9.1.2019 Article

Marta Piigli, Director of Paulig’s Out of Home business unit, and Nikolai Raita, the unit’s Chief Operating Officer, are pleased about the results of the recent TellUs employee survey. According to the annual survey, Paulig employees feel that the company treats its personnel as individuals and the quality of leadership is good. Piigli and Raita believe it is important that Paulig employees also feel comfortable with voicing dissenting opinions and concerns at the workplace.

The most important function of a leader is to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable with voicing dissenting opinions. This is the opinion of Nikolai Raita, Chief Operating Officer of Paulig’s Out of Home business.

“An atmosphere of openness makes it possible to get the most out of each individual. When employees are free to express their opinions, the team can collectively make better decisions,” Raita explains.

According to Marta Piigli, Director of the Out of Home business, leadership is always about people and the leader’s capacity to create the right conditions for team members to recognise their roles and have the ability and willingness to do the best they can. In Piigli’s opinion, contemporary leadership largely comes down to recognising the purpose and meaning of work and providing support for employees.

“A leader must understand and recognise the factors that motivate and energise employees. A leader also needs to be able to communicate the team’s direction and purpose in such a clear way that everyone knows their role and draws strength from doing work that has a purpose,” Piigli adds.

A far cry from quarterly thinking

The recent TellUs employee survey delivered good news about Paulig’s leadership and corporate culture:

according to the annual survey, Paulig employees feel that the company treats its personnel as individuals and the quality of leadership is good. Paulig is not an organisation with an authoritarian leadership culture.

The response rate of the most recent TellUs survey was an impressive 93.4%. Compared to international benchmarks, Paulig’s leadership index and the index of employees’ decision-making power are at a high level. Certain teams within the Paulig organisation have even achieved the highest AAA rating. The PeoplePower rating for Paulig Group as a whole was AA. Only 38% of European companies achieve this rating.

This reflects the high quality of Paulig’s leadership as well as the corporate culture. What do Piigli and Raita consider to be the special aspects of Paulig’s culture?

“Paulig is a family business that genuinely feels like one. When I first joined Paulig, I was surprised by how much effort is put into ensuring that the Group’s values are really put into action. We also apply a longer-term perspective than a listed company. We don’t just look at things one quarter at a time. This creates stability in operations and a sense of security for people. A long-term perspective creates the foundation for creativity and a positive company culture,” Raita explains.

Piigli says she has noticed that Paulig’s long history and beautiful story are very meaningful for the Group’s employees. Nevertheless, the company is not stuck in the past. Instead, it looks far into the future while remaining aware of its roots.

“Throughout the organisation, you can sense this strong attitude of moving forward together. New employees adopt the culture easily and quickly become well integrated into their teams,” Piigli points out.


A complementary pair

Piigli and Raita are a professional partnership that works closely together. We asked them to describe the way they work together. What kind of leader do they see each other as?

“Marta comes from a slightly different culture. She talks a lot and likes to think out loud. I enjoy that. It also encourages other people to open up in a similar fashion. The discussions are not about finding problems or assigning blame. We create space for dialogue. During my career, I’ve been in management teams where the focus is on mistakes and failures. Fortunately, that doesn’t describe our culture here at all,” Raita says, describing his teammate.

According to Piigli, Raita’s strengths complement her own.

“From Nikolai, I have learned to take a step back, seek problem solving from inside and decision making based on thorough analysis, ” Piigli explains.

What do I think about my employer?

Raita and Piigli are both pleased to know that Paulig’s employees feel comfortable with voicing their concerns.

Raita thinks that the results of the TellUs survey at Paulig are as positive as they are because people believe that their responses will have a genuine impact on operations going forward. The survey is not just a ritual the company does. It is a channel for communicating wishes that will truly influence the way the company operates.

Some companies think that these kinds of large-scale employee surveys are old-fashioned. Raita disagrees.

“Of course, the most important thing is to listen to the employees every day. These surveys aren’t meant to be the only opportunity for people to voice their opinions. The survey simply encourages employees to take a moment to think about these issues and to express their thoughts about their job and the employer. What do I actually think about these issues? How would I like to see the company develop its operations? We need to create moments for people to reflect on their feelings,” Raita says.

At Paulig, the results of the TellUs survey are analysed in the teams’ internal workshops. The Group HR unit is involved by providing support for the development of the teams that have more needs for improvement.

The TellUs leadership index measures the quality of leadership through six questions on topics such as the extent the employees feel appreciated, trusted and fairly treated.

“We define team-specific development areas and each team also gets an action plan for the coming year. How can we develop in the areas where we have room for improvement? We also need to keep pushing forward in the areas that we are already doing well in,” Piigli adds.

Leaders need to be honest and capable of self-criticism

The role of a team leader is to point out a clear direction for the employees. The team leader is also someone who the employees can turn to when they feel stuck with a problem. When the team feels confident about having its leader’s support, it has the courage to take on difficult challenges.

“Today’s leadership culture and company culture is more human. Everything starts with people,” Raita and Piigli say.

And what are the key principles of leadership that they adhere to?

“In a time of major strategic changes, communication is extremely important. People often forget that communication needs to be understandable and concrete. Nice words are of no use if the individual doesn’t understand what their meaning is for his or her job. I don’t believe in leadership mottos and slogans,” Raita adds.

According to Raita, the capacity for self-reflection is one of the most important qualities in a leader. Piigli says honesty and trust are key.

“Above all, you have to be honest with yourself and your team, and you have to trust yourself and your team.  Honesty needs to be the foundation for all communication and everything the team does. I don’t believe in mottos and slogans either. Situations and people are different. The leader needs to maintain a certain playfulness and avoid showing resistance to change,” Piigli concludes.