Aihearkisto: Articles in English

Using a signature instead of a password

In a world full of electronic systems, there is a need to prevent the unauthorized users from accessing protected data. Various ways of authentication are used, passwords being the most ubiquitous.

Authors: Abdelwakil Bouljoub and Aki Vainio

What is the problem with traditional passwords?

Traditional passwords are sequences of characters. Various organizations have their own guidelines and rules, often based on earlier recommendations from NIST, which have since been completely redone (Grassi, et al. 2017). However, passwords are problematic. Often the passwords that follow the official guidelines are hard to remember or the users avoid these memory issues by not following the guidelines or by finding the most trivial way to follow them, leaving their passwords weak (Munroe 2011). They are hard for the user, but easy to break with the ever-advancing technology we have access to (Munroe 2011).

As passwords continue to present problems, many organizations are trying to move away from them. For instance, W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) in collaboration with FIDO Alliance finalized a web standard for what they called Passwordless Logins that recommend a standard for browsers to let users log into their account using other options (W3C 2019). FIDO Alliance is an industry association that aims to develop authentication standards, which boasts many of the leading technology companies in the world as its members. FIDO recommends the use of alternative authentication methods, such as biometrics.

The trend to abolish the use of passwords has commercial implications. Integrating biometrics or other authentication methods into systems requires new software and often hardware components. (Bouljoub 2019.)

What are biometrics and how are they used for authentication?

Biometrics refer to the information about someone’s body. There are many domains of biometrics usage, such as forensics science and crime investigations, but with the advance of technology, biometrics can be used to extract repeatable biometric features for biometric-based authentication.

In fact, we have many features in our bodies that differentiate us from each other. The Biometrics Institute, an independent non-profit organization, has categorized biometrics as illustrated in figure 1.

Figure 1. Biometrics types (compiled from Biometrics Institute 2019)

Apple, for example, introduced the Face ID feature in iPhone X (Schiller 2017). It is a feature that gives to the user the option to unlock the phone by using the face recognition method. At the same time, Samsung used a similar feature on Galaxy Not 8, but in addition, Samsung added the iris recognition feature as well (Samsung 2019). Many other companies are using different types of biometric to provide a solution to plenty of domains such as security surveillance.

Not all biometrics have been proven to be unique from one person to another. The idea of the uniqueness of biometrics is based in most cases on the low probability of the existence of similar biometric information on two different individuals. Joanna Stern a columnist in Wall Street Journal tried the face recognition feature in iPhone X with identical twins and the system fail to distinguish between them (Stern 2017).

Biometrics are problematic

Most of the reviews that have been conducted on the topic of biometrics are looking for which solution is most secure against hacking attempts, but simply being secure is not enough. Instead, using biometrics presents its own set of problems.

The data used in biometrics can be used for other purposes as well. In China, for example, biometric data is being used by law enforcement which raises a serious concern about user privacy. Many people are not sure if the biometric data collected by companies is stored safely and it won’t be used for other purposes.

The second reason is related to the fact that biometrics are unchangeable. Although this could be considered an advantage because a user doesn’t need to remember any specific information when using a biometric-based authentication, it is also a big disadvantage in case something happens to the integrity of the stored data which could render a certain biometric useless.

The exposed nature of biometrics is another issue, especially the most used one. For instance, face, eye and fingerprints are almost public for others and it could be a burden to protect them from copying or forging. Is true that Apple claims that its Face ID feature is strong enough against attempt of using a person’s image or even a person’s 3D-printed face, but the feature can’t tell if the user scan intentionally his face in purpose to unlock the phone or someone else is doing that under certain circumstances. (Fysi Tech 2017.)

There is also the question of practicality. No-one wants to conduct a DNA or gait analysis each time they login onto their phones.

Signatures as authentication method

The methods for using signatures as a method of authentication are still being developed, but signatures are one possible solution for the various challenges. What makes a signature-based method strong is not only the visible result, but the actual metrizable habit of writing that signature, including the rhythm and pressure impacted while writing, which are impossible to replicate (Huber & Headrick 1999).

The signature doesn’t invade user privacy. A signature doesn’t reveal if the person is a male, female, young, old or from a specific ethnicity. That minimizes the chance of using the signature as a tool to track individuals using biometric information provided by themselves (for example, Xie 2019).

A signature used for the authentication is stored in the same manner as the data for other biometrics methods. However, a person could change the appearance of the signature whenever the stored one becomes compromised.

In contrast to other biometric types, a signature is an act that requires an intention and a conscious effort from the person. It is not possible to get a person’s signature without that person being informed. The reason why signatures are not used widely as a method of authentication could be related to usability. For example, biometrics such as fingerprints are more relevant to smartphone’s usage. To unlock a phone by signature might take longer than the time needed to unlock it with a face recognition feature. In many cases, using signatures also requires dedicated hardware.

Conclusion

No one can steal a signature, your signature is with you everywhere and, in contrast to other biometrics methods, signature doesn’t require you to take a selfie each time you want to check your notifications. Furthermore, the biometrics and recognition methods are an active research field that it is evolving rapidly, and it has many advantages that encourage their use in several aspects of our daily life to improve security and reduce the traits of data security that are becoming a serious issue.

References

Biometrics Institute. 2019. Types of Biometrics. [cited 11 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://www.biometricsinstitute.org/what-is-biometrics/types-of-biometrics/

Bouljoub, A. 2019. Electronic signature for authentication. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality. Lahti. [cited 14 Jun 2019]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2019060515037

Fysi Tech. 2017. iPhone x FACE ID Experimental Video While Sleeping. [cited 11 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms7wLX2h9ec

Grassi, P., Fenton, J., Newton, E., Perlner, R, Regenscheid, A., Burr, W., Richer, J., Lefkovitz, N., Danker, J., Choong, Y.-Y., Greene, K. & Theoganos, M. 2017. NIST Special Publication 800-63B – Digital Identity Guidelines. NIST. [cited 11 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://pages.nist.gov/800-63-3/sp800-63b.html

Huber, R. & Headrick, A. 1999. Handwriting Identification: Facts and Fundamentals. CRC Press LLC. Boca Raton. USA.

Munroe, R. 2011. Password Strength. XKCD. [cited 11 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://xkcd.com/936/

Samsung. 2019. Security. [cited 11 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/galaxy-s8/security/

Schiller, P. 2017. Face ID on iPhone X. Video. [cited 5 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-t1h0Y8vuM

Stern, J. 2017. iPhone X Review: Testing (and Tricking) FaceID. Wall Street Journal. Video. [cited 5 June 2019]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhbMLmsCax0

W3C. 2019. W3C and FIDO Alliance Finalize Web Standard for Secure, Passwordless Logins. [cited 11 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://www.w3.org/2019/03/pressrelease-webauthn-rec.html

Xie, E. 2019. China working on data privacy law but enforcement is a stumbling block. South China Morning Post. [cited 14 Jun 2019]. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3008844/china-working-data-privacy-law-enforcement-stumbling-block

Authors

Abdelwakil Bouljoub is close to the end of his bachelor’s studies in Business Information Technology at Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Aki Vainio is a senior lecturer of Information Technology at Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1440395 (CC0)

Published 17.6.2019

Reference to this publication

Bouljoub, A. & Vainio, A. 2019. Using a signature instead of a password. LAMK Pro.
LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/06/17/using-a-signature-instead-of-a-password/

How to raise brand awareness using Inbound Marketing

Living in a period of constant and inevitable changes we can’t help but observe how fast new trends replace each other. Most companies used to think that the message had to be pushed in order to attract customers and make them want to buy their products. This very approach is called “outbound” marketing. However, shopping habits have changed, and the outbound approach has become no longer effective for the purpose of building brand awareness. Instead, a new “inbound” approach took over a place and transformed the holistic thinking of how marketing activities should be performed.

Authors: Elizaveta Popova and Marja Viljanen

Inbound marketing approach

The term Inbound Marketing was introduced by the developer of software products for marketing, HubSpot, and was defined as a method of attracting, engaging and delighting buyers to make the business grow and build customer loyalty. (HubSpot 2019.) The inbound marketing approach can be shown through a set of stages which forms an inbound marketing methodology. According to this methodology, before a buyer makes a purchase, they should go through certain phases from being random strangers towards becoming brand´s promoters. (Bezovski 2015.)

Figure 1. Inbound marketing methodology (Hubspot 2019)

The inbound methodology includes four stages: “attract”, “convert”, “close” and “delight”. At the “attract stage a company makes the first impression on its website to turn a sudden stranger into a regular visitor. To reach this goal, a company has to be active in social media, incorporate ads and content marketing to be able to demonstrate value to a visitor. At the next, “convert” stage, the visitor turns into a lead. This is particularly important for the B2B business as at this stage the company collects customer data to perform a lead analysis. At this phase, a company has to make sure that the website works well, and all landing pages are optimized according to SEO parameters. The lead then turns into a customer at the “close” stage. This stage defines the level of potentiality of the lead. It is essential to use lead scoring tools to identify the quality of the lead and decide whether it is worth taking over this lead or not. The final and the most important phase is delightas there is an opportunity to get more out of the deal. By enforcing more targeted social media and newsletters campaigns, and actively engaging with customers, the company provides additional value and makes customers delighted enough to be willing to share their experience with others. (Lam 2018.) 

Besides high cost-efficiency, sophisticated algorithms used in inbound marketing help to process better customer data and discover the proper type of advertising and make targeting process much easier. In the long run, the pull approach facilitates raising brand awareness and increasing the company’s sales by building a long-term inbound marketing strategy. (Expert journal of Marketing 2015.)

How to apply inbound marketing for B2B sales in Russia?

Russian market presents a rich export area with high consumer demand for foreign products. In order to understand what inbound marketing tools a B2B company could apply to this market, the case company research was conducted. The company under research was a Finnish company operating in several export markets including Russia. The study involved interviews with the company’s employees in the Russian offices. It turned out that basic tools used in inbound marketing would present a solution for the company´s business in Russia. The staff expressed the need to optimize SEO and integrate CRM tools to manage customer data. All interviewers also agreed that active social media presence is highly needed. Based on the statement that most of their customers mainly use Facebook and Instagram, it was rational to assume that starting points would be putting the efforts on starting social media campaigns on these platforms. (Popova 2019.)

In terms of Internet usage, Russia occupies seventh place in the ranking of Internet usage with almost 110 million online users (Viunova 2018). Based on these numbers it can be concluded that the Internet is a good platform for marketers to demonstrate and sell companies’ products and services. Pulling B2B customers in, of course, presents a challenge as they are more demanding and selective about how they are willing to engage with companies. (Chaffey & Smith 2017, 9.) However, by keeping up with the latest consumer trends, a business can stay at the front line. Speaking of Russia, it is important to follow the common trends and also adjust to country specifics. To name some trends, video content takes 75% traffic on the Russian Internet arena thus it can be a handy tool for B2B company to showcase their products. Face-to-face communication is also highly important that is why combining offline/online marketing is necessary. Language is another factor that influences customer decision. It is essential to keep the conversation and provide online content in the Russian language. (Viunova 2018.)

Since inbound marketing does not focus only on digital activities it is important to remember that standard sales procedures play an important part at each stage of the inbound approach. Combining them all would facilitate the sales work and increase brand awareness by not only offering good service but also engaging with a customer even in the post-deal period. The best way to implement inbound marketing is to build an easily-integrated plan which would involve the combination of online and physical marketing activities. By these means, the company will attract more quality leads, trigger a sales growth and raise overall brand awareness on the market.

References

Bezovski, Z. 2015. Inbound marketing-a new concept in digital business. SELTH 2015 – International Scientific Conference of the Romanian-German University of Sibiu. [cited 13 Feb 2019]. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291833697_Inbound_Marketing_-_A_New_Concept_in_Digital_Business

Chaffey, D. & Smith P. 2017. Digital marketing excellence. 5th edition. New York: Routledge.

Expert journal of marketing 2015. A new development in online marketing: introducing digital inbound marketing. [cited 13 Feb 2019]. Available at: http://marketing.expertjournals.com/23446773-305/

Hubspot 2019. What is inbound marketing? [cited 14 Feb 2019]. Available at: https://www.hubspot.com/inbound-marketing

Lam, A. 2018. What does inbound mean? A comprehensive guide to the inbound marketing funnel. Responsify. [cited 13 Feb 2019]. Available at: https://www.responsify.com/what-does-inbound-mean-inbound-marketing-funnel/

Popova, E. 2019. Raising brand awareness through inbound marketing in b2b sales on the Russian market. Bachelor Thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Business Administration. Lahti. [cited 26 May 2019]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2019060414796

Viunova, O. 2018. Marketing trends in Russia and abroad. Young scientist. [cited 12 Mar 2019]. Available at: https://moluch.ru/archive/209/51258/

Authors

Elizaveta Popova graduated from the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and received a BBA degree in International Business on June 20, 2019.

Marja Viljanen is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management at Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/758989 (CC0)

Published 10.6.2019

Reference to this publication

Popova, E. & Viljanen, M. 2019. How to raise brand awareness using Inbound Marketing. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/06/10/how-to-raise-brand-awareness-using-inbound-marketing/

Waste Management Trends in Selected Central Baltic Countries and in Russia

In Europe each person is currently generating on average half of tone of household waste per year. Although the management of the waste continues to improve in the EU, the significant amount of potential, valuable secondary raw materials such as metals, wood, plastics, paper and glass are lost in waste streams. Turning waste into a resource is one key to a circular economy. This article analyses current waste management trends in selected Central Baltic counties, i.e. Finland, Sweden, Latvia and in Russia.

Authors: Shima Edalatkhah and Lea Heikinheimo

European legislation as key driver to improve waste management

The European Union’s approach to waste management is based on the waste hierarchy which sets the following priority order: prevention, (preparing for) reuse, recycling, recovery and, as the least preferred option, disposal (which includes landfilling and incineration without energy recovery) (European commission 2019).

The European Commission has set stricter regulations on waste separation, recycling and landfilling. The proposed key points by EU waste policy as the major instrument in waste management include the following, as listed in Figure 1.

          Figure 1. The EU Proposed Waste Management Policy (Bremere 2011))

Waste Management in Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia

Eurostat keeps track of statistics on waste management in the European Union. Visualizing this data can help in the understanding of the overall difference among Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Russia. This also highlights the shift that has already taken place in Finland and Sweden.

The total waste generated is the first trend. These numbers give us a basic idea of the input problem. This input is surprisingly similar in these countries nowadays. The national data on waste generated per person had varied greatly in previous years, but in year 2016 Swedish, Russians and Latvians produced nearly the same amount of waste, i.e. 400 kg/capita, respectively. Finns produced 500 kg/capita per year (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Total Waste Generated in Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia. (Eurostat 2018)

Secondly, the recycling trend matters as the result of environmental awareness, accessibility and culture. (Eurostat 2018) Latvia shows an impressive trend starting from 2012 while Sweden has a steadier incremental growth. In Latvia, the company The Latvijas Zalais punkts has been promoting environmental education and caring for clean and tidy environment for 15 years, thus contributing to the growing trend (Figure 3).  (The Latvijas Zalais punkts 2019)

Figure 3. Total Recycling in Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia. (Eurostat 2018)

Third, we look deeper into the landfill trend. This is the output of the system. In order to change this output, a holistic view of the problem is needed. The 10% EU goal of landfilling was reached in Sweden already in 2004 and in Finland in 2015 (Figure 4). (Eurostat 2018)

Figure 4. Landfilling in Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia. (Eurostat 2018)

Fourth are the trends for incineration, which is the process of simply burning waste in a controlled way. This process accounts for 50% of waste treatment in Finland and Sweden. The idea is to take advantage of the heat generated and sending this back to the nearby community. (Statistics Finland 2018)

Figure 5. Disposal – incineration and energy recovery in Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia. (Eurostat 2018)

Waste Treatment in Finland and Sweden

The total amount of waste in Finland is about 2.4 to 2.8 million tons per year. Finland’s population was 5.54 million in 2018. Considering the amount of waste and inhabitants, the amount is about 500 kilograms per inhabitant per year. Based on a long-term plan of waste management in Finland specifically after 2000, there is currently a dramatic cut down of the number of landfill sites to less than 3% following the outstanding competition over recovery of waste to both energy production and material recovery. (Statistics Finland 2018)

  Figure 6. Waste Treatment in Finland. (Eurostat 2018)

As the above statistics illustrate, within a period of 14 years, the municipal waste turned to a significant energy fuel for district heat production. The energy recovered municipal waste include biocomponents like wood, paperboard, cardboard and food waste. (Statistics Finland 2018)

The trends in Finland and Sweden is a trend of steady improvement. The rate of landfill has shrunk by the small increase in recycling and large increase in incineration and energy recovery. At the same time the total waste generated seems to be at a standstill.

Figure 7. Waste Treatment in Sweden. (Eurostat 2018)

Waste Treatment in Latvia and Russia

An interesting increase in generated waste for the last 4 years can be seen in Latvia. The increase is 27% (2012-2016). At the same time, the amount of landfill did not grow by more than 3%. This might be an indicator that the process of the landfill is not seen as the solution when more waste is produced. This is a good thing. More landfill could be an easy way when demand rose. The data does, however, not show where the increase of waste went. No increase in other waste treatment is shown and the data from Eurostat does not add up (Figure 8).

The missing piece between the bars and the line can be explained as a difference in waste generated vs waste treated. However, we do find it very unlikely that the perfect match in 2008, 2009 and 2010 are the result of near 100% treatment. If so the big drop in 2011 should be investigated. The problem is probably due to difference in reporting.

Obviously, the level of incineration and energy recovery needs to increase significantly if the 2030 target is to be reached. Finland´s increase of incineration and energy recovery from 2006 to 2016 is 234 kg/capita. This increase needs to happen in Latvia as well. The 2030 target is not an impossible goal.

 

Figure 8. Waste Treatment in Latvia. (Eurostat 2018)

The situation in Russia is as follows: as the total amount of waste generated is increasing, so are both the amount of landfill waste and landfill volume. The amount of recyclable waste in 2016 has doubled, which may indicate the beginning of a positive trend. But the share of recyclable waste is extremely small, it is a big problem for Russia now. (Eurostat 2018)

                     

Figure 9. Waste Treatment in Russia. (Eurostat 2018)

The results of this study indicate that there is a positive trend of waste management in all case countries. The amount of new landfilling in Sweden and Finland is nearly about zero, partly due to the ban on landfilling of organic waste. There is still a challenge to reach the target value of 65% of recycling of municipal waste by 2030.

Meanwhile in Latvia, the household waste which is not recycled, is landfilled. There has been an outstanding growth in waste recycling though since 2012. In Latvia, it has been discussed whether they should build waste incinerators, or should they use landfills in mining. As the landfill mining can be considered as a part of the wider view of a circular economy, in recent years activity for secondary raw material recovery has received growing interest in EU area and globally. (Särkkä et al. 2018) Russia has recently had positive paces toward improvement in waste management and has high potentials to progress in the future.

References

Bremere, I. 2011. Improving Waste Prevention Policies in the Baltic States. Assessment and Recommendations. Hamburg: Baltic Environmental Forum. [Cited 15 Nov 2018]. Available at: http://bef-de.org/fileadmin/files/Publications/Waste/activity4-1-1_recommendations_waste-prev.pdf

European Commission. 2019. Waste. Environment. [Cited 15 Nov 2018]. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste

Eurostat. 2018. EU Open Data Portal. [Cited 15 Nov 2018]. Available at: https://data.europa.eu/euodp/data/dataset/KvzJCOjr8R9HkDIubruA

Interreg Europe. 2018. Effective municipal waste source. [Cited 15 Nov 2018].
Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/policylearning/good-practices/item/234/effective-municipal-waste-source-separation-and-recovery-paeijaet-haeme-region/

Statistics Finland. 2018. Municipal Waste Management. [Cited 15 Nov 2018].
Available at: https://www.stat.fi/til/jate/2016//jate_2016_13_2018-01-15_tie_001_en.html

Särkkä, H., Ranta-Korhonen, T. & Hirvonen, S. 2018. Municipal solid waste landfill as a potential source of secondary raw materials: Case Metsäsairila, Mikkeli. In: Aarrevaara E. & Harjapää A. (Eds.). Smart Cities in Smart Regions 2018: Conference Proceedings. Lahti: Lahti University of Applied Sciences. The Publication Series of Lahti University of Applied Sciences, part 39. 224-231.[Cited 14 Apr 2019]. Available at: URN:NBN:fi:amk-2018091815195

The Latvijas Zalais punkts. 2019. About us. [Cited 14 Apr 2019]. Available at: http://www.zalais.lv/en/about-us/

Authors

Shima Edalatkhah is an International Business Student at Lahti University of Applied Sciences

Lea Heikinheimo, D.Sc. (Tech), works as a Principal lecturer at LAMK, Faculty of Technology. She is also the Manager of the Crea-RE project.

Illustration: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/815927 (CC0)

Published 29.5.2019

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Interreg Central Baltic Program for the funding of the projects “Crea-RE Creating aligned studies in Resource Efficiency”.

Also, we would like to thank the partners and all the participants of the Crea-RE project who helped with data collection.

Reference to this publication

Edalatkhah, S. & Heikinheimo, L. 2019. Waste Management Trends in Selected Central Baltic Countries and in Russia. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/05/29/waste-management-trends-in-selected-central-baltic-countries-and-in-russia/

A Culturally Diverse Workforce: Is it really worth it?

What does cultural diversity mean and why are people so concerned about it currently? This article discusses the benefits of a culturally diverse workforce. Additionally, the article explores ways for organizations to increase workforce diversity. It is written for individuals interested in cultural diversity and matters related to it. The article is also relevant for organizations wishing to learn about workforce diversity and potentially integrating it into their corporate culture.

Authors: Isabella Härkönen & Tarja Ahonen

Theoretical Background

Cultural diversity can be defined as “the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole” (Kerwin 2010, vii). Because of the broadness of the concept, the study and the article applies a narrow category-based definition, which limits the concept to cover only cultural background.

Cultural diversity can bring many benefits to an organization’s workforce. From the organizational perspective it can improve the organization’s image as an employer and expand the applicant pool. (Leopold & Harris 2009, 129-132.) It also suggests that an organization is socially responsible and provides equal opportunities for all current and future employees (Hofhuis et al. 2013, 180). Moreover, with a diverse workforce organizations can learn more about different markets and potentially increase product awareness (Leopold & Harris 2009, 129-132). Workforce diversity has also been proven to add new perspectives to the problems at hand, increase innovativeness and problem-solving skills (Adler & Gundersen 2008, 102-104; Galinsky et al. 2015, 742).

Increasing workforce diversity can be challenging, but extremely beneficial for organizations in the long run. Theory suggests that the key for increasing workforce diversity is taking advantage of the gap between the number of personnel leaving and the number of new hires. Generally, like any workers, diverse employees can only be retained when there are vacancies in an organization, leading to a slow process. However, a speedy increase can be applied if organizations enter a stage of growth and need to employ additional workforce. (O’Brien et al. 2015, 11-12.)

Key Findings

The study was done in collaboration with Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LAMK). Twelve people working and studying at LAMK were presented questions related to cultural diversity and the case company. (Härkönen 2019, 22, 25.) The answers of interviewees were expected to be very general and noncommittal, but surprisingly interesting perspectives were gained. Revelations were made on different aspects related to the university that were not know beforehand. Sadly, many of them could not be used in the study, because they were slightly off topic.

The study revealed that 50 percent of the participating interviewees felt that LAMK’s workforce is not culturally diverse, 33,3 percent of interviewees answered that LAMK’s workforce is to some extent culturally diverse, and 16,7 percent stated that the workforce is culturally diverse (Härkönen 2019, 26). The results for this part were not as expected. It is clear that workforce diversity is very low at LAMK, yet some find that the workforce is culturally diverse. Reasons behind the answers of the participants who perceive LAMK’s workforce as culturally diverse could be due to the large amount of diverse students, foreign guest lecturers or foreign visitors at the university.

The majority of employees affirmed that a culturally diverse workforce is especially important for organizations nowadays. Moreover, most of the students felt increasing the amount of culturally diverse teachers would be beneficial and could help them learn more about different cultures. (Härkönen 2019, 26-28.) From a student’s perspective, having a diversified teacher base would make the learning environment more interesting. It would bring new teaching styles to the classrooms that do not rely only on PowerPoint presentations. Additionally, having more teachers who speak English as their native language would help students get a custom with the different dialects of the language. This is especially important in business studies, because you will come across several different styles of English during your career.

Various benefits were expressed in the study concerning a culturally diverse LAMK. It would be a competitive advantage against other Finnish universities of applied sciences and increase the amount of foreign students applying to LAMK. Additionally, foreign students would be able to get better support from teachers who have been in the same situation and it could increase the amount of foreign students staying in Finland after their studies. (Härkönen 2019, 28-29.) Other mentioned benefits were very similar to the collected theory, which was a disappointment for the study results. The research could have been more interesting if more new views on the benefits would have been gained.

Two concrete ways were suggested for increasing LAMK’s workforce diversity: Changing LAMK’s official working language to English and increasing the amount of teacher exchange. First, even though being a big undertaking for LAMK, changing the working language to English would be a positive investment for its future. It would increase its competitiveness and increase the amount of foreign students and employees wanting to be a part of the organization. Second, increasing the amount of teacher exchange would be an easy way to gain different perspectives and increase the amount of diversity in many aspects. Teachers going abroad would gain international knowledge and potentially new teaching styles. At the same time, LAMK’s students and employees would benefit from interacting with foreign teachers working at the university. (Härkönen 2019, 31, 35-36.) At the moment, the Universities of Applied Sciences in Finland are not very culturally diverse. This is why it is especially important for LAMK to take advantage of this gap and use it to their advantage. When performing the interviews, very little was known on the ways LAMK could increase its workforce diversity. The results were pleasantly surprising. Such concrete suggestions were not predicted beforehand. It is rewarding to see that the study provided real recommendations that the university can potentially use in the future.

Last word

To answer the opening questions, the concept of cultural diversity is an integral part of tomorrow’s business. Organizations must adapt to the changes brought by globalization and embrace cultural diversity. A culturally diversified workforce has been proven to be beneficial for organizations, making it a major trend in business. Therefore, future organizational focus should be on creating efficient diverse working environments and not playing it safe with a fully homogenous workforce.

References

Adler, N. & Gundersen, A. 2008. International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior. 5th ed. Mason: Thomson South-Western.

Galinsky, A., Todd, A., Homan, A., Phillips K., Apfelbaum, E., Sasaki, S., Richeson, J., Olayon, J. & Maddux, W. 2015. Maximizing the Gains and Minimizing the Pains od Diversity: a Policy Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 10(6). [Cited 6 Mar 2019]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1745691615598513

Hofhuis, J., Zee, K. & Otten, S. 2013. Measuring employee perception on the effects of cultural diversity at work: development of the Benefits and Threats of Diversity Scale. Quality & Quantity. 49(1). [Cited 6 Mar 2019]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-013-9981-7

Härkönen, I. 2019. Culturally Diversified Workforce: A Benefit or a Challenge? Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences Ltd, Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 21 May 2019]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2019052812395

Kerwin, L. 2010. Cultural Diversity: Issues, Challenges and Perspectives. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Leopold, J. & Harris, L. 2009. The Strategic Managing of Human Resources. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

O’Brien, K., Scheffer, M., Nes, E. & Lee, R. 2015. How to Break the Cycle of Low Workforce Diversity: A Model for Change. PLoS ONE. 10(7). [Cited 8 Mar 2019]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133208

Authors

Härkönen, Isabella. 2019. Fourth-year International Business student. Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Finland.

Ahonen, Tarja. 2019. Senior Lecturer. Lahti University of Applied Sciences Ltd, Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti.

Cover image: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1436885 (CC0)

Published: 29.5.2019

Reference to this publication

Härkönen, I. & Ahonen, T. 2019. A Culturally Diverse Workforce: Is it really worth it? LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/05/29/a-culturally-diverse-workforce-is-it-really-worth-it/

Six Skills Help You Stand Out in A Hypercompetitive Labour Market

“Anxious.” “Lost.” “Everything’s a struggle.” are some examples of the ways most recent university grads described their experience transitioning from school to the professional world. Why so? Because most of the grads need to undergo a “change-of-state” from being a student to being a short-termed (sometimes long-term) unemployed. This article is written for students who are struggling to enhance their competiveness in the labour market in order to get employed.

Authors: Phuong Nguyen and Marja Viljanen

Skills Challenge in Europe and Finland

Compared to other groups, the stagnation in the European markets hit the young more severely. For instance, the rate of youth unemployment in Finland reached 17.2% in December 2018, trebling the general unemployment rate (Statista 2018).

Skill mismatch is one of the key reasons to this dilemma. While many employers face difficulties in recruiting staff, unemployment levels remain relatively high. According to Cedefop European Skills and Jobs Survey, 39% of European employers have difficulty finding people with desirable skills. And more than half of 12 million long-termed unemployed are considered low-skilled. (Skills Panorama 2016.)

EmploySkills Project+

On recognizing the problem and aiming to solve it, Erasmus+ project, entitled “Strengthening students’ employability through enhanced skills formation (abbr. EmploySkills)” was formed. The expected outcome of the project is to develop curricula relevant to the labour market and societal needs.

The project consists of five intellectual outputs in total. Findings presented in this article are a part of the first output O1, which acts as a foundation for the next steps. Lahti University of Applied Sciences is one of the core partners in the project.

Theoretical Study of Transversal Skills

According to UNESCO IBE 2018, transversal skills are “skills related to a particular job, task, academic discipline or area of knowledge and that can be used in a wide variety of situations and work settings” (UNEVOC 2018). Some popular transversal skills are communication, collaboration, creative thinking or leadership. Nowadays, the term “transferable skills”, which has the same meaning as “transversal skills”, has been used more commonly (European Training Thesaurus 2018, as cited in ELGPN 2018).

The importance of transversal skills is indisputable. ”Transversal knowledge, skills and competencies are the building blocks for the development of the ”hard” skills and competencies required to succeed on the labour market.” (ESCOpedia 2018). As transversal skills are relevant to a broad range of occupations and sectors, they can be seen as the cornerstone for the personal development of a person (ESCOpedia 2018).

According to Nedelkoska and Quintini 2018 (as cited in Hogarth 2018), about 14% of jobs in 32 OECD countries which participated in PIAAC were highly automatable (i.e., with a probability of automation of over 70%). The only bottlenecks to automation are, however, social intelligence, cognitive intelligence, perception and manipulation that only human possess (Hogarth 2018). Therefore, transversal skills are of pivotal importance.

Research Methodology

The whole structure of the research is illustrated in Figure 1. The research adopts a deductive approach and applies the mixed-research method so as to better evaluate and understand the problem. In this case, qualitative method is used to provide an overview of the main issues while quantitative method collects descriptive data and bring an insight into the issue.

FIGURE 1. Research Structure (Nguyen 2019)

Key Findings

As a result, 20 transversal skills are divided into four groups in the order of significance for the working life (see Table 1). Amongst, type-1 comprises highly required skills at the first stage of a recruitment process, whilst type-2 includes skills that are necessary and critical for work process and career ladder. (Nguyen 2019.)

TABLE 1. Category of Transversal Skills (Nguyen 2019)

It is also worth noting that social skill is one of five most critical transversal skills, while collaboration skill is considered as the most important transversal skill by the majority of the interviewees. (Nguyen 2019.)

On the other hand, the research showed that the majority of graduate students lack these transversal skills: technology literacy, leadership, creativity, self-initiative, social skills, critical thinking and media literacy. Amongst, grads are most dissatisfied with the extent to which technology literacy and leadership skill are taught at higher education institutions (i.e. 29% and 27% respectively). (Nguyen 2019.)

Comparing opinions from both sides, it is concluded that many grads lack critical transversal skills because they misunderstood the expectation from employers. Now that we have understood the opinions from the employer side, we suggest students put more effort on the following six transversal skills in order to improve their employability: technology literacy, social skill, collaboration, self-initiative, creativity and critical thinking (Nguyen 2019.)

Although transversal skills are interpersonal and hard to teach, it is not impossible to acquire and develop a new transversal skill. As an outcome of the research, a practical guideline (see Figure 2) was created with a view to assisting students in developing their competencies in the six transversal skills.

FIGURE 2. Guidelines on the Improvement of Transversal Skills

Role of Higher Education Institutions

At the end of the focus group interview, the interviewees recommend schools should have their students take Personality Test. In addition, it is imperative that higher education institutions facilitate students to take more practical trainings that are in accordance with their career goals and integrate proactively transversal skills into the curriculum. Courses about self-management, leadership and technology seem to be in need for the matter.

Last word

Although the concept “transversal skills” is quite new, the significance of them in our life is undeniable. This research was conducted in Finland; accordingly, the result is more likely applicable to the Finnish labour market. However, future researchers can use this as a reference for the similar topic. More importantly, this research showed positive correlations between transversal skills. Therefore, it is highly recommended that future researchers do other in-depth research on the correlations between transversal skills.

References

ELGPN 2018. Transversal skills. [cited 6 Apr 2019]. Available at: http://www.elgpn.eu/elgpndb/view/251

ESCOpedia 2018. Skill reusability level. [cited 25 Feb 2018]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/esco/portal/escopedia/Skill_reusability_level

Hogarth, T. 2018. Economy, employment and skills: European, regional and global perspectives in an age of uncertainty. Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini. [cited 25 Feb 2018]. Available at: http://www.fondazionebrodolini.it/sites/default/files/pubblicazioni/file/q61_x_web_cor_0.pdf

Molinsky, A. & Pisman, S. 2019. The biggest hurdles recent graduates face entering the workforce. [cited 27 Apr 2019]. Available at: https://hbr.org/2019/04/the-biggest-hurdles-recent-graduates-face-entering-the-workforce

Nguyen, P. 2019. Enhancing the employability of graduate students with transversal skills. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Business Administration. Lahti. [cited 27 Apr 2019]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-201904276194

Skills Panorama 2016. Skills challenges in Europe. [cited 27 Apr 2019]. Available at: https://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/analytical_highlights/skills-challenges-europe-2016

Statista 2018. Youth unemployment rate in Europe (EU member states) as of December 2018 (seasonally adjusted). [cited 18 Feb 2018]. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/266228/youth-unemployment-rate-in-eu-countries/

UNEVOC 2018. Transversal skills. [cited 25 Feb 2018]. Available at: https://unevoc.unesco.org/go.php?q=TVETipedia+Glossary+A-Z&id=577

Authors

Phuong Nguyen has studied Business and Administration at Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and has graduated and received a BBA degree in May 2019.

Marja Viljanen works as a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management, Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/714525 (CC0)

Published: 13.5.2019

Reference to this publication

Nguyen, P. & Viljanen, M. 2019. Six Skills Help You Stand Out in A Hypercompetitive Labour Market. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/05/13/six-skills-help-you-stand-out-in-a-hypercompetitive-labour-market/