Most companies want to be a good workplace for everyone, right? I know Gofore does; that’s why it is our first value. But how do you meet the needs of someone whose experience and needs you might not understand? Things that are invisible or insignificant to you, might be borderline life-changing for someone else.
While each of us is an individual with our specific needs and desires, belonging to a minority (of any kind) can mean that you have some different needs or face barriers that the majority of your co-workers can’t relate to, or haven’t thought of. Hence you might also be alone in advocating for those needs. That can be both taxing and feel like “maybe this isn’t worth all the fuss if it is just me”.
There are not many minorities I can speak for as an able-bodied, white, masculine-presenting, native Finnish-speaking person. However, I’m a part of the LGBT+ community and this past fall I came out at work as a transgender person, more specifically a trans man (in Finnish transsukupuolinen or transmies). In short, this means that at birth doctors declared me a female based on my physical characteristics, but that identity or body has never felt right. I see myself and identify as a young man.
When I came out, I had been at Gofore for a little over five months. And frankly, very little changed. I’m still the same employee working on the same code with the same tools. I’m not here to say that transgender employees need a lot of accommodation. Rather, I want to point out a few things that Gofore actually already happened to have in place that have made my life significantly better both before and after coming out. I say happened to have because I doubt that specifically trans people were in anyone’s mind. I am open to being proven wrong.
Why did you come out at work?
- As I’ve chosen to transition medically, I felt that coming out was inevitable. There’s no magic switch or “the operation” that will suddenly turn me from this pre-teen look into a bearded dude that doesn’t look 10 years below his actual age. Medical (hormonal) transition is a slow, gradual process (of taking hormones for the rest of my life) and I will go through “a second puberty” once I start hormones.
- A bit before coming out at work, I had started using my new name in the university context. As my academic and professional circles weren’t isolated from each other, confusion arose and I started to feel like an incompetent spy trying to maintain two identities.
- Also, constantly watching how I talk about myself is exhausting and causes me stress that takes away from my work.
- I had then reached a point where hiding my identity caused be more stress than the potential risk of bad reactions.
- Finally, I have the privilege of having family and friends that accept and support me. If something were to go wrong with my coming out at work, I knew I could lean on them.
Not every trans person is this open about their identity. Due to stigma, prejudice, safety concerns, or some other reason we (transgender people) may choose to “live stealth”, meaning that we live as the gender we identify as without disclosing to others in our life that we are trans. Also, many are still in the closet, not being able to be fully themselves. Whatever the reason is for a trans person to keep their trans identity to themselves, I support their decision. Whether or when a person comes out, is their choice, and their choice only. They don’t owe it to anyone to come out and outing someone is wrong. And if someone is, for example, to out their colleague, it does not give anyone a right to tell, for example, a prospective client.
Things that made coming out easier:
1. Supportive colleagues
I joined Gofore in May 2019 at the Turku office, which at the time had around 15 employees. It was – and I believe still is – a tight-knit but very warm and welcoming group of people and I immediately felt at home there. Over the summer I built relationships with my co-workers in Turku – as well as in the Helsinki office, which I visited frequently, and then transferred to in the fall. I found people I trusted and felt supported by. At company of Gofore’s scale (we have almost 600 employees in 10+ offices), it is impossible to know everyone’s attitudes, believes, and perceptions. But because I felt there were people that would accept me and even have my back, coming out felt quite safe.
The worst I expected would be seeing occasional slurs on Slack, or having someone question my identity. And even that did not happen. The response I got and the messages I received were 100 % positive and supportive. This of course doesn’t mean that everyone is 100 % comfortable with my identity and presence and believes me – and I don’t expect or require that – but they were kind enough not to bring that to my attention.
It is not a given that a work environment feels safe for a transgender person to come out. It is not even obvious that a trans person wouldn’t be discriminated against, bullied, or even fired from their job because of their identity.
2. Gender-neutral single stall bathrooms
At least in the Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere offices, all restrooms are single-stall and not gendered. This caught my eye already when I came in for an interview and immediately raised Gofore’s points in my eyes. Public restrooms are anything but calming for me and many other trans people. I don’t feel safe or welcome in either binary option. I’ve been screamed at in a women’s restroom and using the men’s scares me because I am a tiny, weak man with a high voice. And while I was still in the closet, even picking a gendered single stall bathroom felt stressful. Either I would betray my identity or potentially raise questions. There really is no reason for gendered single-stall bathrooms. So I am glad Gofore doesn’t do that. After my house, the office is the least stressful place for me to use the restroom. I am a more relaxed and more productive employee because I am not stressed all day about where I can go to the bathroom.
3. Having the ability to change one’s name in systems
Finnish name law states that one’s name has to align with one’s legal gender – unless five other people that share one’s legal gender also have that name. That meant I couldn’t change my name to Ossian whenever I wanted. Instead I had to wait to go through diagnosis process at Tampere University hospital’s trans clinic. Once I was diagnosed as transgender, I was given a document that I could attach to my name change application to get around the name law. But that diagnosis process was still underway last fall and I knew any official changes would be months or even a year away. (I did get my diagnosis this April but processing of name change applications takes several months.)
I cared about the name change so much because I did not want to come out but then still have my legal name popping up everywhere – especially at work. I was already in that situation at university – and still am – and it was stressing me out. To my relief, Gofore had no issues with updating my name before legal changes. Thanks to payroll operating on the basis of social security numbers, my name could be changed, as far as I know, in all the systems (except maybe employee healthcare). The first time I sent an email from an address that had my chosen name on it, I teared up a little bit.
Had I not had the option to at least change my email, I might have waited until my legal name change before coming out (which at this rate won’t be before next fall).
4. Flexibility of work locations and hours
Part of being a transgender person and wanting to medically transition (take hormones, get surgeries) is having a lot of doctor’s appointments – first for diagnosis and later related to those hormones and surgeries. Because waiting lists are long and demand far exceeds available capacity, one cannot pick and choose their appointments. When you get an appointment, that’s when you’ll have to go, or you’ll have to wait another 2-6 months go get a new one. Additionally, there are clinics only in Tampere and Helsinki. At Gofore, I have a lot of flexibility regarding where I work from and when I get my work done and thus I never had to stress whether I could go to my appointments. When I had to travel from Turku to Tampere in the middle of a week, I did not need to take a day off or ask for special permissions. I brought my laptop to the train, and as I couldn’t get a full workday in that day, I made my hours back later.
This flexibility – and co-worker’s respect for my privacy – also allowed me to keep the reason for these trips to myself. I could either just say I was seeing a doctor in Tampere or simply say I was doing a remote day. Either way, I went to an appointment or two before coming out at work.
5. Low threshold for internal communication
One of the challenges of coming out at work is finding not just the right words but the right medium for telling people. A mass email would just get lost in everyone’s inboxes and this was too complicated of a topic to address in a single Slack message.
At Gofore we have an internal blog on Confluence where anyone can make a post. Usually people use it to introduce themselves when they join the company, publish proposals for public blog posts, or share internal information. It also provided me a great venue to come out. I wrote a blog post explaining my identity, some personal history, why I’m coming out, and finally explained what I expected of my colleagues: that they use my new name and pronouns (he/him). I also provided a summary section for those who wouldn’t be able to read the whole thing. Then, to make sure my post would reach people, I shared the post in Slack in the company-wide channel that, despite its reach, has still quite low threshold for posting and isn’t “strictly business”.
Things that made coming out harder:
1. Being the only one
Though I likely wasn’t the only one among almost 600 employees, I did not know of any other trans people in the company. There was no success story I could take solace in nor nightmare I could fear. I couldn’t talk to anyone that was or had been in the same situation without first outing myself. I did eventually spot another LGBT+ person that I felt safe reaching out to. While I found comfort in that conversation and hearing their perspective, they aren’t trans and thus couldn’t tell me how I would be received.
This feeling of being completely alone is one of the reasons why I am sharing my experience. I hope not only to educate people but serve as representation I would have needed. However, that is my choice. No trans or other minority person has any obligation to provide visibility or education. We are not educational tools or diversity posters; we are people.
2. Slack conversations
In my process of evaluating risks and mentally preparing for coming out, I did the potentially very unwise thing of looking into my company’s Slack history. I used every search term I could think of to find conversations regarding LGBT+ people and read through every single result. While I didn’t find anything horrible or condemning, I left my search wondering whether I’d eventually end up debating my rights or identity with someone on Slack. At the same time, the limited number of conversations amplified the feeling of being alone. And though my colleagues are supportive, there are times when minorities are left to fend for themselves while others watch in silence.
I am not trying to deny your right to have conversations or make jokes. But when you are talking or joking about a minority – especially online – try to step back and look at your messages as if you were in that minority – or at least as if someone from that group was present. Would you say the same things aloud in an office that you’re writing on Slack? Does the lack of tone and facial expressions change how your message is viewed? Also, for me personally, it’s not the joke or comment that I am worried about, but potential attitudes and believes behind it. Will the person making a distasteful joke have a problem with me? I can’t know.
Gofore’s commitment to being a good workplace for everyone has laid a foundation that benefits all sorts of employees, including trans people. This is a great start, but I hope Gofore takes being a good workplace a step further by intentionally considering the needs of minority employees also, including trans people. Not because it’s good for the employer brand or gives us content to post during Pride month or other events, but because we want to make everyone’s work life better. And that is done by addressing their needs regardless of whether those needs stem from them being LGBT+, disabled, not speaking Finnish, having kids, having physical or mental health issues, going through a divorce, losing a family member, or whatever else. Some experiences, like being trans, are less common, have fewer advocates, and thus may not naturally come up. Hence supporting such groups requires intentional effort. I am looking forward to Gofore and other companies putting in that work.
Gofore was founded in 2001, after Timur Kärki convinced three friends to become entrepreneurs. The founding partners had an idea for a “payment gateway” product, which would make micro payments easier within web, mobile and digital television environments. That is where the company name came from: “Go for e-” (business and payments).
At the time, the company had almost secured its first big customer deal. A large Finnish media company needed a payment solution for its services, and Gofore’s technology seemed to fit the bill. Gofore was also in promising negotiations with venture capital investors to fund the product development phase for that first customer deal. Timur left his job as a manager at a well-known software company in Finland. He started to negotiate with this customer prospect, investors, and future employees.
But the customer suddenly canceled the project, leaving the newly founded company without any prospects. The investors stepped away, and so did the three other founders, staying at their current jobs. Timur was forced to join another company as a Chief Technology Officer and forget the idea of Gofore for a while.
Setting the values
After Timur’s first child was born in 2002, the founders sat down to decide what to do. The decision was clear — they wanted to start Gofore’s operations, and the business model would be the simplest possible. They would become a consultancy and sell their work and knowledge to other companies and organizations. They wrote down the values of the company on a piece of paper: Gofore would be the best possible workplace for them and others and thrive through their customers’ success.
Timur quit his job for the second time to set up Gofore, and the other founders followed. Gofore started operations in August 2002.
From failure to success
The first full fiscal year of 2003 was a success, and the company could recruit its first employee, who was Timur’s sister-in-law. No one but Timur’s relatives believed in the Gofore story enough to join. The second operating year, 2004, was not successful, and Gofore could not pay any salaries to the founding partners. After several failures in trying to get new customers, morale was low. Hard work finally paid off when a local industrial company agreed on a deal worth three times the net sales of the previous year. That deal started the still-continuing profitable growth of Gofore.
Today Gofore is a digitalization consultancy company, helping customers through digital change by providing tailored software and advice. The company employs around 600 people, and it has operations in five different countries in Europe. Gofore is a spectacular example of values-based leadership and purpose-driven company culture. The company has had an average 50 % annual growth rate in the past 15 years, with over 10% profitability every year.
Best place to work
From the very beginning, the founders saw that the company was there to radiate goodness around it. As decided at the outset, Gofore has provided the best possible workplace for them and others. That was recognized when Great Place to Work chose Gofore as The Best Workplace in Finland and The Second Best Workplace in Europe in 2017. It is no coincidence that Gofore succeeded in its IPO in the very same year. Long-term financial sustainability goes hand in hand with social sustainability. Gofore is a perfect example of that, reflecting the ongoing viewpoints and discussions about corporate sustainability and the purpose of companies.
Gofore has been able to grow sustainably and profitably for 15 years, creating sustainable value for its shareholders. For Gofore, profitability is only one goal, since it has always operated with a greater mission and purpose.
At the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, one of the themes was stakeholder capitalism. Though the term has become more prominent only recently, some companies have lived up to these values for a much longer time. Gofore is one of those, founded to be the best possible workplace for its employees and radiate good things around it.
The founders addressed Gofore’s values when the company was starting its operation in 2002:
1. Gofore is a great workplace for everyone.
2. Gofore thrives on customer success.
With those values in mind, Gofore has been able to grow and flourish, in a sustainable way.
From 4 people to 600 employees
Timur became CEO of Gofore in 2010. In December 2019 he gave his position to the new CEO, Mikael Nylund, and became Chairman of the Board of Directors. During his time as a CEO, the company grew from net sales of 1.3 million euros in 2009 to net sales of 64.1 million euros in 2019. The sustainable growth from a small software subcontractor to a publicly listed, 600-employee company has been a long but enjoyable ride for all the people involved.
Timur says the most crucial success factor is the shared enthusiasm between Gofore’s employees and customers. The enthusiasm grows from a shared understanding of the purpose of the company. The employees feel they are there to change the world for the better — this not just another consultancy company, but a company that makes a difference.
Gofore helping Finland to become one of the world’s most digitally competitive countries
One of the strategic moves that Gofore has made in the last 10 years has been its focus on public sector sales and projects in Finland. Gofore played an important role when the Finnish public sector changed its digital solutions development and procurement paradigm. According to Timur, Gofore and its experts have helped many Finnish public sector organizations to move into an agile way of operating and producing digital services and infrastructure. At the moment, Finland is one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to digital competitiveness, according to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index.
Management innovation as the most important competitive asset
Timur believes Gofore’s most important innovation is how it’s managed. Gofore has developed a unique model for its operations. The company’s people-centric and data-driven culture is its strongest competitive asset. The organizational hierarchy is very flat, relying on self-direction, shared vision, close communication, and good situational awareness across the company.
There are almost no middle managers at Gofore. Instead, the company uses data analysis and artificial intelligence to monitor performance and to aid decision-making. Gofore’s own team has created the software to support this operating model.
Discussion robot Granny to advise on company culture
Gofore has a rich, open culture of communication. There are 12,000 messages a day in the internal chat system, in more than 500 different discussion channels. That is significant in a company of only 600. The management team is present in many kinds of discussions. Most importantly, so are Gofore’s discussion robots, “Granny,” “Seppo” and “Gene.” They offer a user interface for the AI-based backend system, which is providing management services for the company.
Gofore’s management model and use of AI and robots are quite often referred to at seminars and academic studies in Finland. The company is aiming to use these innovations in international business in the next few years, granting a competitive edge for it globally.
Gofore was founded to radiate goodness around it. Today it really does, with 600 employees solving various kinds of problems for their customers. Goforeans feel they are key players in crafting state-of-the-art digital solutions for the public sector in Finland and also internationally. Digitalization affects the well-being of people, providing better services with better availability. Gofore’s employees feel they are builders of democracy and a new knowledge-based society powered by information and communications technology — a better future for all of us.
Looking at Gofore’s history, in the early years radiating good meant creating the best possible workplace for the founders and a couple of employees. It also meant exceptional customer value — a new kind of consultancy company. Gofore wants to be the best possible workplace, and it thrives through the success of its customers.
From saving Finland to changing the world
At the end of 2010, the financial situation and prognosis for the Finnish economy were very bad. Gofore formed its mission statement to be, “Let’s save Finland.” Gofore saw that through digital change, Finnish organizations would enhance national competitiveness as companies and as a nation.
A couple of years later, Gofore realized its uniqueness when it comes to company culture. It had already seen its positive impact on public sector digitalization in Finland. Gofore formed a new mission statement: to change the world for the better through digitalization and through renewing ways of working. Over the years, the purpose has been written down in the values and in two different mission statements. More importantly, it has taken shape in Gofore’s company culture and the actions of the people.
Today, Gofore has a positive impact on society in many different ways. Looking into the three pillars of sustainability, Gofore has always been a socially aware company. Gofore has also been extremely sustainable economically, growing profitably for many years.
The third pillar of sustainability, environmental, has appeared in Gofore’s texts, speeches and other materials in the last couple of years. Timur says the people at Gofore have evolved Gofore to be more environmentally aware. That has happened quite naturally, given the mission to change the world for the better and unfortunate developments in climate change. Today, Gofore is not only (environmentally) aware. It also actively seeks customer projects with a positive environmental impact.
During the workshop
In the first part of this blog series, Part 1 Before the workshop, we focused on things that should be done before the workshop. In this blog, we’ll advise you how to work during the workshop.
These blog posts are a combination of what we learned from virtual meetings facilitation and our own findings when doing online workshops. Try out these tips and find your own way of doing virtual and online workshops.
Master your own working environment – We found out that even if your workshop is virtual, facilitating it works best if you and your co-facilitator physically sit in the same room. You can comment more easily to each other while facilitating (muting the mic or using post-it notes). If you are remote, use instant messages with your co-facilitator.
During the workshop, use a headset for clear audio, participate from a peaceful environment, and use instant messages.
Test the sound and screen sharing with someone before the meeting starts.
At the start
Be an Early Bird – You can request participants to join five to ten minutes earlier to the conferencing to test their ability to hear, speak and see; you can incorporate this test time into the start of the agenda. Anyway be sure to test your own sound and screen sharing with someone trusted outside your organisation, before the meeting starts and participants join you.
You can also help participants with possible technical problems, ensuring everyone can see and hear you. It is probably useful to also check your email and phone, because some people might email or phone you if they don’t manage to get in.
Remember that tense participant don’t contribute – One significant factor to consider when planning virtual workshops, or workshops in general, is psychosocial safety. Workshop participants need to feel sufficiently safe and confident to open their mouths, to ask questions, to present alternative views, to challenge (constructively), and so on. You, as a facilitator, are responsible for creating psychological safety in your workshop- A good idea is to allow a few minutes for informal discussion around a light or fun topic during these five to ten minutes at the start. You can ask (in the slide you show) people to say their name and say Hi! to the others, and to give them something to do while waiting for others to join. For example, you can request them to “choose the draw tool (Zoom) to draw your face and write your name to the slide you show”.
Ensure your participants know the rules of the workshop – When participants are joining a preset workshop format, with a structure and a timetable, repeat the rules for the online behavior and clarify your and your co-facilitator’s role in workshop. We usually request the following:
- Mute your mic when you’re not speaking
- Always say your first name when you speak
- Participate 100% and respect all participants at all times
- Be patient
- If you must leave, announce this beforehand and tell when you’re going to be back.
If you have presentations, you can also ask participants to write their questions to the chat and inform that you will go through questions after the presentation.
Where does it all end? Begin with the end in mind – It’s very important that participant understand the purpose and objective of workshop: Why are we here? What we need to solve? If the objective of the workshop is unclear to all participants, they won’t won’t be committed. So this is your first task to solve – to clarify the objective and to get all participants committed to being active.
If you haven’t introduced the participants to the online co-working tool / board, do it now. We usually briefly review the most important tools they will use today in the workshop before going to the warm-up phase.
Warm-up’s mission is ice-breaking – You can request participants to write down expectations for the workshop in the chat. Or you can prepare a slide including pictures representing various moods or feelings and ask participants to choose one and tell something about their choice.
Timing matters – During the work consider sufficient timing for work assignments; not too short that your participants are not able to finish their assignment, and not too long that they start reading their email, etc. You can monitor the activity via the online board and lengthen/shorten the work time accordingly. Agree with your co-facilitator on how to modify the schedule on-the-fly and on how to communicate the need to speed up or to add extra time, while you are in separate groups.
TIP: A brief “bio-break” after the groupwork helps you have separate groups in their own conferencing sessions: people have time to exit their sub-meeting and join the main meeting. Display a presentation slide as screen share with the deadline for returning to the main meeting.
By sharing good decisions – After the main work, walk through the work assignment results with your participants. It’s important to share especially when there has been more than one group and board in the workshop. Walk through all groups and their individual boards. You can edit and refine the results, for example by combining duplicate post-it notes, during the joint going through session.
Use a “parking lot” for themes not directly connected to the assignment. Even when following a strict agenda, you often find yourself getting lost in detail discussion or being carried away. Thus, you can lose focus and go off track in your quest to reach your goal.
In the end
Keep participants engaged afterwards – Discuss the results together. You can have a small break during which you can formulate a summary of the workshop, what was done, and the results. You or your co-facilitator can make additions to the board, for example by writing down ideas and questions. Identify the small wins from your workshop. Realising the workshop outcomes and targets can keep participants energised and engaged afterwards, so make this a key part of your communication with them.
Make sure things happen after the workshop – Agree on the next steps if you can. You can also arrange this in a new virtual meeting. We’ll talk more about that in the next blog.
Fill expectations – Tell what happens next, how the results of the workshop will be used, and when and how the results from the workshops will be shared.
Get feedback while it’s fresh – Ask for feedback or impressions from the participants: if there are less than ten participants, you can have a comment round; if more than ten, ask them to write their feedback or just load an emoji into the chat.
Workshops can seem daunting and challenging if you haven’t had any or are a novice. Workshop skills, such as improvising around agendas or reading from people’s emotions, come with practice and with good planning.
In the next part of this blog series, Part 3 After the workshop, we focus things you should do after the workshop.
What is it like to work at Gofore and be a parent? As an organisation Gofore supports work-life balance. This said, all employees can enjoy their free and family time and also achieve their career goals. We see our organisation as a community of human beings, not as a machine. Gofore exists to make a positive impact, not only financially, but also to employees, their families, customers and all stakeholders.
Sometimes being a parent seems pretty hectic, so we asked a few parents about their work-life balance. These are stories from Goforean mothers about their everyday life (however, in the midst of the corona pandemic and remote work) with their children.
I hear a happy ”mommy”!
“These past few weeks haven’t been easy – being a mother, a cook, a nurse, a kindergarten teacher, a driver, a friend and everything in between at the same time. I have been doing full workdays and then night shifts with the toddler. I miss interactions with other adults.
That being said, it has also been wonderful. I can see my son during the day and every time he hears me come in (I’m working in our garage) I hear a happy ”mommy!” For him, being so small and not really knowing how to play with other children, this has probably been great! He gets to hang out with his daddy during the day and mommy in the afternoon. As much as I’d like this to be over and done with, I also wouldn’t change one moment of it.”
– Iina Korpivaara, Talent Management Specialist
“This is what our daily lives look like in remote work. Children romp around in the kitchen with their mopeds and hobby horses, they bring their stuffed animals to daycare and go to “the office”. Soon they come back and say that “it was a tough day”, take the plush and leave for a new round. Repeat this sequence of events in your mind at least ten times. My loved ones.”
– Outi Määttä, Business Lead, Industry
“This is me and my daughter having a morning snuggle, or as we call it, “a shnuggle”. She always wakes up before me and comes into my bed for a cuddle. Sometimes I continue dozing while she wriggles around restlessly, other times we might discuss big things like: is it ok to have chocolate bars for breakfast, what is a fortune teller and do wishing stars exist (like we did this morning).
Remote work has allow for a more peaceful start to the day instead of the usual manic rush, so we can
– Tiia Hietala, Events and Cloud Business Accelerator
Happy Mother’s Day to all amazing moms – enjoy the day with your loved ones!
When spontaneous interactions are missing – how do you build your network and start feeling like a part of the culture?
Face-to-face onboarding has been a cornerstone for our onboarding process. Since the pandemia prohibited group gatherings and social contact, we needed to adapt. In this blog we share our ideas and experiences about the first weeks of our first online onboarding experience. This is just a piece in a bigger picture, as we see employee engagement as an active process that happens over the first year.
The responsibility of a new employee’s onboarding process is divided into two roles: a People Person is the legal superior and is responsible for of all employment-related matter. A Culture Coach takes care of the induction and facilitates the fit to culture. These roles are additional responsibilities and employees in these roles also work as consultants.
We both work as Culture Coaches in Helsinki but our major responsibilities are in marketing and communications. The main reason we both applied for the role was the fact we wanted to contribute on our culture and communality by creating a warm atmosphere for new Goforeans, and also just to getting to know our new colleagues in Helsinki. Along with us there is a team of Culture Coaches who all are inspiring, joyful and just great to work with.
The goal of the first day is to provide the knowledge on how to continue on the following day
There is the step that isn’t possible done remotely: new employees should pick up their laptops from the office. The reason behind this doesn’t have anything to do e.g. with shipping – just the first sign in to the main systems have to be done in our internal network.
When we organised the first online onboarding, the employees arrived one by one, so all human contacts were minimized. At the office the employee got their laptop, mobile phone and a backpack to carry everything back home.
Usually on the first day, the new employees are taken for a company paid, group lunch. To keep up the good practice employees were given an option to pick up food from a local restaurant to enjoy at home during the induction video call.
The induction was held via a video call, using Teams. With the new employees, People Person and Culture Coaches were present. Naturally, we started the call with introductions and getting to know each other. The rest of the afternoon was divided into two sections: how to use the important daily tools and what is the Gofore culture. After the induction session, the new employee should be ready to start their daily work.
During the first week keep in touch and take time to learn new routines
During this remote working time we make sure that the new employees have all the working equipment they need. All employees can borrow desks, monitors or chairs from the office, and Gofore offers transportation. Gofore offers multiple different options on work-life balance support like a possibility to work part-time (read more in Finnish).
We schedule daily virtual calls to the new employees. During the first weeks, the new employee’s morning starts with a coffee break call with other new employees, Culture Coaches and People Persons. This gives an opportunity to ask questions, meet new people and build relationships. The call does not have to have a clear agenda – the time can be reserved for a casual chat.
In addition to group calls the new employees can be matched with other experts. During the first days, new employees get to know their People Persons but they can also have casual calls with sales, resourcing, recruiting and other experts. These calls replace some of the informal conversations that a person usually has at the office.
After a few weeks, we asked feedback on the coffee break calls. They were well-liked and seen as a great habit to continue.
During the first month take small steps and grow understanding the culture and terms of doing
Usually during the first weeks project work starts and calendars fill up quite quickly. After the first week, our onboarding process is divided in weekly sessions, so the new employee has time to adapt to their new schedule, routines and culture. The themes of the onboarding sessions are based on research – last year we asked our new employees what information they thought was beneficial for them. The five themes are:
- Tea time with a founder who tells the story of Gofore.
- Math, money and sales help to understand how our sales work and how you can participate.
- Professional development offers ways of creating personal career path.
- Working as a consultant tells our philosophy and ways of working with customers.
- Internal & external communications helps to find your voice and communicate in our network.
- Daily decision making gives guidelines on how to make decisions in a self-driven organisation.
The virtual sessions were planned to be educational but also interactive. The presenters are usually from the administration and top experts on their field. This helps the new employees grow their network inside the company. After the onboarding sessions, new employees can keep participating in different trainings as they see fit in their schedule and personal development.
How could we do better?
We ask feedback from during and after the onboarding. The process is updated constantly to match the changing environment and needs. We would love to hear your thoughts on our onboarding process – how you have organised it during these extraordinary times?
It’s time for balloons, discos and donuts – Vappu is here!
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic big traditional happenings are on hold. However, Goforeans wanted to share happy and family-friendly ideas for remote and #Stayhome parties.
Top 10 Vappu tips
- The more balloons and streamers you have the more festival the atmosphere rises*
- Don’t forget to invite guests! Organising remote fancy vappu dinner with friends or family is easier than ever: buy similar takeaways for guests and have a quality dinner over a video call
- Stick with the traditions: brew sima and bake “munkkeja” (a type of Finnish donut)
- Also, if you prefer spending time by chilling instead of baking, don’t hesitate to support your local bakery. Most likely they even have home delivery options
- This year you can be goofing around with various vappu garments without losing them all over the city
- Taking part in the concerts is now easier than ever: you can lay on your coach, drink your favourite beverage and watch the gigs on YouTube or on Facebook
- There are many options also for kids: enjoy Live Facebook children’s concert or a remote vappu disco. Check out this for example Lasten Vappufestivaali Livestream
- Start the BBQ season – The new philosophy of grilling is that everything can be grilled
- Remember also outdoor activities such as Mölkky
- Have a picnic on a balcony and instead of disposable tableware use the house silver. Also, enjoy the fact you don’t need to stress about finding the toilet.
Stay safe and have fun – celebrate Vappu from your home this year!
*remember the recycling, you can find comprehensive tips here.
Keeping in touch is one of the strongest things in our arsenal when it comes to providing a great experience for our customers. We’ve asked our customers about the effects corona virus situation has had on them. We’ve been discussing about their business, how their teams are doing, how they have experienced remote work, and whether their business is struggling somewhere.
Overall teams have very unique experiences, and we have been happy to see that there are quite a few positive experiences as well.
“There are even implications that we as a company may be moving permanently towards remote work culture.”
”We have noticed improved efficiency in software development. Reasons could be better ability to focus (peace), and having to focus on the essential because bulk of the communication is done in writing.”
“There’s an increased feeling of equality as everyone in the team is experiencing the same.”
“Re-introducing dailys have helped us organize work and tackle uncertainties.”
Could we offer any assistance?
That being said, communications is not that simple, and there are lot of moving parts. The first you’ll encounter is how to begin your discussion? What would be appropriate when reaching out to see how others are coping with the present situation, and whether we could offer any assistance? The personal and business-level experience can be surprising.
“We are exhausted after eight hours of work, there are no breaks!”
“I’ve been on calls back to back for 10 hours. My headphones are causing me a migraine.”
“Well, we are waiting for that info session to begin…”
It’s always important to be polite, kind, and express appreciation for the discussion partner. Being pleasant and courteous is assumed. But, the biggest thing that can make a difference is acting like an actual human. In other words, making sure that the exchange of thoughts is warm and sincere can make all the difference.
We believe that what makes a good communication is being as human as possible, which admittedly can be difficult during these remote times over electronic forms of communication. However, by taking all the small nuances into account, it is possible to make discussion feel human, authentic, and integral in creating a positive experience for our customer together with our business.
Remote work may require closer management and skillfull leadership
Software development is one of those areas where remote work is the most natural. Teams can operate pretty much as usual, but may require closer management and skillfull leadership to support individuals during times of worries.
However, during these unconditional times it is good to acknowledge that the remote work setup might not be optimal for everyone. It might be a toss-up between work ergonomics and tranquility when trying to find a place to focus. It is important to reach out and to stay in touch. Peer support, listening and learning from each other carries us through this time.
For more on how to succeed, check our previous blog posts about from forced change to positive outcome, how to have a great virtual meeting, how to succeed in virtual meetings, and are you preparing for the post-pandemic world.
Please let us know whether we’re doing a good job or could help you even further.
Capability Owner of Web Development,
A reminder for the weekly team meeting pops up on the calendar. As the participants open their connections, one can hear various sounds of life in the background. Somewhere behind the first participant children are coming up with new games. The second participant’s curious dog would very much like to attend the meeting. The third participant carefully corrects their posture with a sleeping cat in their arms. The fourth arrives and greets everyone: “Hi, we had to negotiate a little, since the whole household is working from home.”
The situation is not fictitious, but at the same time it is not at all unusual. The people working with Gofore’s maintenance services are experienced telecommuters – we work across various cities and even countries daily. The core team of Continuous Services alone is a happy blend of people from all of Gofore’s Finnish sites. Nowadays many things can be taken care of smoothly even while sitting by a lake with a laptop at hand. Functional remote tools alone do not guarantee this fluency. It requires agile, collaborative procedures and efficient knowledge distribution, akin to swarm intelligence, between teams.
During a software development project, it is natural to have one focused core team working on the application and infrastructure development. As the project is completed and the system goes into production, the nature and requirements of the project tend to change. During the maintenance phase, the focus shifts to a more reactive mode of working and new feature development is usually scaled down. At this stage, it is essential that information and know-how about the system and operations is spread across a safety net of specialists. This becomes even more vital in critical situations.
As the current global situation unfolds before our very eyes, there’s been a sudden rise in discussion regarding many things that have perhaps been taken for granted – in particular, remote work and accessibility of services. At the latest this week the entire global community has been waking up to a world that runs rather different from what we’re used to. As anxieties and concerns regarding the global situation and our everyday lives grow, it is more vital than ever that services, large and small, remain operational and accessible. But please don’t worry if it seems like storm clouds are gathering on the horizon – you won’t need to make it to shore alone.
It’s best to pack a life vest while it’s still sunny
When I was a little girl, my grandfather taught me how to row a boat at sea. There was no stepping on the boat dock, let alone actually entering the boat, unless you were securely strapped in your life vest. We blew on the whistles to see that they worked without fault and made sure everything was fastened correctly. We practiced what to do in case an oar should drop into the water. And what to do if the other oar should follow the first, somehow. Someone might consider this silly or see it as an exaggeration, but these lessons taught me more than just safe boating. I learned a surprising amount about risk management in general on the side.
In my current job I rarely get to boat, but I’ve often thought about the similarities between minding a recently released software project and taking proper care of a wooden rowing boat. You should keep the bilge clean, treat the surfaces regularly, and occasionally some more major repairs may be necessary. Choosing a competent partner for the job helps: there’s no need to keep track of required maintenance activities yourself, and the boat (or the application, or the system…) will remain in working order without you having to worry for it – ready for adventures or leisurely rides at any time.
Sometimes a storm can sneak up on even the most experienced seafarer. Peace of mind can be reached even during those times if you’re sat next to a reliable partner who has already double-checked the correct adjustments of your life vest and ensured the oarlocks are in good condition. A professional maintenance service anticipates and prepares for bad weather on your behalf, leaving no room for distress as you are confidently rowing towards more peaceful waters – together.
In addition to meeting and working remotely, we collaborate across teams and sites routinely and steadily. Our agile and modern Service Center operations and maintenance practices are organized to ensure that no service remains a one or two person show. We arrange on-call responsibilities flexibly and distribute expertise and knowledge between teams and specialists, and our service managers ensure the quality of service in collaboration with the Service Center lead.
Our Service Center includes both system specialists and software developers, each one of them just as fluent in collaborating with customers as they are in resolving technical pickles. Our common goal in everything we do is to make sure the customer never has to wonder whether we can offer a particular type of support or whether we have expertise on a particular matter – we will take care of it for them.
What do you say, could we bring you some peace of mind, too?
Service Center Lead
Hey, you summer applicant! Do you want to hear the experiences of our last year summer employees? Alan, Ossian and Tommi will tell you how the summer recruitment process went and what happened after that. And sorry for the spoiler, but in the end, there are also their tips for applying to Gofore. Check those too!
Who are you?
Alan: Heyo, I’m Alan. I’m working as a UX designer, currently improving our own Slack bots intended to help goforeans. Study-wise, I’ve been in Information Networks at Aalto University since 2016 and look to finish my Bachelors’ degree soon (I promise). Before coming to Gofore, I had very little work experience, most of my strengths were gathered by self-learning via YouTube tutorials and own projects.
Ossian: Hey I’m Ossian, a junior software developer working on one of Gofore’s internal bots, Granny. In September I moved to Helsinki and started pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at Aalto University. At the time of applying to Gofore though, I was living in Turku and finishing up my bachelor’s degree in information and communication technology (in Finnish ‘tietotekniikka’) at the University of Turku. I’ve also previously studied and worked in the U.S. but prior to Gofore I hadn’t yet had a tech job on Finnish soil.
Tommi: Howdy! I’m Tommi and I’m working as a Software developer developing our internal chatbots. I study Computer Science at Aalto University as a master’s student. Previously I have worked as a summer trainee for a couple of summers in different companies.
Why did you apply for a summer job at Gofore?
Alan: I saw a summer job ad in the Athene’s (Information Networks guild) recruitment letter. The whole application concept seemed unique, so I decided to look more into the company behind it. The more I read about Gofore, the more I started to fancy it. I thought to myself that even if I don’t get in if I get to the hackathon, I gain a project for my portfolio during the application process and can show that to my benefit while applying elsewhere. So, there was no way I’d lose applying to Gofore.
Ossian: I had never heard of Gofore before applying and if wasn’t for my sister, I would have missed the opening. She had spotted Gofore’s ad and told me about it. What had really caught her eye, was that instead of traditional interviews or coding tests, Gofore was organizing a one-day hackathon. I figured that even if I wouldn’t be offered a job, just participating in the hackathon would be a valuable and fun experience in itself (and I’d get free food) and thus worth my time regardless of the outcome. Additionally, I was happy to see that Gofore had an office also in Turku so I could potentially enjoy summer in my college town before moving to the Helsinki area to continue my studies.
Tommi: Gofore seemed an interesting company to work for as I had heard good things about the company before applying. Gofore also had an interesting hiring process for summer employees last year and I wanted to showcase my skills in a hackathon.
What was the application process like?
Alan: It was really straightforward. This year’s summer job hackathon felt more like an opportunity to learn and put my skills into practice. The only interview I attended was held during the hackathon and it was kept really short. The hackathon itself was a nice way to get to know goforeans and other applicants as well. The hackathon was held on a Saturday and the following week on Thursday I got a happy call that I was offered a summer job, so I was very pleased with the speed of the application process as well.
Ossian: Going into the hackathon I was extremely nervous. We had been instructed to pick a few interesting data sets from avoindata.fi but otherwise I had no idea what we would be doing. However, once I had met my group and we started planning our project, I was able to relax, and my focus shifted from getting the job to getting our product to work. After about eight hours of hammering away at our keyboards, we got to admire everyone’s final products as well as to just hang out for a few hours with each other and some current employees that had spent the day with us. That was both a relaxing way to end a pretty intense day and a good opportunity to learn more about Gofore and goforeans.
Tommi: It was different compared to other companies as there was no pre-assignment. I only had to send my application and spend one Saturday at a hackathon at Gofore’s office in Kamppi. The hackathon day was a super nice event and it also helped me to get to know the company better. Less than a week after the hackathon I already got a call offering me a summer job that I happily accepted.
How was starting out?
Alan: I didn’t have a project ready for me to hop into right away, so in the first week I mainly tried to get to know Gofore and goforeans. After a week I had the opportunity to help in an internal project interviewing goforeans regarding our feedback culture. Tea Latvala told me in the first meeting something along the lines of: We’re going to have the first interviews in two days, you’ll be the interviewer and I’ll take notes. I was really nervous and anxious to jump straight into something that isn’t my forté, but at the same time, it felt nice to be trusted from the get-go.
Ossian: I started at the Turku office in early May and I was quickly given a new internal project to develop on my own. Gofore has some chatbots that are used internally to replace middle management and to automate boring and repetitive tasks such as reporting work hours. I was given the task to both designs and implement a new internal chatbot that would answer any questions that goforeans are frequently asking. I didn’t really have any prior experience of chatbot design or development or natural language processing so to start I spent some time reading both design articles and documentation for the chatbot tool Dialogflow as well as messing around with the development tools.
Tommi: Starting was made easy and comfortable. The first day was spent getting to know the company and its culture better. I was assigned immediately to an internal project. It was nice that from the very beginning I was considered as a fully-fledged team member and not just a summer employee.
What else did you do this summer?
Alan: After the project with Tea, I had the opportunity to help in another customer interview project for a private customer. For the majority of my summer, I spent time with a public sector client doing UX in a large team. I learned how to use Sketch and picked up tons of small tips and tricks from co-workers every day. In hindsight, it was really nice that I got to work on an internal project, for a private sector client and also for the public sector, because I gained brief experience on all sides.
Ossian: Since I worked on the FAQ bot, I spent most of my summer asking a lot of questions and then teaching those, as well as the answers to the bot as well as writing a Node backend for the bot. However, I got to also utilise my other skills as I helped a colleague by editing a video and took some photos of summer employee day activities and created some graphics for marketing our bots at the Shift Business festival where I got to represent Gofore with my colleagues.
Tommi: As I stated before I developed our internal chatbots. It has been a nice project to start with and I have learned a lot during the summer. I never thought that building a chatbot could be this complex and interesting project.
What makes Gofore a good summer employer?
Alan: As a junior employee, it’s nice to be valued and trusted as an equal contributor from day one. During the summer I was trusted with three different projects and had full support throughout. I feel like I could ask anyone for help, and they’d give it gladly. I came in as a narrow UI oriented student and by the end of summer felt like a more capable UX designer having gained skills outside of my small comfort zone.
Ossian: First I was surprised by how much freedom I was given and how much trust was placed in me, but once I got used to it, I’ve been loving it. Still, I’m not alone in my work and have found help and support when I’ve needed it. Also, it’s great to be surrounded by people in a variety of different roles: service, UX and UI designers, data scientists, service architects, developers… And though I’m primarily a developer, I’m not limited by my role and love that I’ve been able to sneak bits of graphics design and photography into my work.
Tommi: Gofore offers a great place to improve your skills and learn new things as well. You are valued as an individual and you get to work in the same projects as the regular employees. Also, one of Gofore’s values is that “Gofore is a great workplace.” and it really shows in everyday life. You get help from others when you need it and having a break over a game of pool or table football gets your mind off work problems for a moment. Gofore also encourages people to spend time on their personal development which is a big plus.
What skills and experience that you have helped get the job and do well?
Alan: My studies in the Information Networks program are a huge asset. With more of a generalist education, I can use my broad studies to my benefit when discussing decisions and justifying them with multiple viewpoints. More concretely what helped me to get the summer job was that I learned Adobe Xd through YouTube tutorials and made a mobile app prototype for my application. The prototype was hacked together in two evenings and in the end, didn’t even work properly, but I think it showed my eagerness to learn and actually use and show the things I’ve learned. Having done two or three own projects made me more confident in my abilities.
Ossian: Obviously, I can only guess what got me to the hackathon and then hired. Maybe it was the personal projects I included in my resume to make up for my limited work experience. To keep this recent and interesting (and to not just list my Github highlights) I added a few sillier things such as this running CSS dinosaur.
It’s a cliché, but I’ve always been curious and loved learning and asking questions and that was exactly what I did this summer. And since developing a chatbot is as much a design job as development work, having the ability to put me in the user’s shoes was really instrumental.
Tommi: I think the most important skill is a willingness to learn. Working as a software developer is constantly learning and you are never ready. Of course, it helps if you know a thing or two about software development beforehand. Another key skill that I think is required is communication. You must be able to communicate your thoughts within your team clearly. Doing school projects and personal development projects help me to become a better programmer and they look good in your portfolio.
Here are some tips for you when applying to Gofore:
- If you don’t have many projects to show, making something small for your application is a great way to start. You learn a thing or two along the way and show your skills doing so.
- Be honest and believe in yourself. We are hundreds of individuals and no one is “perfect” or “normal” whatever that means so just be yourself and know that’s more than enough. You can do it!
- When attending the workshop, focus on the task at hand and how you can do the best you can as a group. It’s understandable to want to show off your skills, but don’t do it at the cost of your group’s success. After all, work-life is most of the time, about teamwork and excelling as a team rather than about flexing your muscles.
- Related to a previous point, especially for summer jobs, your “soft skills” such as communication and teamwork skills and ability and eagerness to learn are more important than specific technical skills. So rather than trying to show off what you know now, demonstrate that you are willing and able to learn.
- The projects you add to your resumé or portfolio don’t need to be huge or complex. Including some smaller and more recent projects show your more recent skills and that you’re constantly learning.
It’s already time to plan summer 2020. Apply for a summer job at Gofore in summer 2020 ➡️➡️ https://gofore.com/ketterastikesatoihin/.
The new wave of design and development companies are basically all about culture. Their whole identity, what they are and want to be, is based on shared values, norms and the way of viewing the world. Not only do these companies involve people in all of their decision-making, they also create and renew their vision through social interaction. The culture is construed and renewed in social encounters through language, Denken ist Sprechen. This also applies to micro cultures such as work communities.
But how do companies manage, when pressure comes to change the language?
Out of ‘local’ and into ‘international’
Leadin was still an infant company when we agreed our strategy to become an internationally significant UX agency. We were only about 10 people in the small town of Tampere, Finland, but many of us had our professional background in global companies. We saw that the business for high-end UX services in Finland was going to be limited, and we were not the only ones out there. So we would be better off looking at the bigger markets outside our national borders. The collaboration with our international clients had given us very positive indications that we have something unique to offer. We were hungry to get ourselves out of exclusively ‘local’ and into ‘international’.
First, we started a more active collaboration with the non-Finnish branches of the international client companies we already had. Then we got our first “real” foreign client through the traditional way (you know someone who introduces you to someone else who realises that you are offering something valuable, and off you go), then we got the second, then the third. It started to make sense to set up our first office outside of Finland, close to the client. Once our UK office was established we soon started to find ways to utilise our multisite presence as an asset that adds value to our clients in all locations. For example, as we now have offices in Finland, the UK and Germany, we can repeat a user study in three countries and three languages without hiring an external research agency to support us. All of a sudden we realised that we actually, REALLY had become an international company.
A common company language
Today Leadin operates in four countries. Our staff represent about ten nationalities from Brazil to China and from Denmark to the USA. We speak almost ten different languages, but English is the one that’s common to all.
At a certain point, companies have to ask themselves which one is more important: The culture built on communication in the local language or the opportunities provided by international clients and more diverse markets. Being inclusive to international employees, clients and partners requires you to be able to communicate with them fluently in a language they feel familiar with. You don’t set up a site abroad without an explicit or implicit take on how to deal with the language. But how would foreign employees and language affect the company culture? Turning all speech and writing into a non-native language challenges the very fundaments of the company and community.
Respect people and listen
So what would be the impact? Could we survive? That question can sound intimidating, but the answer is revealing: If everyone’s on board, changing the language actually does not weaken the culture, it strengthens it. You’re going to be well off simply by being faithful to the values you already have. Respect people, listen to them, give them the power to find their own way.
For Leadin this happened somewhat naturally. Getting the first non-Finnish employee on board was, and was not a big change. It was a big change because we had to wipe away the rust from our English small talk skills. It was not a big change because we had already practised our English skills with some of our clients and in other contexts. Everyone in Finland speaks ‘ok’ English, even those who think they don’t. What has become evident, however, is that the pros of adopting English as our company language have exceeded the cons by a million times!
It’s all positive!
Here are just some of the advantages: We are more alluring than other companies for non-native employees in our country, who may be for example university graduates with huge potential, but no access to the local job market because of the language handicap. We can offer international careers to our team. If someone doesn’t want to relocate, we can offer them natural situations to practice their language skills in their current location. This builds self-confidence for social situations. We can all learn from different cultures, and expand our understanding of the world around us. And business-wise: We are more capable of understanding clients and partners from different cultures, and we understand how to do business with them.
I am often asked the question about how foreign employees and language has affected our company culture. My answer: It’s all positive! Cultural diversity opens viewpoints and opportunities you wouldn’t even have thought about, without taking anything away from what you already had. The change is easier than you would think, but it won’t happen without a bit of effort from all involved.
This post was written by Topi who helps inspire #LeadinCrew to make people’s lives better through everything we do regardless of their culture or native language.