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04-10-18 DI Business News

Blog: 5 ways to better retain international employees

Help companies retain foreign employees - and create growth for the benefit of everyone. Head of DI Global Talent Linda Duncan Wendelboe blogs about what it will take – outside the office – to prevent Danish companies from losing their talented international employees to other countries.

35th place out of 68. 

That is Denmark’s ranking in the most recent Expat Insider 2018 Survey, which looks at how international employees rate working and living in their country of residence. 

This mediocre ranking drops to the very bottom when it comes to the ease of settling in. Here Denmark comes in at number 64 out of 68 countries. 

That’s just not good enough, because international employees make an essential contribution – both to Danish companies, which are in dire need of labour, and to public finances.

See also: CEO at COWI: “Denmark must be better at selling itself to foreign talents”

Denmark’s challenge – and what’s needed

Denmark’s ranking makes it clear that we have a challenge when it comes to retaining international employees. Many leave again within the first years, and five years down the line more than half of highly-educated foreigners have left Denmark. 

We need to do something about this, because the better we become at taking in international employees, the longer they will stay and contribute to creating growth in our companies for the benefit of the entire country.

Naturally, a big part of the responsibility lies with the companies themselves, but they cannot overcome the challenge alone, because a big part of why international employees leave the country has to do with what happens outside working hours. It’s therefore important that we as a society support efforts to create better conditions for retaining international employees. 

Here are five concrete suggestions:

#1: A warm welcome

Foreigners’ first encounter with Denmark and Danish authorities has a big effect on the impression citizens get of Denmark and hence their desire to stay. A smooth and efficient reception is the first step on the road to retaining international employees. This applies to the entire process, from work permit application to tax registration to the municipal citizens service. 

It should therefore be a political priority to develop International Citizens Service centres so that service corresponds to capacity needs and supports the ambition of gathering all contact to public authorities in one place.

#2: Jobs for spouses

One of the most frequent reasons why international employees leave Denmark again is that their accompanying family members don’t feel at home in Denmark. Chances of the family integrating successfully in Denmark improve when the accompanying spouse finds employment. This helps give the spouse an everyday and better opportunities to build a social network. What’s more, accompanying partners are often highly-educated and have competences that Danish companies are looking for, and it is therefore important that they are brought into play in the Danish labour market. Unfortunately, finding a job in a new country isn’t easy when you don’t have a network and don’t speak the language to begin with, and the help available varies greatly from municipality to municipality. 

There is a need for a coordinated effort across municipal borders to make the road to employment shorter for accompanying spouses.

# 3: International school options for the kids

Denmark is a good place for families with children, and this is something that the Expat Insider Survey results confirm. However, it can be difficult to find international school options – particularly outside larger cities. The number of students enrolled at international schools is increasing due to the growing number of foreign citizens who move to Denmark to work. Meanwhile international schools have also become popular among Danes, which increases the need even further. 

The need for international school options in all of Denmark should be mapped by look at existing offers from a geographic and price-based perspective and considering developments in the expected population growth and usage patterns among Danish and international citizens. Conclusions from such a study can form the basis for an overall assessment of the need for and development of a plan for the establishment of future international school options in Denmark.

#4: Opportunities to create social relations

It’s not enough that international employees thrive at the workplace. If it is to be attractive to live in Denmark, there has to be something to do after 5PM. In Denmark there is little culture for inviting colleagues over, and Danes can come off as difficult to get to know. 

It’s therefore a good idea to create opportunities for interaction with Danes and other expats outside working hours, for example by inviting people to join local sports and recreational clubs.

# 5: Free Danish lessons

The Danish language can be a major barrier to settling in in Denmark. Learning Danish is hard. But speaking Danish opens up more opportunities to participate in long-term relations and bond with Danes and Denmark. That’s why prioritising Danish lessons is a good idea, even if English is spoken at the workplace. 

The recently introduced user-financing of Danish lessons is a step in the wrong direction. Rather than create barriers, international employees and their families should both be encouraged and given incentive to learn Danish.

If Denmark is to succeed in the increasing global competition for talented employees, it must be attractive to take up residence here. The initiatives described above are a good place to start in order to improve Denmark’s ranking and make it easier for international employees and their families to settle in.

See also: Løkke and Frederiksen: The road to Denmark must be easier for foreign specialists

Linda Duncan Wendelboe

Chef for DI Global Talent

  • Direct +45 3377 3906
  • Mobile +45 9398 8050
  • E-mail lidw@di.dk
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