Top-notch emplo­yees from the Phi­lip­pi­nes

Two men in Puistola, Oulu

The res­tau­rant industry is a visible field of busi­ness in many ways, reflec­ting chan­ges in citizens’ purc­ha­sing power and broa­der phe­no­me­na such as con­sequences of COVID-19 pan­de­mic and Russian’s acts of war in Ukrai­ne. Alt­hough the num­ber of res­tau­rant busi­nes­ses was on a slight upward trend in 2018–2022, the first signs of labor shor­ta­ges and a decli­ne in the att­rac­ti­ve­ness of the industry were alrea­dy visible befo­re the impact of the pan­de­mic.

– Accor­ding to sur­veys con­duc­ted by The Fin­nish Hos­pi­ta­li­ty Associa­tion (MaRa ry), the att­rac­ti­ve­ness of our industry had alrea­dy been decli­ning for years. This was reflec­ted in the num­ber of stu­dents ente­ring the field and the dif­ficul­ty in fin­ding skil­led staff. To ease the situa­tion, regio­nal att­rac­ti­ve­ness wor­king groups were establis­hed, who­se acti­vi­ties were sup­po­sed to start alrea­dy in 2020. The start was delayed due to the COVID-19, but now the acti­vi­ties have been launc­hed, says Sari-Hele­na Fors­man, who has exten­si­ve expe­rience as a res­tau­rant ent­repre­neur.

– Howe­ver, the COVID-19 pan­de­mic was the final straw for the industry. As a result of the restric­tions, res­tau­rants were forced to clo­se their doors and emplo­yees were laid off. Some moved to work in other sec­tors, such as retail, whi­le others went back to school, and so on. When res­tau­rants reo­pe­ned after the lock­down, a mas­si­ve labor shor­ta­ge forced them to adapt their ope­ra­tions to the avai­la­bi­li­ty of wor­kers.

– The res­tau­rant industry is still in a situa­tion whe­re one way to enable busi­ness deve­lop­ment and con­ti­nui­ty is labor based immi­gra­tion, says Sari-Hele­na.

The res­pon­se to the acu­te labor shor­ta­ge began to take sha­pe. Seve­ral local res­tau­rant busi­nes­ses star­ted to see new pos­si­bi­li­ties in brin­ging in labor from abroad. Col­la­bo­ra­tion with Mar­jo Mii­na­lai­nen, who works as a rec­ruit­ment agent, star­ted to take form through networ­king. The goal was to crea­te an open, ethical, and abo­ve all, legal­ly compliant process for brin­ging in Fili­pi­no labor to meet the needs of busi­nes­ses.

Trans­pa­rency takes time when brin­ging in labor from the Phi­lip­pi­nes

The busi­ness group mana­ged by the Fors­man fami­ly inclu­des Puis­to­la’s res­tau­rant, can­ti­na, café, and bake­ry, as well as Res­tau­rant Pan­nu.

– Cur­rent­ly, 11 of our 40 emplo­yees are Fili­pi­no. Inter­na­tio­na­li­ty in the workplace is fami­liar to us, as English has been one of the wor­king lan­gua­ges in the kitc­hen even befo­re the rec­ruit­ment of Fili­pi­no wor­kers, says Sari-Hele­na.

The first step in the rec­ruit­ment process is fin­ding sui­table labor. Know­led­ge of the local labor mar­ket is essen­tial for succee­ding. This part falls on Mar­jo’s shoul­ders, as she has built a strong unders­tan­ding and network with rec­ruit­ment agencies whi­le living in the Phi­lip­pi­nes.

– The­re is a vast num­ber of rec­ruit­ment com­pa­nies in the Phi­lip­pi­nes, as labor is one of the count­ry’s lar­gest exports. It is crucial to find part­ners who ope­ra­te wit­hin the legal fra­mework and with whom trust can be built.

Care­ful­ly cho­sen and inter­viewed emplo­yees are direc­ted to the Fin­nish Immi­gra­tion Ser­vice’s Phi­lip­pi­ne part­ner. A full medical exa­mi­na­tion is requi­red at the begin­ning of the process because it sets its own con­di­tions for the imple­men­ta­tion of work-based immi­gra­tion. Futu­re emplo­yees often wait months in the Phi­lip­pi­nes to go to the aut­ho­rized part­ner to pro­ve their iden­ti­ty and give their fin­gerprints. Emplo­y­ment cer­ti­fica­tes are also chec­ked at this sta­ge.

When the proce­du­re is imple­men­ted accor­ding to the Fin­nish, Phi­lip­pi­ne, and inter­na­tio­nal laws, it sure­ly takes time.

– The laws and regu­la­tions in Phi­lip­pi­nes are qui­te hard for the ethical rec­ruit­ment. It is said in the law what is expec­ted from the rec­rui­ting com­pa­ny. For example, the apart­ment must be arran­ged even though the rec­rui­ted emplo­yees do pay the rent by them­sel­ves, Mar­jo clears out.

– This is about doing eve­ryt­hing the right way, Sari-Hele­na agrees to that.

Sari-Hele­na Fors­man and Mar­jo Mii­na­lai­nen.

Life in Oulu through Phi­lip­pi­ne eyes

Julius Idian moved to Oulu in the sum­mer 2022 around the suns­hi­ne of the night­less night.

– When we moved here, the emplo­yer paid for our visa applica­tions, plain tic­kets and had arran­ged accom­mo­da­tion for us. If we nee­ded anyt­hing, they didn’t hesi­ta­te to help us, Julius says. He seems very hap­py about how eve­ryt­hing was hand­led.

He works in Puistola’s kitc­hen as a cook. He desc­ri­bes his work as busy, yet he finds it is easy to find a good balance between work and free time. He has found good rou­ti­nes in his dai­ly life – wor­king in an ins­pi­ring job, going out to meet friends or to do some exerci­se and then relaxing at home.

– I have a fami­ly back home in Phi­lip­pi­nes. We have video calls very often, which is real­ly impor­tant to me. Then we can feel like actual­ly being toget­her.

Jay­son Ril­lo has lived in Oulu for about 9 months. He works as a wai­ter. He also has his fami­ly in Phi­lip­pi­nes and kee­ping in touch is a precious resource. Some­ti­mes they are mis­sing their fami­lies a lot and it can make them sad. The pos­si­bi­li­ty of having their fami­lies here in Fin­land is in the futu­re. Howe­ver, he thinks Oulu is an amazing place.

– It doesn’t mat­ter how cold it is, you can still ride your bicycle anyw­he­re. Even if it’s ‑20 degrees. I love to ride my bicycle, Jay­son smi­les.

Jay­son says that he also meets other inter­na­tio­nal resi­dents of Oulu in his free time. Some of them are stu­dents and some are wor­king.

Jay­son Ril­lo and Julius Idian.

Wor­king in Oulu

– During my first work­days, I was a litt­le bit lost. Yet eve­ry­bo­dy was friend­ly, but qui­et too. Fin­nish people don’t like to talk too much. When you start to talk with them, they will start to open up. If they like you, they will also help you, invi­te you to par­ties and so on, Jay­son talks about his expe­riences.

They like their workplace’s cul­tu­re. It is friend­ly, gene­rous, and sup­por­ti­ve.

– I have Fin­nish cowor­kers, but they are also my friends and I take them as my fami­ly, Julius desc­ri­bes. That is how they desc­ri­be their way of wor­king. The Phi­lip­pi­ne sty­le is excel­lent for crea­ting sup­por­ti­ve and warm wor­king cul­tu­re.

– This kind­ness in their cha­rac­ter is also pre­sent in the way they do cus­to­mer ser­vice – with since­ri­ty and a smi­le. Tho­se are very precious skills in cate­ring busi­ness, Sari-Hele­na sta­tes.

– I love the way they have trust for Fili­pi­nos as wor­kers, even if we don’t speak Fin­nish, Julius and Jay­son say. When Jay­son is asked how the Fin­nish clients are accep­ting him, he tells that at first clients are usual­ly surpri­sed about a non-Fin­nish spea­king wai­ter.

– They say “oh, you don’t speak Fin­nish”, but then they con­ti­nue “don’t wor­ry, we like you here” and that makes me feel more com­for­table.

“I love the way they have trust for Fili­pi­nos, even if we don’t speak Fin­nish.”

To endor­se the team spi­rit, Puis­to­la orga­nizes team buil­ding events for their wor­kers.

– During the team day we had acti­vi­ties and so much fun. Afterwards we had din­ner around a long res­tau­rant table with a lot of tal­king, Julius tells whi­le going through his memo­ries.

Why to choo­se Fili­pi­nos? And why choo­se to come to Fin­land?

– What strongly moti­va­tes me in this work, is that I know Fili­pi­nos are good wor­kers. They are excep­tio­nal­ly skil­led in dea­ling with people, desc­ri­bes Mar­jo. She also high­lights good expe­riences in the healthca­re sec­tor.

– They do their jobs with a smi­le. In the nur­sing home for elder­ly people, they have the ener­gy to talk to the resi­dents and may even sing whi­le wor­king. Their approach to work is in a class of its own.

– It’s true that Fili­pi­nos exu­de suns­hi­ne, smi­les, and imme­diacy. As emplo­yees, they are also com­mit­ted and loy­al. They are used to wor­king and they are here to work, Sari-Hele­na says.

Emplo­yees com­mit to a two-year fixed-term emplo­y­ment cont­ract with Puis­to­la when moving to Fin­land. Alrea­dy in the job inter­view, the emplo­yee’s thoughts on buil­ding a more per­ma­nent life and futu­re in Fin­land are map­ped out. Most emplo­yees would like to stay in Fin­land after two years and bring their fami­lies here.

– Fin­land is seen as safe, equal, fair, and clean. The Fin­nish natu­re ima­ge has a strong impact — cows graze free­ly on lush mea­dows, fish swim in clean waters, ber­ries and mush­rooms can be pic­ked your­self in the forest.


Our ser­vices for com­pa­nies see­king inter­na­tio­nal talents

We here at Inter­na­tio­nal House Oulu assist com­pa­nies with fin­ding sui­table inter­na­tio­nal emplo­yees or interns through our exten­si­ve network of con­tacts. We speci­fical­ly tar­get inter­na­tio­nal talent alrea­dy living in Fin­land or Oulu. BusinessOulu’s job see­ker data­ba­se con­tains many indi­vi­duals with foreign backgrounds and exper­ti­se across various fields of busi­ness.

Addi­tio­nal­ly, we orga­nize rec­ruit­ment events and cam­paigns that your com­pa­ny can par­tici­pa­te in, for example, check out the free JobCor­ner. We also orga­nize infor­ma­tion ses­sions and coac­hing ses­sions on inter­na­tio­nal rec­ruit­ment.

For more infor­ma­tion con­tact:
Sal­la Hir­vo­nen, salla.hirvonen@businessoulu.com