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Small words and moments that matter - even virtually

Mikaela Enarvi is a recent MSc graduate in Economics and Business Administration. She majored in Knowledge Management and Leadership. Lately she has been organizing the virtual Summer trainee program #SummerwithNeste in the Talent Development and Leadership team. She looks forward to pursuing her career in HRD in the future, while when offline, she enjoys learning to play her favorite songs with ukulele.

“Trainees, get ready for our next career story!” I wrote to our group chat. A summer to remember was right around the corner. I had started to prepare the events for all trainees. As a trainee myself as well, I was about to be organizing the summer trainee program. This summer everything was about to be completely virtual, but I had a feeling this possibility was about to make my summer one of a kind.

I remember, when I first realized my upcoming start in this trainee position would be completely different this time. I had started looking for traineeships. Quite early I had realized that I would not be able to have face-to-face team meetings, introductions nor trainee networking to get to know people when starting at the new job. “How will I get to know them from my kitchen?” was still a question in my remote worker’s mind.

It was right before the summer, when I realized I could not have been any more wrong. One of the first things that made me feel included was that one specific invitation. I remember the small words that made a big difference for me. “You are very welcome to join us for a virtual coffee break also before your work contract officially starts”, my manager told me on the phone.

Driving a culture of belonging really comes from small actions of inclusion, and this was probably going to be the first time I was having a taste of it.

I wasn’t familiar with the meeting tools we would be using nor waking up so early at that time, but I navigated to the morning coffee meeting virtually - and got a very warm feeling about the upcoming months. There was a team with shared interests waiting for me. My manager made me feel included from the very first moment. Most of the time inclusion makes the difference and this is something I have noticed is highly appreciated and true in people's values at Neste. I believe it is extra important in these exceptional times for many trainees that the company culture thrives from diversity and inclusion.

During the first weeks at Neste, I was told multiple times that here I could be myself. The value of encouraging everyone to be truly themselves at work was something that spoke to me. I noticed that I started spreading the word and telling this same thing to other trainees in our coffee breaks as well when meeting with them. I felt welcome and I wanted everyone to feel that way too.

As a coordinator for the program, I then needed to do something catchy and memorable to make this truly a summer to remember. To ensure the feeling of belonging and keeping the trainee spirit up, we started to plan trainee events. And we managed to host all kinds of network sessions, workshops and events. We even played games virtually together on Friday afternoons. During the events we hosted, we tried to encourage trainees to communicate, chat and ask questions as many times as possible. Asking for feedback, sparring with others about developing the virtual program and thinking in advance what to say to over 100 trainees in the biggest sessions came familiar for me.

We used cameras in every meeting to ensure the feeling of being present, asked for feedback and wanted to develop - and personally, I stepped out of my comfort zone multiple times. But in an environment where inclusion is no question, it was super rewarding. More importantly, this taught me a lot about myself.

Virtual and exceptional times gave me something completely else than you could first think of. After this summer, I can say I have developed a strong network with other trainees and have a feeling of continuous support from my teammates. Maybe the next time when we start new internships or jobs, it wouldn’t matter anymore if it's virtual or not - that we could just be faced with environments that make us feel as warm and welcome as that one single coffee invitation did.

I challenge everyone to make sure that the future trainees feel as included as I did.

Because this summer exceeded my expectations with inclusion: full of virtual activities, receiving feedback in weekly one-on-ones with my manager to be able to develop, and what comes to team activities, always being fully and equally included. This was something completely different than working alone at my kitchen table. And that way I want to remember it for a long time.