In an interview with Staffing Industry Analysts, Vera Calasan, CEO of German engineering and project services recruitment firm Excellence AG, discussed the current trends in the German professional staffing market and how her company has managed to outpace the market.
“Unlike in the UK and Netherlands, which are more mature flexible labour markets, in Germany the penetration rate is still around 2%. There is a lot of growth potential in general and even more in the specialised engineering service industry,” Vera explained. “The barrier to entry seems low, but it’s all about people, network and reputation.”
A chronic shortage of STEM candidates (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths), known in Germany as MINT (Mathematik, Informatik, Naturwissenschaft, and Technik), is a concern facing companies across the world. But, if people are key, how do you attract rare talent?
“German employees want three things,” she explained. “Firstly, they don’t want to move. It’s very expensive in Germany to buy or move houses and people don´t want to lose their social environment. Therefore they don’t like to relocate for work. They also want security, which means, they want to keep the same reliable employer. And thirdly, they want a good salary.”
“For engineers it’s special. They, first of all, want to work on innovations, then the list continues the same. They are more willing to move to a second house, for a short time, to work on an interesting project. That way they don’t need to move their family and they can travel home at weekends.”
“We meet their need. With us, they don’t have to change employers when they change task, project or industry because we remain their employer. We serve impressive clients and can offer engineers high-level, interesting projects, within multiple companies and in diverse industries,” she added.
For Vera, however, it’s not about a shortage of workers, but about securing the right expert, at the right time, and only for as long as you need it: “Yes, companies are still looking for permanent workers but they need to change their mind-set. They will have a project for maybe two years; so they will only need a specialised engineer for that time. After those two years the project ends, the contract ends, and the company doesn’t have to keep that overhead on their books.”
The fourth industrial revolution currently underway in Germany, known locally as Industrie 4.0, is forcing companies to look beyond their traditional industries to cope with technological advances. Where once you would have needed an engineer and mechanic to create and install the cylinder lock in a car, you now need a software engineer to write the code for an electronic lock.
And it’s in these cross-over markets where Excellence has found its niche.
“Technical developments will increase the need for experts from multiple industries for future projects. There is huge potential for engineers as companies are investing billions of euros in the new world, where machines are communicating with machines. Especially for the fourth industrial revolution €40 billion will be invested until 2020 on an annual base, based on a PwC study from October 2014.”
“Our unique selling point is our reach across all industries and our experienced employees. Cross-industry knowledge is more and more important and that is our niche. Getting these teams of specialists together and working on game-changing innovations,” Vera explained.
“About 95% of our employees are not only well educated but experienced engineers; clients trust our experts, as my colleagues understand exactly their need and are able to find the best possible solution. Excellence employees have substantiated knowledge and long lasting relationships. This is the secret of our success: our people.”
It’s a strategy that appears to be both effective and profitable. Where other firms in Germany are consolidating and focusing heavily on cost control, Excellence is investing heavily in growth. In September 2014, the company announced that it will open seven new offices in 2015, nearly doubling in size.
Prior to her appointment as CEO of Excellence, Vera Calasan worked for a number of important German staffing firms and was, between 2009 and 2013, CEO of ManpowerGroup Germany.
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