In the second part of our interview series ”Foreign talent at work” we take a look at inspiring work done in Sweden to ensure society benefits from the talent available. Urban Björn, Senior Vice President, Leadership and Talent Management at Swedbank, shares with us their experiences of attracting and retaining foreign talent.
Jonna Louvrier (J.L.): Urban, you lead a program at Swedbank called A Job At Last. Can you tell us how the program got started and what it is about?
Urban Björn (U.B.): As a background I think it is important to note that societal engagement has been a central element of our company DNA from the very foundation of Swedbank. And in this line, about ten years ago, we started something called Young Jobs. The aim of the Young Jobs project was to bring a solution to youth unemployment, because back then, 25% of people between 18 and 24 years were unemployed. So we said ”Okay, we in Swedbank, we will try to give these young people a first line in their CV”, and by that we meant that we offered them a three-month long internship. It was a success: the internship really changed these young persons’ career trajectories.
”We didn’t want Sweden to be the country with the most well educated taxi drivers!”
A couple of years later, the amount of refugees entering Sweden increased and we realized there was a problem. We saw people washing dishes in Hard Rock Cafe or cleaning up in hotels, but they were actually doctors or lawyers. That is when we started A Job at Last, which is focused on highly educated foreign-born persons without a job. We wanted to change society. We didn’t want Sweden to be the country with the most well educated taxi drivers!
J.L.: How does the program work?
U.B.: We offer persons with an academic qualification, who recently have arrived in Sweden, a six-month long internship. Their academic background can be in any field, but of course it does help if they have a degree in Economics or a related field.
”70% of our trainees are offered a job within our bank after the internship.”
The trainees are paid through the employment office for the entire program. So we do not pay anything. But we do commit to develop the trainees so that at the end of the program they are all ready for a real job offer. And we do have a great success rate: 70% of our trainees are offered a job within our bank after the internship. But this does not mean that 30% would be rejected. Some of them find a job elsewhere, some end the internship early because of a job offer from another employer. Only about 10% of our trainees fail to secure a job at the end, often because of lacking language skills.
J.L.: What do you require in terms of Swedish skills?
U.B.: Our trainees need to have a basic level in Swedish when we take them for the internship. But being in a Swedish organization, having Swedish colleagues, and having Swedish customers during six months leads to fantastic language development. It is so much better than any other language course outside the organization.
”Having Swedish colleagues and customers leads to fantastic language development.”
J.L.: What does developing trainees mean in concrete terms, and who is responsible for it?
U.B.: Our supervisors work with our trainees, coach them and make sure they develop during the six-month period. Different trainees need different things, so there isn’t a general rule to follow. But working with a trainee is formalized in the sense that it is included in the supervisor’s development plan. In their plan it says that they will focus on developing the trainee so that at the end of the internship he or she will be hired by the bank. This is the target for the supervisor.
Supervisors are trained for the role. They get two types of training: one focuses on being a good supervisor to anyone, the other one on cultural awareness. So we have a session where we discuss different cultures, religion, language, and well, anything that could be a challenge in the team.
”Through A Job at Last we broadened our recruitment pool.”
J.L.: What do you think the benefits of this program are for Swedbank today?
U.B: In the beginning many managers were skeptical and asked: ”What’s in it for me?” But the managers that have been doing this a couple of times, they have realized that this is a great opportunity. It makes sense for our business.
We have a large customer base, and every customer is welcome. So when we increased the number of foreign-born employees we started mirroring our customer base in a better way. Our clients have been very proud of us – as well as proud of being our clients!
”We don’t do this in order to look good in society. We do this because we need these people.”
But today we don’t do this in order to look good in society. We do this because we need these people. Through A Job at Last we broadened our recruitment pool, previously we didn’t even have these people on our radar. And our competitors, the other banks, they still don’t have these people on their radar. So we are ahead of them. In banking innovation is also more important than ever. And diverse teams are more innovative, almost everyone knows this now. So the benefits come on many levels.
J.L.: What do you see as most challenging when employing foreign talents? And do you have any advice for Finnish colleagues thinking about this?
U.B.: I think the most challenging part is to convince the organization, and most important of all, the managers. So if you want to get things move quickly, I would say train your managers. Train them about the benefits of diversity and inclusion.
Jonna Louvrier, CEO, Includia Leadership, firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the first part of the interview series (in Finnish): Turvapaikanhakijoista työntekijöitä: Betset palkkaa tekijöitä ja muokkaa asenteita
Register now for the ”Ulkomaalaiset osaajat Suomessa / Foreign Talent in Finland” event by FIBS and Includia Leadership, May 7th 2020. The event is open to all FIBS members.
Includia Leaderhip is one of FIBS Partners