Thomas Bernt Henriksen, cand.polit., debatredaktør

ISS: We run an integration machine
Opinion Af , ,
KRONIK - At the moment thousands of people have been forced to leave their native countries due to war or difficult economic conditions. Families are seeking to other countries where they can be safe and build a new life. The situation is a big challenge for the European countries including Denmark. And our track record in terms of integrating refugees into our society has not been impressive, so far. Hence, an article published in this newspaper on December 11th showed that immigrants without jobs cost Denmark 11 billion each year. Something needs to be done. And we all have to take part in finding a solution while helping and treating people with respect.

Based on decades of experience we, in ISS, know that the best way to integrate refugees and immigrants is by giving them a job. We can with certainty say, that good and fast integration IS possible.

Integration is integrated in our daily business


Our Group CEO Jeff Gravenhorst has previously stated: “Actually ISS is a bit of an integration machine - aside from creating economic activity, creating jobs and paying taxes - our efforts to integrate diverse employees into firstly the labour market and secondly to the overall society is probably one of our most important positive impacts on the communities where we do business”.

As implicitly stated in the quote, integration is not a special activity we do on the side of our everyday business activities. On the contrary, we make sure that diversity and integration in ISS is part of the same strategies and principles as the rest of the business is governed by.

Following this logic, we know that having a diverse group of employees has a positive impact on our bottom line. This is documented by a study we conducted together with Pwc, where the main conclusion was that the diverse teams in ISS have 3.7 percentage point higher profitability compared to non-diverse teams.

Turn people into assets instead of liabilities

Another positive business impact from diversity and integration is an increased talent pool. This is vital, not least in these years, where all projections say that the projected increase in economic growth will lead to a situation with scarce labour resources. As a true ”people company” this can potentially have a catastrophic impact on us. Hence, we are aware of keeping us attractive for employees and we know for certain that giving people an extra chance in life gives us loyal and engaged employees in return.

We strongly believe that other companies and organisations could harvest the same benefits from diversity and integration as we do. Naturally, this would have a positive economic impact on Denmark as a society. Being able to integrate more refugees and immigrants into the Danish labor market and in society in general would turn a lot of people into assets instead of liabilities and accordingly become a better ‘business case’ for Denmark.

Integration is a social responsibility

As an employer and as a "citizen" it is expected of us that we take a social responsibility. We consider this as a natural part of running a business. The current refugee situation demands that we all take responsibility.

Therefore, we recently announced that ISS would offer traineeships or other types of employment to 100 refugees – either within ISS or within one of the companies in our extensive network consisting of more than 1000 companies. We do this in close collaboration with 32 public job centers and we are on our way to fulfilling our promise. Again, this is something we are capable of doing as it is part of our everyday business. Hence, in the past year 1600 unemployed people went through our Job Development department - many of which are now able to provide for themselves and their families.

Engagement and attitude matters

So, why do we do this besides of all the business related benefits already mentioned above? We do so, because we know there is a correlation between employee engagement, satisfied customers and profitability. Now, just imagine the engagement you can get from a person who has been given the opportunity to get back into the labor market after being involuntary unemployed. It is significant. And again: it is related to our business.

Having the capability, motivation to learn, and the right attitude are some of the skills we are looking for when hiring employees in ISS. It is our experience, that we can relatively easy improve other skills such as language, service behavior, and more generally, how to do a good job. Accordingly, factors such as ethnic background or history are irrelevant – what matters the most is attitude, engagement and willpower.


ISS' 7500 employees in Denmark come from 124 different countries and 50 % of the employees are of another ethnic background than Danish. 

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Thomas Bernt Henriksen, debatredaktør

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