Work in Estonia ‒ attracting talent from around the world

Estonia, a tech-savvy and ever-globalising country, has lately been busy developing many initiatives to help and encourage foreign talent to relocate here. Work in Estonia, launched on 28 April by Enterprise Estonia, a government agency, is the most ambitious welcoming program yet.

This article is published in collaboration with Life in Estonia magazine.

The goal of Work in Estonia is to simplify the process for local companies to employ overseas experts and to introduce Estonia as the perfect destination for fulfilling one’s potential.

Estonia is often referred to as a pioneer and innovator in ICT. It therefore comes as no surprise that this is the sector which is doing the most hiring.

Companies like TransferWise, Skype and Kuehne+Nagel are just a few examples of employers who are already actively recruiting globally. The demand for top specialists is expected to grow in the future as well, in line with the growth of “e-Estonia” and its ICT sector.

Work in Estonia’s raison d’être is to make international recruitment easier not just for ICT companies, but also for companies hiring in other sectors such as mechanics and electronics industry, finance etc.

Competing for talent

In late April 2015, the web page www.workinestonia.com is due to go live. This website will advertise international jobs available in Estonia and also gather relevant information necessary about relocation from another country.

Frequently asked questions, such as “where to live”, “how to cope the necessary paperwork”, “where to find a doctor”, “where to go out and how to get by in general”, will be listed and answered on the site.

“At first glance, it may raise a few eyebrows that one small Nordic country could compete for talent alongside places like London, Berlin or Silicon Valley,” says Kristel Kask, the project manager of Work in Estonia. “But in reality, Estonia has several advantages that make it an attractive place for many future-orientated, high-achieving talents from all over the world.”

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Kask gives some examples of these, including the possibility of rapid professional growth. Because of the low hierarchies in Estonian companies and the over-all working mentality and business culture, it is highly likely that a young professional with enough ambition might climb up the corporate ladder quite quickly and be part of the strategic decision-making processes at a young age.

“Compared with the ‘old Europe’, where the professional career after graduating is often slow to progress, Estonia can be described as a place that believes in the capabilities of motivated youth, and age on its own is not understood to be the measure of skills,” Kask adds.

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Executive positions for people under 30 are not uncommon in Estonia. Furthermore, the scope of effect that one can implement on a national (and sometimes even global) level, due to the fast reactions and easy access to decision-makers, is rather impressive compared with many other, larger countries.

Not only for employees

One of the reasons behind this phenomenon is likely to be the fact that Estonia itself is relatively both small and young. Therefore the nation is prone to adapting to fresh ideas and change much faster than other, more-established countries, as proven by the extensive use of e-services, internet voting and the recently launched e-residency program.

“The web page will also provide relevant information about international recruitment for employers, in order to help the hiring process go smoothly,” Kask says, adding that Work in Estonia is also a good channel for companies in Estonia to promote themselves and make it easier to be seen by the international talent pool ‒ through the web site, online marketing as well as campaigning and special events that Work in Estonia will organise overseas.

Finland is the first country where Work in Estonia will focus its marketing efforts – one of the many good examples Finnish-Estonian cooperation.

The transition for talent coming from Finland is obviously much easier than it is in the case of those relocating from more distant destinations.

It is also good for the region in general not to lose the local talent to further afield.

In the recent Global Talent Competitiveness Index, compiled by INSEAD, which measures a country’s ability to attract and incubate talent, Estonia placed 19th out of 93 countries. European countries still continue to dominate this year’s list, with 16 of them in the top 25. This alone shows Estonia is in good and respectable company and is a viable alternative to more well-known competitiveness leaders like Switzerland, Luxembourg or Singapore.

Why come to Estonia?

Research conducted for Work in Estonia among highly skilled expats in autumn 2014 provided some interesting insight about what individuals who have moved to Estonia have found positively surprising about local life. In short, Estonia is easy and affordable, open-minded and straightforward.

Self-realisation

People moving to Estonia from western countries consider the main motivator and attraction of Estonia to be its compact organisational hierarchy, which enables people to climb up the career ladder more rapidly than in other countries.

Whereas in the US, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia, employees typically reach a certain career level in their forties, this is possible significantly earlier in Estonia.

Teams are smaller and everyone has the chance to have their say in decision-making. Young employees have opportunities to lead. Staff members and their contributions are noticed and rewarded.

Language level

The high level of English language skills is considered a very positive thing. Non-Estonian speakers do not generally feel helpless in Estonia. Whether at the doctor’s, on the street, at the shops or official institutions, it is usually possible to at least get by in English.

Living environment

TheEstonian living environment is considered to be notably safe. Life is not over-regulated. The streets are safe. The pace of life is not as hectic or stressful as in larger cities. In just half an hour one can be out of the city and surrounded by unspoilt nature, and even in the towns, the level of pollution is very low.

There is plenty of both fresh air and fresh food. People from a variety of different cultural backgrounds admit that they feel comfortable living here.

Although recognisably ethnically different people may stand out or be noticed happily they generally do not report experiencing significant prejudice, and indeed sometimes attain positions within the public sphere.

Effectiveness in dealings with both the state and with business

Dealings with both the state and with business are regarded as efficient. As public services are digitalised, everything in Estonia takes place quickly and painlessly.

Expats reported they particularly appreciated the opportunity to directly interact with officials ‒ you always knows who is dealing with your case and what is the status of the case is (since officials pro-actively contact you via telephone or email). The tax system is transparent and simple.

Cultural opportunities

Last, but not least – the cultural opportunities are endless. Despite the small size of the country, it is possible to attend great concerts and other cultural events non-stop.

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Cover: Kristel Kask, the Work in Estonia project manager

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About the author: Life in Estonia

Life in Estonia is a quarterly magazine, which covers all Estonian walks of life - from business and economy to tourism and culture. It focuses on in-depth coverage rather than short news value. The magazine is published by Estonian Investment Agency / Enterprise Estonia, a state organisation that ensures competitive business environment for foreign investments in Estonia and develops international business relations. Find out more on www.investinestonia.com