The Story behind “280 Talent Group” – best practices in Diversity & Inclusion

In late autumn of 2018, a new venture was created jointly by Talentia – InterSearch Sweden and Qsearch, another Swedish search firm. We decided to call the new venture “280 Talent Group”, inspired by the year the ancient library in Alexandria was founded.

However, 280 would not have existed without a serendipitous meeting with the ambitious and impressive Rana Barghouth. Fleeing the war in Syria, Rana moved to Sweden in 2015 together with her family. She was looking forward to residing in a safe country, resuming her career and seeing her children grow up in a sound environment. At the same time, she was aware of the daunting challenge of restarting her life, socially and professionally, in a new society.

In Syria, Rana had worked in HR at a large multinational telecom company for over 10 years. She also had a degree in Business Administration. Unsurprisingly, she was keen on making use of her skills set and experiences in Sweden as soon as she could.

Rana understood that one of the most important keys to succeeding with this ambition was learning Swedish. Although she identified some international companies that used English as a working language, she didn’t want to limit her career opportunities to English-speaking jobs. Her ambition was to be able to fully participate in society.

Consequently, Rana studied Swedish while embarking on the Executive Education program RAMP: Rapid Acceleration Management Program at the Stockholm School of Economics (the most prestigious Business School in Sweden). In connection to this, she managed to land an internship at the law firm Delphi, where she worked in HR.

We’ve now arrived at the point in time for the lucky encounter between Rana, Talentia and Qsearch. Over the course of a few promising meetings with Rana, who was in the process of searching for her next step in her career, the idea of “280” was born. From Talentia’s and Qsearch’s perspective, it was clear that Rana was the right person to help develop both companies’ services in the D&I area. Together with her professional experience, educational background and language skills, Rana’s remarkable drive was what made her stand out of the crowd.

The goal of 280 reflects Rana’s attitude when she moved to Sweden – an integrated approach of working with diversity through recruitment. The focus is to help companies broaden their search area and find candidates who otherwise might not have ended up on their radar. What we all saw was that there was an opportunity to contribute to integration and help more individuals realise their potential, in the context of a service that our clients recognize and are willing to pay for.

We all agreed that there was a growing market for D&I-driven services. As in many other countries, in Sweden it’s partly driven by a skills shortage in many industries (especially engineering), and too few efficient means for companies to source qualified and talented individuals with minority backgrounds.

Together, we have identified some barriers that we seek to overcome through 280 – the barriers that stop talented individuals with the right qualifications from realising their potential in relevant positions. We’ve made an effort to understand our candidates’ and recruiting managers’ pain points and observed how the lack of knowledge and awareness in a number of areas can create roadblocks. As a team, we have tools for translating expectations and knowledge in both directions, thus contributing to improved communication and between candidates and potential employers. Examples for a candidate may be learning to decipher informal codes from the phase of applying for a job, to understanding how culture affects decision making processes while at a job. For employers, it is valuable to learn to discern between different types of universities or firms in Damascus – what are their profiles and how does this affect what a candidate brings to the table? Being able to understand context helps employers identify potential in a much more effective way.

Another challenge overcome is that many employers have an – in our opinion – unmotivated requirement for candidates to be fluent in Swedish. Employers need to more carefully evaluate the level of language skills necessary to be successful across different types of jobs. Most would agree that Design engineers are less dependent on communicating in fluent Swedish than Change managers are – but this isn’t reflected in the job market.

To date, Rana has mapped out other D&I initiatives, provided access to new talent sourcing channels, paved the way for several strategic collaborations and contributed to several exciting recruitments.

All of us behind 280 are passionate about making a significant difference on the job market and helping to close the gap between unrealised talents and employers. For more information, please visit .

* The library is believed to have been the first multilingual library, and was at the time a leading knowledge center. On the same theme, we believe that smart organizations are taking advantage of new approaches and new knowledge.

Geraldine von Celsing is a partner at Talentia AB – InterSearch Sweden currently managing Talentia’s accounts within Tech & Startups, Real Estate & Construction and Finance. A tech aficionado, she leads several of the firms’ digitization projects.

Geraldine is the North+West Europe & MEA Regional Leader of the InterSearch Diversity & Inclusion Practice.  She was earlier a board member of Swedish non-profit SE-Forum (Social Entrepreneurship Forum), which addresses global social challenges through entrepreneurship.

The InterSearch global network of Executive Search Partners involved with the Diversity & Inclusion Practice have extensive experience recruiting in an increasingly complex and diverse business community and are also committed to implementing this within their own organizations.

InterSearch Sweden, Sweden, Talentia AB

The Story behind “280 Talent Group” – best practices in Diversity & Inclusion

4 min

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