5 tips for retention of international staff

Recruiting qualified labour from abroad is a necessity for maintaining the competitiveness of Danish businesses.

Retention of international staff

DI (the Confederation of Danish Industry), the Danish Chamber of Commerce and the Danish Growth Council agree that recruiting qualified labour from abroad is a necessity for maintaining the competitiveness of Danish businesses, keeping jobs in Denmark and realising the full potential of our workforce.

But a focus on attracting highly educated talent is not enough. If the workplace is unable to retain international staff, investments in recruitment can quickly go to waste.

Here are five good tips for companies who have hired international staff, or are planning to recruit from abroad:

International staff

1. Well-being is key to retention

Retaining international staff is inextricably linked with their well-being. If our workplace and daily lives fail to provide well-being, then attractive duties are rarely enough to keep us at a job.

When international employees move on to another country or return home ahead of schedule, it is often due to a lack of well-being, or because the accompanying partner or spouse has not been able to find work in Denmark.

As a company, you can help by referring to relevant companies or job portals; some municipalities also offer spouse assistance programmes. You can also help international employees with finding information about schools, leisure activities or special activities for children in the local area.

2. Articulate the cultural differences

What may seem quite natural at a Danish workplace may not seem so obvious to an international employee. The more you put the cultural differences into words, the easier it will be for employees to navigate through them.

For example, how could they know that Danes do not typically list their university degree in their e-mail signature, that it is perfectly ok to prioritise a leisure activity after normal working hours, or that it is encouraged to ask critical questions and suggest new approaches?

You should work towards a common corporate culture based on mutual understanding, rather than focusing on potential cultural conflicts.

Mentor international employees

3. Give international employees a mentor

International employees are not just new to the company. They are probably also new to the country and new to Danish working culture.

A mentor can help them get off to a good start on the job, and with becoming a part of the social community at the workplace. A mentor can also answer their questions arising along the way, and can explain cultural and social conventions at the workplace.

Ps. It is not enough to appoint a mentor – you must also allocate time for performing the task.

4. Involve your international colleague in conversations

Nothing is more exclusionary than to feel like an outsider. It has a negative impact on your well-being if you do not understand what is being discussed around you. For example, if people laugh while chatting near you, but you do not understand why, or if the manager asks everyone in the room a question in Danish, but you are not sure you fully understood it.

Make it a part of the corporate culture to be aware of involving international colleagues in conversations at the office – both work-related discussions and small talk around the coffee machine. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and make sure to avoid the small, exclusionary episodes in daily life at the workplace.

Danish for international staff

5. Prioritise Danish courses

Suddenly it dawns on you that you’ve been here for three years, but you still can barely order a cup of coffee in Danish. Perhaps your work has been the top priority, or perhaps you were never planning on staying, so you never really did anything to learn Danish.

A lot of international employees prioritise other things above Danish courses, typically because they do not feel that they can neglect their duties at work. If the company does not explicitly indicate that it is ok to leave work to participate in courses, or perhaps even makes such participation mandatory, then staff will quickly choose other priorities.

But there is good reason to learn Danish. Understanding what is going on at the workplace and being able to converse with Danes is an important factor for ensuring well-being. This also helps employees build a social network outside of the workplace and a better understanding of Danish culture and society.

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