I am a spouse! I am a foreigner! I am an international talent! I am the Hidden Gems Project Coordinator! Yes, I am a MAMU and I am proud to be!
My name is Karelle Bélanger and I moved to Finland over five years ago following my heart and my husband to Finland. I left my career, my family, my friends, my country for this far north unknown Finland. I soon faced the cold Finnish reality of differences such as the language, the communication practices, the values and the traditions. I was disoriented!
Although I felt lonely in my integration to Finland, I am not an isolated case. In today’s world, migration of citizens within a country or outside of the geographical borders is a common reality. In order to stay competitive, companies need to seek for talents from abroad. It is even more relevant, in a small country like Finland where growth is easily threatened by talent shortage. Immigration trend in Finland has rapidly increased since 1990.
Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves as the share of people with foreign background has risen from 0, 8% in 1990 to 5, 4% in 2014. In addition, the amount of foreign language speakers in 2016 reached 350 000 which represents 6.4% of the Finnish total population (Statistic Finland, 2015). A survey on work and well-being among person of foreign background in Finland also reveals that up to 40% of the foreigners aged between 25 to 54 years has completed a tertiary level of education. These talents are often attracted from abroad to conduct an international assignment and 80 percent of today’s expatriates relocate with their spouse or partner (Brookfield Global Relocation Services, 2015).
By employing International talents as a broad concept, we refer to highly skilled immigrants or Finnish returnees with international experience and expertise as well as networks that can generate added value for Finnish business and industry.
When relocating, spouses are often falling under the radar or organizational support, while they genuinely need the most psychological and career care. As opposition, currently companies provide support to the foreign worker to create a continuity from the home country to the host county, the children keep their routine by going to school or daycare, while spouses are left immersed in the host environment without resources. Actually, research tells us that successful expatriate assignments has been found highly correlated to the spouse adjustment in their new settings. Therefore, in order to retain highly skilled international talents in Finland, we must tackle this issue.
When speaking about talent retention we must overlook the concept of adaptation as a central key to keep talents in Finland. According to Young Yun Kim (2001) the adaptation process is “the entirety of the phenomenon of individuals who, upon relocating to an unfamiliar sociocultural environment, strive to establish and maintain a relatively stable, reciprocal, and functional relationship with the environment” (p. 31). At the core of this cross-cultural adaptation process is the idea of “overall fitness” between the individual and the host environment to maximize one’s social life chances (p. 31). In other words, if we want to retain our highly skilled talents in Finland, they must adapt to the Finnish society.
This is where Hidden Gems project takes all its sense. The aim of the project is to facilitate the employment of international researcher’s spouses in the Finnish economy and support the growth and internationalization of local SMEs. We commit to provide networking, mentoring and professional development by empowering spouses in the Finnish community. Hidden Gems is the FIRST initiative to support trailing spouses in Finland and is coordinated by Tampere3 universities. As part of the Talent Boost agenda of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Hidden Gems is aiming to reduce unemployment, attract and retain talents to our beautiful Finland.
We will have two pilot groups of 20 international researchers’ spouses starting respectively in September 2018 and January 2019.
Once and for all, let’s embrace diversity and recognize the power of Spouses!
Hidden Gems project coordinator