Management shortage a growing concern

SLOVAKIA is starting to feel a lack of top professionals and managers - a trend that is happening around the world. The Slovak Spectator surveyed HR consultants to ask whether the trend in Slovakia is different than in more developed economies, and how companies can motivate their top workers to retain them.

SLOVAKIA is starting to feel a lack of top professionals and managers - a trend that is happening around the world. The Slovak Spectator surveyed HR consultants to ask whether the trend in Slovakia is different than in more developed economies, and how companies can motivate their top workers to retain them. Dana Blechová, senior consultant with Iventa Slovakia Management Consulting, Eva Zahradniková, principal consultant with ISG, and Štefan Hrin, country manager with Hays Slovakia, answered the questions.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What factors are causing the lack of specialists in Slovakia? Do you consider the current state to be critical?

Dana Blechová
photo: Courtesy of Iventa

Dana Blechová (DB):
On one hand, it is caused by a big boom on the Slovak market, and on the other hand by the low quality of the education system - especially secondary vocational schools and universities, which do not prepare students for the workforce in practice. Also, the Slovak market is small. There are professions here that can not find a place in the market, and companies are often too focused on one field. Despite a dynamic market, companies search for the same positions over and over again, and if a company has an opening for an unconventional position, they may not find the right candidate. It also has a basis in history: there are professions that emerged only after 1989, and there are still professions that are completely new to Slovakia.

There are regions and positions which are more critical than others. That is again related to the situation on the Slovak market, where there is a lack of experts in the production sector, and especially in car industry. I think the car industry is already critical.

Eva Zahradniková
photo: Courtesy of ISG

Eva Zahradniková (EZ):The lack of specialists in Slovakia is developing along with the growth of job opportunities. The need for certain professions progresses at the same pace as the development of a global business environment. This phenomenon in Slovakia additionally involves the small size of the labour market. It means that in a certain time span, only a limited number of specialists who are personally and professionally mature appear. When we add to these factors the short time in which the required experiences could have been gained (which is, in fact, the last 16 years since the fall of communism), and low labour mobility caused mainly by expensive housing and regional disparities, the lack of specialists must be our assumed state and we must respond adequately to it.

Štefan Hrin
photo: Courtesy of Hays

Štefan Hrin (ŠH): This shortage is caused mainly by a significant influx of foreign investments over a relatively short time and by opportunities to quite easily find a job abroad, mainly within EU countries. In some industries the problem is so serious that employers are more often hiring professionals from other countries.

TSS: Is the core of this problem different in Western and Eastern Europe?

DB: Many companies shifted their activities to the Eastern Europe region, so now these markets are more dynamic and we are still learning. Eastern Europe has certainly been influenced by old regime. The school system in Western Europe is on a higher level, and despite the fact we have always been told that we had good technical universities, now we see that graduates do not fulfill employers' requirements.

EZ: Yes, it is different. The difference in Western Europe is caused by a larger labour market, a longer period in which it was possible to obtain relevant experience, and a larger mobility of labour.

TSS: Which professions feel the lack of specialists most accutely?

DB: I think Slovakia's main problem is the fact it has been strongly specialised in the production sector, and thus most of the positions demanded by the market are the technical ones. In the future, it would be great to diversify the Slovak economy more. However, without labour from abroad, we will still face a lack of employees, as well as a lack of experts.

EZ: Slovak society is currently facing a lack of professionals in all levels of management in IT, human resources, project management, and the dynamic real estate development sector.

TSS: What is the greatest motivation for these specialists? Is the salary the most important thing?

DB: Salary is certainly a strong motivation, but it is not sufficient in itself. Instead, specialists are interested in the chances for self-fulfillment, professional development, and the company they work for.

EZ: A strong motivation for top specialists is mainly their own professional development. If a company is focused on the professional development of its specialists, it gains a higher quality performance, and at the same time, it creates the conditions to motivate specialists.

If a manager talks with his employees about their career targets and identifies a possible interconnection between their professional targets and the company's targets, he helps the employees fulfill their goals, and at the same time to fulfill the goals of the whole company. If employees are able to use their own strengths and at the same time fulfill their professional ambitions, both parties always profit from the situation.

Relationships with senior managers are also important factors that affect motivation. Supporting good relationships in the workplace, and the willingness and ability of seniors to recognise good performance and to give regular feedback, make people feel valued and respected.

An employer who pays attention to communicating the company's values and mission gives employees the opportunity to share in fulfilling the company's mission, to understand their contribution to all the company's operations, and to identify themselves with company's values, which strengthens their feelings of self-fulfillment.

An exceptional financial reward is a factor that lets an employer attract a larger number of potential candidates, but money itself is usually not a sufficient and a long-term motivation. Financial compensation is only one factor that positively influences employees' motivation.

On the other hand, low financial compensation and not responding to a situation on the labour market or an employee's performance can lead to frustration and a high turnover of workers.

Professional motivation has several dimensions and it is a very important prerequisite for attracting top professionals, for getting an above-standard performance from these professionals, for increasing the quality of services for customers and increasing productivity, and for the growth of the company.

ŠH: For top specialists and managers, salary plays a less and less important role. It is natural that these professionals are paid very well, and that is why they more often consider other factors that affect their job choices.

It is mainly the prestige of a company, the amount of responsibility that comes with a job, the opportunity to develop their career, independence, the opportunity to influence the direction of a company, and other factors.

TSS: What measures, at a company or the government level, could ease the situation or help stop it from becoming critical?

DB: At a company level, it would certainly help to grow these talents, to launch a trainee programme for graduates, help them with career plans, etc. On the macro-economic level, it would make sense to open the market more, and to make the curriculum at schools more realistic, as well as offering the study specialisations that the market needs.

A closer cooperation between schools and companies would be helpful too, so that the teaching becomes more practical - for example, more teachers with practical experience, professional training for students in the companies, etc.

EZ: It is very important to have as close an interconnection between schools and employers as possible, and the ability of education institutions to respond to changing conditions in the Slovak labour market. It is also about the willingness of employers to sometimes invest even considerable amounts of money into the further training of their professionals. Doing this, they help not only themselves but they also raise the quality of labour on the Slovak market. I would like to praise managers who also give opportunities to professionals who are willing to change their existing specialisation, and provide them the time and conditions for obtaining a new and necessary specialisation.

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