By Anton Round

With Europe facing more economic uncertainty, many firms are adopting a ‘wait and see’ stance when it comes to hiring new staff. But those looking to recruit experienced professionals in finance, technology and energy are finding they have a fight on their hands.

Amid the continued financial worry and gloomy unemployment figures, there has been growing demand for specialist skills across Europe. Rapid advances in technology and the need to upgrade infrastructure mean IT professionals continue to be highly sought after. Indeed, The European Commission’s report “Closing the gap by 2020” from The Grand Coalition for digital job creation, sees IT skills and jobs as Europe’s ‘backbone’. Meanwhile, regulatory change in the financial services sector and a wave of large-scale projects in the energy markets have seen strong demand for experienced professionals.

Many businesses are adopting a ‘wait and see’ stance when it comes to hiring new staff. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Eurozone’s unemployment rate rose to 11.8 per cent in November 2012. This reflects the rising level of unemployment in countries such as Ireland, Portugal, Spain and France.

But while some regions suffer stifled growth, others have bucked the trend, with Germany in particular providing a fertile market. Here, there is strong demand for finance specialists — whether in accounting, controlling or audit. And it is coming not just from the traditional domain of banks and other financial institutions, but also corporate, industrial and manufacturing firms, most notably those in the automotive industry.

Even in the UK, where austerity measures are beginning to bite hard, there have been pockets of activity, with an air of quiet confidence permeating the gloom. In both the UK and Germany, exports have remained strong, but firms in other nations should also be preparing for a return to growth over the longer term. Moreover, market forces dictate that most firms can only freeze recruitment programmes for so long before productivity and financial performance are impacted.

Investment cycles fuel demand

In sectors where investment cycles tend to be longer, such as energy and manufacturing, delays in recruitment can be felt much further out in terms of a drop in output or an inability to service increased demand. For example, with a number of major projects looming large on the horizon, European countries face fierce competition for experienced oil and gas professionals.

With renewable energy technologies such as wind, wave and biomass promising a ‘third industrial revolution’, the market is crying out for experienced practitioners in the fields of electrical engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering and specialist structural engineering.
With the supply chain in many industries being influenced not just by the need to improve technology, but to drive systems efficiency and output, demand for IT professionals also continues to remain strong and the market fluid, as IT contractors are more willing to re-locate to countries offering attractive rates of pay and favourable market conditions. For instance, Germany has seen the construction of large data centres and shared services facilities raising demand for skills. Given that these are situated in more remote locations in order to control costs, firms are offering higher rates of pay to recruit IT professionals with the necessary skills.

Planning for the longer term

The reality is that the skill sets tied to finance, IT, and energy are genuinely mobile and nations such as Germany and Denmark offer financial incentives to attract highly-qualified professionals from other countries. Therefore, money as a main motivator does not hold the same weight as it did before. Candidates now look for firms and locations that can provide more — what is known in recruitment circles as ‘lifestyle, career and motivation’ (LCM).

This change in attitude demands that recruiters focus more on communicating the benefits of working for them and living in their local community. Firms must also take the time to get to know candidates, their partners and their families and go the extra distance to help find local work and family support.

The conventional approach to recruitment — i.e. simply casting a wide net and whittling down candidates to a shortlist — is no longer a valid strategy in today’s increasingly mobile and social media dominated environment. Experienced and innovative recruiters now employ a more highly-engaged model, using developments in digital technology, mobile and social media to ensure instant and continuous communication with potential candidates. Tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are now new cogs in an ever-growing recruitment wheel.

The fact is that the recruitment market is changing dramatically (in terms of current trends and the different approaches being adopted). This is why European firms must act now to find new ways to add value to the recruitment process and engage with potential candidates if they are to win what has become a truly global talent tug-of-war.

This article has been taken from our International Trade Today magazine. To read more articles like this for free follow this link: www.issuu.com/internationaltradetoday

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