How can leaders navigate today’s tough job market with its shifting power dynamic between employers and employees? By seizing the opportunity to focus on purpose, meaningful work, and empowered leadership to create an engaged workforce. That’s the word from Kristel Kruustük, co-founder of the software testing startup Testlio, and Miki Kuusi, Wolt co-founder and CEO, during Nordic Business Forum 2022.
Talent and Opportunity
“We are now in a place where people are focused on making an impact, looking for a purpose, and living for each other. They don’t want to just wake up every morning and go to the office. We want to do something meaningful—it all starts with setting your company values and mission. Our mission is to enable more human possibilities,” observed Kruustük.
She explained by pointing to how Testlio launched a social impact program that gives scholarships to train people to become software testers. “Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” she said, quoting the late social entrepreneur Leila Janah.
Kuusi agreed with her response, saying, “If you look at humanity’s time on Earth, we’ve gone in a positive direction over the long term. Short term, there have been huge difficulties, but we’ve ultimately always prevailed,” said Kuusi, adding, “If you look at the history of work life over the centuries and decades, the reality is that there’s been a huge shift for the better in what work is and what work means. This trend is going to continue.”
Thanks to the ever-growing exposure to opportunities, options, and information, the days of somebody working for the same company for 50 years are slowly coming to an end. For example, LinkedIn offers us a daily glimpse into what everyone else is working on and what they’re excited about. “Work was not designed for a world where every human being has a phone in their pocket and is real-time connected to everyone else,” emphasized Kuusi.
His thesis is that we’re living through the Third Industrial Revolution, in which the internet is changing virtually every industry. Real-time connections to a network allow for unprecedented reorganization and new types of businesses and services. He added that he doesn’t think people fully realize how much of a change we’re going through and how early it still is.
For Kruustük, the fact that Testlio can hire globally means that they don’t need to settle for good enough but can look for the greatest because the talent pool is bigger. Likewise, the potential employee also gets to meet with their future team members to see whether their values are aligned.
Additionally, we are rapidly moving towards a world where job candidates have more power. “When I participate in interviews, my chief operating officer talks about how much buy or sell I need to do. ‘Buy’ means that you’re vetting the candidate to see if they’re the right fit for the company; and ‘sell’ means you’re selling the opportunity, the company, the team, and what we’re building. In this equation, we will have to do more and more selling, especially in industries where certain talent is scarce like technology,” warned Kuusi.
Power of Leadership
Leadership has traditionally been a way to progress up through a company, especially in Finland, but it shouldn’t be glorified because it is just one skill among many, argued Kuusi. When people do think about changing jobs, one of the common reasons for staying or leaving is good or bad leadership. For a big company like Wolt, this comes down to ‘what you can measure, you can improve.’
“To know how you’re doing, you need data. There was a small Danish startup that we used many years ago that created a tool for automating different types of questions. It has been one of the ways to put a number on how we are doing and where we can develop. It’s how we can target things like leadership training and, ultimately, leadership changes,” he said.
Kruustük added to that, saying, “If we find people that are not good enough managers, it’s our responsibility to train them and teach them what leadership means. It isn’t easy because leaders must make a thousand decisions all the time. But if we have thousands of people working in a company, how can we make everybody happy? You can’t. Leadership is largely about making those decisions and uplifting people’s voices to make them heard.”
The duo touched on the topic of diversity and how statistics have proven that diverse companies are more successful, which the Testlio co-founder underlined in her inspiring conclusion: “We need to become more open. We need to learn to appreciate each other’s differences, be willing to learn about each other, find those weaknesses, and find those strengths. We must be role models to show that this is how you change the world and make it a better place.”
Visual summary of Miki Kuusi & Kristel Kruustük’s keynote by Linda Saukko-Rauta