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How do you make a successful entry into the Slovak labour market?

Entry into a foreign labour market represents an important strategic decision for any company. Despite a relatively high unemployment rate the Slovak labour market is a competitive environment and so it is crucial for an investor to answer the following four questions prior to their entry. What is the brand awareness of the investor’s brand in the Slovak market? Brand awareness plays a key role in a successful recruitment process. Entering companies operating in a business-to-consumer area usually have a significant head-start compared with local start-ups or even global business-to-business companies. One must therefore differentiate between company brand awareness and employer brand awareness. At the start of the recruitment process it is advisable to carry out a survey focused on the brand awareness of the entering company, in which the candidate target group and the position of the company is assessed in terms of the competition that the company will face. Another important step in the survey is to explore any possible risks of confusion with another brand, for example similar-sounding brands, prejudices that candidates associate with the brand-name, and so on. The results of the survey should be incorporated not only within a company’s recruitment strategy when it is launching its operations, but also in financing the strategic plan for recruitment marketing, which should reflect the specific details of the Slovak labour market.

Entry into a foreign labour market represents an important strategic decision for any company. Despite a relatively high unemployment rate the Slovak labour market is a competitive environment and so it is crucial for an investor to answer the following four questions prior to their entry.
What is the brand awareness of the investor’s brand in the Slovak market? Brand awareness plays a key role in a successful recruitment process. Entering companies operating in a business-to-consumer area usually have a significant head-start compared with local start-ups or even global business-to-business companies. One must therefore differentiate between company brand awareness and employer brand awareness. At the start of the recruitment process it is advisable to carry out a survey focused on the brand awareness of the entering company, in which the candidate target group and the position of the company is assessed in terms of the competition that the company will face. Another important step in the survey is to explore any possible risks of confusion with another brand, for example similar-sounding brands, prejudices that candidates associate with the brand-name, and so on. The results of the survey should be incorporated not only within a company’s recruitment strategy when it is launching its operations, but also in financing the strategic plan for recruitment marketing, which should reflect the specific details of the Slovak labour market.

What sort of candidate are we looking for? Defining a profile of candidates is another vital part of the recruitment process. If the definitions of candidate profiles are too general, which is for example typical of fresh graduates with zero or minimal work experience, the company should be prepared for the risk of strong rivalry from direct and indirect competitors. It is therefore important for a company to answer further questions at the beginning of the recruitment process: How many and what type of staff will be needed at the moment that the company starts operating? What type of recruitment will follow in the future? Will the needs of the company be covered by a single recruitment drive, or will continuing recruitment be necessary? Are there enough of the specialists we need currently in the market?

All global brands which enter the Slovak labour market face the same problem despite a high rate of unemployment: how to get the people who meet their needs on board. This question is important for these companies as their staff need to have a professional level comparable to colleagues in any branch around the world. Unemployment in Slovakia has a very heterogeneous structure, so one must differentiate between individual administrative regions and cities. The country also has a high ratio of long-term unemployment, due to a traditionally low willingness on the part of the labour force to move into work. It is therefore necessary to have a clear strategy for financing this area prepared well in advance.

How to deal with it? Companies may choose to employ the services of local personnel agencies or experienced headhunters, or they may wish to patiently build and enhance their own employer brand from the very beginning. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages which differ depending on local labour market conditions and the recruitment strategy and long-term HR objectives of the company in the given region. But it is important to bear in mind that it is not only the company’s choice of tactics for the primary “populating” of the company that is concerned in this decision, but also all recruitment through the upcoming period. It holds true that investment into developing the employer’s own brand has a significantly higher rate of return especially from a long-term perspective, because the company profits from an inflow of candidates who apply directly and without mediators to the company. A strong employer brand also positively influences the decision-making process of experienced professionals employed by a company’s labour market competitors. If a company decides to build their own employer brand other aspects come into play, for example investment into its continuous presence on job portals. Relationships with university and student organisations should be developed as well. This approach enables companies to recruit talent from targeted universities while they are still in their period of study.

Is the employer brand more important than the corporate brand? In some cases this is definitely true. It is not only the Slovak labour market that is smaller; naturally this holds true for the Slovak goods and services market as well. This is why marketing expenditure in business-to-business companies, professional services companies and other organisations is markedly lower in comparison with their western branches, where their clientele is more numerous and their ties with supply chains are wider. As a result the central European region typically has companies investing in synergising their employer brand with the needs of corporate brand building.

Martin Onofrej works for PMP Marketing.

More information about Slovak business environment you can find in our Investment Advisory Guide.

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