There was hardly an empty seat when Norec and its close partners hosted a breakfast meeting on diversity as a strength. They have already organised a new seminar.

– Diversity is extremely important for all of society. We need to take advantage of the capabilities and resources of everyone. We too often think in terms of old traditions and it is far too easy to get stuck in patterns, says the Deputy Mayor of Sunnfjord municipality, Anne Lilleaasen.

She was one of the around 60 participants when the Norwegian Agency for Exchange Cooperation (Norec), United World College (UWC), IT Forum West and Framtidsfylket, an organisation devoted to recruiting and retaining expertise and jobs in Western Norway, hosted a breakfast meeting and seminar devoted to using diversity as a strength.

– It was very informative to hear how the other participants actively recruit diverse candidates. We need experts who know more about recruiting diversity. Thankfully, both Norec and UWC have that knowledge,” says Lilleaasen.

Taking new knowledge back to the workplace

– Personally, what I found most useful was learning about the focus that is required to create diversity – and the strength it provides. You need to have different perspectives to create something together. That is a learning I will be taking with me back to the workplace, says Åge Stafsnes, Head of Municipal School Affairs in the municipality of Sunnfjord.

He believes there is still work to be done when it comes to diversity among municipal employees.

– The municipality of Sunnfjord is a large organisation with 2,000 employees working in a wide range of service areas. In my sector, schools and kindergartens, there is considerable diversity when it comes to students, but not as much among employees. That’s something we need to work on, says Stafsnes.

Perspectives from a wide range of disciplines

Thanks to a varied programme with a broad spectrum of topics, the participants were inspired by various perspectives on diversity.

The United World College in Fjaler is a boarding school located in Flekke with 200 students from over 90 different countries and 67 employees from 25 countries.

– We devote considerable effort to clarifying expectations and talking about misunderstandings. It is important to create arenas and meeting places that offer an opportunity to talk about challenges and difficult situations, says Leonora Laukeland Kleiven.

Daniel Toa-Kwapong has taught at the UWC for 27 years and shared his experiences with how great ideas and projects can emerge through cross-team collaboration and using diversity as a strength.


Deliberate commitment required

Øystein Garfors, Head of Section – Training at Norec, outlined how Norec approaches diversity when training participants and partners.

Director of Programmes Margunn Indrebø Alshaikh at Norec pointed out that recruiting diverse candidates in an organisation requires a deliberate commitment before, during and after the actual hiring.

– We need to think critically about ourselves on all levels, from the job announcement and interview to the interview questions and expectations, says the Director of Programmes at Norec Margunn Indrebø Alshaikh.

She believes that even after the candidate is hired, there is still important work to be done.

– How new employees are welcomed and included is important. In many cases, new employees cannot be expected to be operational from their first day on the job. For many, there is a lot that needs to be addressed first, especially outside the workplace. They also need to figure out the office culture, says Alshaikh.

A new employee has a lot of unspoken rules to learn, and this takes time.

– It’s important to have someone to help them navigate through this and to give them time to familiarise themselves with the system. That requires tolerance and generosity, adds Alshaikh.

Where are the women?

During the seminar, attention was also devoted to the significant lack of gender diversity in the IT and technology sector. Anne Mette Hjelle from IT Forum West talked about the importance of having female role models in the IT sector and referred to research by the senior researcher at the Western Norway Research Institute, Hilde G. Corneliussen.

– The IT sector has little diversity and Norway is not particularly good at attracting women to the technology sector. Many believe that girls are not interested in technology, but we know that this is not true, says Corneliussen.

She points out that everyone shrugs off responsibility, whether in primary school, lower and secondary school or higher up in the educational system, by saying, “We can’t do anything about it”.

– But they’re wrong. Everyone can do something. Offer them female role models and develop more awareness. When companies are invited to speak at a school, be conscious about who does the talking, adds Corneliussen.

Focus on diversity at Tibber from day one

The fully digital energy company Tibber has grown in record time since its establishment in 2016 and currently has 380 employees from 44 different countries and offices in five countries. For Tibber, it was only natural to be committed to diversity from day one,” says the country manager at Tibber, Elisabet Kjerstad Bøe.

– We are fully aware that diversity is complex and always have diversity in mind when hiring new people. We devote considerable effort to our job announcements and how we express ourselves in to attract diverse candidates, says Bøe.

In addition, all staff members involved in recruitment at Tibber undergo special training on how to avoid certain pitfalls.

– It is important that the persons who are doing the hiring do not slip into the habit of hiring candidates who are similar to themselves, says Bøe.