Recruiting international talent - ICT professionals on the fast track to Norway

The Norwegian economy has never been in better shape. While this is obviously good news, it’s also a problem: Norwegian companies don’t have enough qualified personnel to handle high-tech applications and advanced Norwegian technology in order to keep pace with market growth. Therefore, Norwegian businesses are eager to recruit skilled labour from all around the world.

For foreign employees there are good opportunities for challenging and interesting jobs in areas like oil and gas, the maritime sector, the health professions, research environments with the need for scientific competence, the high-technology industry and building and construction. Norwegian companies have not been able to fully take advantage of the market possibilities because they have been lacking the needed competence.
 
Adecco Looking to Norway
Adecco S.A. is the largest human resources company in the world, based in Glattbrugg, Switzerland, and its Norwegian division is quite active in recruiting ICT specialists to Norway. Madhukar Rohatgi and Bent Gjøstøl are co-project managers for international recruitment for Adecco in Norway. They are concerned about the lack of competent labour in the ICT sector, but they believe Norway is an attractive country for ICT professionals.
 
“We had to implement some measures to satisfy our international customers, and we had to look at alternative measures,” says Gjøstøl. “We need more competent labour especially within ICT, and therefore we’ve started a project to establish routines to get foreign labour to Norway and to help in the integration process”
 
Getting foreign employees to Norway is only half the job. The most important challenge is to make sure that foreigners are well adapted to Norwegian culture and society. Rohatgi is Indian by birth, but he came to Norway in 1980. Now, Norway is his home, and he is working to get more of his Indian ICT colleagues to come to Norway, not only to work, but also to live.
 
“We want to find the best global personnel to make our products and services a truly global product. The home market is so small, and it needs to be commercially viable outside of Norway’s borders,” he says
 
Manu Khullar is one of the IT engineers recently recruited by Adecco. He likes it in Norway, but it is a bit different from India. “The weather is very different from India, and there is little taste in the food,” he smiles.

Entire Value Chain
Several Norwegian ICT companies have been bought by foreign investors, and one of the main reasons is that the Norwegian way of organizing the workplace in which all employees are a part of the value chain is attractive in the global market.
 
Manu Khullar is one of the IT engineers recently recruited by Adecco. At the moment, he is working in Stavanger, the Norwegian “oil capital”, which is an innovative environment for ICT professionals because of the city’s close connection to the Norwegian offshore petroleum industry.
 
“It is too early to say at the moment, but I’m hoping that the projects I’ve been involved with will give me experience throughout the entire value chain, not only as a small part of a project,” Khullar says.
 
But even if Indians are adapting quite well, there are some challenges, especially if you are used to spicy Indian food.
 
“The weather is very different from India, and there is little taste in the food,” he smiles.
 
Selling Norway
Adecco is very careful how they go about selecting successful candidates for ICT jobs in Norway.
 
“How are we finding skilled people? We are going to sell Norway, the job and the company. The brain power of foreign ICT professionals is in demand globally. Norway is attractive for them because they are a part of the whole value chain. If they work in India, they would only be a small part of the project. Therefore, the Nordic business environment is attractive,” says Rohatgi, adding that Norwegian family values are also attractive for foreigners.
 
Gjøstøl and Rohatgi are eager to bring professionals to Norway, but for them, quality is much more important than quantity.
 
“It is important to bring the competence into Norwegian companies, but we are not doing volume recruitment. Instead, we are travelling to their countries and bringing our clients to them,” Gjøstøl says.
 
Adecco places much emphasis on surveying how foreigners would fit into the Norwegian working environment. Good competence and experience is not enough; they also have to be able to adapt to living in Norway. This require a lot of work. Therefore, Adecco wants to take on the responsibility for the whole process.
 
“Why should an expert choose Norway? Basically all Indian engineers have a dream of moving to the USA. However, they are looking at the quality of life. Norway provides them with a solution,” Gjøstøl says.
 
The rules and regulations for visas have been lenient in 2007, and the Norwegian Government is seeing the importance of attracting skilled professionals. The Governments has been very helpful in adapting the rules and regulations to make sure that the best brains end up in Norway. “We have the in-house expertise where we can analyse the culture of foreign employees,” says Gjøstøl.
 
When it comes to recruiting the best people for the ICT industry, there is no secret that India has become an ICT superpower, and Gjøstøl is praising Indian competence.
 
“All major players are established in India. Ten years ago India was a low-cost country, but now India has moved from being a country producing programming to one that has a high level of competence. Companies are getting innovation in addition from India.”
 
Madhukar Rohatgi (left) and Bent Gjøstøl are co-project managers for international recruitment for Adecco in Norway. They believe it is not enough to recruit IT professionals; they also have to be integrated into the Norwegian culture.
Value Creation in Norway
Outsourcing has been quite popular in the ICT industry with a lot of work being done in low-cost countries. However, Gjøstøl and Rohatgi believe in getting the right competence to Norway.
 
“Our focus is to emphasize the recruiting of skilled labour to Norway, and we believe the value creation should happen here,” Gjøstøl says, and Rohatgi agrees.
 
“We have chosen to get experts to Norway to increase the value creation here. Thus, the competence comes to Norway, and then they can work smoothly with Norwegian colleagues,” Rohatgi says, adding that it is generally easy for Indian employees to adapt to the Norwegian labour culture.
 
Gjøstøl is also promoting the Norwegian model of smaller teams. “The Norwegian team-based model is not easy to outsource. It is critical that the expertise stays in the project, not to be copied by others. Norway is at the forefront in developing new technology in telecom and ICT,” he says.
 
Adecco Norway has emphasized international recruitment since 2002, and since then they have recruited skilled labour to sectors like ICT, hotel and engineering. “We think we are at the forefront when it comes to international recruitment processes and methodology in the global market,” states Gjøstøl.
 
While recognizing India as their main market, Adecco Norway is also considering and analyzing other markets such as Eastern Europe, but regardless of where the labour is recruited, integration is the key
 
“The story does not end as soon as you bring the candidate to Norway,” says Rohatgi. “If you don’t integrate the employees, neither the employees nor the employers will be satisfied. Social integration is vital, and we are working with the candidates so that they can be an integrated part of the Norwegian society.
 
“Adecco is an international company, and we are able to recruit labour from a global arena based on established processes and methods. We make sure of the quality, and we are handling everything from the work permits to integration in the local communities. Our candidates stayi for at least a year, and we are recruiting people to stay,” says Rohatgi.
 
International Help to Prevent Overheating
The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) is the main representative body for Norwegian employers, and has a current membership of over 17,000 companies. Although it is happy about the economic development in Norway, there are challenges – including an expanding public sector spending more money than the NHO thinks is healthy for the Norwegian economy.
 
According to NHO chief economist Tor Steig, the Norwegian economy is in danger of overheating, and greater mobility in the workforce through the recruitment of skilled labour from abroad is one way NHO wants to counter this development. Norway needs excellent international candidates in order to maintain and improve Norwegian competitiveness. “Our labour market is tighter than ever before – unemployment has not been so low in 20 years, and the number of vacant positions is increasing rapidly,” says Steig, explaining that the public sector is less adaptable than the private sector in handling the demand for labour immigration, and if Norway is not able to recruit enough highly skilled foreigners, economic growth could stagnate. “One in three companies states that the shortage of labour contributes to limiting their production or activities in their enterprise. Within the petroleum technology and offshore-related industries, approximately half of the enterprises experience capacity problems.”
 
In companies associated with ICT, and building and construction, the situation is bleaker. “Two-thirds of these businesses have vacant positions because of recruiting problems,” says Steig. The views of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) correspond with those of the NHO. In its Economic Survey of Norway, 2007, the OECD expresses the desire for increased private research to further ensure flexibility in the public sector. “More public money will not achieve much in the absence of a greater innovation culture; in particular, businesses do need to perceive opportunities in boosting innovation. Several steps could improve the situation. The public research sector has long had a mission in knowledge transfers, but private-public research links should be strengthened further,” the report states. Norway is listed as a prime beneficiary of globalization, as the country has provided energy and other natural commodities while getting products from low-cost countries in return.
 
Good competence and experience is not enough; they also have to be able to adapt to stay in Norway. This requires a lot of work. Therefore, Adecco wants to take on the responsibility for the whole process.
An Advantage in the Recruitment Market
Dilek Ayhan is a project manager for international recruitment at Oslo Teknopol IKS, a non-profit regional development agency established by the City of Oslo and Akershus County Council. Oslo Teknopol aims to stimulate innovation and attract foreign investments and talent to Norway’s capital region, in order to strengthen the region’s key knowledge-based clusters.
 
“There is an increasing need for ICT professionals in Norway,” she says. “More than half of the companies in the ICT sector anticipate having to hire more people in the coming year, and this should present opportunities for skilled systems programmers and developers, among others,” Ayhan explains.
 
According to Oslo Teknopol, greater mobility in the workforce through the recruitment of skilled labour from abroad is one way to counter this challenge. “The companies will to a much greater extent compete for the right human capital assets to give them advantages in their market,” Ayhan believes. Therefore companies have an increasing need to develop more creative employer brands, talent acquisition strategies and retention plans.
 
“They will need to look into a broader spectrum of factors, other than just salary and security, to attract people into their business and to keep them there,” Ayhan states, adding that those people entering the employment market are no longer looking for a “job for life”, nor are they necessarily motivated by pay alone.
 
“This places factors like corporate and social responsibility, flexible working hours, personal development and total reward much higher up on the agenda. Lifestyle attractions and factors relating to quality-of-place are also very important,” Ayhan says.
 
The United Nations’ Human Development Index ranked Norway as the best country in the world to live in for the sixth consecutive year (2001-2006). It is a safe and stable, well-functioning and transparent democratic society with a highly developed health and welfare sector, and has the world’s best equal opportunity record. 
 
“Oslo offers attractive job and career opportunities, but equally important, there are many lifestyle attractions in the region’s unique blend of metropolitan life and tranquil rural surroundings. Oslo is home to a large international community, and as one of Scandinavia’s cultural capitals, the city offers a rich diversity of music, cuisine, design and art,” says Ayhan.
 
Justly famous for its clean air, stable climate and spectacular scenery, the region is a haven for all outdoor pursuits, including a wide range of sports. There are golf courses and large scenic areas with public right of ways along the fjord and in the forests and mountains that surround the city centre.
 
Getting foreign employees to Norway is only half the job. The most important challenge is to make sure that foreigners are well adapted to Norwegian culture and society.
Not Reaching Full Potential
The Federation of Norwegian Industries organizes 2,000 member companies with approximately 110,000 employees. “Norway’s industry is Norway’s future, and we shall contribute to renewed industrial growth in Norway,” says managing director Stein Lier-Hansen. For the federation it is vital to improve Norway’s competitiveness and to recruit a skilled workforce, wherever in the world it might be. Therefore it also provided funding for the Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research to conduct a survey about the use of foreign skilled labour in Norwegian industry.
 
According to the report “Hunting for Expertise”, the number of foreign workers among the members of the Federation of Norwegian Industries is about eight percent. This figure does not include a great number of subcontractors gaining access to the Norwegian market because of the free flow of capital and labour in the European Economic Area. But eight percent is not enough to cover the needs of the industry. “If the companies had free access to the correct competence, there would be a 15 percent rate of foreign skilled labour in these companies within a few months,” says Åsmund Arup Seip, the researcher in charge of the survey.
 
Arup Seip also believes that Norway would benefit greatly from a more effective and smooth labour immigration process, along with easier rules to acquire necessary work and residence permits. “Immigration policies should facilitate the recruitment of a foreign work force and ensure a cultural and knowledge-based exchange,” the researcher says. Although Norway, unlike Canada for example, does not have special regulations for work immigration, getting work permits should not be a huge problem because the quotas have not been filled. “Today’s laws and regulations do not hinder the employment of, for instance, health personnel or engineers from abroad. Both nurses and engineers from outside Europe could be hired if they had the needed competence and language skills,” says Arup Seip.

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