Finns Are Some of the Happiest Employees in the World. Here’s One Company’s Recipe for Success

  • Finland’s work culture is all about balancing work and personal time. That’s why it’s one of the happiest countries in the world, according to the World Happiness Report.

  • Anni Hallila, head of people and culture at a Finnish company, shares some keys to making employees happy.

Finns are the happiest employees in the world
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For several years now, Gallup has joined forces with a United Nations agency and Oxford University to gauge the mood workers in different countries. The result is the World Happiness Report, which has again ranked Finland as the seventh-happiest country in the planet in 2024.

The study doesn't only take into account the mood that participants woke up in that morning, but also aspects such as income level, job satisfaction, life expectancy, and social support in their countries.

For Anni Hallila, head of human resources and culture at Framery Acoustics, a 400-employee company that makes soundproof office cabins in Tampere, Finland, the reason for the country's ranking is clear. “There is no point in chasing happiness. What really counts is cultivating a culture that supports the long-term well-being of employees. And that's what the Finns do particularly well,” she said in an article published in Fortune.

According to Hallila, there are sayings and aspects from Finnish culture that she uses regularly in her management of employees, which she believes are the key to the company’s 10% turnover rate.

1. Everyone's Input Is Equally Valuable

Finnish companies tend to have a very flat structure, so there is little distance between the CEO and employees. This accessibility empowers workers to express their doubts and opinions openly and contribute their points of view, even if the problem isn’t in their department.

“If there is an open line of communication where anyone can ask questions, be it the CEO or anyone in the company, then there will be a path forward,” Hallila states. Sometimes, addressing issues requires the input of people from all levels of an organization in order to find solutions.

In fact, the system Framery’s human resources manager suggests isn’t unlike the one Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang uses with his team of consultants. In this system, everyone listens to problems and comes up with solutions by sharing information openly.

2. A Crazy Person Works a Lot. A Smart Person Works Less

In other words, it’s not about working hard—it’s about working more efficiently.

In Finland, managers are encouraged to help employees work with this mindset, Hallila says. To do this, managers must set clear guidelines and ensure their teams can focus on business priorities with the least effort and resources. “You can work and work and work. But whether you actually achieve more is questionable,” she told CNBC.

“It’s not about being lazy. It’s about being smart about what you focus on and getting away with less in a way so that you can have a healthy work-life balance,” the manager explains.

3. Put the Cat on the Table

Hallila explains that this phrase is equivalent to what is commonly known as “addressing the elephant in the room.” That is, addressing a problem in the company and “getting it out of the room” rather than ignoring it and getting crushed by it.

“It’s about believing in a working culture where the cat is the issue that needs to be put on the table, and for people to be able to have a trusting and open discussion about whatever is the issue,” she declared. “Things are solved when they are discussed."

4. Whatever You Leave Behind, You Will Find in Front of You

In the same vein as above, the HR manager says this phrase perfectly explains the consequences of not “putting the cat on the table” when there’s a problem.

Far from disappearing, problems grow and get worse if they're not addressed and resolved when they arise. “If you leave problems behind you, you will find them in front of you. So the only way to handle it is to actually address them when they are brought up,” she emphasizes.

5. Going Toward the Tree With Your Back First

If you walk backward through a forest, you’ll bump into a tree that crosses your path sooner or later. Because you’re walking backward, you didn’t see it coming and weren’t ready to deal with the consequences of the collision.

According to Hallila, this phrase vividly describes what happens when leaders don’t plan business and strategic decisions in a company. The market is like a forest where the trees are problems that are just there waiting for you. You must do your best not to bump into them as you walk.

She adds that in Finnish workplaces, these conversations often involve people at all levels of the organization. A company’s strategic planning ensures that “people feel they are heard, they have a say in our strategy, or at least that they understand what it is all about,” she concludes.

Image | Pexels (cottonbro studio)

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