“Shaping the face of our future” is the theme of the annual conference organized by ABSL (Business Service Leaders Association) between 16 and 18 November 2021. The event was attended by over 500 participants. This year’s theme refers to the individual contribution of each player in the creation and development of the industry during this difficult period.
In the first part of the conference, ABSL launched the annual report of the business services industry, which presents an image of the sector and its trends.
Romania is currently one of the best, well-known business services destinations in the world, the industry here quickly adapting to the pandemic context.
79% of the companies that participated in the report believe that their turnover will increase in the next period (2022), while 21% consider that it will remain at the same evel of 2020.
The business services industry closed 2020 with revenues of over 9 billion euros. For 2021, an increase of up to 5% is estimated.
Although the pandemic did not produce visible effects on revenues or other economic indicators, 53% of companies in the industry say they have been affected by the health and economic crisis, which increased competition between companies.
“For 59% of the surveyed companies, the turnover increased in 2020 compared to 2019, 27% of the companies registered similar revenues and 14% of the companies registered a decrease in turnover. The growth comes mainly from new business areas and from the increase in external demand, as well as the plans of restructure in large companies. This information comes to confirm statistically what we have noticed during the last year, respectively that many companies bring new processes in Romania and more and more investors are interested in us. At the same time, we need to already think about the next step for the development of the industry, by increasing the share of complex services, with higher added value, in the portfolio of companies.” says Ciprian Dan, President of ABSL
83% of the companies consider Romania an important destination for this industry and 98% of those who responded would recommend our country to potential investors. Among the biggest risks perceived by the companies are the availability of the necessary staff, the economic and socio-political environment, the tax legislation and policy, as well as the competition.
“Finding qualified employees is the biggest challenge even now, during the pandemic. Foreign languages, especially German or the ones less spoken (Dutch, Nordic languages) remain the main employment criteria. In companies in the industry, 8 languages are used, on average, to deliver services, but their number may increase. We also have companies that speak 30 languages. Digital skills (for example SAP for customer operations, JAVA for IT or CRM and ERP for HR) are essential knowledge for future employees. Last but not least, the so-called soft skills and the ability to adapt to a constantly changing world matter.” adds Ciprian Dan.
65% of the surveyed companies will return to office in 2022, 12% planned to return in the last quarter of 2021, prior to the arrival of wave 4, while 22% had already returned to office in the third quarter of 2021. The criteria for returning to the office include the increase in the vaccination rate and the decrease in the number of cases, the end of the state of emergency, as well as other legal issues.
Those who will work from home will come to the office for team meetings, company events or training programs. 64% of respondents who now work from home said that they will work from the office between 5 and 10 days a month, 25% – more than 10 days a month, 11% of companies – less than 5 days a month.
Regarding telework, 70% of the surveyed companies said that it can only be carried out in Romania, 22% allow work from anywhere, with certain restrictions, 5% – without any restrictions, while 3% of companies say they do not have a telework policy.
67% of the companies in the industry will continue to work in a hybrid system, with a well-established plan, 30% of companies will continue in a hybrid system, letting the employees choose the days when they will work from the office. Currently, 84% of companies work from home, 12% – from the office, 4% – from anywhere.
46% of companies in the industry find that the online recruitment process is more difficult and takes more time, while 36% of companies rate online recruitment as superior. The benefits of online recruitment include streamlining processes, access to more potential candidates and increased flexibility due to remote work.
“Business services companies continue to be among the most sought after employers. Thus, even if it was a pandemic year, 80% of companies increased their salaries in 2021, with the average increase being 6.4%. Over 50% of companies offer fixed bonuses, and 67% of them offer performance bonuses”, says Francesca Postolache, Vicepresident of ABSL.
70% of the companies kept the office spaces from the beginning of the pandemic, 23% decreased the surface, and 7% registered increases. Office spaces have adapted to the rules imposed by the pandemic and have been used mainly for team meetings.
Regarding the services provided by the business services industry, 32% of the employees offer customer operations services, 26% – IT, 18% – financial accounting services, 4% – supply management, 4% – telecommunications, 3% – HR, 2% – banking, 10% – other services. In 87% of the companies in the industry, the average age of employees is between 25 and 34 years.
The pandemic increased employee loyalty (attrition rate), with 17% of employees leaving the company in the first 7 months of 2021, compared to the average rate of 26% recorded in 2019.
A new trend is that 43% of companies in the industry use subcontractors or freelancers for situations when the workload increases (an atypical or seasonal increase), due to the need for less common professional skills or a reduction in costs.
“We are at a turning point of the world we operate in. This transformation is far from being over and it is much more profound than it seems. We have yet to understand and manage the long-term effects of the new working environment in a way that would preserve the intrinsic efficiency of our industry while retaining talent by offering meaningful development opportunities.
One aspect is clear though, the pre-pandemic serenity and predictability of our working environment are things of the past. At the same time, the human species cannot continue to exist predominantly in a virtual environment, and we will continue to need direct, physical interaction to evolve.
The ones who refuse to adapt suffer, while the ones seizing opportunities will thrive according to the inexorable law of evolution. Looking back at the ascension of the past years, I am optimistic, and I have great trust in our industry’s ability to adapt.” says Cătălin Iorgulescu, Vicepresident of ABSL.
The ABSL study was conducted together with PwC, between August and September 2021 on a sample of 68 companies with over 47,000 people and a cumulative turnover of 1.4 billion euros.
The business services industry has 179,000 employees in Romania.
The partners of the event are: ACCA, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants – CIMA, Deloitte, Valoris Center.