Reflections on the Almedalen panel regarding international talents

By Beyondo, 3rd July 2024

This is a follow-up on our Blog on 'Sweden needs international talents, but are we international enough'  which formed the theme of a panel discussion at Almedalen 2024


This was an initiative of Business Region Örebro and Future Leadership Place

The expert panel:

✔️ Madeleine Sjöstedt, Director-General, Swedish Institute

✔️ Jonas Albertson, Chief Technology Officer & Managing Director, Epiroc

✔️ Anna Gulliksen, Global Head of Talent Attraction, Tietoevry

✔️ Anna Broeders, Talent & Community Manager, Linköping Science Park

✔️ Karin Björkman Tendijck, Recruitment Specialist, Beyondo, recruitment

Professionally moderated by

✔️ Jessica Skantze, Senior Consultant, Future Place Leadership 

Greater arena foto AlmedalenLeaders and experts discuss international talent attraction and retention in Sweden, covering areas like leadership, recruitment, technology, talent management, and community building.

Why is it challenging to secure skilled international talent despite Sweden's strong reputation as a career destination?

Reflections on the Almedalen panel: "Sweden needs international talents" – are we international enough?

During Almedalen Week, our Karin Björkman had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion titled "Sweden needs international talents" – are we international enough? The professional and insightful conversation revealed that while Sweden is making efforts to attract international talents, there is still significant room for improvement to both attract and integrate them into society. Here are some key takeaways from our discussion.

Collective action and clear boundaries

One of the main points emphasized was the need for collective action. The responsibility of integrating international talents is not the responsibility of a single entity (however small initiatives help); it requires a coordinated effort from businesses, authorities, and decision-makers. We (the ones working with talent attraction) must set clear boundaries and expectations for all stakeholders involved, driving the change together to create a more inclusive environment.Karin Björkman emphasized the need for collective action, stating:

"Integrating international talents is a shared responsibility that requires cooperation from all sectors to create a truly inclusive environment”.


(Photo: the event was well visited, despite the warm weather!) 

Embrace experimentation and start small

We also discussed the importance of daring to experiment. Testing new approaches on a small scale allows us to innovate without overwhelming resources. For instance, one of our clients at Beyondo employed a Swedish teacher to help international employees learn the language necessary for their jobs. This tailored approach proved successful and could serve as a model for other companies facing similar challenges. The expertise they need to build their global company does not exist in Sweden; they need international talents. However, since the company needs to be certified by an institution in Sweden, Swedish is required for some aspects of the job.

Learn from each other

Sharing best practices and learning from each other is crucial. The example of our client hiring a Swedish teacher highlights how personalized language training can bridge gaps and help international employees integrate more effectively. These small but significant steps demonstrate that we can achieve meaningful progress by being proactive and creative. However, it’s not only this single company that needs to be aware of the need for outside help to maintain a good economy in Sweden.

In line with this collaborative spirit, Beyondo is part of an inclusion platform called 1046. This initiative aims to raise awareness and promote inclusivity in Sweden, helping to create a more welcoming environment for international talents. Through this platform, we work with partners to offer cultural training and language courses, ensuring that international talents can fully integrate and contribute to Swedish society.

Insights from Madeleine Sjöstedt, director general of the Swedish Institute

Madeleine Sjöstedt, director general of the Swedish Institute (SI), emphasized Sweden's attractiveness as central to securing Swedish growth. She stated,

"The pursuit of talent has become increasingly important in the global economy. This applies both to highly qualified workers and talented international students. Sweden is a small country; we compete in razor-sharp international competition for these individuals to choose Sweden and contribute to a competitive Swedish business life."

SI is tasked by the government to use communication as a tool to attract international excellence to Sweden. This is done in collaboration with businesses, regions, and other actors with the goal of putting Sweden on the map as an attractive destination for highly qualified foreign labor. The Swedish Institute works to strengthen the Swedish brand and create visibility and interest in Sweden as a career destination, a necessity for long-term success.

She encouraged us all to join forces and to communicate well to the authorities what needs to be done, as well as the importance of following up on our initiatives.

Addressing language requirements – Swedish as a working language?

One of the critical questions discussed was whether Swedish is necessary as a working language. Often, it is not the employers but the clients who require Swedish. This preference can lead to hiring native Swedish speakers over equally or more qualified international candidates. We need to challenge this norm and consider the value that international talents bring, even if they are not fluent in Swedish from the start. Knowing a language like Swedish is a skill, but is it the skill someone needs to solve complex tasks in engineering, for example? Or are the engineering skills themselves more central?Karin Björkman added,

"I believe that by recognizing the added value of international talent and focusing on their unique perspectives and competencies, we can streamline the recruitment processes and create a more inclusive environment that benefits the Swedish ecosystem in the long term."

Efficient processes and smooth recruitment

Another key point was the need for more efficient processes in recruiting international talents. While there are many success stories, the recruitment process must become smoother and more responsive to immediate needs. Companies cannot afford to wait six months for a work permit application when they have urgent vacancies to fill. If a vacancy is opened, the companies need someone as soon as possible, not eight months down the line.

Is the language a barrier? And are we international enough?

picture with Aida jessica and Karin Almedalen

A moving example was shared by an international talent in the audience from Mexico, Aida,  who completed a master's in HR in Sweden. Despite her qualifications, she faced challenges securing a job due to the requirement for fluent Swedish. This scenario underscores the disconnect between attracting international students and the barriers they face in transitioning to the job market. She bravely stood up to share her story, which was firsthand information and spot on with the topic we were discussing. She said; “Before coming to Sweden you feel very welcome, but once you come to the party no one talks to you and you are left on your own”.

(On the photo from the left International candidate Aida Alonso, Jessica Skantze and Karin Björkman)


It’s important to note that not only non-EU members face challenges in being seen and integrated here; even EU members experience significant difficulties.


How can we make a change?

The focus at Almedalen was on addressing the significant need for skilled labor that Sweden's transformation demands. The green transition, digitalization, and electrification impact skill requirements across all industries and all areas in Sweden. Prior to this discussion, The Future Place Leadership revealed the results of their survey "TalentCityIndex 2024, Sverige" (Gothenburg took the first place).

It is a fact that we are facing challenges in the labor market and need more immigration than the government currently facilitates. We need both highly qualified and simpler skills from countries within and outside the EU. We need to see labor immigration as a long-term solution because Sweden is part of a global labor market. EU countries compete for the same pool of talent, and we need the right skills, regardless of their global origin.

Employers must build and enhance relevant skills among all their employees, creating a strong ecosystem for learning. Recruiting based on potential and providing fast-track internal training are crucial for accessing a larger pool of future employees. The competence industry plays a part in this transformation by attracting the best talents, regardless of their origin.

Moving forward

So, what was our conclusion and what do we need to do moving forward?

  • Start by spreading awareness of the benefits of international talents.
  • Continue with proactive measures, such as tailored language training and cultural integration programs, if there is a need for speaking Swedish to do the job.
  • Follow up by making processes easier and advocating for policy changes at higher levels.
  • Integrate international talents not just to meet immediate business needs but to value individuals as full contributors to our society.

By working together, experimenting, learning from each other, and pushing for systemic changes, we can create a more inclusive and dynamic workforce in Sweden.

Almedalen post future place leadershipEDB49451-D5BE-4680-AC79-DC6641A1FBBE (1)

Initiators for this panel discussion were: Future Place Leadership, the network #SwedishTalentAttractionForum, and Business Region Örebro, Smart Move. Thank you for inviting us to the event! 

Are you interested in how you can recruit international talents in Sweden? Welcome to contact us at contact@beyondo.se or via this button:

Recruiting in Sweden