| 13.10.2020

Hankendagen 2020: Future and success - leadership in a disruptive time

panel debate
This year, Hankendagen was held online for the first time with almost 400 participants in the audience. The event was broadcasted from Vasa where the celebration of Hanken Vasa’s 40th anniversary was highlighted throughout the event.

See the entire broadcast here

Watch the picture gallery here

One of the main speakers was the leadership coach Jesper Ek, who gave his speech televised from Stockholm. He has achieved success when focusing on the people rather than on the financial result.

“When I got my first managerial job, I noticed to my surprise that my employees lived up every Friday and came back to work depressed on Monday morning. I asked other managers if they had noticed the same phenomenon and everyone recognized it.”

For Jesper Ek, this was a riddle that he wanted answered. He found studies that confirmed that there is a widespread lack of commitment in the workplace. In Western Europe, it is estimated that 10 percent of the workforce is engaged in their jobs, about 70 percent are disengaged about 20 percent are actively uninvolved, according to the Gallup World Engagement Survey 2017.

“I mean that this is the leader’s most important task. To make everyone understand how they fit in to achieve a common purpose is something bigger than just staring at the economic result. When an organization has more employees who come to work and know how they contribute to something important, the energy becomes different and the result better.”

The key, according to Ek, is to listen with the ambition to do the utmost to understand the employees instead of listening and then telling them that they are wrong.

When the limit between work and leisure becomes blurred

The other keynote speaker at the event, Charlotta Niemistö, who is project manager and researcher at Hanken, also emphasized the role of managers in achieving a socially and humanly sustainable working life.

“Individuals must be alert so that they learn to work without burning out. However, it is not always so that individuals can influence the work culture, it often depends on what kind of position you have in the organization and also the sector you work in. The manager can, among other things, by setting a good example, create a workplace where the staff is doing well."
According to Niemistö, the first workplace is very important for what kind of work culture you are bound to.
“Young people generally want to show what they stand for. If the work culture is such that you are expected to be approachable almost at any time of the day, then you do not necessarily think about your own boundaries before it is absolutely necessary to do so.”      

 A measure of a humanly sustainable working life that Niemistö recommends to be followed is that people are just as able to work when they leave the organization as when they entered it.

“Now it tends to be a bit like you are leaving the organization because you have given everything you can.”        

Panel discussion on resilient leadership

The program also included a panel discussion where leaders discussed their experiences of leadership in disruptive times.

The speakers of the panel, which was moderated by Christina Dahlblom, were Stefan Sjöberg, CEO at Mirka, Ulrica Karp, director of the Federation of Swedish Municipalities in Ostrobothnia for Education and Culture, Kai Kamila, HR Director at Wärtsilä Finland and Susanna Strömbäck, HRD manager of Elisa.

Concrete advise for how to cope with difficult times was to set clear goals and prepare for changes in the market.

In addition to good practices, the panel also discussed challenges. According to Kai Kamila, Wärtsilä has been very resilient if you look at the market and created new products when the old ones are no longer selling. However, according to him, it is easier to bring in new models of leadership during better times.

“When the times are tough, it easily happens that you draw up the decision-making instead of really dare to let the independent units run it all. This is what we are working very hard on at the moment, to engage employees and through good feeling achieve better results”.       

The panellists agreed on most things, but one topic divided the opinions.

“I know that it is a general view that we should meet. But in the team where I work, we are all located in different places. We all have the camera on every day, we know how each of us are doing and share private things. I feel that I have a tight relationship with my colleagues, said Susanna Strömbäck in response to Ulrica Karp,who raised that online meetings cannot replace meetings between people.         

Text: Maria Svanström and Johan Svenlin

Pictures: Linus Lindholm