TJ interviews: Nissan’s Nora Mickelsson

Conor Gilligan interviews Nora (Fielding) Mickelsson, network commercial training manager at Nissan Nordic.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your career in L&D.

Learning and development is in my blood. During my university years in Estonia I worked as a language instructor at a private educational institution as well as freelancing. Then I moved to America and started working as a map making specialist at navigation technologies company but within 1.5 years I moved into part-time technical training role.

Then I transferred back to Europe (Finland), my local training role turned into EMEA wide, eventually part-time turned into full time, soft skills training portfolio replaced my original technical training and then I was leading the whole L&D aspect of the map content division in the EMEA region within the same company.

After a while I switched to Nissan Nordic where I deal with bigger scale projects managing commercial training for dealer network. I’ve also completed 1/3 of the executive MBA programme at Henley Business school so far.

What do you see the challenges are around work-life balance and L&D?

Trying to ‘have it all’ is probably challenging with any career. The area of Learning and Development along with the whole talent management approach is undergoing fast-paced transformation. Staying up to date with the latest developments during my two maternity leaves while (currently) literally balancing two cheeky babies in my arms, plus a three year old is quite a task.

However, I find that staying active professionally – networking, following the latest L&D trends on LinkedIn and other media, staying in touch with my colleagues – provides intellectual stimulation that is very welcome.

Parenting comes with a surprise bonus of teaching you how to excel at time and resources management, at prioritising, delegating, negotiating and flexibility. Rather useful skills for a career, too.

How do you think businesses need to support parents whilst balancing this with their professional goals?

Rather than giving suggestions on individual measures I would just encourage business leaders to consider the following: in the times of high levels of automation, robotisation and artificial intelligence it is of paramount importance to recognise humans as such.

In post-industrial economies in particular, humans are not meant to be appendices of any machines, of business process or system optimisation but rather the other way around. We are not ‘human resources’, we are something that machines will never have – we are ‘talent’.

Yes, we do tend to get sick sometimes, to expect holidays, lunch or fitness club vouchers and whatnot but we are also capable of ideating, having spikes of creativity, of inspiring others and of forging uniquely human relations leading to formation of high performing teams.

So if you are privileged enough to have humans working for you – attract the best talent, retain it by creating human friendly culture in your organisation, and have a jolly good time enjoying the benefits of human-centric approach to leading your business.

Could you share examples of your experiences, good and bad?

I have been fortunate enough to only have good first hand experience although during my international travel I have witnessed some bad examples, too. For example, I’ve seen a manager denying his employee a day off for marriage.

Another example would be the proverbial neglecting of mothers of young children, based on the allegations of frequent sick child care leaves. In my own case though my employer has been very supportive – needless to say no one has pulled me out of any projects during my two pregnancies nor I have been made to feel bad or ‘guilty’ in any way.

It also helps that Finland has a law stating the right of parents of children under the school age for part-time working arrangement with their employer as well as a wide spread workplace tradition of flexible working hours.

It is quite common to have one of the parents work 8-4 or even 7-3 instead of traditional 9-5 hours to support children’s day care or hobbies logistics and just to have quality time with your family after work.

A lot of businesses are supporting flexible working environments, how do you see this and the future of work?

As mentioned before, I’m a firm believer in celebrating humanness in a business environment that helps nurture the best talent, avoid silent attrition (people having essentially checked out and disengaged due to glass ceiling lowered onto them by managers trying to protect their business from the alleged disadvantages of employees’ parenthood or other circumstances) and thus helps the business thrive, which in its turn attracts dynamic and committed employees.

On the other hand, flexibility will not necessarily simply be handed to us by businesses on a silver plate. We’ll have to speak up and propose and prove mutually beneficial solutions, otherwise even well-meaning organisations might not recognise the need for some adjustments.

And when it comes to the future, the technology of recent times has enabled flexibility of many aspects of everyday life, so the young generation probably considers the possibility of flexible working arrangements self-explanatory

Flexibility is the only way forward.


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