Monthly Archives: May 2016

Let your workers talk straight!

Boss is God and Sun King. Employees are servants and yes-men. In such companies, any progress happens certainly slower than in those where everyone may be criticized. Even the boss.

“Then go on writing and editing. This should now be your absolute priority. Until now, I have only received 3 pages to read … Today is already May 27th”, as the editor and production head of a trade magazine just mailed to me, a moment ago. I know the tone of her voice when she speaks things like that: Decisive, demanding, annoying. She doesn’t motivate me this way, but of course, she is right. What she said had to be said, not only purely from her perspective. In this project, processes are obviously to be optimized. Especially mine. Mea culpa!

Well, it is usual to critisize employees or—as in this case—contractors. And criticism simply has to be possible or even mandatory because criticism is feedback. And without feedback no one can improve or develop. To whitewash everything helps no one in the long run. But let’s turn the tables—from bottom to top. Let’s go from my example to any business or any department. Can the boss be critisized? Or the customer? Is the supervisor able to deal with truth and openness?

From boss’ point of view: How well do I really lead my staff? What can or must I improve? Criticism is essential when decisions are to be be reflected or corrected. In each company a culture of constructive feedback should be established. It must be an integral part of the corporate culture.

But what about reality? Bosses love to be praised and glamoured. Many consider themselves infallible as a Church leader or the Führer. Why? Perhaps because they have made it “up to here” to the executive chair and thus are obviously better than their staff. They have built up the company and do not want anyone change or rule his “private thing”. Or because criticism could even challenge their self-esteem. And the employees? The praise their bosses in order to secure advantages for their career. Yes-men, however, do not help, as already mentioned.

The solution? Employees should not be afraid of their bosses and shoud have no reason to. Only the better arguments should count, not the position or title, as only they help to enhance the company’s performance. Even more, the executives should actively demand criticism. One way to do so is a feedback process using a kind of market research-alike method. There are consulting firms that offer, for example, anonymous feedback tools. Their results reveal what has to be improved in the business.

Only one thing can not be taken from the bosses: They alone are responsible for the corporate culture in terms of leadership. And thus, for their own critical ability and criticizability. The feedback culture is an important part of the employer branding. And who, dear bosses and managers, can still afford to ignore this in times of skill shortages? The Generation Y, anyway, does no longer say yes and amen, obeing everything and everyone …

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Companies miss the Recruitment Revolution–-Part II

Nothing has ever changed the world of human resources as much as digitization. Amazingly enough, in the use of the possibilities most companies in Germany are lagging far behind today’s applicants. Read Part 2 of our little “future vision”.

By Jens Kügler

Demographic change and the shortage of skilled workers makes it anticipable that the labor market of qualified people will soon be swept quite clean. Recruiting the way of today like: “We post–and hopefully candidates come up” will not work for longer. Well, the ongoing digitalisation will offer much more efficient ways of finding personnel.

The leading German social business network Xing already gives an idea of what will be possible. Here employees can specify in their profiles whether they are “open to a new challenge”. Future job portals and “candidate-search engines” should be able to scan the web for relevant professionals with specific algorithms and so make the headhunters or recruiters get the candidates with just a mouse click. The Xing profile with “open to a new challenge” also tells the current employer: Do something to keep me!–be it through a training, a new task field or a raise of money. This openness will no longer be seen as somethig negative because people today practice more self marketing than ever.

Incidentally, a traveler should not be stopped, as we say in Germany. Does the employee really want to go away? Then frustrated bosses or HR managers should not prevent him from leaving. Careers make farewells inevitable. Employers should see the advantage in that. After three, four or five years in a competing company, the employee has further developed his expertise and gained experience. If the contact to him has remained—for example, through social networking and event invitations—and he gets a second chance, his first company saves the expensive search and the risk of employing somebody who doesn’t fit. The old returning employee knows how to deal with the bosses and live the company culture. And, most of all, he may even bring new customers into the old business.

Digital technology will also facilitate recruitment processes. For example, the first job interviews. In their place, the candidates could answer the questions in self recorded video interviews and upload these videos to a cloud. Thus, candidates and businesses “get to know” each others without a trip to arise or a specific date to be blocked for both. And everyone can imagine what new 3D techniques and virtual spaces make possible in the future.

Just like the recruitment, the working conditions and employment contracts will probably change, too. Some candidates may choose more content, others more vacation days, some freelance collaborations on projects. Companies will have to react flexibly to the needs of their employees in order to find people for their vacant positions—and not lose orders because of too small workforces. Also, companies in future will have to train their professionals. The training initiatives in numerous industries show the way it may work. If the number of locals with domestic roots shrinks, which happens in Germany, the professionals must be recruited from abroad and obtained primarily from the pool of immigrants. Again, digital techniques can build the bridges. Webinars and tutorials are just the beginning. Also, language will no longer be a barrier with future simultaneous translation software tools.

To sum up I can say that companies using and developing digital recruitment technologies secure long-term competitive advantage in the struggle for scarce best minds. Those who continue to sleep: Goodnight old pride.

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Companies miss the Recruitment Revolution

Nothing has ever changed the world of human resources as much as digitization. Amazingly enough, in the use of the possibilities most companies in Germany are lagging far behind today’s applicants.

Written by Jens Kügler

Do you remember the good old newspaper job ads? Twenty years ago each Saturday, the leading papers over here had up to 120 pages of it. Today? Maybe four or six pages—and they are rather filled with a kind of image ads for large enterprises. Today applicants use online job boards like Monster or StepStone. Larger companies offer career sites where the candidates can post their entries. In addition, the companies occasionally post job offers on social websites such as Facebook or the leading German social business platform Xing. The huge application piles on the HR-desks also belong to the past: Today, email is the usual way of delivery.

The advantages for the candidates? Job boards offer roughly preselected positions. Searching through dining table large newspapers is no longer necessary. In addition, candidates can leave their profiles and so be found. Emails eventually save paper, copies, time, postage and effort. And now the disadvantages: Career websites are only a benefit for the companies. Candidates have not less trouble putting in data as when writing an application. What these career websites make absolutely impossible are individual applications that stand out visually and stylistically. And the ratio of precise results of Monster and Co. may also be improved.

The challenge for companies is demographic change. But a shrinking population with foreseeable full employment on one side means shortage of skilled workers on the other. Today, the apparently so modern recruitment works still like: “We post and pray that candidates notify”. However, employers can no longer afford this as they have to apply for the rare applicants rather than the old way vice versa.

From Google, YouTube, Facebook & Co, we know that websites can be adapted to the site visitor’s preferences. So why not set up a career page that behaves like this? Cookies and social profiles reveal a lot about the visitors. Thus, someone who sourced the search engines for marketing issues may land on a page with different information and vacancy offers as another one who was googling for transportation and logistics.

And why are there such boring old copy texts on the career pages with traditional job descriptions and candidate requirements? Texts flooded with phrases using words like “engaged”, “motivated” or “resilient”? How about offering entertaining videos or other content that makes a business “tangible” and experience emotionally? There are fine examples of companies that are looking for engineers and technicians and allow page visitors to play an online game with jumps and levels to the work requirements. Only the top ten of—say—a thousand players will get a chance in the company that saves the week-long, costly recruitment and selection process. Unfortunately there are far too few of these beautiful examples … even though they present multimedia content exactly designed for Generation Y and wow them for the company.

Why does a job seeker still have to write tabular CVs? Anyone looking for a job today has a well-maintained profile on LinkedIn or Xing, perhaps even on Mount Zuckerberg. Hey human resourcers, you google anyway, don’t you? So just visit your candidate’s profiles and learn much more about his personal preferences than could ever fit in a cover letter or a CV!

Which reminds me: On the congress and event fair IMEX in Frankfurt in May 2016, a system called was tested for the first time. Successfully. Hosted buyers received the app for that system for free on their smartphones. With the agreement of the users, the app would read the profile data of all participants. Then it proposed to each participant the contacts for appointments and networking which fitted exactly to him and his needs. Doesn’t this technology make it likely that via social media tools candidates and companies could fid each others? Automatically, effortless, Generation-Y-like and with user experience. Digitize yourselves, HR, just as your target group does!

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Communist East Germany—a role model against the shortage of skilled?

Some things were better in the East than in the West … Whenever East germans express words like these, the “Westerner” believes they are hackneyed phrases. But in a remarkable way, the communist state had succeeded to compensate the huge lack of specialists, which had been produced mainly by fleeing to the West.

Written by Anja and Jens Haufe Kügler

It’s not about glossing over a criminal state and a failed economic system. And not about to deny that this state prevented its people from running away by walls and death strips. But before this was the case and the iron curtain became impenetrable, the so-called real existing socialism had simply lost the best of its professionals. Because in the East they could unfold neither economically nor socially like they could in capitalism. However, in the following decades the state succeeded in forming generations of junior professionals and largely egalized the shortfall.

There was a three-tier school system. Until the tenth grade all classes and students stayed together. Only then they went separate ways: some started a two-year vocational training. Others went to the extended secondary school finished the 12th grade High School. Still others decided for a kind of educational training after the tenth grade, called “Vocational Training with University Diploma”. It took three years.

Almost every profession could be learned in this “two-way-education” of profession and accompanying high school. One was, for example, the construction worker. Crafts just had a more prominent position in a country that called itself ‘Workers and Peasants State’. In the first year, the students went to school only one week of the month. The three other weeks they learned and worked in their business plants. In the second year this time ratio equaled. And in the third year—they were already recognized as skilled—the students spent three of four weeks at their high school. Then the construction worker, e.g., could study architecture or engineering.

And so could the female construction worker, too, as any disadvantage for women and girls did not exist. The logic of the shortage of skilled workers led to an equality from which today’s women are as far away as the state of East Germany was from its target to overtake the West in technology. In the so-called Polytechnic High Schools and the affiliated companies, the girls also became carpenters, plumbers, construction workers or auto mechanics. There were no instructions for separate sanitary facilities in the factories. Mr and Mrs Mechanic in spe took their showers together. And her wheelbarrows were as heavy as his.

Incidentally, to get a taste of this system and in the workplace, all students from eighth grade on had to go into a production facility affiliated to their class one day a week. Sure, every hand was needed in the most antiquated and rather unproductive East German holdings. Just as, for example, during the harvest when the faculties and the Army had to help. But perhaps this “getting a taste of profession by school schedule” would indeed be an alternative to the traditional school placement.

Back to “Vocational High School”: There were a lot more professional fields and opportunities to be adapted as a specialist with university qualifiation than there is now. And not all trainees later went to university. Many simply remained skilled workers, as the doctor or professor earned not much more than a female car mechanics in the socialist system. Incidentally, some German federal states think about re-introducing similar training systems. Anyway, this proves that there was more than just a few habits or sayings about things that may have been better in the East. Why not copy and profit from it?

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