FBC Board member Heidi Mäkinen blogs: When the Board Pays a Visit…

A lot has been said about the importance of the top management of a company being visible for its employees. Some studies claim that organisations are reflections of their top management, and that the beliefs and actions of the top managers shape the organisational behaviour. Whilst not every individual considers the visibility of top managers to be important, there are studies to suggest that top management’s actions are strongly related to employee commitment, job satisfaction, and role ambiguity.

Last year I was selected to participate “Growth Lab” – an internal leadership development programme initiated by the Board of Management at Wärtsilä. Not only aims this programme to develop a pool of highly performing potentials into leaders capable of driving Wärtsilä’s growth in future, but it also offers an opportunity for the participants to interact and discuss with the members of the Board of Management who are also actively involved in the programme. For me this was a strong signal of the value and importance the company and the Board is putting on its employees and the trust on developing future leadership. Obviously for me it was also a rare but valuable chance to be directly guided and challenged by the top managers of the company. I also believe that this kind of interaction, and attention, made me amongst others commit to the programme but likely also enhanced commitment to the company. On the other side, the opportunity was there also for the top managers to open their ears and minds to fresh ideas and feedback without a number of management layers “filtering” the information.

In another occasion earlier this year, in a very rare occurrence, Wärtsilä Board of Directors and Board of Management visited Singapore. For our local organisation, this meant a great possibility to give the board members an overview of the Singapore marine ecosystem and transformation in action. As the busiest container transhipment hub in the world, maritime contributes 7% to Singapore’s GDP and employs 170,000 personnel with over 5,000 maritime establishments, with an ambitious goal of more than doubling its capacity by 2040. It is vital for the board members to witness these activities and to hear about the markets to be able to make better decisions. Meeting current and potential future customers is another key reason for this type of visits, as well as meeting the people, the employees, face-to-face. In a large, global organisation a CEO may just be “a name” or “a position” for many employees, yet leaders give an organisation direction and purpose. I believe, and I have witnessed, that real conversations between the management and employees are opportunities to find out what is really happening on both sides. Interaction and genuine interest showed on local activities also make us feel significant and connected to our employer. It may indeed enhance our job satisfaction and role ambiguity as stated earlier.

Visits and townhall meetings and other forms of personal interaction may not often be possible in large multinational corporations. Usage of social platforms amongst other modern tools are all opportunities today given to employees to interact with top management and senior leaders, and we should all take them regardless of which part of the organisation we may personally represent. These are important occasions for us to deepen our understanding on corporate matters and to strengthen our organisational identification.

Heidi Mäkinen (Wärtsilä)
FBC Board member