Talent retention situation analysis: what are the current policies and best practices in the Baltic Sea Region?

Situation-analysis_225xTalent retention is an issue that will become increasingly important in the future. The population of Europe is aging and more talents from non-European countries will be recruited.

A recent study on the talent retention in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) shows both challenges and opportunities as well as policy and best practice recommendations.

Talent retention policy and initiatives in the Baltic Sea Region: A situation analysis” concentrates on how capital cities and regions, as well as major cities such as Hamburg, Saint Petersburg and Gdansk, are working with talent retention. The best practices chosen focus on methods for receiving talents (the so-called ‘soft landing’), providing professional and social integration, retaining local talent and encouraging talents to return to the region.

“The biggest challenge while performing the analysis was finding information on national policies and work permit regulations. This means it is almost certain to be an issue for talents as well”, comments Marcus Andersson from Tendensor, a consulting firm who carried out the study for the One BSR –project.

“How can a foreign job seeker find relevant information? There are also many exceptions to the various rules, and that is discouraging and makes the system less transparent.”

Major findings

The study concludes that Denmark and Finland are making the most effort in the field of talent retention. At present, these countries have the most experience in the region when it comes to creating best practices.

In Germany, the main focus is on retaining local talent. In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden there are very few initiatives targeting international talents.

In general, very little is being done in the BSR to retain and re-attract highly skilled local talents, despite the fact that many young professionals are leaving the region.

Fighting with bureaucracy and local language

National policies and laws are the cause of many challenges. In many countries in the region, international students are not entitled to a residence permit that would allow them to look for a job after completing their university education. Many talents that come to the Baltic Sea Region to work also have difficulty obtaining a work permit.

“When fighting bureaucracy is the very first thing you need to do when you arrive, you feel less welcome and less inclined to stay in your new country,” Andersson says.

When it comes to learning the local language, it is important to target international students early on and make language courses more accessible. Information about how important it is to speak Finnish in order to find a job in Finland, for example, needs to be more readily available. This would also help countries in the Baltic Sea Region create more realistic expectations.

Talent retention issues have in the past been a part of many different areas, such as education, labour market and integration policy.  This made it more difficult for key stakeholders to focus on working with talents.

“But we are now seeing new developments in talent retention field”, Andersson says.

“A talent manager, working for a city or a region, might become a more common profession in the future. Copenhagen Capacity, an organisation working with business development, is a good example, because they are now working specifically with talent attraction.”

Examples of best practices

The most important part of the study is the description of concrete actions, innovative projects and best practices.

International House Copenhagen, inaugurated in 2013, is a collaboration between the Danish government, City of Copenhagen, several Danish universities and private companies. It is a ‘one-stop shop’ for international newcomers which provides assistance with official paperwork, advice on job hunting. It introduces the new citizens with life in Denmark, provides help with creating social network, writing a CV or finding work for accompanying spouses.

Finnish universities and regions have for the past few years been designing and implementing methods for better integration of international students into Finnish society. There are mentoring programmes that connect students with businesses and entrepreneurs while others recruit students as coaches for Finnish companies that wish to operate internationally. Family Friendship programmes aim to introduce the international students to Finnish culture and lifestyle through contacts with local families, also promoting intercultural communication.

Talent retention in Sweden

Internationally, Sweden has a strong and well-known brand, making it comparatively easy to attracttalent.

“Sweden has very few initiatives that go beyond attracting talent”, Andersson says.

“In Scandinavia, Finland and Denmark have probably made more progress in attracting and retaining talent because they do not have the advantage of the Swedish brand and need to make more effort.”

Two good examples from Sweden that Andersson mentions are the Global Expat Centre Stockholm, a non-profit organisation that provides post-relocation services to newly arrived talents and their families, and Swedish Institute’s work with talent mobility.

Andersson also believes that Sweden needs to invest more efforts into policy changes that will help retain international students.

“We have made the foreign students’ situation extra difficult”, he says.

“There are tuition fees for students from outside the European Economic Area. Besides, they cannot stay in Sweden and look for a job after they graduate. For many students it can be a decisive factor when they choose a country to study in. Sweden could be in for a shock, if we do not take action soon.”

Mobility versus retention

“Mobility is really the key issue here, and it includes talent retention”, Andersson says.

“Integration is important for mobility, since there are scientific studies showing that the better you’re received during your first international experience, the more mobile you become later.”

Having a good experience of working and living in another country can boost the talents’ self-confidence, meaning that better integration leads to increased mobility. It is possible that we simply need to aim to retain professionals longer than is the case today. When international talents leave the region, we should see them as ambassadors and alumni, instead of lost opportunities. If they have had a good experience in the BSR, perhaps they will be back after 10 years, bringing new knowledge and expertise.

Target groups and challenges

The major goal of the Talent Retention work package of the One BSR -project is to promote the image of the Baltic Sea Region as an attractive area for skilled professionals. This is achieved by engaging the key stakeholders to work towards the best practices and policies necessary to retain talent in the region.

The situation analysis is targeted to policy makers, civil administration and municipalities in the Baltic Sea Region, to help them to gain insight into issues surrounding talent attraction and talent retention. One of the key issues in talent retention is the need to increase collaboration between government organisations, universities and the industry (triple helix), also involving social entrepreneurs and non-profit organisations in quadruple helix projects.

The biggest challenges for the Baltic Sea Region are still the development of the BSR brand, increasing mobility within the region, retaining local talent as well as attracting talent to the BSR.

Download the talent retention situation analysis here

Highlights from the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit

BDF-summit-Turku_1 In order to fight against the lower growth rates for the years to come, the Baltic Sea Region needs to work harder together and be more innovative. This was one of the key messages of the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit which was held together with the 5th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR on 3-4 June in Turku, Finland.

Emily Wise, the plenary moderator of the event, shares some of the key messages coming out of the six plenary sessions:

 1) This year’s State of the Region Report highlighted evidence and implications of a “new normal”

The main conclusion from this year’s State of the Region Report is that we are transitioning into a “new normal” characterized by lower growth rates in the future. Although the region continues to display strong macroeconomic fundamentals, decreasing trends in export market shares and inward investment signal opportunities for action. There is a need for continued investments in knowledge-based assets and competitive infrastructure, as well as developing more distinct areas of competitive advantage.

A few areas where the BSR currently stands out and could continue to develop include:

  • investments in smart, energy-efficient infrastructure
  • development of new digital services
  • mobilization of the youth and through dynamic employment models
  • enhancing regional cooperation and attracting investment through macro-regional value chains or innovation platforms.

2) In the BSR, we are encouraged to consider social and environmental sustainability as core elements of the “new normal”

In various plenary and parallel working sessions, we were reminded of the importance of mobilizing and combining perspectives across various groups (age, culture, gender), as well as combining our thinking about investments in environmental friendliness and economic growth (“greening the economy”, Minister Niinistö). Marek Szponk (a student of the Baltic University Programme) expressed his desire for greater engagement of youth in the continued development of the BSR, more interdisciplinary activities, and obligatory courses on environmental sustainability in all educational programmes.

3) Governmental and business leaders lifted the potential of new services and digital-led growth

BDF-summit-Turku_2Prime Ministers Katainen and Roivas encouraged other BSR countries to follow their lead and “go digital” – stating their desire for developing more cross-border services in the region. Business leaders highlighted that the Baltic Sea Region is one of the most attractive regions of the world in this field – with a strong eco-system, and with talent that has both technological depth and a creative breadth (aka “technology, heart and soul”).

4) We are making progress in fulfilling the “10 commandments of the BSR Strategy”, yet Member States must take on more of a driving role

Commissioner Hahn stressed that “the strength of the strategy needs to come from the region” – with Member States demonstrating their commitment by allocating key staff and using (the new) structural funds to make progress on stated priorities. We are encouraged to narrow our focus, establish clear goals for priority areas, and allocate human and financial resources to address these priorities.

See all the presentations and reports at


Pictures: Baltic Development Forum


US Press Trip to the Baltic Sea Region: From Beatles-Tour to Latvian Cooking Classes

IMG_0002Six US journalists explored the five Baltic Sea metropoles Hamburg, Warsaw, Riga, Helsinki and St. Petersburg on 10–21 May. During their trip, the journalists, who were mainly from New York and the East Coast, got to know the highlights of the history and culture of each city. The trip was organized as part of the ONE BSR project.

– The journalists were very enthusiastic about the cities as well as the whole Baltic Sea Region that they could experience, says Nadja Biebow, ONE BSR project manager with Hamburg Tourist Board.

– The combination of the five cities worked very well and gave them a good overview of the region’s top highlights.

In Hamburg the program included for example a boat trip through the harbor and on the Alster lake as well as a Beatles-Tour around the city. In Warsaw the group visited the new Museum of History of Polish Jews and took a cruise at the Vistula river. In Riga they had in program a visit to the Latvian National Opera and the Old Town, and a Latvian cooking class. In Helsinki they got to know the Helsinki archipelago, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and Finnish design. From Helsinki the group travelled to St. Petersburg by the Ferry “Princess Maria’. In St. Petersburg they took a city tour, tried out delicious Russian cuisine and visited the St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its panoramic view over the city.

Based on the experience, the journalists were very fascinated about the region.

– They felt that the cities can be highly recommended to American travelers, says Nadja Biebow.

– Everyone agreed that the Baltic Sea Region has a lot to offer for visitors in regards to culture, modern lifestyle and history.


New Think Tank will promote the Baltic Sea Region as the world leader in ICT

BDF-summit_040614Top of Digital Europe is a new Think Tank initiative that will address key topics related to ICT as a driver for growth and competitiveness in the Baltic Sea Region. It was launched on 3 June 2014 by Baltic Development Forum (BDF) and Microsoft at the 16th BDF Summit in Turku, Finland, during a high level plenary session on the digital economy.

“The Nordic/Baltic region is one of the world’s leading ICT powerhouses”, says Craig Shank, VP and Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft International, and one of the speakers of the summit.

”In the last decade, Microsoft has invested more deeply in this region than in any other part of the world. I am convinced that Top of Digital Europe will be a source of inspiration to overcome the challenges together.”

“The digital sector is crucial for our economy. With still tougher global competition, we must work hard to maintain our leading position as a world leading ICT region”, says Lene Espersen, Chairman of BDF and former Minister of Economy and Business Affairs of Denmark.

“We need to focus on joint business-society opportunities and actions. Together we can release a huge potential by joint cross-border efforts within talents, Big Data, e-governance and other key areas within the ICT sector. Top of Digital Europe will bring forward ideas and showcases to inspire Europe and the world.”

Top of Digital Europe will

  •  identify key issues and develop solutions related to ICT as a growth driver and the digital economy
  • strengthen competitiveness through innovative cross-border actions
  • be agenda-setting by creating and stimulating a dynamic discussion on growth through ICT
  • address decision makers at regional, national and European level as well as key stakeholders

The first report of the Think Tank – “Searching for the Micro Multinationals” – was presented at the Summit. The report is elaborated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of BDF and Microsoft. It addresses the challenges faced by SMEs in the ICT sector when they want to grow and expand across borders. It can be accessed at


Craig Shank, VP & Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft International, at the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit & 5th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR in Turku, Finland (3 June 2014)

Further information:

Image: Baltic Development Forum

More independent and younger travelers among cruise guests

Risteily_740costa-fortuna-224_2310_Noora Heino_Visit Helsinki Material Bank_300xThe City of Helsinki has cooperated with entrepreneurs in the field to produce a profile of cruise guests to improve the services offered to them. The study shows that there are group-formers, but also independent adventurers among international cruise guests in Helsinki.

– The estimate shows that there are many systematics and group-formers. However, spontaneous and independent are growing groups, whose wishes often differ from the mainstream. This means that cruise travellers can no longer be seen as a homogenous traveller group, who look only for a certain kind of services. The cruise travellers also become younger by the year and some shipping companies have younger clienteles, explains Cruise Manager Noora Heino from the City of Helsinki.

The results of the profile study and service design has now been utilised to develop the product range offered to the cruise guests.

A 2011 study conducted by Port of Helsinki shows that 96 per cent of the travellers disembark in Helsinki, which means that the attractiveness of the city as a cruise route object of the Baltic Sea is excellent. This year, Helsinki welcomes 390,000 cruise guests.

Further information

Image: Noora Heino / Visit Helsinki Material Bank

Baltic Sea region leaders and experts meet in June in Turku

The wide-ranging programme of the Turku Baltic Sea Days 2014 is complete.

Finland and Turku are, during the first week of June, the focus of the Baltic Sea region’s strategic, economic, and political discussions, as Turku hosts the joint 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit and the 5th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region 3–4 June 2014. Among the high level speakers is Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.

Other speakers include Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori, Finnish Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb, Finnish Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn, BDF chairman Lene Espersen, CEO of Siemens Finland Janne Öhman, CEO of Bayer Nordic Oliver Rittgen, Principal Associate of Harvard Business School Christian Ketels, and Global Chief Economist of Nordea Helge Pedersen.

The joint event is part of the Turku Baltic Sea Days 2014 series of events, and is the biggest conference of the year devoted to Baltic Sea issues in the Baltic Sea region. The event will explore how to improve cooperation within the Baltic Sea region, with the theme “Growing Together – For a prosperous, inclusive and connected Baltic Sea Region”. Up to thousand Baltic Sea region experts, high level political decision-makers, and leaders of political and economic life will gather to explore this issue.

For the first time gathered in Turku, alongside the 16th Baltic Development Forum (BDF) and the 5th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the XII Baltic Sea NGO Forum will also be held during the same week, in the same city. Additionally, many other conferences and seminars will also be held in Turku, such as the Baltic Sea Forum of Centrum Balticum – a Turku based think tank – and the Baltic Sea Health Summit.

See the full program and further details of the events at

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