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Is Deutsche Bank Danish?

A new survey shows that just 13% of young people abroad are able to name a Danish company. Denmark needs a national branding strategy in order to attract highly educated young foreign nationals, believes COWI’s CEO Lars-Peter Søbye who is also chairman of DI Global Talent. Experts support this idea.
Lars-Peter Søbye is chairman of DI Global Talent’s Advisory Board and CEO of consulting group COWI which employs 300 foreign nationals from a total of 42 countries among its approximately 6,400 employees. COWI uses Facebook and LinkedIn to attract talent from across the world.

Publiceret: 01.12.2016
Af Karen Witt Olsen mail

Not many young people abroad are able to name one or more Danish companies.

A survey of 2,500 young people from five different countries commissioned by the Confederation of Danish Industry shows that only one in seven – 13% – were able to name a Danish company. Only one in every 20 young people is able to name two or more.

CEO of COWI Lars-Peter Søbye, who is also the chairman of the DI Global Talent Advisory Board, nods knowingly when asked about this lack of knowledge.

“We have now been able to put some figures on something we have long suspected. You could ask whether this is really a problem? Well, yes, it is. If Danish companies and Denmark are unknown, it becomes more difficult for businesses to attract the talent from abroad that they need. They will simply not be as competitive,” he says.

See also: DI Indsigt – Denmark ranks poorly in the fight for the world’s cleverest people (in Danish)

Goodbye, growth

DI Global Talent which works to improve the access of businesses to highly educated foreign nationals has just hosted an international talent summit at Industriens Hus.

The survey was commissioned for this occasion and was conducted by YouGov. COWI’s CEO calls for action if Denmark is to ‘keep up standards’.

“If we do not act on this, we risk that Denmark will have a shortage of highly qualified employees. Shortage of staff is bad because there is then a risk that manufacturing and growth will migrate to places where manpower can be found or that businesses will simply avoid Denmark altogether,” he says.

See also: Global talents – how Denmark needs to attract more people like me

The more familiar will always take priority

According to a report published by the Boston Consulting Group, nearly all the major economies of the world will experience a significant shortage of labour by 2030.

The competition for talent is getting fiercer and familiarity will mean something, explains Alexander Josiassen, Director of Center for Tourism and Culture Management, CBS.

“If young people abroad cannot name or recognise Danish companies, this might be counterbalanced by the fact that they know something about Denmark as a country – in the same way that we are familiar with Cuban cigars, Russian caviar and Swiss watches, but not necessarily the companies that produce them. As a country, Denmark’s ‘familiarity factor’ is unfortunately just quite weak,” he says.

A slice of national branding, please

If it were up to Lars-Peter Søbye, Denmark would have a national branding strategy in place that the business community would be able to tap into.

“Denmark and in Danish companies have so many great things to offer, but what use is that if none of the people we are trying to reach know about them?” he asks.

As far as the business community is concerned, Lars-Peter Søbye believes that Denmark should highlight some of the classic attractions like the opportunity to influence your work, the flat company hierarchies and an excellent work/life balance.

As a country, Denmark should also utilise Scandinavia as a stamp of quality, the easy access to forests and beaches, low crime rates and a unique welfare model.

“My point is that we have to treat Denmark as if it were a business: draw up a plan, invest in it, follow up on it, adjust it and measure our results,” he says.

According to Director of Center for Tourism and Culture Management Alexander Josiassen, CBS., other countries, like Taiwan for example, have had great success with their nation branding.

“Taiwan has succeeded in becoming known for brands such as Acer. This has had a positive effect on Taiwan’s image which, in turn, has been felt by Taiwanese companies. Australia has done this at an industrial level with its wine. This kind of initiative takes years, but it works,” he says.

Helping to shape the future

Approximately 300 foreign nationals from a total of 42 countries have already found their way to COWI in Denmark.

Until a national Danish branding strategy becomes a reality, the consulting engineering firm will be working on advertising itself in the right circles abroad – for example, with future clients and among students of technology and the natural sciences.

“I would, of course, prefer COWI to be known all over the world for all its skills and services. But in terms of international recruitment, it is more important that we are known by foreign talent for being among the best in the world at building bridges, tunnels, ports and islands. Because it is the field of infrastructure that will be driving our growth in the coming years,” says CEO Lars-Peter Søbye.

For this purpose, COWI actively uses social media such as LinkedIn and ¬Facebook. The company focuses on the fact that it is involved in 13,000 projects in 120 countries every day of the week.

“We do a lot to tell young people that they can help to build the society of tomorrow. They will be able to influence the world and travel. These are some of the parameters we know attract foreign nationals,” he says.

The further away
– the fewer they know

Global recruitment company Mercuri Urval already understands and knows that only very few of the 2,500 young people from Poland, Germany, the United States, China and the United Kingdom are able to name Danish companies in the DI Global Talent Survey 2016.

“Apart from the very largest, most Danish companies are best known among our closest neighbours,” says Managing Director Christian Kurt Nielsen from Mercuri Urval in Denmark.

The survey shows that the further away from Denmark the young people live, the fewer Danish companies they are likely to be able to name.

Focus on what you are good at

Christian Kurt Nielsen also believes that a national branding strategy will increase knowledge of Denmark.

But he points out that getting a large number of applications for a position is not difficult. Young people from abroad even apply to Danish job advertisements. What is harder is reaching the right applicants – for example, highly qualified foreign nationals.

“As a company and as a politician, you could start by asking yourself why a student high-flyer from China should choose Denmark and not Canada, for example,” he says.

His best advice to companies wanting to recruit internationally is to focus on what they are good at and what is special about the position they are seeking to fill.

“If you are a global market leader in the field of wind, for example, that is what you should write. If you run exciting international projects, write that. Does the position involve managerial responsibilities? Will the applicant be able to travel or live in Scandinavia? Then emphasise that,” says Christian Kurt Nielsen.

At the beginning of 2017, DI Global ¬Talent will present a proposal for how Denmark could position itself better in the competition for global talent.

A national branding strategy and a good, cohesive story about what Denmark is able to offer will be one of the recommendations. The proposal will be shared with ministries, organisations, universities and businesses.

The Confederation of Danish Industry recommends:

  • The Danish government and relevant stakeholders should launch a national talent and branding strategy.
  • Politicians, government authorities, universities and the business community should increase efforts to coordinate their work to attract specialised foreign nationals.
  • Less bureaucracy for foreign nationals to register in Denmark. This can be done by ensuring that government authorities, municipalities and businesses work better together.
DI Global Talent Survey 2016:
Conducted among 2,500 young students and employees aged between 18-35
Conducted by YouGov in October 2016
Conducted in five countries: the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, China and the United States
13% are able to name a Danish company
5% are able to name two Danish companies
5% are able to name three Danish companies

Find out more in DI Indsigt: Denmark ranks poorly in the fight for the world’s cleverest people (ind Danish)

As a company and as a politician, you could start by asking yourself why a student high-flyer from China should choose Denmark and not Canada, for example.


Companies the young respondents could name as Danish:

Danske Bank
Novo Nordisk

Companies the young respondents thought were Danish:

Deutsche Bank
Royal Dutch Shell

Source: DI Global Talent Survey 2016

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PUBLISHED: 12/1/2016 LAST MODIFIED: 12/1/2016