Case Fondia: Fondia strengthens future work-life skills together - Academy of Brain

Business legal services provider Fondia organizes regular Professional Development Dialogue online meetings for their personnel. In those meetings the employees learn and discuss future working life skills. 

Fondia operates in Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania. Fondia’s Knowledge Management Manager Reetta Kilpeläinen and HR Partner Pernilla Petersson plan and lead the Professional Development Dialogue meetings together. 

– A few years ago, we made a survey for the staff, which revealed that the employees wish for more opportunities to gain personal development. That’s where the idea started to implement these cooperative learning sessions. Of course, in the past, Fondia has offered our personnel opportunities to raise the profile of their own professional development, but this is a new way of learning, Petersson and Kilpeläinen say. 

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Soft skills hand in hand with substantive expertise

In the Personal Development Dialogues, Kilpeläinen and Petersson decided to focus on soft skills, because Fondia already organizes a lot of training activities on legal substance and management. They agree that soft skills are in a key position in today’s and also in the future´s working life. 

– Most of our staff are lawyers. In addition to solid knowledge of legal matters, good soft skills are essential when working with clients. It’s great that we can go through these topics together, because it allows us to share ideas. The end result is more comprehensive than studying alone, and it also brings people together, says Petersson. 

– I remember an article from a few years ago, where they described that the role of a lawyer contains many different small roles. Soft skills support each one of those roles. That’s why I think that soft skills could also be described as power skills or future skills, Kilpeläinen adds. 


Learning together every other month

At first, the sessions were organized once a month. Later on, every other month has become a suitable rhythm. The first meeting was organized in February 2021. The topics have been for example psychological safety, resilience, giving feedback, learning, growth mindset and teamwork. Future working life skills will be the next theme. 

During the launch phase, it was certainly useful to organize dialogues more often, so that they became familiar to everyone. Now the staff already knows what it’s about. The new schedule also enables us organizers to prepare better and be more focused, says Kilpeläinen.  

In the dialogues, Kilpeläinen and Petersson mainly use Academy of Brain’s online training content. Other materials are also used. The structure of the sessions always adapts to the topic. The meetings usually consist of a Powerpoint presentation, training videos, practical examples, different tasks, conversation and sharing thoughts using the Mentimeter online tool. 

Kilpeläinen and Petersson manage the topics together, thinking about what kind of themes they have encountered, and whether any wishes have come up. 

– We also strive for continuity: after the growth mindset theme, we saw feedback, psychological safety and positivity as next natural topics. When planning the themes, we go through a huge amount of Academy of Brain training videos and courses. We’ve learned a lot along the way, Petersson and Kilpeläinen laugh. 

Appointments in calendars

All Fondia´s employees are invited to each meeting. The number of participants in the meetings is usually around 30. The goal is to gradually increase that number. 

Kilpeläinen and Petersson send the invitations in the form of a calendar reservation. This practice has proven to be useful, because Fondia has noticed that the tight work schedules are one of the biggest obstacles to participation. 

– You can see directly from the calendar whether the meeting fits into your schedule. It is difficult to find time for personal development, because the lawyers are often so busy. Our lawyers actually live according to their calendars – everything that is there, happens. That’s why the calendar invitations have been a good way for us to invite them to these dialogues, Kilpeläinen says. 

Kilpeläinen and Petersson think that the PDD meetings are a great opportunity to increase communication and co-operation between Fondia’s four operating countries. So far, the majority of the participants have been from the Swedish office.   

– It is difficult to say why it is so, because we have been communicating about the PDD meetings in the same way in all four countries. Perhaps the reason can be found in everyday conversations: in Sweden these dialogues might have come up in the conversations more actively, Kilpeläinen reflects. 

Shared views and discussion

The Mentimeter tool is used in the PDD meetings. The tool can be used to activate the participants to bring up their own thoughts. Kilpeläinen and Petersson want to cherish and increase joint discussion. 

– Mentimeter has indeed been an important tool for us. We use the tool to ask questions that each participant can answer anonymously. This way we create an open atmosphere and share thoughts openly, says Kilpeläinen.

– Through Mentimeter, we have asked, for example, what the participants would do in a certain situation. Each participant grabs their phone and receives operating instructions from the application. The given anonymous answers are visible to all participants, Petersson adds. 

A happy half an hour

Petersson says that they have received good feedback from the meetings. Many participants like that dialogues are not result oriented. 

– I have noticed that the atmosphere of the meetings is different from other work-related meetings. The atmosphere and conversations are warm. It’s simply a happy half-hour that is nice to be a part of! 

Kilpeläinen and Petersson have not collected official feedback yet, but at the end of each session, everyone has the opportunity to present their thoughts about the meeting. In addition, participants can press thumbs up or down in Teams. So far, all thumbs are pointing up. 

 A couple of days after the dialogue, a compilation is sent to all the invitees. It includes the meeting´s material, links to videos, and sometimes the results of the votes. 

– I think it is important to remind all our personnel about the topics and meetings. I think this is a good way to share the insights made in the meetings and also the most important points on the subjects. We hope that more people will come along to discuss and learn together, Kilpeläinen encourages. 

Pernilla Petersson chose her favorite among the previous PDD meetings: 

My favorite so far is the Mindset themed dialogue. The discussion was active, and we also received really good feedback. The thoughts of the participants were very constructive!” 

 – Academy of Brain, the science of Soft Skills learning

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