Once upon a time a trained psychologist with background in the marketing-driven pharmaceutical sector, took the helm of HR Manager at Dittmar & Indrenius. She was not at all prepared for the culture shock in store for her.
In Mirka Palm‘s eyes, law seemed like a funny form of theatre and she struggled to take the profession’s unspoken etiquette and the impeccable formality seriously, while everyone around her seemed to take pride in both. Somebody even told her that there was to be no laughing in Dittmar & Indrenius’ corridors. “That proved to be not true, thank goodness”, she says, with a contagious laugh.
“D&I culture today is an outcome of the good seeds we’ve been planting in a healthy soil.”
“Go ahead and take our culture to a new level, so we can develop into something much greater”, said Senior Partner and Chairman of the Board, Jan Ollila, when giving Palm her broad-brush brief a decade ago. “The freedom I was entrusted with was very important”, she reflects on a colourful sofa in a former meeting room converted into a laid back social space featuring a bar, table hockey and photos from office parties. “But culture was not outsourced to me. It couldn’t have been – it doesn’t work like that. Cultural change is not a “fix” delivered by HR experts. D&I culture today is an outcome of the good seeds we’ve been planting in a healthy soil. It has evolved as we, as a team, have reworked some fundamental pratices and put new processes in place. I was the project manager, that’s all”, she says firmly.
In spring 2016 Dittmar & Indrenius participated in the Great Place to Work® Finland survey and landed in the 11th spot of all firms, being the only law firm recognized in the list of Best Companies to Work For® in Finland. The way Palm sees it, the outstanding result was just a very nice bonus. What she wanted to get out of the survey was new perspectives for their organisational development process and the opportunity to benchmark themselves against other employers who are also striving for excellence. “Our management is fully committed to make D&I one of the best employers in Finland. We want our people to feel good about coming to work, every single day.”
“Expertise is always for hire but what really matters is how you relate to other people.”
For Team Players Only
“Excellence is our tradition – it’s in our DNA.” To deliver that promise, it’s critical that the firm manages to satisfy and motivate the employees to serve the firm and its clients the best possible way. Everyone at D&I embarks on their own D&I journey, a concept launched by Palm. It’s about opportunities for professional and personal development and recognising everyone’s individual contribution to the culture. ”We are a star factory for our future partners, not a regular car wash with identical, high-spec robots emerging from a conveyor belt. We all have our own unique strengths so we want all our employees to enjoy their own unique D&I journey with us.”
While the firm treasures personalities, unique strenghts and the varying backgrounds of their employees, there is one thing that is non-negotiable. “There are other great firms out there but what sets us apart is our team-centric culture of pulling together. The catch is, the same applies to the candidates too. Some people in their professional lives are largely driven by personal glory and that sort of attitude can be very difficult to shift. We can’t afford not to be completely humane in our thinking and in all our interactions within and outside the firm. Expertise is always for hire but what really matters is how you relate to other people.”
In Colleagues We Trust
It is Palm’s priority to ensure that everyone integrates into the firm and its culture as well and as quickly as possible. Critical part of quick integration is to build strong relationships with other employees. Browsing through D&I’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, one finds a tight-knit, joyful community proud to be “different with a twist” (#snadistiouto), regularly celebrating successes through someone spontaneously inviting everyone together for good news, a smoothie or a glass of champagne (#roligatimmen).
Far from spontaneous, however, is their traditional office-outing every other year: a long weekend for the whole firm somewhere outside the borders of Finland. Last fall it was Lago di Como, Italy (#comopassione) and before that Chamonix, France. “These trips have been truly amazing, unifying experiences. Such investments are absolutely necessary. The more our team trusts each other, the more we stand to learn from one another and become even better. To me, that is excellency defined”, Palm says.