The University of Oulu and NISO ry (Network of International Students in Oulu) offer companies and organizations a service that can make internationalization easier. The University of Oulu has 11 cultural coaches from 11 different countries. They provide companies with invaluable information about the culture and cultural differences of their target country as well as the impact of these differences on working with foreign partners.
Yueqiang Xu from China and Kiyoko Uematsu, who has moved to Finland from Japan, are both cultural coaches. They work as “cultural ambassadors” and teach companies about the culture of their home country. The topics range from culture in general, business and economy in the country, organizational culture, communication styles, management styles, power relations, and so on. Their coaching sessions can involve, for instance, team coaching, personal coaching, or workshop activities. Coaching sessions are always tailored to meet the customer’s needs.
Kiyoko Uematsu has worked for NISO ry as the person responsible for planning the concept. She also works as a cultural coach herself and has worked extensively with international people in the past. Uematsu believes that foreign employees are open and motivated. “Foreigners studying and working in Finland are quick learners and open to new challenges. This applies to them all, no matter where in the world they come from.”
According to Yueqiang Xu and Kiyoko Uematsu, the best part about working with people with a foreign background is how different challenges can be resolved in cooperation even though everyone comes from a different background and culture. This also benefits companies. Everyone brings their own viewpoint into the company due to their different backgrounds, which provides a new mindset and innovativeness also in terms of the company’s operating methods.
Finland is already internationalizing rapidly, especially in the cultural sector. Uematsu feels that the Finnish culture could become even more international through cooperation. Being involved with different cultures has increased Xu’s and Uematsu’s know-how enormously. This is extremely useful from the perspective of companies working in cooperation with international partners.
Uematsu and Xu say that they are pleased with the results of their work. According to Uematsu, the assets of Finland are information technology, nature, and environmental research, among others. Suitable employees for all of these fields could also be found from different cultures. “Everyone has their own field that they are good at as well as their personal background. Cultural coaches also have different fields of special expertise, such as international business, organizational management, ICT, environmental technology, international relations, and multicultural education and training.”
If a company is interested in recruiting foreign competence, it is a good idea to utilize the know-how of international students. There has already been some cooperation with the Finnish business sector. Xu believes that cultural coaching is an excellent way to teach culture to others. “It is great that we can provide guidance with various intercultural problems and everyday issues. In the end, everyone is satisfied with the results.”