The Swedish hiring market is in crisis.
Sweden is currently experiencing a talent shortage, threatening the economic competitiveness of the country in the worldwide marketplace. Total vacancies reported for the fourth quarter of 2021 were 43,664 and when compared to the previous year which amounted to 23,583, this is a 110% increase on an annual basis. Understandably, these numbers are deeply worrying to Swedish economists who see the need to make changes in the hiring industry in order to resolve the situation.
Stefan Westerberg, chief economist at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, has commented on the labor shortage plaguing the Scandinavian country by saying, “In a situation where Sweden in general, and Stockholm in particular, already had high figures in terms of labor shortages, this negative development is deeply worrying. The high labor shortage hits the economy hard in the form of lost production and companies’ long-term competitiveness.”
Despite a strong need to fill the empty vacancies in Sweden, there still remains a huge gap between the employment rates of skilled international talent and native-born Swedes. According to a report from Alva Labs in 2021, 45% of skilled internationals are unemployed in Sweden in comparison to just 20% of native-born Swedes who are unemployed.
Why this is happening
Research reports, including a recent publication by Svensk Näringsliv, have found several key reasons that could explain why this imbalance exists in the Swedish hiring industry:
- A lack of important contacts within society for internationals
- Swedish cultural competences are missing
- A lack of knowledge about recruitment processes and the Swedish labor market
- Career counseling opportunities are not meeting demand
- No opportunity for work experience, creating low employability
When one reads between the lines of what is happening to cause this disparity, the answer lies in lack of cultural education and support for skilled immigrants in Sweden and equally for Swedish companies. Why are Swedish companies reporting hesitancy to hire internationals when they are so desperately in need of help to grow and expand their businesses?
The most common reason according to research is a perceived threat of unknown factors when bringing on new cultural backgrounds to the workplace in regard to performance expectations, how work interactions will go, and education competencies from foreign countries. In other words, Swedish-based companies believe that bringing on a new employee from a culture they don’t have much experience in can be more risky than remaining stagnant or even underperforming in the Swedish and worldwide marketplace.
Solving the problem
However, there are solutions to the self-imposed situation happening to Swedish companies and the unintended effect of highly-skilled internationals remaining unemployed. Cultural training to both Swedish companies and internationals alike can help bridge the gap and create solutions to labor shortage issue.
Cultural training is a growing movement becoming gradually more accessible to job seekers and employers. Organizations like the non-profit New to Sweden provide diversity training to companies such as Google and Tele2 and hold free online workshops to guide skilled international talents on how to learn more about the Swedish recruitment process.
Link to New to Sweden: https://www.newtosweden.org/
Other efforts, such as the expat-founded company Intertalents in Sweden, aim to assist skilled immigrants in understand the hidden cultural nuances that are involved in the Swedish hiring process. For example, someone from an American background may follow a cultural norm to “sell themselves” during a job interview, which may feel too much like bragging for a Swedish interviewer who grew up in a society known for being “lagom.”
Intertalents in Sweden provides online learning material, such as courses, e-books and templates, that guide internationals on how to understand these small, yet often unspoken cultural rules that need to be followed in order to create balance and bridge the gap between hesitant Swedish employers and uninformed yet professionally equipped international talent.
Their recently released course, “How to Network Your Way to a Job in Sweden” promises to deliver several key pieces of information to teach internationals how to “Crack the Swedish Code,” including:
- How to be accepted into Swedish culture while still maintaining your own cultural identity
- How to get a job even if you don’t know the Swedish language
- Professional etiquette, including a template on how to write emails the Swedish way
- How to get a guaranteed referral even if you know no one in Sweden
One of their students who has taken the networking course, Sherry from Pakistan said, “I used to communicate with a direct and strong tone with my Swedish colleagues. After this course I learned to soften my tone and tried to be more humble and prestigeless, and I got positive results immediately!”
Another student, Roz from the United States said, “My wife is autistic and I’m pretty shy, so social situations can be harrowing for both of us. My wife usually wouldn’t introduce me when we met new people – I always figured she was just trying to get through a social situation as quickly as she could. Neither of us ever considered it could be a cultural thing that she didn’t even realize she was doing! The course really helped me see those sorts of social patterns in a new light.“
For those interested in taking the course, it can be accessed on the website of their partners at Newbie Guide to Sweden who also share helpful resources to assist internationals living and adjusting to life in Sweden.
The course can be purchased here: https://learn.thenewbieguide.se/courses/professional-networking-in-sweden/
A discount code can be used to get 100 KR off the purchase by using Networking 299 at the checkout.
Although there seems to be a labor shortage crisis happening in Sweden, there are also signs of improvement in the growing number of organizations aimed at bridging the cultural gaps and strengthening the economy. Swedish employers can expect that international professionals will become more aware of and are making stronger efforts to overcome the perceived risk of not understanding Swedish cultural customs.
The reward of hiring the right person for a company far outweighs the risk of inviting someone to the team who is culturally different. There are also more resources available now to help train internationals who may be struggling to integrate to the Swedish organizational climate, such as the courses offered by Intertalents in Sweden and recruitment agencies like Beyondo who can guide Swedish employers on how to assess and overcome risk-management when hiring internationals. If a Swedish company wants to remain competitive by hiring the right person during a talent shortage, there are many tools available for them to bring on professional talent to their team successfully and gain an international colleague.