AssiDomän's Anton Vačko.
photo: Courtesy AssiDomän
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Is it generally easy for you to fill posts in your company?
Anton Vačko (AV): Because Štúrovo is some distance from the economically most attractive area of Slovakia - Bratislava - we sometimes have a problem attracting employees.
TSS: Is it that people are flooding Bratislava and are less willing to go to Štúrovo or other areas of Slovakia?
AV: Štúrovo is outside the 'happening centre', which is generally considered to be Bratislava, or bigger Slovak towns like Trnava, Trenčín, Žilina, and Banská Bystrica where people see more opportunities and bigger job prospects than in small towns. Štúrovo, on the other hand, is a small town on the Hungarian border and this probably turns some people off.
TSS: Do your employees have to speak Hungarian as well as Slovak?
AV: Unfortunately, many people who have considered coming here believed that they would have to speak Hungarian, but this is not true. For certain positions we require English, but Hungarian is not a requirement at all. This is a common misunderstanding.
TSS: Why do you think the most skilled university graduates tend to go to Bratislava or abroad, and almost ignore the rest of the country?
AV: This problem exists because in smaller towns young people have a tough time finding housing. Under Communism, companies gave out flats to young people who were employees of that company. Today this is no longer the case, although we try to find at least some accommodation for our employees. But it's a big problem to attract someone who is married and has a family, although for higher company posts we are able to offer an attractive salary package.
TSS: How did you manage to overcome the problem?
AV: In Slovakia this is always easiest achieved by offering a competitive salary. In our firm, with a total of 930 employees, the average wage is 16,000 Slovak crowns ($328) per month [the average Slovak wage is 11,400 crowns - ed. note]. But in the end we manage to attract people even by arranging accommodation, and these managers will often then work through the week and go home for the weekends.
TSS: What qualities do you seek when hiring new people?
AV: We are an international company, and we therefore require a range of skills, such as university education, English language skills, and people who have an 'international dimension'. That means people who have either worked abroad or studied for a certain period, or managers with experience of working for international firms.
TSS: Have you seen an improvement in the quality and quantity of such people over the last couple of years? Do they tend to be younger people, or to involve the older generation as well?
AV: Both groups are represented. Even the older generation has understood that to compete on the job market with skilled younger people they need languages.
TSS: Apart from education and language skills, what are you looking for in an ideal candidate?
AV: We need managerial skills but also good character traits like honesty and virtue. Slovak managers often have character failings, and may be inclined to prefer one client over another after being paid money. Therefore, we pay a lot of attention to people's references.
TSS: Have you had any bad experiences in your company regarding this character flaw?
AV: I have in the past, but I don't want to be more specific.
TSS: Why are Slovaks so lured by money, or susceptible to corrupt business practices?
AV: It all depends on the person's character. We try to avoid this problem by maximising the transparency of communication in our company. Not only in Slovakia is it true that "opportunity makes a thief". In a company, everything must be organised so that every step is as transparent and controllable as it can be. The model must apply to employees at all levels.