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Being human, bringing passion and braving change – A warm house-welcoming evening at Henley

On 9 February, Henley Finland hosted a housewarming party at its new customised campus in the heart of Helsinki, their new location as of autumn 2022. 

Candlelight in the courtyard entrance greeted guests and drew them into the new facilities to sample savoury and sweet hors d’oeuvres and sparkling wine. It was a great way to set the stage for networking with like-minded managers and a thought-provoking evening discussing how organisations can implement human-centric and sustainable leadership. 

Annu Matula, Managing Director of Henley Business School Finland, opened the evening with a brief overview of Henley. “We’re much more than just a business school,” she said. Henley has been building leaders for a fairer world for nearly 75 years – since 1945, right after World War II. 

She highlighted the importance of human-centric leadership in organisations. “Being self-aware and agile is part of Henley’s legacy, it’s in our DNA,” Annu explained. This is what helps the school create the leaders needed for the future. 

Paula Kilpinen (D.Sc.), Director of Executive Education at Henley, then took the stage with a presentation based on her new book: “Inhimillinen strategia” (Human-centric strategy – currently only in Finnish), one of five finalists for the prestigious Business Book Awards given by Finnish Business School Graduates.

“I noticed strategies don’t do anything; people do. Where is the people part of the equation?” There’s talk about humanizing working life. But no one is talking about humanizing strategy yet. 

People are essential to strategy. We want to know: ‘Am I part of the strategy?’ ‘What is expected of me?’ ‘Do I have the necessary skills?’ “Strategy is human when it is alive in everyday encounters and emotions,” she underlined. “And that is where leadership plays a critical role – in bringing strategy to life for employees.”

A 2022 study shows that only 13% of people working in Finland are actively engaged in their work. And yet, we need people more than ever.

Paula’s aim is to spread the word – companies grow when their people grow. “This is a huge opportunity,” she emphasized. “If companies are willing to invest in environmental responsibility, then why not invest in human responsibility?”

Building on Paula’s presentation, guest speaker Riikka Mattila, Chief People & Culture Officer with Stockmann, shared her story of how the once mighty 161-year-old department store went through a human-centric process of change to survive.

In Riikka’s opinion, positive change starts with leadership behaviours and practices. They even flipped the organisational chart – with CEO at the bottom and merchant units at the top. The management genuinely listened to concerns.

Riikka described how Stockmann leaders with their teams implemented a programme with the personnel called ‘Light up the Stockmann Star,’ which had grown dim. The aim of the programme was two-fold: profitability and developing a merchant mindset in every employee to create feelings that last and delight Stockmann customers. 

They worked with employees on very concrete ways to ignite feelings that last during their team member journey to ensure everyone feels appreciated and engaged.

Positive results can already be seen. Today, Stockmann is debt-free. The focus on younger customers has been paying off. Team members have posted positive messages externally, such as: “Teamwork makes Dream Work.” 

To sum up, Riikka quotes her own leadership manifesto: “I have time for people. Together, we build an inspiring future.”

The evening of warm interactions at Henley Finland’s new venue was a testament to the power of being human, bringing passion and braving change. We look forward to continuing these discussions with you!

Jennika Rantanen - Henley Business School Finland

Jennika Rantanen

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