Students visit Sweden to learn about human resource management

June 27, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While taking the course LER 497F (HPA 497D/F) Human Resource Management: The Swedish Experience, students traveled to Sweden for 10 days. During their time abroad, students from the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Health and Human Development were able to learn about human resource management from university scholars and at a number of companies, including Volvo and IKEA.

Students explored the country’s traditions of human resource management, visited local organizations in Jönköping and Stockholm, and met with Jönköping faculty, students and local employers. They found the country to be an ideal setting in which to study the subject because Sweden’s social welfare society stands in contrast to many of the approaches taken to human resource management in the United States.

“This was an amazing learning experience for both students and professors alike, giving us the opportunity to experience firsthand a different culture, the human resource management practices of organizations in Sweden, and to learn about the health care system. As well as the in-country experience, we were all able to learn from each other from our different academic disciplines,” said Elaine Farndale, associate professor of human resource management in the College of the Liberal Arts.

While visiting IKEA, the class met with human resource representatives who talked about the company’s current management structure, their future expansions, and employer-employee relationships within the company.

“An overwhelming trend at every organization we have visited, including IKEA, is the corporate focus on employee wellness. For the health policy and administration majors, this trend is fascinating, as it is not regularly observed in the U.S.,” said Lauren Baskett, a graduate student in the School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Junior labor and employment relations major Madison Slupe also enjoyed getting to visit Volvo’s headquarters.

“Volvo was a great company to visit for many reasons. Because it is a global company that relies heavily on the different HR roles to keep Volvo operating, we were able to really grasp the importance of human resource management and its presence in an organization,” she said.

Midway through the trip, students reflected on their experiences up until that point and presented in pairs to a small group of Swedish professors, students and human resource managers.

Diane Spokus, senior instructor and associate director of undergraduate professional development in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development, believed the course was an excellent opportunity for students to experience a global perspective on human resource management practices.

“The students were able to listen to professors at the Swedish universities discuss their research, and most importantly, the students were then able to translate that information into real life experiences at Volvo, Husqvarna and the Board of Agriculture,” she said. “As a result, our students now have a better perspective on the challenges and opportunities of human resource management, which is pertinent in all industry clusters.”

After arriving back on campus, the students prepared final video presentations that emphasized how valuable they found the experience, reinforcing what they were able to witness in Sweden.

“We have all said over and over that we have learned more from these 10 days than some whole semesters in the classroom,” said Laura Farrell, a labor and employment relations senior. “I feel like we are taking with us so much information and by learning about what HR and health care is like in Sweden, we are better able to understand our own practices and the presence of HR and health care in the United States.”

To learn more about Human Resource Management: The Swedish Experience and to read students’ journal entries from the trip, visit

  • Students at the Board of Agriculture

    Students meet with human resource professionals at the Board of Agriculture in Sweden.

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Students meet with faculty at the University of Gothenburg

    Students meet with faculty at the University of Gothenburg.

    IMAGE: Penn State
(1 of 2)

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 28, 2016