A follow-up: how is SOL management doing in the micro degree programme at Tallinn University?

27. February 2023

In the autumn of 2022, we told you how the seven members of the SOL management team entered the micro degree programme at Tallinn University to learn green transition management. According to Rinel Pius, CEO of the company, participating in the programme with the whole management team has developed the company’s strategic management, provided new insights into the field of sustainability, and contributed to team building.

Tallinn University was interested to see how our management team has benefitted from the programme and what new knowledge has been gained. Rinel Pius provided the answers.

On the picture: Rinel Pius. Photo: Ain Liiva.

How did it happen that SOL entered the micro degree programme with its entire management team?

In the autumn of 2022, all seven of us in the SOL management team enrolled in the micro degree programme at Tallinn University to learn green transition management. It was a spontaneous idea to do it all together – we figured that this way, there was no need for one person to sell ideas to the others later, instead, we could plan and implement changes together. In hindsight, it was the only right decision and I am quite sure that it also made us much more competitive.

Why did you choose to study green transition management?

We decided to study green transition management because SOL is in the property maintenance and cleaning business, and we are expected to have some knowledge of this field. We also wanted to find out for ourselves how to deal with green transition in a smarter way and what advice to give if someone happens to ask us. Therefore, a micro degree in that field sounded like a good idea. The first semester has been a success – we have gained a lot of useful new knowledge. By the way, this is not the first time our entire management has enrolled in a study programme. We all passed the year-long Fontes Coaching and Mentoring Programme a few years ago, so it seemed only right that we should all go back to school again together.

Tell us about something new you have learnt.

Initially, our aim was to gain more knowledge about the field, but the learning experience so far has not only given us expertise on sustainability but also ideas on strategic management. This is due to the fact that we entered the programme with the whole management team. For example, quite a lot of group work is required during the programme, and we do it with our team and deal with our own company’s issues.

What has been interesting is that while people often talk about the ecological footprint, which is harmful to the environment, in our studies we have also focused on the handprint. It is a positive footprint that should be increased rather than reduced. Such handprints are, for example, activities that are carried out by organisations and institutions for the benefit of someone else in the interests of the environment and that help to reduce the environmental impact of that someone else; activities that help to neutralise more emissions into the environment than the organisations themselves produce. Therefore, the handprint has a positive impact on climate change, green transition, and sustainability.

SOL itself is a company that creates a relatively small footprint. This is due to the fact that we have very little office space, whereas our 2,300 employees provide services to nearly 2,000 clients across the Baltics. In the meantime, we can significantly increase our handprint. This also has a direct positive impact on our clients – if our handprint increases, their footprints decrease.

For example, energy costs are very high at the moment and the government has directed that they should be reduced. To achieve this, many institutions have lowered the temperature in their buildings and are trying to use less lighting. However, after their employees go home at five p.m., the SOL teams go into those buildings and switch all the lights back on to start cleaning up. As we cannot clean up in the dark, we really have no other option.

While earning the micro degree, our management started wondering why we couldn’t clean up the clients’ buildings while their employees were still at work, so that we could all go home at five o’clock. We tested it in our own building – our office is about 1,200 square metres. If we clean it up during the day, we save about € 400 a month. Let us consider that the area of a super-ministry, for example, is more than 10,000 square metres and large shopping centres are more than 40,000 square metres. If these buildings were cleaned up during opening hours, the savings could be considerable. Above all, such behaviour requires a change in people’s mindsets – just like anything sustainable does.

We would not have come up with ideas like this if our whole team had not been actively engaged in such a project. It is as if we have opened up a whole new box of possibilities for ourselves – if until now the clients have chosen cleaning companies based on who gets the job done quickly and cheaply, the new level could be deciding based on which company has a big handprint that also reduces the client’s footprint.

How has participating in the micro degree programme affected the team?

Enrolling in the programme with the management has been great for team building. When we go through the subjects, we always discuss them together as a team, and we also do homework together. We discuss things related to our business, but from a different angle, and we’re all really excited. Earning the micro degree together has also got us really going again as a team, so I would recommend it to everyone.

What is it like to study for a micro degree while working?

If I had gone to study on my own, it would have been much more difficult. After all, when you go to school, it is normal that you love some subjects, whereas you just want to get others over and done with. However, if you are engaged in the studies with the whole team, everybody focuses on learning slightly differently as everybody’s interests and levels of existing knowledge are different. Some focus more on the technical side, some on psychology and others on product development. All this makes for a meaningful and interesting discussion, and the result is a much broader picture of the learning process from the company’s perspective than would have been the case if only one colleague had participated in the programme.