Finnair aims for new heights in recruitment with Workday

Profile picture for user jtwentyman By Jessica Twentyman April 18, 2018
The Finnish airline first implemented cloud-based HCM applications in 2016. It's now on schedule for the recruitment modules.

Finnair plane
In March, Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo announced that the airline is to bring forward the delivery of two new Airbus A350s in order to deliver on ambitious expansion plans.

The airline already has 11 A350s in service, plus another eight on order. It will now take delivery of one of these new long-haul airliners next year, instead of the original delivery date of 2023. Another will now be delivered in 2020, rather than in 2022.

At the same time, it has announced new frequencies to some of its most popular destinations for the 2018/19 winter season, including Tokyo and Nagoya in Japan, as well as Lisbon, Alicante, Malaga and Geneva in Europe. In terms of opening up new routes, according to Vauramo, Finnair is looking to Asia for future growth.

New aircraft serving new routes create a need, of course, for new recruits, as the airline’s head of HR services Johanna Hulkko points out. The drive to get new employees on board at Finnair, she says, is already underway:

We’ve hired about 1,000 employees in the last twelve months and the same pace will continue over the next twelve months. And, since we’re still waiting for new long-haul aircraft to join our fleet over the next five years, we expect our workforce needs will continue to grow.

Getting recruitment on board

Now, she’s looking to cloud-based HCM software company Workday to help Finnair fill new vacancies as they arise. Finnair went live on the core HCM modules of Workday in 2017, she explains, having begun its implementation in 2016. Since then, it’s added applications for performance review and target setting. Talent reviews are due to go live in the coming months, as well as advanced compensation.

But recruitment software has been a bit of a sticking point – and, in particular, the software needed for the mass recruitment of pilots, cabin crew and ground operations staff. Says Hulkka:

Recruitment is the probably the most important part of the next phase we have on our roadmap. We started to implement the recruitment modules in our first phase but, back in 2016, the recruitment module in Workday was still quite new. There were too many blockers for us, which meant that we couldn't continue.

With mass recruitment, she explains, Finnair might receive thousands of applications for a particular role - cabin attendant positions, for example - and then go on to select a couple of hundred people at a time.

We are a very admired employer in Finland, in the top three every year when we ask college students about who they’d like to work for. So we really didn’t want to risk the perception we have with candidates and there was an issue with mass recruitment in Workday… Functionality wasn’t there yet, so we decided to freeze the recruitment implementation.

Revisiting the decision

But things are changing rapidly and, in light of its recruitment plans for the next few years, Finnair is now reevaluating its decision. As Hulkka explains:

Today, we see many advantages to having recruitment as part of our whole process and Workday has developed the recruitment module a lot in the past two years. Many of those blockers for us have been addressed. Mass recruitment is still an issue for us, so we want to understand how ready it is for roll out here in the second part of this year or maybe later. But we are ready to start implementing recruitment for some parts of our workforce, not starting with mass recruitment, but for experts and office workers. We'll see how it goes.

For now, she says, Finnair is very happy with the HR experience that Workday is delivering for its workforce of around 6,000. Between 500 and 1,000 of these are based outside of Finland and, with the exception of localized payroll options, they enjoy the same experience, thanks to the cloud. They find the software as usable as the apps they use in their lives outside of work, she says, even on mobile devices. Now, it’s time to take that experience to the next level and extend it to would-be employees at the very start of the employment journey, too:

We are reaching out to other Workday customers to see how they're handling mass recruitment today. We always bear in mind that Finnair job candidates are also Finnair customers. They travel with us, since we're the main carrier here, so we need to be really careful to make sure that our recruitment processes reflect our high standards as a company.