In the hot seat: Nokia HR director Lynn Rutter talks to Personnel Today
about her challenging agenda
"It’s inevitable that staff morale is affected and there is an
adjustment to the fact that staff have their backs to the wall. But Nokia is
well placed for this as we have this Finnish culture – and part of that is to
adapt to a tough climate. You don’t get tougher than -37º in Helsinki."
Lynn Rutter, Nokia’s global HR director, is talking about how the company is
helping staff cope under the constant threat of change. This has been
particularly important since the telecoms sector went into decline.
Rutter, who flies between Nokia’s headquarters in Helsinki and her home in
Aberdeen, believes HR has played a vital role in helping employees to accept
that change is part of Nokia’s work culture.
"HR can support a culture where change is normal. We’ve always been in
a culture of change and we help staff to recognise that change is nothing to
fear," she said.
This is done by getting staff to understand that no company can offer a
40-year career, making them aware of the company’s strategy and giving them
control of their careers, she explains.
Despite the wide-scale redundancies at Ericsson and Motorola, Rutter claims
that Nokia is coping well with the market volatility affecting the telecoms
Rutter, who has been with Nokia for 11 years, regards her biggest challenge
as establishing an open communication system, which has been important in
informing staff of what is going on during periods of uncertainty.
"Staff need to know what the facts are and what Nokia is trying to do,
regardless of what’s going on in the sector," she said.
Nokia’s communication strategy is led by Jorma Ollila, the chief executive
who briefs the top managers and the information is then filtered down through
"Traditional HR has been seen as keeping information, and there is a
feeling of knowledge equalling power, but Nokia has a very open system of
communication," said Rutter.
The company launched a site on its intranet over 18 months ago, which
provides information for staff and line managers and a question and answer
"This helps everyone in Nokia understand the basis for decisions made
by the company and also how the company works," said Rutter.
She is adamant that the lay-offs across the telecom sector have made it
easier to address the skills shortages. Rutter said, "It’s still difficult
to recruit people with skills in research and development and expertise in
certain technology areas."
She adds, "The companies having difficulties are those in which people
aren’t in line with the business objectives of the company."
Rutter singles out recruitment and retention among the main challenges for
"Recruiting the right people is crucial. We are looking for people with
particular skills and a lot of our recruitment is done online or by word of
"One price of our success is that we are now on a hit list for
headhunters, so we have to give people reasons to stay," she said.
Rutter fact file
– Lynn Rutter started as an executive HR officer, based at BT’s corporate
head office (UK) l 1985 Moves to BT’s Spectrum Division
– She joined Nokia in 1990, to set up an HR department when the UK company
employed only 30 people
– In 1997, she joined Nokia’s global HR team in the Nokia Networks business
divisions based in Finland, where her key responsibilities include setting up
global processes and rolling these out to new offices globally
– In 1999, Rutter sets up the Nokia HR Communications Divisiont
Nokia: the facts behind the telecoms giant
– Nokia employs 60,000 staff worldwide, serving customers in 130 countries
– It has production facilities in 10 countries and carries out research and
development in 15 countries
– There are 107 nationalities among its staff, operating across 57 countries
– It has four business groups: Nokia networks; Nokia mobile phones; Nokia
ventures organisation and common group functions
– Nokia had an operating profit of Euro5.8bn and sales of E30.4bn in 2000
– A strategic steering group which consists of 15 representative heads of
each HR department co-ordinates the company’s HR strategy