Local employment market matures with crisis

Newsroom 16/05/2011 | 11:37

Human resources specialists see an increase in employment opportunities, which is a good sign for jobseekers and bosses alike. Until then, however, the market is slowly absorbing global trends, such as home working, outsourcing, loyalty programs and internships. Local experts told BR where they think HR is heading.

Corina Dumitrescu

 

Browsing through the National Employment Agency ads reveals that between May 6 and 12 there were over 10,000 employment opportunities throughout Romania. Of these, however, just 755 were for university graduates, while a staggering 9,247 positions were aimed at less qualified applicants.

The labor market looks to be in good shape, experts say. “Our analysis suggests most industries have increased their rate of hiring,” says Adrian Stanciu, CEO of Smartree, a company specializing in payroll and personnel administration services. To back up his statement, Stanciu adds that his aim is for the company to double its turnover this year, to RON 20 million. He notes that most of the company’s clients have raised salaries, which is also a good sign for the market. Stanciu continues, “Another important aspect in the past six months is that the number of companies intending to extend their presence on the Romanian market is increasing.”

The new Labor Code has also had strong reverberations on the local scene. HR specialists regard this change as positive. Serban Mrejeriu, HR consultant at AIMS Human Capital Romania, says, “I would compare the moment of introduction of this code to that of the flat tax in 2005. Many people were predicting catastrophic scenarios, but in the end, everyone gained.”

But what of the specter of unemployment? Over the last few years there has been constant and increasing demand for university graduates in industries such as IT, sales, commerce, engineering, client service and accounting. This has led to fierce competition in these fields and lower demand in others. The financial crisis and oversaturation of the market are throwing alarming numbers of graduates onto a market that is not ready for them.

The loyalty factor

Although the crisis has provided an excuse for some employers to make their staff’s conditions worse, other companies are still investing in the development of their employees. “Any job is valued nowadays. However, treating staff badly because they don’t have any alternative is not the best motivation, since a dissatisfied employee is half as productive,” says Sorin Faur, outsourcing and human resources director at BDO Romania and HR Club member.

“Employees can be motivated to remain with the company through more than one method: salary increases and performance bonuses (in most cases), promotion opportunities for the best performing employees and access to training and specialization courses,” says Mrejeriu.

In spite of this, fluctuation in the level of personnel still occurs, he adds. “A level of personnel fluctuation of up to ten percent per year is not alarming for a production company, but in the services area, the figure should be a bit lower.” Adriana Boscanici, managing partner at Trainart and HR Club member, adds that training is one of the top three priorities of a HR department, which is also a result of financing from European funds invested for this purpose.

Miriana Matei, human resources business partner at Schneider Electric Romania, gives an employer’s perspective on the matter of employee retention, which, at her firm, is 95.5 percent. “A common practice in the company is beyond-borders mobility. There are colleagues who chose to continue their career in other subsidiaries, who were supported in their decisions through the circulation and promotion of their profiles in other countries, through interviews, offer negotiation, foreign language courses, etc.”

The crisis has been an opportunity for development in the eyes of some HR experts. Lara Maria, consultant at Stanton Chase  says, “The crisis has had the effect of abruptly maturing both employers and employees. Once the need for retention became obvious, many companies successfully implemented policies in this regard. A very well drawn up career plan and support for it through programs provided by the employer are good ways to retain an employee.”

Outsource or in-house?

Smartree CEO Adrian Stanciu estimates that his firm made around RON 9 million from recurring outsourcing projects and temporary employment, while RON 1 million came from regular projects in 2010. Outsourcing, locally, is still developing, he says, although it is an efficient means for cutting costs.

“Romania is a country in which companies have difficulty adopting new trends in business management. An explanation for this might lie in the fact that the economy is still facing basic issues, rather than complex and advanced elements. Movements such as organization de-stratification and concentration on key activities have been around since the 1980s. One such example is the auto industry, where all producers opt to use their own design works, while externalizing many other activities,” Stanciu adds.

The crisis has led to differing reactions to outsourcing, observes Faur: “Outsourcing has had mixed effects. In order to cut costs, some companies have minimized the number of outside suppliers, preferring to do what they can internally. Others, on the other hand, have chosen to outsource to reduce their headcount, keeping only core staff, which has obviously encouraged outsourcing firms.”

A changing market – the ‘mobile’ employee

Jobs such as regional sales representative, IT consultant and software developer are only a few of the local positions that create the possibility of a “mobile” employee, with a home-based office. Employers go for this for reasons such as “cutting costs, employee motivation and loyalty, as well as a productivity increase,” says the Smartree CEO.

“In 2010, over a third of companies allowed some of their employees to work from home. Between 1 and 30 percent of employees had this opportunity, and the number rose in the final trimester of 2010,” adds Anca Amariei, account manager at Daedalus Consulting and HR Club member.

“However, most companies prefer their employees to come to the office to perform their duties. One reason for this is that they have better control over the employees’ activity that way. Plus, many jobs require direct and permanent contact with team members, participation in meetings and other group activities that cannot be done from a home office,” says Mrejeriu. He quotes a study conducted by his company into software companies in western Romania, which found that 25 percent of the participating firms support flexible office hours while almost ten percent allow staff to work from home for one day.

But some companies are against remote working on other grounds. “Not everyone can perform their job well from home, due to the stimulation. For some people who are new to a certain position, working in the office is a major advantage, at least in the period of adaptation, because they may ask for immediate help or feedback from department colleagues,” says Sorina Donisa, SEO at APT Resources & Services and HR Club member.

Companies’ openness towards personnel working outside the office is contingent firstly on the job category, but also limited by mentality, believes Madalina Motora, KA operations manager at Manpower. “In Romania, this trend is still in its infancy, but we predict that technological development, companies’ need to stay competitive and have a supple cost structure, and the repositioning of employees’ mindset from the concept of ‘clocking on and off’ to ‘achieving the objective’ will soon create the basis for this transformation.” Matei adds, “In Romania, employee culture involves having an office, leaving home and detaching from family life in order to concentrate on office work.”

She suggests that a solution for the local market could be allowing personnel to work remotely on days when there are no meetings or when the employee needs to deal with personal issues. Such an attitude is highly motivational for staff members. “This method also has some disadvantages, like the lack of constant contact with other colleagues and disconnection to the organizational culture. In spite of this, home working does not necessarily mean five days of home-based work. I have also seen efficient variations, combining working from home with coming into the office,” comments Stanciu. Cloud computing is one of the methods that facilitate remote working, he adds.

This kind of approach will not suit just any company, notes Savuica. “Remote working can happen with large companies, with solid and well implemented structures and procedures, through which the activity of the employee may be measured, if it is quantitative. If the activity is creative, however, one has to rely on trust.”

Moreover, the global trend of home offices is also a source of management development. “Beyond the IT infrastructure, which is already very accommodating and readily available to many companies, this is a leap that companies are taking towards management through objectives,” Motora adds. 

New graduates – where to?     

The situation is not as bad as it used to be, assures Mrejeriu, who says that there are a lot of opportunities for university leavers and not just in the aforementioned domains.

“At the peak of the crisis, few companies were hiring juniors, with most preferring specialists with experience. I believe that this year, with the arrival of new investments, the trend will change. In the BPO industry (Business Process Outsourcing), firms are most often looking for young graduates with language skills. Audit firms are recruiting young economists, fresh graduates, every year,” he says, adding to the most wanted list graduates of IT studies (especially from the Polytechnics University) and retail chain personnel.

Enjoying less rosy projects, however, are students finishing “purely academic subjects (philosophy, history, mathematics, physics), which normally provide future education professionals, a system currently going through a very difficult time. Neither do law or sociology graduates have many alternatives in a market that still cannot absorb the high number of graduates that public and private higher education institutions are currently providing,” Mrejeriu added.

Other areas where employment opportunities have declined are banking, commercial design and marketing, says Mrejeriu. Candidates seeking to pursue careers in such areas may have to accept compromises, such as relocation, he adds.

Overall, students from most disciplines have been affected by the crisis. “The economic context makes the current market unfriendly towards young graduates, irrespective of their field of study. This is a result of a general shift of bosses’ attention to specialist and management positions,” says Oana Datki, country manager of Consulteam Romania and HR Club member.

“It is a well known fact that Romanian universities teach their students theory. Unfortunately, business life is different in practice,” says Maria of Stanton Chase.

On the other hand, they are disadvantaged by “their lack of experience and the initial training, which is not always cheap.” Faur urges young candidates to consider jobs in event promotions, call centers, as well as seasonal activities and positions that require foreign language knowledge and computer proficiency, skills that the older generation may not have.

Adding her own recommendation for university leavers, Cristina Savuica, managing partner at Lugera & Makler and HR Club member, advises, “The most important thing for young graduates seeking jobs is learning how to make oneself noticed throughout their interaction with the potential employer through the proof of the knowledge that they have accumulated during their studies, demonstrating their technical skills as well as their language abilities and enthusiasm for the job and the company.”

corina.dumitrescu@business-review.ro

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