Monthly Archives: November 2017

Can an SME Build Up an Employer Brand?

More and more entrepreneurs realize how important employer branding becomes, especially in times of a shortage of skilled. The business press has been celebrating successful examples for a long time. However, these are mostly produced by large corporations with corresponding budgets. Small companies can also become employer brands. They just need different strategies.

Written by Jens Kügler

Once upon a time there was an Internet start-up with a completely new business idea: power shopping or co-buying. The more customers registered with the intention to buy the same product offered on the site, the lower the price became which was visible online. A team of around 15, 20 people adapted this very successful business idea from Sweden to the German market, in a small coworking office in Munich. The enthusiasm was great. There was a very familiar atmosphere. All felt like one—from the founders and CEO’s to the team assistant. Everyone worked almost like workaholics, but with incomparable fun. After a giant bank loan, the company grew very fast to 40, then to 80,100 and more people. The family character of the small company without noticeable hierarchies was lost. And still today, everyone who had been involved talks about this never again achieved enthusiasm in the starting phase.

What does this have to do with employer branding? Very simple. It is an example of how a small company can build a kind of huge loyalty among its employees—in a way that it could no longer do as a fast growing company with hundreds of employees. Small companies can develop an employer brand. What they shall not try to do is copy the strategies of big corporations.

In a trust, for instance, employer branding is implemented as a strategic measure in corporate communications. Guidelines are issued, seminars are held, leadership camps and incentives are held and so on. Flexible working time models are just as much part of the “offer” of the employer brand strategy as promotions, training events or financial incentives. There is a department calles human resources management. And naturally, the employee magazine from the in-house communications agency appears on glossy paper, accompanied by the intranet with constantly updated content. Can an SME keep up? Hardly ever. It does not have the necessary resources.

How do SMEs proceed successfully? For instance, as described above, with short ways and flat hierarchies. With bosses who inspire their employees, who listen to them and let them take responsibility for their own work. In short, with a working atmosphere that a global player cannot offer. Wherever conflicts exist, they must be resolved by mutual agreement. Where there are grievances, amicable solutions can be found. Ideally, the small company “feels” like a family. And the advantage compared to trusts is that the necessary structures can be adapted and implemented very quickly.

There is one thing, however, that small and big businesses have in common. Employer branding is not a campaign that can be concluded at some point, but it’s a permanent project. What’s the benefit? Of course, it’s more employee motivation and thus higher productivity. The example of a sanitary engineering company with currently around twelve employees shows another important effect: the company’s reputation in its sector and region is so good that it receives applications. More applications—and more qualified ones. This is a vital effect, especially in an industry that is more desperately looking for skilled workers than almost any other.

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Skilled Shortage—Self-Produced

German companies are desperately looking for skilled workers. And many complain: Help, we can no longer find trainees! However, it’s all the more amazing how sloppy some employers deal with their applicants!

By Jens Kügler

Despite a shortage of skilled workers, many entrepreneurs and HR managers are dealing disrespectfully with junior staff. This resulted in a survey of 950 applicants and trainees, made by U-form, a provider of aptitude tests. The key question was, “What annoyed you the most?”. The most common answer was: agonizingly long waiting times for a response. Or no response at all!

For weeks or months and even in spite of demand, applicants would not receive any news as to whether they will be accepted or at least shortlisted. According to U-form over 300 participants of the study found themselves in that situation, so almost one third of all respondents. What other problems did they face?

The list of shortcomings starts with poorly structured and cumbersome online application options. Some companies seem to make it difficult for potential employees to leave a good impression. If it comes to letters of rejection or invitation to a job interview, often the names are misspelled, the salutation “Mrs.” or “Mr.” is confused (which can be quite insulting) or there are a lot of grammatical mistakes in the cover letters.

Some companies only wanted to accept applicants from their city. Probably because they feared that, after the training years, the apprentice could change to a company in his city. In addition, East German applicants still felt disadvantaged and rejected by West German companies. Almost 30 years after the re-unification!

Why else were they rejected? Almost everyone would like to know that. But they hardly get a message about it. However, especially the school graduates need advice to tell them what they still have to catch up with and improve. Many of the young people experienced their interviewers as arrogant or disinterested—or even both. Speaking of youth: some bosses considered some 16- or 17-year-olds to not yet be able to really work. “Too little work experience” is another frequent argument in case of refusal. How can a 19-year-old have 25 years of professional experience!? And if an applicant starts an apprenticeship aged 30, for example, as a career changer, he is considered too old to be apprentice.

Women are often asked if they wanted to have children (which they rightly feel is a somehow discriminating question and something only private which has nothing to do with the job). On the other hand, men often heard statements like: “We’d prefer a woman for this job”, and vice versa, of course. “You are overqualified” is another common impertinent justification for a no. Why should someone e. g. with university-entrance diploma, instead of studying, not want to apply somewhere where he only needed a lower level of qualification, if that’s the job he wants to do!

And what about the appearances? A tattoo, a piercing, non-appropriate clothing, all this often leads to questions like: “Are you planning to come to our company looking like this?”. Some applicants felt that they were sent home after just five-minute interviews, others felt uncomfortable sitting opposite to ten or 15 mostly silent observers. Some had to learn that their vacancy had been filled internally and thus got the feeling that they had been invited only for alibi reasons (the job officially “had to be tendered”). And last but not least, some were asked to decide right now, leaving them no time and no chance to wait for a commitment elsewhere. However, what recruiters should know is that generation Y people use blogs and forums and evaluate companies there. To those who get assessed, we can only say: bye bye, employer brand!

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BMW, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and Google

Where do German university graduates want to work? Who is a top employer brand and wins well-trained and creative minds? A recent study gives answers.

By Jens Kügler

Who is winner in the competition for Germany’s most desirable heads of tomorrow? The big car producers make the race, in the true sense of the word. About 8,500 young professionals and university graduates were interviewed for a study called Universum Employer Rankings Young Professionals. The top 3 addresses for economics students are BMW, Porsche and Audi, followed by Google, ranking 4th and Mercedes 5th. For engineering students, Porsche is number one, while the IT and computer scientists love Google (1st place) and Microsoft (2) more than the automakers. Favorite work areas are design, marketing and controlling. Here seems to be a connection between good salary and market success expectations and interesting products.

Those already in employment were asked about satisfaction with their jobs. Most satisfied were the young professionals in the automotive industry with an average of 7.3 out of 10 points, followed by the pharmaceutical and biotech industry and medical technology. Most unpopular among the young workers were the non-profit organizations. Here, 53 percent said they were interested in switching within a year.

In which positions are the young professionals most satisfied? As managing directors (1.), systems analyst (2.), engineers in the field of electrical engineering (3.), followed by specialists for strategic planning in politics and economy and—last but not least—software developers. The dissatisfaction ranking lists journalists, account managers, market researchers, sociologists, and nurses. What do young professionals want from their employers in addition to an attractive basic salary—and what do the dissatisfied obviously miss? It’s recognition of work and achievements and leaders who promote development.

Eventually, there is something else that seems to confirm old stereotypes. 43 percent of young men want to become managers in a leadership position. Only 26 percent of the women said that they want the same. The young elite, as it seems, is not revolutionary at all, but rather conservative.

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Are Lies Allowed in the Resume?

Of course not! … everyone would reply. But where do truth and honesty end? And what about indulgence when it comes to work and income, job and career?

By Jens Kügler

To confess … the author of these lines has once fallen into the trap of lies. His own lies. “Good production skills” or something similar—that’s what I had written in my application CV for an advertising agency. Knowing that in my previous working life I had only made experiences in parts of the production and I knew the rest rather theoretically. In the practice of the new employer, the hustle soon was blown. Or rather: my lack of skills. I should have been more honest and tell precisely what production skills I actually had and which ones I had to catch up with. They dismissed me before the end of my probationary period. Long ago, that bitter experience … the experience that losing a job is worse than maybe not getting it.

Of course, every applicant wants to present himself as positive as possible. Sometimes there is a risk that the resumes get somehow “tuned” or pimped. But what do the employers still tolerate and what are the absolute no-go’s? A current market survey by the opinion research institute YouGov deals with these issues under the title “Lügen im Lebenslauf”, lies in CV’s. In July 2017, YouGov asked a total of 1029 people, ages 18+.

In the case of hobbies and private interests, half of the asked said they don’t care. If someone presents himself as super-athletic, that does not affect a lot of human resources managers. About 74 percent said it was “harmless”. More than half even hinted that they would still tolerate it if the applicant describes his volunteer work as too positive. However, 81 percent said no when being bullied about skills of training or studying. 77 percent said that they were critical to applicant’s lies about “other qualifications”. Not much less, 69 percent, get annoyed about false information on the experience level (what the writer of these lines had done … long ago … once and never again).

Equally important: the length of work experience, job titles and language skills. About 70 percent said they would not accept such lies at all. One result, however, surprised me: 76 percent said wrong names would be a criterion for exclusion. These are certainly not the personal names of the applicants themselves, although they can be critical in hiring: German bosses often react with suspicion to applicants with alien, e. g. South European or Oriental names. Rather, it is about the fact that many applicants obviously do not write the name of their contact person correctly or even named a false person. That is simply a sloppy-bad preparation.

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