Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Monster job for German bosses

The study of a well known job portal reveals how much the demands of workers have shifted concerning job selection and application. It’s time for employers to act.

It is a favorite topic of business publications, trade journalists and bloggers: How do companies deal with the impending or existing shortage of skilled workers? And what are the new challenges they face because of the expectations of the generations Y and 50+? One thing is certain: In order to attract and keep these workers, employer branding strategies are discussed and tested. But what do employees of today really expect?

A recently published study of the job portal Monster makes clear how things have shifted. It’s this year’s edition of an annual survey by Monster together with the Centre of Human Resources Information Systems (CHRIS) and the University of Bamberg. The aim is to identify data on the requests relating to job search. And in fact: These have partly enormously changed within the past decade. This means drastic upheavals, too, for the companies.

What they do and produce at the workplace was the top criterion for candidates in the comparative study of 2004. For 68 percent this was the most important point, followed by the salary at 64 percent. A very different picture in the current study: For more than 94 percent the working environment is paramount. After that comes the demand for flexible working hours for 86 percent. Third place belongs to career opportunities with just under 85 percent. 2004 not half as many candidates demanded that (38 per cent). The work-life balance desired by only 27 percent in 2004 rose to almost 70 percent today. And where do we find the salary? Scaled down in its meaning from 64 to 50 percent.

The industry portal Leaddigital quoted the study leader Professor Tim Weitzel with the words “We want to shake up the companies with this evaluation”. Shake up––to polish up their image as employers. A table soccer for the lunch break is not enough as the experts say. And there is no standard strategy but, of course, some recommendations. Young start-ups, for example, may win by action, fun, team building and team spirit but certainly also the possibility of free, creative and self-responsible work.

Established and perhaps far more conservatively managed companies from the SME sector have other options. They can do well with an authentic brand image and a sense of the company’s history. According to the motto: We belong to the family of brand XY and are proud to work not for “anyone”. Speaking of family: Especially these companies may become more attractive employers with better ways to work-life balance, too.

However, one thing applies to all companies: They should offer workers a more intensive introductory phase to get to feel comfortable with the company. The experts recommend something that they call “candidate experience” in order to find the employee who fits best into the working atmosphere and team. The aim of proceeding with candidate experience is to develop a feeling for the individual and his preference instead of just looking at qualifications and references. Strategies are needed even for the time of departure from the company and the time after. Good repeal conversations and alumni networks are just some of the keywords.

After all, I just wonder when a study will appear in which not the candidates but the workers evaluate their business after these criteria. And what the results will be like …

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What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

Is there a classic “success” type of guy? No. Entrepreneur’s characters are fundamentally different from one another. A little peek behind the “facade” of man …

First things first: Very often we distinguish two types of working people––employees and self-employed. This bisection is by no means sufficient as self-employed split into entrepreneurs and freelancers. The latter are only responsible for themselves and usually do not want it any other way, while entrepreneurs are responsible for their whole team. They want to be boss. After all, there are also very different kinds of entrepreneurs. The franchisee, for example, is willing to work to some degree unfree. He serves for a brand that is not his own. And he accepts to be controlled by the franchisor. Quite independent entrepreneurs realize the other hand, even with their own intellectual creation. And it would usually never different.

But free entrepreneurs can also be totally different as characters. In the recent weeks I got to know some. At a seminar on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca I met a German millionaire who had earned his money by selling patents. For the last twenty years he has devoted himself to his passion of researching a new nutrition science. He is a visionary man. A Steve Jobs type. Constantly developing new ideas, thinking ahead. In books, on websites, in advertisements: Everywhere he wants his now market-ready products, rules and recipes to be published. He can’t carry out all that technically, but he is the creative director and proceeds with an enthusiasm which I only knew of playing children.

Five years ago, he met a man from Switzerland who sold his shares of a large garden center chain and moved to the island with his wife and family. He was so impressed by––and convinced of––the ideas and visions of the German that he abandoned everything and invested all of his money in that nutrition project. While the visionary man constantly spins new ideas, the down-to-earth Swiss tries to drag him from the ivory tower of mere theory and merge his thoughts and energies into concrete projects. So the book series is currently developed is also his creation. Any Steve Jobs needs a Steve Wozniak, too, and vice versa. It is actually the perfect constellation: the so-called strategic partnership.

Are there only two characters, the thought leader and the expert? No. A few days later I met a very different entrepreneurial person. He is the living proof that a company can grow and thrive to become the market leader in its industry without a big life dream or vision. He had started his business with an address distribution on CD-ROMs in the nineties. As one of the first he switched to the internet and thus founded the now leading portal of the franchise industry in the German speaking countries. His company has eight employees and he does not want it to be more. The team’s most valuable quality is the familiar atmosphere and there is virtually no fluctuation.

When once he had to fire an employee who fulfilled almost non of the job’s requirements, it hurt him and he thought a long time about how he could help him. No hollow words––this man is serious. “I realized that I destroyed an existence,” he told me. Responsibility and certainly a bit of modesty are terms that maybe describe him best. He also does not express his market leadership boastfully. Very openly he told me about failures. But in his media he lets his customers talk about their success. He does not mention that they also owe it to him.

Incidentally, I also met the “family”, his team. Hardly ever before I saw that staff feel so good and comfortable in a company. Nobody took advantage of that, on the contrary. These people fit together perfectly and seem to know for whom they engage in deep inner conviction.

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Daylight-saving time, winter sleep turtles and other excuses

Being on time for appointments is matter of course in business. But mishaps are human. And bosses and partners must be able to forgive.

Sometimes it has to be a white lie. Because of my fear of flying, I took the French high speed train TGV to go to a multi-day customer seminar to the Mediterranean. Departure Munich 6.30 clock, change trains at lunchtime in Paris, arriving in the evening in Barcelona. So was the planning. The reality: Despite all precautions (including three alarm clocks) I overslept and woke up at eight. This meant that I would definitely get no connection anymore more to Barcelona on that day. On one point, I was lucky––and that point had contributed to my oversleeping: It was the sunday when time was changed to daylight saving time. Thus everything was one hour earlier. At ten, I called the customer, even though it was sunday. Just to admit that I had overslept would have been honest but seemed to be too unprofessional. Therefore, I chose the white lie.

“Mr. I … imagine, I was at the station at six o’clock in time for the six-thirty train, but when I looked up at the station clock, it was already seven o’clock!”. “Oh, you have not noticed the time change?” “That’s right”. I felt ashamed. But soon the customer said, “That would have almost happened to me, too. I hadn’t realized it until late last night. Do not worry about it. But what does that mean, when are you coming?” “A full day later, monday night to the hotel and tuesday morning to the seminar” “Ok, do that. Change your bookings. Tomorrow in your absence I’ll dedicate myself more intensively to the other participants and from tuesday on to you …”. It took a load off my mind as heavy as a stone and I could almost hear the stone crashing through the station ground towards the earth’s core. Not everyone has such appreciative customers or bosses.

There’s probably no one who has never been late some time. However, excuses such as the one above may not always be helpful. The best way is to be honest––especially when the delay is without any personal fault and the reason can be proved. Many years ago, my house key had fallen through a hole in my pocket into the elevator shaft when I entered the lift. It took about an hour until the lift service came and handed it back to me. And that happened to me, too: After a change of employer, one morning by mistake I took the route to the old company.

A few days ago, one of the employees in my office community used the weirdest apology that I have ever heard. It is a 19-year-old graphic trainee who still lives with his parents. He called his boss who had to laugh so loud that he almost lost control. The trainee said: “I was already on the way to the office when my mother called me on the cellphone and said that she heard very strange, scary noises coming from the basement. Perhaps burglars, she said. She wouldn’t dare to go down and look. So I went back and checked what it was and found out that it was just my turtle which had awakened from hibernation and tried to crawl out of the box …”. To prove the truth of his statement, the next day he took the lively turtle to the office.

So, dear bosses, if your employees are occasionally late again: do not blame them too hard. Such incidents are human. Every road user may become witness to an accident for example. And once or twice in his life, everyone misses a train. Of course, there are more creative excuses.

Funny, but not recommended for imitation, are the following ones. “I had dreamed about a soccer game, and when I had to get up there was prolongation”. “My wife had gone to the bathroom before me.” “The bus is derailed.” “The subway lost it’s way”. That’s nice but really too much impudence.

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Of Mails and Men

E-mails are no longer just efficient. If used improperly, they paralyze or even terrorize us at work. The American comedians Tripp & Tyler illustrate how: They made this video which was published by the magazine Leaddigital this week. The artists made men communicate messages like in emails.

Imagine your colleague comes to your office saying: Here’s the report that you asked for, and shows you an empty hand. You say there is nothing. He says: Oh, sorry, I forgot the attachment … Later you address to a colleague down the hall and he replies: “Ladies and gentlemen, from the 3rd to the 20th of April, I am not available in the office. In urgent cases please contact my colleague Bellinda Meyer, marketing, at extension number 0815 … “. Suddenly you receive a team request with content that is utterly irrelevant for you. The next moment the system administrator comes up throwing a giant pile of papers on your desk and saying: “Delivery failure. Document too big”. And then finally a dark-skinned man in a typical West African costume stands right in front of you and says: “Dear friend, my name is Samuel Ubuntu from Nigeria and I have a big business proposal for you …”

Sounds absurd but it’s reality in our daily e-mail communication––just performed by humans but devices in that video. What the comedians really show us is nothing different but the way in which we disturb and distract us in our daily work by emails. The reverse can not mean to banish the written electronic communication from our working life. We just need to better organize it.

Most senders do not expect their e-mails to be answered within five or ten minutes. Finally, they can not know if you are at your workplace at the moment or maybe on a customer appointment. In general, two or three slots a day are enough to handle all the emails that you receive or have to write. Ideally one of these slots is in the morning, another after lunch break and the last one at the end of your working day. At the times in between it’s best when you close your email program or at least deactivate the pop-up function for new messages. So you can fully concentrate on your project work. If anyone wants something really urgent he will surely call you.

It is also helpful to not use the inbox as a permanent document storage, especially since most of the programs or servers have a limited capacity. Delete what is not important. Place mails that you have edited in a folder system and remove these then from the inbox. You still have mails from previous years in the inbox? Move them into an archive on the server’s hard drive or a cloud.

Let’s switch to the favorite item of all mail frustrated people: the spam. If you receive advertising of dubious providers it is often no more useful to click on unsubscribe. On the contrary, you actually verify your address and possibly even get more junk mail. The second best way is simply to delete it, the best way is to go to the IT professionals. Let your spam filter get updated regularly!

Finally take a look at what emails are good and what they are used for. Too often they are abused for work instructions, work orders, project management or similar intentions. But alternative programs and techniques are much better suitable––especially in medium or large companies. There are intranet, backend or ticketing systems. Or collaboration tools such as the one which the comedy duo promotes at the end of their video.

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