in my district are foreigners. Many of them have joined the company based on a recommendation from a friend or fellow student. There are many students in Tampere. My team includes a lot of M.Sc. candidates and graduates,” says delivery supervisor Suvi Urpalainen.

Alma Median HR-assistentti Jaana Myllymäki

 “We have delivery staff from many different cultures. Our supervisors do the recruiting themselves. Every case is different and we consult each other often,” adds HR Assistant Jaana Myllyniemi.

Information systems help keep track of things

The number of foreign employees has increased in recent years at Alma Manu. In 2006, Alma Manu had just over 200 foreign employees, of whom 160 worked in the Pirkanmaa region. This year, the company as a whole has 220 foreign workers, 180 in Pirkanmaa. The growth has led to an expansion in the job descriptions of HR officers and delivery supervisors.

Their duties are also influenced by increasingly strict regulations. The supervisors must stay current on the relevant legal provisions. If they break the law, either knowingly or unknowingly, they may be personally liable. A fine is one possible consequence of such infringements.

“Extensions to work permits are the employees’ responsibility. We are not informed by the Finnish Immigration of whether the extension has been granted or not. Failing to receive this type of information can put us in a difficult position,” HR Assistant Jaana Myllyniemi explains.

If the permit extension is denied, the employee cannot continue to work. 

“Each case is different and these issues create additional work for supervisors,” Myllyniemi says. 

Receiving a permit can take as long as six months. The process should be made smoother.

Bureaucracy burdens both HR officers and delivery supervisors. 

“Supervisors cannot remember everyone’s permit schedules, so we need our system to remind them of important deadlines. I would prefer to have the employer receive information on permits from a source other than the employees,” Myllyniemi adds.

The importance of fluency in English

Recruiting foreign employees is also a challenge in terms of language. Suvi Urpalainen uses English to communicate with the foreign members of her delivery team. She hears a variety of accents every day. Hasib Khurshid speaks fluent English, but understanding him does require careful concentration and asking additional questions.

For Khurshid’s part, communication with his Finnish employer is easy and quite different compared to his hierarchical home country. 

“You can talk to your Finnish employer about anything. The supervisors are very approachable,” Khurshid explains.

Cultural differences quickly lose their relevance in day-to-day work. All prospective delivery employees complete induction training in English. Hasib Khurshid’s job as a deliverer in the Koivistonkylä, Härmälä and Viinikka districts was the result of his own initiative. He picked up the phone and called to ask about vacancies. First, he had to learn to drive a car in winter conditions. After figuring that out, he learned how to operate the PDA device used by Alma Manu’s delivery staff.

He only wishes for two things from his supervisor Suvi Urpalainen: A coffee machine at the office and a better pair of gloves. The current ones are too thin.

  • Published: 29.9.2017, 12:29
  • Category: News
  • Theme: People

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