Although it is still mostly the international firms in Norway that hire international employees, more Norwegian companies in the country are now realizing the advantages of a diverse and multicultural workforce. Labour experts and job seekers alike hope it will continue in the New Year.
“More people see the possibilities that lie in multiculturalism now than a few years back. It has to do with awareness,” Robin Waaler, chairman of the Diversity at Work foundation (Mangfold i Arbeidslivet), recently told newspaper Aftenposten. He thinks that companies that only direct themselves to the Norwegian market will keep lagging behind.
Athough newsinenglish.no reported last year that few firms were willing to hire foreigners, attitudes now may be shifting.
Many companies have taken a standpoint and want to build on their proficiency, with multicultural staff on the team, according to Kjersti Granaasen, project leader of Global Future, which runs a mentorship programme that hooks up highly qualified multicultural candidates possessing good Norwegian skills, with Norwegian employers. Many candidates lack a network in Norway, and end up in jobs for which they are overqualified. Granaasen says this is changing slowly but surely.
Oslo law firm Selmer, for example, started hiring trainees with multicultural backgrounds in 2010. “We look at it as a competitive advantage,” says administrative director Steinar Ter Jung. “We operate internationally and our graduate trainees know several languages, and have a good knowledge of our customers’ culture. They have something completely different to offer than the normal Norwegians, we have enough of them from before.”
In one case, a Chinese businesswoman who studied in Norway helped smooth negotiations in a major takeover deal involving Norwegian and Chinese companies. She could help the Norwegians understand Chinese business culture, and the deal went through.
Need for diversity
Consulting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) says the need for diversity comes from their clients, including many Russian companies. “We have clients from unfamiliar cultures, and then it’s an enormous advantage to have someone who knows what is and isn’t permitted, and what is and isn’t advisable. We have a number of people with us who have Russian backgrounds,” Kristin Helsa-Halvorsen of PwC told Aftenposten.
It’s also about reflecting your client base abroad, according to Orkla, one of Norway’s biggest groceries suppliers.”It’s a clear advantage for us to employ someone who knows the local market, understands the local way of thinking, and can at the same time relate back to the head office here at home,” said Ingvild Anvina Blytt Jerven, responsible for the firm’s recruitment and employer profiling.
As well as linguistic and cultural understanding, employees with different cultural backgrounds also reflect the client base of the company in Norway. “Norwegian society and our customers have become more diverse. We must take account of that and employ people who can tell us about the needs of the biggest immigrant groups, so that we can offer them the right services,” said Truls Holm Olsen, group director for Trygg Insurance (Trygg Forsikring).