Photo: Filip Agnihotri/Fieldwork
Lerøy Norway Seafoods in Melbu is one of the best employees in Norway in terms of integration! Now the factory has been voted Diversity Business of the Year 2021.
Earlier this year it won the diversity prize for the county of Nordland, but now it has also been named Diversity Business of the Year. The prize was awarded at the Directorate of Integration and Diversity’s annual conference on 19 November.
Staff at the Melbu factory were not expecting to win any of these prizes, but they see it as confirmation that they are getting a lot of things right with integration, both consciously and subconsciously.
Of around 120 employees who work at the factory, almost 70 percent have an immigrant background. Apart from Norway, they come from countries like Thailand, Somalia, Lithuania, Russia, Spain, Finland, Myanmar, Bosnia, Poland, Turkey, Sri-Lanka, Eritrea, Syria, Peru, Iran, Italy, Sweden, Colombia, Montenegro and Albania.
“Lerøy Norway Seafoods Melbu demonstrates that diversity is a great strength. I am really impressed with, and proud of, their focus and the results they’ve achieved. They deserve this prize. Congratulations!” says Henning Beltestad, CEO of the Lerøy Seafood Group.
Leading the way
Most of the team leaders at the factory are not from Norway, and the managers want to make sure that all employees are given equal opportunities, including to take trade certificates.
“If we invest in getting people to stay and encourage them to do vocational training that makes them better at their jobs, then we can improve”, says Jørn-Åge.
In the spring, 15 workers will take a trade certificate and almost half of them have already begun a special Norwegian course. The factory’s management team has organised the extra lessons with a private teacher, to make sure that the employees know enough Norwegian to complete their vocational training.
“You don’t get an opportunity like this in many other places. Not many companies offer and arrange special language lessons to help staff get a trade certificate. It’s probably the thing we do that I’m most proud of – that we give everyone that opportunity,” says Jørn-Åge.
The factory also organises normal Norwegian classes, and when the results of the employee satisfaction survey were published, they were translated so that everyone could read them in their preferred language.
Production Manager Mariann Hartvigsen, who has worked at the factory for 30 years, thinks the factory manager deserves credit for his attitude towards the staff.
“He is genuinely interested in every single person who works here. He is often down in the production hall talking to people; he cares about and notices the workers. I think that’s a really important ingredient in our success”, says Mariann.
Getting to know the employees was something that Jørn-Åge consciously decided to do when he got the job. He didn’t just want to learn their names, he wanted to find out who they were, where they lived and what their backgrounds were.
He believes in the importance of managers knowing their employees, which is something that comes naturally to the whole management team at the Melbu factory. However, he doesn’t hide the fact that it can sometimes be challenging, because there are lots of employees, and you don’t meet all of them every day.
“I think that if we ever start referring to people as ‘that lot’ or ‘the guy over there who …’ without using their names, we will have dropped a level”, he says.
Asylum centre in the village centre
In Melbu, there’s an asylum centre in the village centre. Jørn-Åge and Mariann believe that few places are as good as Melbu at integrating people.
“We need every person who lives here and we need everyone on board”, says Mariann.
“In Melbu we think it’s very important to take care of the people who come here”, adds Jørn-Åge.
The factory in Melbu is practically the lifeblood of the community. Its great importance to the local area means that the management feel a special responsibility for integration, and they have shown that they are very good at it.
On behalf of the whole of Lerøy, we wish to congratulate the Melbu factory for this well-deserved prize!