Decades ago my father was offered a position in North America. It was an offer that was extended to our entire family and the red carpet was rolled out for us in a way that we rarely see today. Our family included a dog and a horse that was also flown over to the Northeastern part of the US.
We were picked up at JFK on July 4th, 1984 by a private lear jet and flown to our final destination. That jet was at our disposal at any time and they encouraged us to go to the “city” meaning New York to go shopping or to enjoy Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Unfortunately, for the friendly pilots we were anxious passengers, especially in small planes, so we didn’t take them up on their offer too often.
While it took well over a year for the company to arrange, all family members got a Green Card. It gave us the peace of mind that while my dad’s assignment was meant to last 3 years, we were there long term. My parents moved back to Sweden 27 years later.
We got help finding our new home and it may have been one of the largest containers crossing the ocean ever for a private home. My mother’s budding antique business was also included.
My horse was flown over with his “passport” all paid for by the company.
Our dog joined us on the same flight over. Both horse and dog had jet lag and language barriers for months to come. Our dog, Bamse, did enjoy the “doggie bags” that we brought him daily since we slept on the floor in our unfurnished house and ate out. That was our choice or the company would probably have spoiled us rotten with that as well.
A large sailboat was brought to Newport, RI and soon thereafter blown to sticks by Hurricane Gloria.
A Swedish handyman along with a great big shipment of oakwood came to lay our Scandinavian floors in our new house.
My mother got assistance with accountant/auditor contacts along with introductions to people in the antique business.
The greeting we received was extraordinary and a memory for life. While few companies pull out all stops like that these days there are still some learning lessons to be had.
What can HR do to provide a great experience on a budget?
Keep the family permit applications together or you risk separating families for a long time due to application times.
A large majority of employers pay for accompanying family members acknowledging that they are giving up quite a bit to join a spouse in a new country. Many of these talents choose to make Sweden their new home and they come from low cost countries. That means that they have to save money for many months, if not years, to cover even the application fees to the migration agency. Some even move alone as the cost for the permits are prohibitive. To put things in perspective, Sweden’s immigration costs are very low in comparison to many other countries such as the US, UK and others. The cost for a company is negligible and goes a long way to create a better life for the talented co-worker.
Finding Swedish housing in a market with severe shortage is not easy. There’s one thing that can help your talent and that is signing the lease on their behalf. That will allow the landlord to feel secure and a lower rent can be negotiated. The wages will stretch further when a smaller chunk goes to housing.
It is reasonable to expect a talent that is making Sweden their permanent home to independently find housing after a couple of years as long as it is communicated at the start of the assignment.
In many cultures a great deal of emphasis is put on the education and parents will go to great lengths to secure appropriate school placements. In Sweden, we often rely on the local school and while that works well for most families it’s different for foreign families.
Depending on the age of the children and the length of their stay different needs will be relevant. Language is a big concern and Swedish is a small language with little use outside Sweden. Therefore unless there’s a longterm contract it’s likely that an international school will be preferred.
If a family is going to repatriate to their home country it's important to have a curriculum that is consistent with the origin so going back doesn’t create an issue for the children.
The schools with an international curriculum are often tuition based, i.e. you have to pay to attend and that is something many companies help with in order to create as little friction as possible around the move.
Sweden has a severe talent shortage, we are not alone in that but we have a colder climate than most of the world. In addition, Swedish is not widely used so the language barrier is bigger than other countries around the world looking for the same talent. There are many things that attract global talent who choose to move to Sweden, yet we have to make it a smooth arrival.
The war for talent isn’t happening company to company; it's also on a nationwide basis so it’s important to work closely with government authorities and encourage and cultivate administrative ease for our crossborder moves. Nimmersion can help navigating through this process, but timelines getting increasingly longer and planning ahead is more and more important to be able to provide a good welcome for these talented essential workers.
Please read the following blog on how to plan the Global Mobility Year for the best results.