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Difficulty of finding friends costs Denmark attractive foreign workers

More than every second highly-educated employee leaves Denmark five years after moving here, shows new data from DI. At Microsoft in Lyngby, it is particularly the challenge of finding new friends that makes employees leave for other countries.
It’s hard to find friends in Denmark if you come from another country. At Microsoft, they’ve taken matters into their own hands and now organise everything from sports clubs to Friday drinks to help bring various nationalities together.

Publiceret: 09.05.2018
Af Oliver Fruergaard mail

At Microsoft, international employees stay for an average of five years before leaving Denmark. This is fewer years than was previously the case, even though the company works hard to retain international talents.

It appears that several Danish businesses struggle with the same issue. New data from the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) shows that over half of the highly-educated foreigners who come to Denmark to work leave the country again within the first five years.

“Danish businesses are completely dependent on international talent,” says Head of Global Talent at DI, Linda Duncan Wendelboe, who therefore finds the numbers worrying.

According to labour market researcher Nanna Wesley Hansen, international talents have difficulty settling in Denmark. A big reason for this is a social barrier: It’s hard to find Danish friends.

“Generally, international employees like Danish workplaces, where there is less hierarchy, greater responsibility and a good work-life balance. It is the moment they’re off work and step out of their work role that social life in Denmark can be difficult, and that is true for both those with higher educations and those without,” says Nanna Wesley Hansen.

See also: Betaling for dansk undervisning

Microsoft: Hard to settle in

This is something that Microsoft, where 47 different nationalities make up half the total workforce, can confirm.

Here, several of the international employees report that they have a hard time settling in and finding friends in Denmark – particularly in the beginning.

“We have had many employees who after several years still only have contact with other expats. These are usually the people who decide to move away again. For many international employees, it is difficult to fit in among Danes. They can be difficult to connect with and have their own social circle from school and that sort of things,” explains Head of External Relations at Microsoft, Sara Kolka.

She gives an example of an employee who, in their own words, only had ‘one real Danish friend’, who was one of his colleagues.

“When his partner was offered a job in Switzerland, he decided to move too, because he missed the feeling of ‘fitting in’,” she says and emphasises that this is not a one-off case.

See also: Beter integration could bring 139.000 more peole in to the workforce

A good social life is crucial for good integration

A study from 2017 conducted by the expat organisation InterNations also shows that Denmark comes in last on the list of countries that are easy to settle down in as a newcomer.

In the study, expats respond that among other things, it is difficult to find friends, just as the language is a challenge.

“A good social life – both at and outside the workplace – is decisive for whether employees and their accompanying families develop the sense of belonging that makes them want to stay in the country. Unfortunately, it is difficult for some to settle in Denmark right when they move here,” says DI’s Head of Global Talent.

See also: Listen to your employees - they can predict the future

Running clubs and language classes

That is why Microsoft actively works to make employees feel at home in Denmark.

For example, in recent years the company has set up several sports clubs, gaming communities, organised Friday drinks and Copenhagen tours – all of which is run by employees with the aim of creating a social environment.

According to Sara Kolka, the most important initiative is the company’s Danish lessons, given that language is another factor that has been a major barrier for many.

“Language is the key to understanding the Danish sense of humour and mentality. I therefore think that learning it really helps if you want to be part of the Danish community. And that is also what we hear from our employees,” she says.

The graph flattens out after five years

While the first years in Denmark can be difficult, the new data from DI shows that most international employees who stay in Denmark for more than five years are more likely to stay.

Despite the many things that can make it challenging to fit in, there are also many things that make Denmark a good country to settle down in.

Among other things, Linda Duncan Wendelboe from DI highlights the security and efficiency that characterises Danish society and the fact that things like family life and free time are given high priority.
Sara Kolka at Microsoft agrees. The Danish mentality and approach to work life and free time are important factors when employees decide to stay.

“It’s a safe and nice place to raise a family, and we have constructed a society, also digitally, where most things run smoothly. This makes a lot of people stay,” says Sara Kolka and adds:

“Hence, these are also the things we need to highlight when branding Denmark. Because that’s what makes us unique.”

See also: Danish companies on a global hunt for talent

We have had many employees who after several years still only have contact with other expats.
HEAD OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS AT MICROSOFT, SARA KOLKA
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PUBLISHED: 5/9/2018 LAST MODIFIED: 5/9/2018