One of the four biggest challenges for middle-class personnel is the task of finding and developing talent. Against the background of the much-discussed shortage of skilled workers, this is not surprising. Around three-quarters of the 323 companies surveyed say that recruiting qualified staff will be the focus of human resources over the next three to five years, according to Haufemagazine . In addition to Haufe, many other magazines speak of a shortage of skilled workers in small and medium-sized enterprises.

What is a shortage of skilled workers?

Wikipedia says: A shortage of skilled workers refers to 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 labour market. So is there currently a shortage of skilled workers in small and medium-sized enterprises?

No shortage of newcomers to the profession

If you look at current studies, the shortage of skilled workers in small and medium-sized enterprises does not actually exist for newcomers to the profession, but especially in the field of seniors. Even jobs such as 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 used directly at the customer because they have already worked there. An induction costs a lot of energy and money and companies like to do without these costs.

This is quite clear from the example of consulting companies: the company’s major customer always has a need for new consultants. This means that every qualified consultant is immediately accommodated there; which means that these companies will stop all year soon as a good candidate applies.

Traditional HR in Criticism – Skills Shortage in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

According to the BVMW, the shortage of skilled workers in small and medium-sized enterprises costs around 33 billion euros per year in lost sales or unrealized sales. Small and medium-sized enterprises are responding with a sustainable personnel strategy: For example, the most important personnel policy issue at the moment is to retain good employees. Sixty-three percent of companies attach great or very important importance to employee retention. Preventing the turnover of one’s own employees even has a higher priority than recruiting new employees: Recruiting is only the fifth most important topic in medium-sized hr departments (source BVMW).

How applicants pull HR over the table

In his column : “How applicants pull HR over the table” in the magazine Haufe, Prof. Dr. Kanningexamined what actually happens in job interviews.

In many companies, the selection of personnel has the character of a stage play in which the guide book provides the script: the applicant knows what information he has to provide in his cover letter – exceptional aptitude, high motivation, enthusiasm for a unique employer – and the company believes that he can recognize a good candidate in exactly 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 lead to the same candidates. He sums this up well with the following quote:

In the Assessment Center, a group discussion almost certainly appears and all candidates scurry with their hooves to be the first to run to the flipchart and structure the session.

Recommendation for action for an Agile HR: authentic and honest

This article made me think. If you look into the brand one, you will find the following in the current special task “Consulting”: Who would have thought that? Whole generations of personnel have invoked man; they have observed and marvelled at him, measured and weighed him, rewarded and punished him, put him at the center of all their efforts – and in the end they perceived him more as a troublemaker than as a center. And now that we are all just talking about technology, about digitization, artificial intelligence, new tools and transformations, now is the place of attention again. And this time we can’t get past him.

Especially the work in consulting and small and medium-sized enterprises is built on people and a medium-sized company can often not offer as much in monetary terms as a large corporation. I often had conversations with companies myself and the same thing was sent to me over and over again: exciting projects, renowned customers, great colleagues and short decision-making paths. After about 10 conversations, I had asked myself: When will something new come? The tenor in my surroundings is similar:

The jobs are all kind of the same. You’re somewhere in IT, you’re put into a customer all year round and you’re working there. Then you see yourself again for the Christmas party. I can’t really care if the company is X or Y (respondent in the course of the article).

Application process vs. a casual conversation

One day, however, I met companies that were different. Somehow unprofessional, but authentic and honest. The job interviews were more like a cup of coffee together 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 capabilities have also been of secondary importance in the long term.

Work with us! We are flexible!

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

Providing added value to applicants

I think you can call such behaviour an agile HR. An HR that understands the candidate of Generation X,Y,Z. What does he really want? Does he really want to travel on great planes with the Samsonite suitcases or does he just want to work a day in the home office every Friday? So medium-sized enterprises should focus on values and test concepts such as “Bring your own device”. They don’t think that for many of my respondents, working on a Macbook instead of Windows was a main argument.

Many service providers per customer

It is a question of understanding the applicant and really offering him added value, why he should work for this medium-sized company. Many companies let their employees work for a large customer. However, many other service providers are also in this company, to which the employee can switch quickly and in some cases do the same job for more money. An agile HR must therefore find individual arguments that speak for one’s 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. Companies can establish a more agile HR, …

  • … by recognising that compliance with formal standards when viewing application documents says virtually nothing about the suitability of an applicant;
  • … by not asking pre-punched questions in the interview, but by specifically addressing the requirements of the respective workplace;
  • … by simulating real work situations in the Assessment Center and working with job-specific assessment criteria, and
  • by no longer believing that they can intuitively recognize the right candidate even in poor selection procedures.

In an article on Businessinsider I also found a nice quote. The author is frustrated that newcomers to the profession find it difficult to find a job, as long work experience or high-performers are always sought. She writes at the end of her post:

Be realistic at last! Invest in people who want to work for you, pay them decently and you get loyal, learnable employees who don’t go to the competition at the next better opportunity, but have a real interest in learning from you and growing with you (Julia von Pidoll).

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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