DMEXCO interview: How can we overcome the shortage of skilled professionals?
We have been hearing warnings about the shortage of skilled professionals for quite a while now. Although the German government still maintains that there is no widespread lack of competent staff, many companies are struggling to find people with the skills they need.
Maren Freyberg from executive search consultancy Dwight Cribb on the shortage of skilled professionals
The figures are clear in the latest DMEXCO trend survey: almost half of the companies that responded (48%) currently have unfilled job vacancies. This shows that finding suitable employees is more important than finding new revenue streams.
The shortage of skilled professionals is increasing the pressure on recruiters. Their area of expertise is finding and hiring good employees, but their industry in particular is struggling because of the shortage. How can recruiters tackle the shortage of skilled professionals when their industry is urgently in need of competent staff? We wanted to drill down into the issue, so we sat down with Maren Freyberg from executive search consultancy Dwight Cribb.
What skillset will recruiters need ten years from now? Which of those skills are already essential? And which of the skills they will need in the future are still a long way off?
Maren Freyberg: The ability to analyze and transfer when assessing people’s skills and potential, along with less focus on process and administration. Digital tools will continue to optimize operationalization and reduce the time and effort involved. But the key role of in-house recruiters could include identifying the skills required for the position to be filled and understanding how to find them – if necessary, by looking beyond the applicant’s CV and the experience you would expect to find there – and then being able to communicate their findings with the candidates as well. And being able to do that is already an invaluable skill!
Which policy frameworks might resolve the shortage of skilled professionals in the medium and long term?
Maren Freyberg: I see very few policy approaches apart from changing public perceptions and making professional skills more attractive by enhancing and upgrading training courses and job descriptions as a whole. Promoting professional skills throughout the school years, increasing rates provided by the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) for specialized careers in industries of the future. If people leave school and university with a greater professional understanding and a wider overview of the careers that are available to them, and if they are given the opportunity at school, during training, or while studying to learn their skills and strengths, they will also be in a much better position to evaluate what they want to do and the options that are open to them. The former involves providing even more information in even more educational institutions, while the latter involves changing curricula – not something that can be done in a hurry.
Not everyone expects their employer to save the world, but we all want to be sure that we're investing our time and skills in companies that are at the very least not going to make the world a worse place.
What are the most interesting benefits? What will be particularly important to employees in the future?
Maren Freyberg: Good salaries and the prospect of higher pay in the future – in other words, opportunities for advancement – although these are seen more as a means to an end, as well as plenty of transparency and options for a positive work/life balance. Although the incoming specialists, managers, and executives are still hugely committed, they show that in a different way than their predecessors, who justified their own importance through constant willingness and capacity for suffering. Not everyone expects their employer to save the world, but we all want to be sure that we’re investing our time and skills in companies that are at the very least not going to make the world a worse place.
What are the most skewed benefits that are already being offered?
Maren Freyberg: Deceptive employee retention measures like thick coupon booklets or partner deals where the price can be as much as 5% above the market price and the employer also gets an internal commission. Otherwise, there aren’t really any “skewed” benefits. People’s preferences vary and a wide range of constructs is possible within the strictures of corporate governance and tax legislation.
Someone who is high up and has lots of people below them is seen as worthy of respect. However good the best expert is, these days they tend to be "worth" less than an executive.
What are the most important strategies for overcoming the shortage of skilled professionals?
Maren Freyberg: I believe that there are three.
First, increasing the social status of employees with specialized knowledge and expertise but little management ambition. Right now, the opposite is true: someone who is high up and has lots of people below them is seen as worthy of respect. However good the best expert is, these days they tend to be “worth” less than an executive. Try explaining to your children that someone who saves people’s lives earns less than someone who decorates houses or designs posters. Why do children look up to characters like Bob the Builder and not Emily the Event Manager?
Second, focusing on target skills and characteristics in recruitment, and taking a structured, long-term approach to developing the required specialized knowledge in companies and making it part of corporate culture – organizationally and consistently. Making that happen, however, takes a strong talent for identifying and assessing skills; something that is admittedly not easy to do.
Third, overcoming the reluctance to take advice from outsiders. While companies must be able to convince and engage their own employees, the close relationship between a loyal HR department and company employees means that the HR department almost always has tunnel vision. Take advantage of an external perspective and input when it comes to selecting and onboarding new employees. After all, the final decision still rests with you!