One of the four biggest challenges for HR managers in medium-sized companies is the task of finding and developing talent. Given the much-discussed shortage of skilled workers, this is not surprising. Around three quarters of the 323 companies surveyed stated that recruiting qualified employees will be the focus of HR work in the next three to five years, according to the magazine Heap . In addition to Haufe, many other magazines speak of a shortage of skilled workers in medium-sized companies.

What actually is a shortage of skilled workers?

Wikipedia says: As Skilled workers shortage This describes the state of an economy in which a significant number of jobs cannot be filled for employees with certain skills because there are no suitably qualified employees (skilled workers) available on the labor market. So is there currently a shortage of skilled workers in medium-sized companies?

No shortage of young professionals

If you look at current studies, there is actually a shortage of skilled workers in medium-sized companies not among young professionals, but especially in the senior sector. Also places like Big data experts and Industry 4.0 Experts, which are increasingly new professions, cannot be filled because there are simply not enough people.
It is also clear that companies like to hire people who can be deployed directly to the customer because they have already worked there. Training costs a lot of energy and money and companies are happy to forego these costs.
The example of consulting companies shows this quite clearly: the company’s major customer always has a need for new consultants. That means that every qualified consultant finds a place there immediately; which means that these companies hire for the whole year as soon as a good candidate applies.

Traditional HR under fire – skills shortage in medium-sized companies

The shortage of skilled workers in medium-sized companies costs according to the BVMW around 33 billion euros in lost sales or unrealized sales annually. Medium-sized companies react to this with a sustainable personnel strategy: The most important HR policy issue at the moment is to retain good employees. 63 percent of companies attach great or very great importance to employee loyalty. Preventing employee turnover even has a higher priority than recruiting new employees: At 45 percent, recruiting is only the fifth most important topic in medium-sized HR departments (source BVMW ).

How applicants are ripping off HR

In the Haufe magazine Prof. Dr. Kanning in his column : “How applicants rubbish HR” examines what actually happens in job interviews.

In many companies, the selection of personnel has the character of a stage play in which the advisory literature provides the script: the applicant knows what information to convey in his cover letter – exceptional suitability, high motivation, enthusiasm for a unique employer – and the company believes in to be able to recognize a good candidate from such a cover letter (source Prof. Dr. Kanning)

It shows that applicants are very well prepared for standard processes and know exactly what companies want to hear. As a result, the same processes are carried out over and over again, which always lead to the same candidates. He sums it up well with the following quote:

In the assessment center there is almost certainly a group discussion and all applicants scratch their hooves to be the first to run to the flipchart and structure the meeting.

Recommended action for agile HR: authentic and honest

This article got me thinking. If you look into the Brand one, you can find in the current special task “Consulting “the following: Who would have thought? Entire generations of HR professionals conjured up people; They observed and marveled at him, measured and weighed him, rewarded and punished him, placed him at the center of all their efforts – and in the end saw him more as a troublemaker than the focus. And now that we’re all just talking about technology, digitization, artificial intelligence, new tools and transformations, now of all times people have come back into focus. And this time we can’t get past him.
Especially the work in consulting and in medium-sized companies is based on people and a medium-sized company can often not offer as much in terms of money as a large corporation. I often had conversations with companies myself, and the same thing was kept coming back to me: exciting projects, well-known customers, great colleagues and short decision-making paths. After about 10 conversations, I asked myself: When will something new come? The tenor around me is also similar:

The jobs are all kind of the same. You are somewhere in IT, you are put to a customer all year round and you work there. Then you see each other again for the Christmas party. I don’t really care whether it’s company X or Y (respondent in the course of the article).

Application process vs. a casual conversation

However, one day I met companies that were different. Somehow more unprofessional, but authentic and honest. The interviews were more like a cup of coffee and an exchange of hobbies. The reason was: The tasks are so diverse that it is important what the applicant is willing to learn and how motivated he is. In practice, the current skills were mostly of secondary importance in the long term.

Work with us! We are flexible!

The arguments why you should work here were also different: They were companies that argued not with customers or teams, but with flexible work, home office and the compatibility of side projects and long trips. There was increasing internal attempt to renegotiate contracts with customers in order to provide a more agile environment.

Offer applicants added value

I think such behavior can be described as agile HR. An HR that understands the applicants of Generation X, Y, Z. What does he really want? Does he really want to travel in great planes with the Samsonite suitcase or does he just want to work one day in the home office every Friday? Medium-sized companies should reflect on values and try out concepts such as “Bring your own device”. You do not believe that a main argument for many of my respondents was to work on a Macbook instead of Windows.

Many service providers per customer

It’s about understanding the applicant and really offering them added value, why they should work for this medium-sized company. Many companies have their employees work for a large customer. However, this also includes many other service providers to which the employee can quickly switch and sometimes do the same job for more money. Agile HR must therefore find individual arguments that speak for its own company.

Tips for a more agile HR

I would like to conclude this article with some tips from Prof. Dr. Kanning, which go in a similar direction underpin. Companies can establish more agile HR, …

  • … by realizing that compliance with formal standards when examining application documents says next to nothing about the suitability of an applicant;
  • … by not asking pre-cut questions in the interview, but specifically addressing the requirements of the respective job;
  • … by simulating real work situations in the assessment center and working with job-specific evaluation criteria and
  • by no longer believing that they can intuitively recognize the right candidate even in poor selection processes.

In an article on Business insider Finally, I also found a nice quote. The author is frustrated that it is difficult for young professionals to find a job because they are always looking for long professional experience or high performers. She writes at the end of her post:

Be realistic at last! Invest in people who would like to work for you, pay them decently and you will get loyal, adaptive employees who will not go to the competition at the next better opportunity, but who are genuinely interested in learning from you and growing with you (Julia von Pidoll).

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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