First the oil crisis, and later the pandemic: the economic landscape in Norway has experienced some drastic changes in recent years. Traditionally, the oil and gas industry has dominated the market, but there is a noticeable shift towards renewable energy, says Grete Christoffersen, CEO of InterSearch Norway in Stavanger. Her company has been preparing for this development and has been focusing heavily on the renewables sector since 2018. “This was much earlier than many other companies,” Christoffersen says. The oil crisis hit the industry in Stavanger particularly hard, but skyrocketing oil prices are currently leading to a boom and increased demand for personnel”. Nonetheless, Christoffersen warns against an overly optimistic outlook, “It is rather impossible to predict how the situation will develop in the current volatile market. It is important for companies to position themselves broadly and to watch the markets closely in order to be able to adapt quickly. We assume that pressure in the energy sector will continue to increase toward renewable energies”.
Security and discretion are essential to the oil industry
Christoffersen, who earned her stripes at European oil giant Schlumberger, is uniquely well-positioned to contrast the business in Norway with the rest of Europe. “The oil and gas industries are extremely focused on security and privacy – which in turn critically impacts HR,” she says. While discretion has always been essential to recruiting, it can be especially challenging in a country where seemingly everyone knows one another. “Before the pandemic, we could never schedule back-to-back meetings because of the risk of candidates running into each other in our offices.” As a particularly extreme example, Christoffersen cites a personnel search in which one of the candidates happened to provide one of the other candidates as a reference.
A country of small, informal networks
“Norway is a unique case because the population is so small, and the networks are even closer than in other European countries. All the important people are mostly just two contacts away on LinkedIn,” Christoffersen explains. Overall, interactions in Norway are much less formal, making it easier to get in touch with suitable candidates. “You do not have to communicate through assistants first, but have a direct line to the talent,” says Christoffersen. On the other hand, a large part of executive search in Norway consists of more standardized processes and tests than in other countries due to the focus on efficiency. The reasons for this are the high cost of living and salary levels.
Executive search is still maturing in Norway
Christoffersen describes InterSearch Norway’s approach as a mix of executive search and traditional recruiting. “It is a rare occurrence that we publish job ads, and we are mostly looking for C-level talents. Occasionally, we also look for other specialized personnel with the relevant technical know-how for the energy industry, specially,” she says.
Salary structures within companies are more balanced than in other European countries, hence Top managers do not have the same salary level as in the rest of Europe. “Executive search has only been on the radar in Norway for 30 years, so it is still a relatively new concept compared to other countries in Europe,” explains Christoffersen.
“Janteloven” and other cultural challenges
Another Norwegian particularity is the so-called “Janteloven” – the law of Jante. This social code not only influences interpersonal interactions, but also has an impact on the working environment. Christoffersen explains it as follows: “In Norway, there is a strict belief that no one is fundamentally better than someone else. This also leads companies to believe that they themselves are just as qualified to recruit management personnel as executive search firms.” However, many clients end up getting in touch with InterSearch Norway after being unsuccessful in their own search efforts.
“It can be difficult to convince talented candidates to move within Norway. Especially in the oil business. Norwegians are closely connected to their communities and do not like to move away from them,” Christoffersen explains. She also has a extensive experience in the relocation business. “The most difficult thing is to recruit Norwegians for positions abroad,” she says. In most of these cases, monetary incentives are the method of choice.
InterSearch partners collaborate on international searches
“Norway has a low unemployment rate and currently we have a high demand for special competencies that we have not yet trained or do not have enough of in Norway,” says Christoffersen. “We have critical needs of competent talents within IT, technology, digitalization, industry and energy.”
Norway is rapidly developing towards sustainable and green energy. This is one of the areas where InterSearch Norway benefits from the cooperation with the international InterSearch network. Together with colleagues from China, they recently recruited Chinese experts for a Norwegian battery company. Christoffersen assures: “The international network is an excellent selling point – not only for expertise in the renewable energy sector”.
Norway in figures
- GDP: USD 445.5 billion
- Economic growth: approx. 3 % compared to the previous year
- Per capita annual income: approx. 82,244 USD
- Inflation rate: approx. 2.6 % compared to the previous year
- Unemployment rate: 4.3 %
- Labor force participation rate: 60.8
- Employees in the service sector: approx. 78.9 %
Source: Statista, Destatis 2020/21