Job Change: If Not Now, Then … When?

What do career opportunities have in common with opinion research, the rent price stabilization and start-up figures? There are some interesting connections in Germany in 2018.

By Jens Kügler

There is good and bad news for the German economy in 2018. The bad news first: The trend that start-ups have been declining for years is continuing. According to the annual survey KfW-Gründungsmonitor (“founding monitor” of KfW development bank group), the number of self-employed fell by 17% in 2017 compared to the previous year. According to the development bankers, the descent will continue in 2018.

One reason for this decline is—on the other hand—the good news. The German economy is booming. Never before in our history have there been so many employees as in 2018, the Employment Agency happily announces. 44.8 million—this figure was published by the Munich Ifo Institute of opinion research. It is expected to reach 45.2 million in 2019. At the same time, the unemployment rate is falling to an equally historic low.

A shortage of skilled workers—this is another matter with a good and a bad side. There is a shortage of skilled workers who are in great demand. What is bad for Germany’s economy and competitiveness is good for the individual employee, the “skilled worker”. But those who now believe that they can automatically get a higher salary and better working conditions are mistaken.

The situation is similar to that with rented apartments. The keyword here is rent cap or rent price stabilization. A landlord or hirer can only demand significantly more rent with a change of tenant. That’s required by the law. In the working world, too, more salary can only be expected by a change of job. Employers who are desperately looking for new employees pay more and respond more likely to the wishes of their applicants. More flexible working hours, more work-life balance, more personal responsibility in the job—all this is usually only offered first and foremost to job changers.

In short, those who want to change, enhance themselves and find a new employer have never had such advantages as today, 2018. The pollsters at the Forsa Institute have found out that 35% of all employees plan to do exactly this in the next twelve months. In the end, the fewest will have done it, as always. Daily grind and routine prove to be stronger—and courage is the exception. I only say: dare! If not now, then when?

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How to give Your Business a Personal Touch by Storytelling

The term storytelling actually found its way into German—as one of those many anglicisms from the modern marketing language. People tell their personal stories. All well and good …. but is there really nothing more behind it than a buzzword?

By Jens Kügler

A staff member was sitting in the office with her boss. She told him that she was about to have surgery and she was afraid of it. A few days later: She wakes up from the anaesthetic. Her boss stands around her hospital bed, congratulating her with some colleagues, flowers and presents. Not a sign of a happy end, but of company culture. This company advertises that there is a particularly familiar atmosphere in its team and that one would be there for each other—which was proved by this scene.

The employee and her experience can be seen as a podcast on the homepage under a heading like “Why work for us”. Stories like these make a company and a team seem real and lively to outsiders. It doesn’t have to be emotional moments like this in the hospital. It can, of course, also have to do directly with the product or the job. It is obvious that someone is proud to be chief designer at BMW and to have helped develop the i8. But doesn’t every company produce something that it can do better than the competition—or maybe even the whole world? I know a trade fair construction company from China whose employees are proud to be booked by the most demanding European exhibitors because they supply quality according to highest European standards.

The author himself, by the way, likes to tell the anecdote again and again how he came to writing and texting and finally to journalism as a young commercial employee when stylistically improving the extremely lengthily dictated business correspondence of his boss. The boss admitted to him: “You can simply write better than I (by the way: bosses who admit things like that to their employees are perceived as collegial—but by no means as weak leaders!).

Why don’t you interview your employees? What was your most successful day in the company? What was her favorite moment? What was their heroic deed—in customer service, in team building or in a particularly time-critical project execution? How did they feel the day they may have left their “comfort zone” and decided on something new—here in the company? What have they experienced that could only happen here or in a few other places?

One tip is to film these little stories as podcasts. Maybe with five or ten sets until it is “perfect” and the filmed person feels comfortable with it. Of course, not everyone is ready to film and tell stories. It needs incentives. If you go ahead as a boss and offer your own personal stories, the spell can be broken for one or the other. According to the motto: Tell a story to get a story. That’s give and take. And once two or three colleagues have contributed their personal stories, more will certainly follow. Because everyone has a story to tell. All the stories around the company provide enough material for discussions during lunch break, in the hall or in the coffee kitchen.

The advantage? The inner cohesion, the sense of togetherness in the team, is guaranteed to grow. Stories make a company and a team tangible for outsiders as well. Applicants, for example. The candidates so hotly sought after in times of shortage of skilled workers get a clearer picture of what awaits them and what the work in the company means. For example, when employees describe their very personal motives for joining the company, these reasons may sometimes seem banal. But others are guaranteed to identify with it. It would be a waste to let these stories linger in the hall and canteen.

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Digital Natives in a World of Digital Immigrants

Young employees no longer want to work like their mothers and fathers. And even if it’s hard for us “oldies”: it’s good that way.

By Jens Kügler

Bye bye nine to five job: The so-called millennials no longer have anything in mind with restrictive regulations of days which they see as days gone by. And we do have to fulfill their demands as, demographically, they are indispensable as workers. Whoever wants to win them, the best minds among them, must meet their wishes.

How does this young generation see our world? Very simple. They grew up aware that modern technology revolutionizes and facilitates our everyday life at home. This no longer refers to the washing machine that replaced grand-granny’s washboard. But for example the fact that a virtual female voice called “Alexa” switches on both the light and the music, raises the blinds and regulates the heating temperature on acclamation. Why, the “Digital Natives” ask themselves, shouldn’t such smart technologies also improve the working world?

Even more blatantly expressed, these digitally natives feel as living in a world of digital immigrants who are alienated by the latest technology. This includes us, their older colleagues––and of course their employers. Still the question must be clarified: Who has to assimilate themselves, they or we? We do because we need these young ones. And because we know that satisfied employees are more productive.

What do young generation people want? Above all, more flexible working. In the age of mobile communication via cloud, they can do their jobs at any time and from anywhere. On this point, they have the full agreement of the author, who writes lots of his articles at sunny Bavarian lake beaches or in a wifi café when it rains. Why? Because these places simply inspire. The millennials, for example, can work from home and enjoy work-life balance. Working life no longer clashes with family life. Both complement each others.

Thanks to cloud technologies and mobile portals, employers can also see who is working when and for how long and who can be reached at any given time by logging on and off and exchanging data. In short: You even have better access to your employees than in the classic office. In addition to the technology, only framework agreements have to be made. And most importantly, employers must learn to trust their sometimes remote working employees and to give them responsible tasks. This not only enables them to carry out their jobs to a certain degree on the move. It also motivates them and makes them feel their work is meaningful.

In short: if you as employer want to win the best minds, you have to break through encrusted thought structures and surpass yourself. And to speak with JFK: Not because it’s easy. But it’s necessary.

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Motivation Instead Of Marketing

Which instruments make a company more efficient and successful? Controlling? The process optimizations? The new marketing strategy? Possibly. But leadership training on employee motivation can be most effective.

Written by Jens Kügler

Fully motivated: around one third of all employees work in this way. Fully motivated sounds good, one third quite sobering. That means: Two thirds of all employees work little motivated or with no motivation at all. That’s the result of a study by Dale Carnegie. Many employees have long since resigned in their minds. They and their employers don’t tap their full potential. These uninspired people will leave the company sooner or later, taking their knowledge and experience with them. The fluctuation rises, the company has to invest again and again in the recruitment process.

Dale Carnegie found out that certain emotions influence motivation. 28 positive and negative emotions could be “isolated” and identified. Five of them motivate, twelve demotivate, the influence of the remaining was marginal. The five motivators? Translated into the world of work, they are: feeling valued, being self-confident in the workplace, being inspired, enthusiastic (means feeling to be part of the company) and being encouraged to act independently.

Negative feelings include fear, vulnerability, contempt, apathy, boredom and being at the mercy of others. They are connected with disinterest, discomfort and annoyance. The test persons felt the latter above all in their superiors’ dealings with them. Negative emotions tend to embed themselves much more strongly than positive emotions. They are also perceived more strongly by the environment and are transferred more quickly to other employees. In any case, according to the study’s whitebook publication, the direct superior is the main person responsible for feelings in the workplace.

In short: motivating bosses inspire and enthuse. They give their employees the feeling of being a part of something bigger. Their employees are proud of their company and their meaningful work. They show more commitment. They are prepared to work more for the same salary and to take on additional tasks. Demotivating managers, on the other hand, are responsible for the poor profitability and inefficiency of their teams.

Dale Carnegie publishes its whitebooks as advertisements for its management and leadership training courses. The message between the lines is that it costs less to invest in such courses than to continue working inefficiently. But you don’t need a whitebook to understand it. Pure common sense is enough. Management training in dealing with employees is certainly one of the most economically sensible measures. Perhaps more than strategy, business development, controlling or marketing.

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Does Everyone Suddenly Have To Be “Chief”?

Anglicisms are widespread in German job descriptions. For some companies this may be advantageous and for some employees it may sound upvaluing. Elsewhere it leads increasingly to confusion and often misses the mark.

By Jens Kügler

“Guten Tag, ich bin der neue Chief Financial Officer.” (Hello, I’m the new Chief Financial Officer). I imagine how Hansi Müller – as proud as J.R. Ewing introduces himself in the accounting department to people who are now called “Assistants” (in English) and no longer by the German term for clerks. To some, the German form of CFO, Geschäftsführer Finanzen, does not sound modern enough anymore. However, words like CFO follow a sometimes embarrassing Anglicism trend, as it continues to spread in German. Sometimes the job titles take on silly forms. Often they are difficult or even impossible for applicants over here to understand.

If I asked my janitor, Slobodan K., a friendly, broken German-speaking older gentleman of Serbian origin, would he feel more important as a “Facility Manager”, he would surely look at me with questioning eyes. How about turning a “Blockchain Developer” into a German form which isnt’s hard to do? Then at least those who don’t work in that industry would know that they would no longer have to deal with this job advertisement and its deciphering.

However, does every logistician know that he should feel addressed as an “Area Supply Manager”? I’ll just suppose: One half of all logisticians miss the job advertisement for miles. The other (and not necessarily the more qualified) half find it great to be a manager and become the master of forklift and fleet armies. Exactly this kind of people will love it elsewhere to be an “Account Manager” instead of just a Kundenbetreuer. Those who have served customers as Kundenbetreuer for decades do not need such pseudo revaluations.

Can a “Web Content Strategist” not simply remain being Online Editor ? And, how was that now, is the CEO really higher in the hierarchy than the COO? Or, in other words, who is the boss or managing director here? German applicants confronted with such terms often have not much of an idea.

Stop: We live in a globalized world! Okay, in internationally active companies, these job titles may simplify cooperation and may even be necessary for the organization chart. I don’t want to expect the boss from the USA to have to deal with terms like Personalsachbearbeiter or Bäckereifachverkäuferin (… but who knows, maybe one day an “Old Germany” wave sprouts across the ocean and suddenly Americans wonder about cryptic job advertisements for them;).

No, seriously: at the car dealership Fritz Schneider or the insurance office Meier & Müller not every clerk has to be “Chief” or “Manager”. I hope this article doesn’t produce a… shitstorm (a word which I don’t want to translate into my mother tongue;).

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I Don’t Like Mondays

A recent study seems to prove that German workers have a permanent “Monday morning blues”. Almost every second German gets up very reluctantly and hates going to work on Monday mornings. A horrible thought.

By Jens Kügler

“I don’t like Mondays”. Do you remember the super hit of Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats? Psychologists know it: Monday mornings are the hardest time to motivate ourself. A recent study provides figures on this. A startup initiative called MondayMakers conducted this survey. The result: 42 percent are extremely reluctant to go to work on Mondays. The most common reasons why, strangely enough, have nothing to do with the day: People feel underpaid (around 35%), suffer from too much stress (around 33%) or lack of appreciation (just under 31%) or have a boring job (around 27%). Other reasons: “I don’t feel comfortable with my boss” and “I cannot identify with company goals” (approx. 19% each; data according to Statista data service).

What the heck does all this have to do with Monday? All these reasons are no better from Tuesday to Friday! Rather, German employees obviously have a problem with themselves, with their jobs and their motivation in general. Apparently everyone is just looking forward to the weekend and become frustrated when Sunday is over and now they have to work five infinitely long days. Accordingly, the mood should improve with every following day—to just fall back down again next Monday.

Hey—can it only depend on the day of the week, how much I love or hate my job? And how good I work?

One thing is clear: Something has to be switched in the people’s heads. Employers: Think about how you can motivate your people a little more, especially at the beginning of the week. More motivation means: more satisfied and productive workers. Employees: See how you overexploit your own resources. As unmotivated people you not only work worse but become more and more dissatisfied. You go your way down towards burnout and depression, 52 long weeks a year, except for holidays.

Last year we already made some small suggestions, see “Bye bye, Monday Morning Blues” and “Four Productive Morning Routines“.

Well, this (Monday) morning I went to the office on my road bike. Thus I collected points for my team at the nationwide online sustainability initiative “Stadtradeln” (City Cycling). Great: My city, Munich, has climbed to third place! This afternoon, when the sun comes shining through the clouds, I put the notebook with its fully charged battery in my backpack and cycle out to the lake with the WiFi beer garden … to work there. It’s all for the psychologically important change of scenery and the kind of sport I love. After all, mobile devices were made for this!

Okay, not everyone will be able to combine hobby with work. But just think about how many people could. And how many of them would have something to look forward to—early on Monday morning—in connection with their work.

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Soccer World Cup 2018: An Event At The Workplace

“Gol da Alemanha”: Goal for Germany! In Brazil this is a swearword – since Brazil’s disastrous 1:7 semifinal loss against Germany four years ago. Over here, it’s still a cheer. And if you can’t cheer among friends as the games take place during working hours, you’re all the more happy when you’re allowed to do it among colleagues.

By Jens Kügler

Everyone is looking forward to Thursday: World Cup in Russia, here we go! But 4 p.m., 5 p.m.—the kick-off times are not quite “employer-friendly”. Nevertheless, millions of people at Germany’s workbenches will alone be moved by thoughts like these: How’s the game going on for the German team? Who scored the goal? Are penalties awarded—rightly? In short: nobody does NOT want to see live what is happening in Moscow, Kazan or Saint Petersburg.

After all: Employers in Germany are more relaxed about the subject of the World Cup. According to a recent study, 57 percent have no objections to listening to radio broadcasts. 38 percent say even watching television is okay. After all, the bosses are no less enthusiastic about soccer than their employees.

I remember the 2002 World Cup that took place in Japan and Korea. The games were often at noon or in the early afternoon—which was late in the evening according to East Asian local time. In the publishing house where I worked, a beamer was set up in the group room and there was a World Cup party sponsored by the boss with bratwurst and non-alcoholic beer. He himself would stand outside by the grill. There were T-shirts with the publisher’s logo and a black, red and gold German flag color print. In short: every game of the German team up to the final was a teambuilding event that didn’t even cost much. Customers didn’t call during the games anyway.

Can you imagine any German company to ever receive a customer call, a visit or an e-mail during a “Germany” World Cup game that had to be answered immediately? I’m sure not. So there is no reason for employers over here to worry about it. Employees who are allowed to watch the games on TV are certainly not the most dissatisfied ones. And workers who find a World Cup game to be a group experience will certainly be grateful and will be happily work up those 90 minutes on the following days. In this sense: a successful World Cup for all of us. And: na starovje, as the Russians say (it doesn’t have to be vodka)!

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Mom Is The Boss

More and more mothers are setting up businesses. And not even though they have children—but because.

By Jens Kügler

Sounds almost like a typical story: the little ones gradually grew bigger—and their mother started selling all the baby clothes and toys on eBay that she no longer needed. For lack of time for her shopping spree, she bought other items she needed late in the evenings on the web. The step to the business idea was not far away: the online exchange and shopping platform for toddler articles.

Studies have shown that women start their own businesses for other reasons than men. Personal needs often provide the initial impetus for setting up a business, while male entrepreneurs often look for business ideas that promise most profit. For mothers, however, another factor also plays a role. They often have to earn money and find it difficult to get part-time jobs in which they can reconcile job and family life. They have certain time windows for professional activities, which can best be used for independent work. That online shop mentioned above is just one example: The operator ships her articles when the children are asleep or in care.

According to KfW-Gründungsmonitor, an annual study about business starters in Germany, mothers are particularly self-employed in the areas of services, gastronomy, tax or management consultancy, advertising/marketing, cleaning services and home care services—and for the latter preferably as child minders. But the online media sector is also playing an increasingly important role. And the proportion of mothers as entrepreneurs is increasing:

The latest figures from KfW prove this. While the number of business start-ups is declining overall, the proportion of women among company founders in Germany rose from 34 percent in 2002 to 40 percent most recently. And again about 40 percent of these founders have underage children. This means that one in six start ups in Germany is founded by young mothers. There is even already a term for mother entrepreneurs in circulation: Mompreneurs.

Apparently more and more women are recalling the strengths that are said of female managers—and thus dare to take the step into self-employment. Women are more communicative, more cooperative, more empathetic towards customers and business partners. They love networking and enjoy working in a team. As far as mothers are concerned, deals often start by small talk, which creates sympathy. Mothers speak the same language about the same subject—the children. Small talk is something that men often have to learn in seminars.

According to the market research, a typical feature of female founders is their fear of financial risks. Women often start thinking in smaller dimensions—but usually with positive consequences. They do it only when the financing is really secured and increased by subsidies. Women’s businesses don’t go bankrupt as often as men’s. And as female enterpreneurs generally tend to networking, they are sought-after by franchise systems. Many franchisee companies can be founded on a part-time basis. In addition, the local orientation and limited size of franchisee-businesses meet their minimum risk thinking.

Last but not least: Many franchise networks look specifically for mothers. Especially those whose founders and franchisors are women, too. Why are self-employed mothers in demand there? They have the topic of time management under control, think “multi-disciplinary” and are experienced multi-taskers.

Is there one more reason for mothers to start up? Sure. The children are proud of their mum, the successful entrepreneur. And the more female role models there are, the more women dare to found a company. This country needs you, Mompreneurs!

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Buy A Business. Why Not?

If you want to get self-employed, you usually think of starting your own business. A modern start-up, maybe. At the same time, old entrepreneurs are desperately looking for successors—more than ever. An opportunity that far too few people take advantage of.

Written by Jens Kügler

In Germany, the number of new business founders has been declining for years. And so has the number of those who want to take over an existing company.

According to the “KfW-Gründungsmonitor 2017” (business foundation monitor of the development bank group KfW) market research, there is record employment in Germany with the side effect of fewer founders than ever. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, the many job offers to get occupied prevent possible founders from changing into self-employment. This phenomenon is all the more evident in the market for the companies to be acquired.

According to the “DIHK Report on Business Succession 2017”, almost 6,700 elderly owners asked their chambers of commerce for advice to find a successor. Almost 3,000 of them did not find a suitable successor. This marks the highest level since the beginning of the annual survey by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). At the same time, the number of people interested in taking over an old owner’s business has declined, too. “The gap is widening from year to year”, as the report states.

What are the reasons? Tens of thousands of German entrepreneurs reach retirement age. They want or have to sell and retire for reasons of age or health. Of course, their increasing number is also a consequence of demographic change and an ageing society. The percentage decrease in the number of young people only partly answers the question of why, of course.

The first mentioned start-up monitor of the KfW bank provides an important indication. There are basically too few people with the courage to be entrepreneurs. In addition, many of the old SME’s are family businesses. And may it have been customary over generations that the son or daughter took over the craft of the father or parents: Generation Y usually has different ideas about professional life than the hard work of a small businessman in an uncool industry such as hairdresser, plumber, master painter or stationer.

Another reason: Many potential buyers and sellers of companies find it too difficult to determine a realistic purchase price for an existing company. Especially when it comes to the seller’s “life’s work”. Many also fear inheritance tax. Others are reluctant to adopt structures that they may perceive as antiquated. Last but not least: founders often want to realize their dreams with their own brand and business idea, preferably in an innovative start-up with a stylish office instead of a musty workshop.

What does that mean? Tens of thousands of German companies are in danger of closing down within the next years. This puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. In worst-case scenarios: the entire “mittelstand”. The backbone of our economy.

The appeal to the younger generation can only read: Have the courage to take over. You don’t have to create your own brand, you don’t have to build up a new business, you don’t have to make a name for yourself, you don’t have to win customers from zero. You’ll be taking over a healthy business. A large part of the risks of setting up a business are eliminated if you continue to run an existing company. Just ask your chambers of commerce which companies are currently looking for a successor. I’m sure you’ll find the right deal. And to the old entrepreneurs: Make your offer attractive and let go. The younger generation does not want to “go on as before”—and that may absolutely stimulate the business.

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Fall Down And Rise Up Again

If everything seems to go down and lost, we have two options: Give up or start once again. Sounds banal, but proves to be right every time.

By Jens Kügler

One of the darkest days of my life was… when the woman left me? … when the tax office demanded unaffordable additional payments? Both no. Much more painful was this late summer morning at the schoolyard. I was 18 – and like all the cool guys in my class I knew only one topic at that time: traffic school and driving license test. When’s your turn? … and: passed?

Although my driving instructor had repeatedly confirmed that I was a safe and good driver, everything went wrong on the day of my test. I was the loser the next day in my school clique! I was ashamed!! And even more the the second time when I failed again!!! I didn’t tell anyone about my driving tests number three and four. When in December I finally arrived at school for the first time by driving my mum’s car, the relief was great. I became a good driver: And I finally learned how to deal with examiners and my nervousness.

A friend of mine became self-employed as an insurance broker a few years ago. He proudly inaugurated his first external office with a party. His business flourished. Everything went great for four years—until the day the office burned down. All his contracts? Victims to flames. Much worse: He had stored all customer and acquisition data, his tax documents and much more on the hard disk of his PC—which was beyond saving. There was no cloud then. And all the data backups on DVD were burned as well.

He was not to blame for the fire. But for a long time the insurance company refused to pay compensation to him, even though he was one of their brokers. Who wouldn’t have thought of giving up in his place? Re-starting his company would take years and money that he hadn’t until it would be profitable again. He made a virtue out of necessity and let one of “his” other insurance companies hire him as a salesman and clerk.

But the longer he thought about it, the clearer it became to him: He actually always wanted to be an enterpreneur. He wasn’t really happy as an employee. So he decided to start once again. Initially he built up his own business on a part-time basis, supported by his employer, who also benefited from his insurance sales “in his spare time”. Eventually, he won the lawsuit for fire compensation and once again ventured into full-time self-employment. Today, his brokerage firm is in a better position than ever.

In other words: Every human being and every entrepreneur makes mistakes or is simply unlucky at times. In any case, we learn from it and start smarter the second time. Just as I have become a good and safe driver, he is a successful entrepreneur who has secured his business better than at the first start. With a reliable fire and burglary protection policy. And with data on the cloud.

I know that in the USA, with their founder mentality, they regard people like him as a kind of heroes. People who fail, stop and get up again because they don’t give up their dream. It’s a pity that, here in Germany, people who fail have a stigma.

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