International Talent Retention: Empirical Field Study at Copenhagen Business School

Davide Aterini & Zita Guldhammer Wolff

Student thesis: Master thesis


Background Problem – Current statistics show that 42% of international graduates from Englishtaught master programmes in Denmark leave the country within two years of completing their studies. Amongst those who remain (58%), only about a third stay in the Danish labour market in the two consequent years after graduation. Consequently, this represents a huge expense to Danish society and economy. However, studies from the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science suggest that on average after nine years of full-time work in the country, international graduates would have earned back their educational costs to the Danish State. Copenhagen Business School (CBS), which is the first business school in Denmark with the second largest number of enrolled university students, boasts one of the highest intakes of international students in the country, but unfortunately also the highest international graduate unemployment rate amongst Danish universities. For these reasons, CBS’ current challenge is to find out how to encourage more graduates to stay and work in Denmark after graduation and how to increase their employment rate. (Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2018). Purpose – This study investigates the viability, according to international students’ point of view, of the CBS emerging strategy named “Career Destination: Denmark 2018-22” (CBS’ International Talent Retention Strategy) whose strategic goal is to impact the retention and employment rate of CBS’ international graduates in Denmark: Increase the number of international CBS graduates who gets a job in Denmark (from 23% to 33%). This study seeks to discover potential alignments or misalignments between CBS main strategic objectives and international students’ perceived needs of the employability challenge. In addition, this research will point out which CBS Career-Enhancing Initiatives, according to international students’, are most viable to implement. Understanding these connections should enable CBS to tailor their strategy and to communicative it effectively to all relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, the implications of our analysis will provide a set of recommendations to help CBS Management in tailoring their initiatives and efforts of their international retention strategy in order to help reach their strategic goals. © Davide Aterini and Zita Guldhammer Wolff 2 Method – Through the conduction of initial research in the form of exploratory interviews with two CBS employees, it allowed us to gain an insight into CBS’ International Talent Retention Strategy’s goals and main strategy objectives. Further, these insights combined with a qualitative content analysis of documents related to CBS’ strategy, allowed us to identify three main themes (Evaluation of CBS Career-Enhancing Initiatives, Motivation attitudes/statements and Experienced Struggles while living in Denmark). These were incorporated into an online survey and based on an examination of the survey findings, we identified the most interesting areas of student’s answers to further investigate. This was done through nine qualitative in-depth interviews where an analysis of their sensemaking processes related to the identified themes based on Weick and Salincik and Pfeffer’s Sensemaking theories allowed us to identify student’s perceived needs. Compared to CBS’ strategy’s main objectives, we identified the degree of alignment between the two. The alignment findings allowed us to identify which CBS Career Enhancing Initiatives that according to the students were most viable to implement. Findings – We identified three objectives of the CBS International Talent Retention Strategy, related to social integration, student jobs and language skills. Furthermore, we identified four perceived student needs related to student jobs, connection with companies, in-depth guidance and targeted communication. These needs were compared to CBS strategy’s main objectives and the degree of alignment in between them identified. Furthermore, we identified three current career initiatives (Career workshops, CBS CareerGate, Free career open counselling) and four future career initiatives (Mandatory internship, Collaboration with companies, CBS Mentor Programme, Getting information early in the master degree), which according to international students were the most viable to implement. Conclusion – This thesis has identified some CBS career initiatives that are relevant, viable and aligned with the students’ expectations and perceptions of the employability challenge. The analysis of students’ responses gathered has identified opportunity gaps to pursue. The findings should be taken into consideration by CBS so the right resources and efforts are allocated to the initiatives that have the greatest potential. The results may contribute, in the future, to encourage more international students to stay and work in Denmark after graduatio

EducationsMaster of Business, Language and Culture, Intercultural Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages122
SupervisorsErik Caparros Højbjerg