Falling short to care for the families of foreign employees assigned to Sweden can cost globally-minded businesses money, alerts a Stockholm-based HR specialist who has commenced paid work and other services to help accompanying families find their way in Sweden.

“When I speak with executives, they always stress that their people are their company’s most valuable asset,” Claudia de Leeuw-van Wijk, president of Global Expat Partners, tells The Local. “But they don’t all have HR managers who act accordingly.”

De Leeuw-van Wijk says she’s come across some truly appalling attitudes toward globally recruited staff and their families who have relocated to Sweden from abroad.

“Some HR managers tell me, ‘Do we also have to care about how they feel? We already think they earn too much compared to Swedes’,” she recalls, adding that many HR professionals in Sweden seem unaware of statistics linking failure rate of assignments abroad with partners dissatisfaction.

Since 2009, Global Expert Partners has worked with the City of Stockholm and industry heavy-weights Atlas Copco – whom de Leeuw-van Wijk credits alongside Absolut, EA/Dice, Sandvik, Klarna, and Oriflame as companies that are taking the opportunity to understand and make life easier for staff recruited from abroad. Their task? Not only finding talent overseas, but making sure they stay.

In addition to Swedish companies, Global Expat Partners and the city have also worked with international firms like Nike, Siemens, Novartis, KLM, and others to forge what has become known as “The Stockholm Model” of support for the families of foreign professionals relocated in Sweden. In 2011, they opened the Global Expat Centre Stockholm, which has since been recognized as a leading support programme in the Baltic Sea region.
Apart from the personnummer jungle, there are Sweden-specific challenges that need to be dealt with. Workshops in English and Mandarin form part of Global Expat Partners’ core activities in Stockholm, which also include spousal support classes and good old-fashioned networking for a group of foreign professionals who, despite different backgrounds, have similar needs.