The inspirational Bodenxt Talks series recently highlighted the international Boden we are entering. What does it mean for the workplace to have multiple languages at work? How can you as an employer/entrepreneur adapt and what are the benefits of a multicultural workforce?
There is a strong message from many quarters that we should be able and willing to have multiple languages in our workplaces, regardless of the sector. Receiving partners, inquiries, expertise, colleagues, customers and suppliers whose mother tongue is not Swedish becomes a survival factor.
The issue was addressed from different angles to inspire and provide tools for employers who want to grow with international developments.
The morning was opened by Mailin Ellingsen from the Care HERO project at JobbCenter in Boden. She explained how Care HERO, which co-organized ‘Profits from a Multicultural Workplace’, has successfully dealt with the influx of refugees from Ukraine. In a short time, they have managed to get 75% of their arrivals into work, a figure well above the national average. The model and tools are not only a model for other municipalities. The method is just as useful for meeting the high demand for skills and nationalities in all types of industries in our rapidly growing Boden. The reality in some workplaces is already that professional competence is the key, not language in the first place.
Chana Svensson, MindDig, was the first speaker to raise the topic with her experience of moving to Norrbotten from the USA.
“How welcoming are you? At work is one thing, but how often do you invite a new colleague home for coffee, or for a midsummer celebration”, she asks.
Together with other newcomers whose mother tongue is not Swedish, she testifies that it is often life outside work and the opportunity to make friends that determines how you feel and choose to stay.
“You come here for a job but stay for a life. If we who live here do not extend a hand, we will lose them within nine to eleven months,” she says.
Klara Zimmergren, presenter, scriptwriter and comedian, took the issue from her time as a receptionist at the former Swedish Immigration Service.
“I thought many times – if I had been in the vulnerable position that many people are in when they come here, how would I have behaved then? How would I feel and how would I want to be treated?”
She talks about how they found ways to understand each other with signs and gestures, and the realization that parts of the personality can withdraw when language and culture feel like a barrier.
Michael Lyckhagen, LN Industrimontage, is a multiple Gazelle Award winner and has been named Growth Company of the Year in Boden. To secure the company’s expertise in steel construction and machine equipment, they have recruited an international workforce consisting of 9 different nationalities.
“I have deliberately sought out people who do not speak Swedish in order to get the right skills. I started advertising in English when we were looking for staff and immediately reached more people. But we must not give up, take care of those who come and make other staff understand that this is something we have to do. If I would have done anything differently, it would have been to start thinking this way earlier. There’s a lot to gain from it, it’s more fun and everyone brings their personality and experience to the table,” he says.
The morning ended with a panel dialogue with Tess Bojler, recruiter H2 Green Steel, Thomas Knutsson, JobbCenter/Care HERO, Michael Lyckhagen, LN Industrimontage and Stina Leden, process manager in Boden’s competence supply team.
The panel discussion was chaired by Anders Sandle, JobbCenter.
Together they summarized the day, the topic and the future based on their experiences. They provided personal advice and food for thought for the emerging new Boden.
Here you can watch a video from the day with the voices of some of the participants:
The organizer was Bodenxt/Boden Municipality together with Care HERO and Boden Business Park.
The Care HERO project is owned by the municipality of Boden and co-financed by the European Union Social Fund.
Bodenxt Talks started as a studio project during the pandemic, discussing current issues with invited guests and delving into the industrial and societal transition. In spring 2023, the series has continued as a live event. Two more discussion sessions are planned for fall 2023.
Photo and film: KOMM, Municipality of Boden.