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Recruitment Training for SMEs – Benchmarking at its Best

Kirsi Taskinen

In the first half of 2018, SME entrepreneurs in North Karelia, Finland, had the chance to participate in six recruitment trainings organized by the SMErec project. The topics of the training sessions included applicant attraction and selection, employee orientation and engagement as well as internal recruitment. In addition, the participants gained some practical advice on how to take advantage of 360 videos and LinkedIn when recruiting.

The trainers were Principal Lecturer Arja-Irene Tiainen and Lecturer Anssi Gröhn from the Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Leena Friman from Tamora Ltd, as well as social media recruitment expert Tom Laine. Local SME representatives were invited to each training session to share their own recruitment practices and experiences.

In this blog post, you can find a brief overview of the trainings. Which topics were the most interesting for the trainers and participants?

The role of employer image in getting good applicants

Managing Director of Puhdas Ilo Ltd, Suvi Toivola (left), greets recruitment training participant Johanna Numminen.

The employer image is crucial to successful recruiting. For example, recruiting methods, how the employer treats the employees, communication, and corporate values have an effect on the employer image.

An excellent example of a company which has been able to create a good employer image is Puhdas Ilo Ltd. The company operates in the field of cleaning in North Karelia. Managing Director Suvi Toivola and her partner have consistently utilized creative ideas in marketing and recruiting. A good employer image has contributed to the fact that there are enough good applicants to any open position in their company.

According to Toivola, a company has to pay attention to the company culture in order to get good applicants. Puhdas Ilo Ltd values the work-life balance of their employees: well-being is important and the employment must be a win-win situation for both.

Proactive recruiting accelerates the process

North Karelian SMEs were interested in the recruitment practices of Lemonsoft Ltd.

 When it is time to select a new employee from a number of applicants, you can use, for example, video interviews, pre-employment tests, and personality tests. In the interview phase, the best way to compare applicants is to use structured interviews. That way you can plan the most important questions in advance and ask the same questions from all applicants.

SMEs often look for alternatives to a slow and expensive recruitment process. It is always a good idea to make use of networks and not to forget about good trainees and summer workers.

One way to accelerate the recruitment process is proactive recruitment, which is used for example at Lemonsoft Ltd. According to Mari Erkkilä, Vice President, Finance and Human Resources, the goal is to receive so many open applications that people can be interviewed in advance.

Interactive employee orientation benefits both employee and employer

Miia Surakka talking about the employee orientation of atFlow Ltd.

The employee orientation and engagement affect the well-being and effectiveness at work. At its best, orientation is interacting. The employer should encourage the new employee to tell of his/her observations at the beginning of the employment. Old employees can learn a lot from a newcomer. Miia Surakka appreciates the fresh eyes of new employees. She is responsible for the marketing and partnerships of atFlow in Joensuu. The company has doubled its number of employees over the last couple of years and currently employs 25 people. The orientation process has been greatly refined since the beginning.

According to Surakka, the employee orientation process has been carefully planned. Particularly in the early stages of employment, new and old employees work a lot together. Everybody encourages the new employees to ask questions if they are uncertain. On the other hand, the newcomers also get responsibility from the very beginning.

Internal recruitment saves money

Managing Director Veli-Pekka Leppänen described the recruiting practices of Nanocomp Ltd which employs 35 people in Northern Karelia.

Recruiting is expensive. It costs time, effort and money. Before starting an external recruitment process, you should take a minute and think about the best solution. For example, does the right person for the open vacancy already work for the company?

Internal recruitments save money and they are also a good way to increase employee commitment. If your employees have growth opportunities, they are not likely to seek new jobs as easily.

The guest speaker of the training session was Veli-Pekka Leppänen, Managing Director of Nanocomp, which operates in the field of micro and nanophotonics. According to Leppänen, one of the biggest challenges of the company is to find specialists who are willing to move to North Karelia, which is a sparsely populated area in eastern Finland. In a job interview, Leppänen pays special attention to the values of the applicant.

Stand out using new technology

Lecturer Anssi Gröhn, Karelia UAS, organized a down-to-earth 360 video workshop for the participants.

In a down-to-earth video workshop, participants learned about 360 videos and virtual reality. They tested how to film 360 videos, how to edit them, and how to publish the videos in social media. The equipment for 360 videos is inexpensive, and new technology makes it possible to stand out from the crowd.

When recruiting and introducing your own organization, you can use 360 videos to attract attention and interest. Information overload is a big challenge for people. By using new technology, you might leave a more permanent memory trace. 360 videos work particularly well in group interviews.

With the help of 360 videos you can virtually introduce different places to applicants. It is also possible to take advantage of virtual pre-employment tests. Virtual travel is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

LinkedIn in recruitment

Marja-Liisa Ruotsalainen, Project Manager of the SMErec project & Tom Laine, Social Media Recruitment Expert.

The topic of the last training was social media service LinkedIn. Trainer Tom Laine introduced several possibilities to utilize LinkedIn in recruitment for free. You can, for example, make use of keywords, free status updates and LinkedIn groups.

You should not underestimate the power of internal referrals. It is always better, if the employees share the recruitment updates in their own social network. That way the updates spread wider and the message is more credible.

In LinkedIn you can also pay to advertise a job. One good possibility is to use the Jobs section. The average price for recruiting advertisements is less than EUR 300. It is possible to determine yourself, how much money you want to invest in the advertisement. LinkedIn will tell you how much visibility you will get.

Obligations related to recruiting a new employee

In the autumn 2017, the project SMErec (New generation recruitment skills for small and medium-sized enterprises and workforce) provided training for entrepreneurs on how to encounter a new employee and how to handle the obligations related to hiring a new employee. The training was conducted twice; once in October and once in November, each with a similar content. The duration of the training was three hours at both times. Both sole traders and entrepreneurs who have already recruited employees in their companies attended the training.

The training focused on a situation where a new employee has just been hired. What are then the following actions to be taken?

Read more: link to the article written by Arja-Irene Tiainen

Be prepared

Mervi Leminen

It is a fact that you only have 24 hours a day – every day! For work and leasure time activities you can use about 16 hours a day. The rest of time you need to use for sleeping and resting. Some entrepreneurs claim they work 24/7, unfortunately this is both impossible and unhealthy, but it’s also bad for your business.

Recognise the needs

It is very important for a single entrepreneur to recognise the moment when your work load has grown too big for one person to handle – and you need to find help. You can solve this problem by hiring, outsourcing or staffing.

It is a huge step for entrepreneur to become an employer. Suddenly you have a new role as a leader and you have to trust the other person and also delegate your tasks.

You have to make many compromises hiring your first employee, because you can´t find second you. You might be lucky – It might happen that you gain some value added to your business via new skilled worker. You also have to be willing to learn new leadership skills. You can either learn step by step, usually from mistakes, or be proactive in learning.

Hunting the right person

It is a good question to ask yourself, where to find best guy for the job. You can always use your own personal network and find a person you already know to work for you. But sometimes you have to depend on other channels. In many cases, it´s timesaving to use headhunters. Public and private recruiting organisations can also reach wide range of skilled jobseekers. Nowadays it is more and more common to use social media in supporting the recruitment process. The most important thing is to define the skills and competencies needed for the job beforehand.

Remembering the employer image

It´s good to remember, that whatever you do in your company you are always creating company image. And the company image is even more important while recruiting, you need to be competitive employer in the eyes of the jobseeker. Make sure that in every step of the way you are building positive company image – weather in customer service or in a job interview. And remember that “you are constantly in a spotlight”.

Job familiarisation

It is good to notice that new employee needs time to learn and adjust to a new job. The better plan you have for familiarisation the easier it is for a new person to fit in to your company culture and fulfill the expectations. Beforehand you can write down practices, tasks, processes, guidelines etc. By doing this you will be able to transfer the important information for the newcomer when the right time comes. The whole process of recruitment takes time and the earlier you start preparing for it, the more effective results you will get.

Transnational kick-off meeting in Belgium

Marja-Liisa Ruotsalainen, Antti Meriö, Marcus Penttinen, Mervi Leminen and Tanja Rimpilä

After the Easter the representatives of Finnish SMErec consortium, both from Joensuu and Turku traveled to Belgium to meet transnational project partners in the city of Ghent. The main idea of the trip was to meet transnational partners and to have the first transnational kick-off meeting, organized by the HoGent College University. The key purpose of the meeting was to create a common vision and the framework for transnational cooperation. The kick-off meeting was held in the beautiful city of Ghent, the Flemish-speaking area of Belgium.

Wednesday 19th of April 2017, Gent
We spent the day in Hogent College University having our first transnational meeting. The Finns met Belgian and German partners for the first time in the meeting.

Picture 1: Transnational project partners

At the beginning of the kick-off meeting, the Belgium partner as the coordinator of the transnational project reported other partners the status of the transnational project. Because most of the project partners hadn´t met each other before we introduced ourselves and our national projects.

In Finland more than 99 % of companies are SMEs. In Belgium, the percentage is 54. SMEs are facing many challenges in their selection processes. Many times the selection decisions of the companies are based mostly on a good feeling. The objective of the national project in Belgium is to develop selection processes of SME´s and to promote of non-discriminating employment practises.

From the public recruitment services point of view the situation is very similar to Finland. The services are fragmented, both from the jobseekers’ and the employers’ point of view.

German partner the Hochschule Hartz was also interested in the selection, especially competencies and data analysis in selection processes. Objective of the project is to develop a digital tool and the target group is primarily the health care.

The Finnish consortium introduced the SMErec project. The transnational partners considered the amount of companies in project significant. The SMErec also differs from other national projects because it provides recruitment training for companies and university students and involves students to the development of digital tools.

Thursday 20the of April 2017, Ghent and Brussels
On Thursday morning the Belgium partner arranged us a city tour in amazing old town of Ghent.

3: Old town of Ghent

After the city tour we travelled to Brussels. Where we first met the personnel of EU-offices of Eastern and North-Finland and Southwest Finland. Then we went together to meet Juuso Stenfors, the Desk officer/Programme Manager in DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in European Commission.

Picture 4: Administration Buildings of European Commission, Le Charlemagne ja Lex

Picture 5: Our consortium in Brussels, in right Mr Stenfors


The kick-off meeting was very successful and an excellent start for a wide transnational co-operation. Each one of the transnational partner had significant expertise to offer for co-operation. The visit to Commission was very comprehensive. Our meeting focused on several themes around EU and ESF-programme. We got a lot of up-to-date information of the EU Commission practices.

Other good memories

The Ghent turned out to be a very active student city. Besides to our partner University HoGent, there were also other higher education institutions. About 20 % of the residents were students, and with a population of about 250,000 people, the street picture was very modern. The city of Ghent has a long history. The old town is large and architecturally coherent. The number of bicycles was noteworthy.

Picture 6. View of old town Ghent

Welcome to SMErec project’s homepages

Welcome to SMErec – new generation recruitment skills for SMEs and workforce project’s home page. We invite you to our community of recruitment developers and experts to develop yours, your company’s or students recruitment skills in Joensuu or Turku region.

SMErec project aims at promoting the competitiveness of Finnish companies by enhancing SMEs recruitment and students job-hunting skills. New digital and virtual tools will be developed to enhance recruitment processes both in Joensuu and Turku region.

SMErec will also work in transnational co-operation with partner projects in Belgium, Germany and Netherlands.