After a year of working and living in Germany, and after being part of a HR team in a company that was both rapidly scaling and had a high turnover of staff, I’ve come to know the quirks and nuances of the German recruitment landscape very well indeed. Not just the company I worked for either. As my interim role neared its conclusion I approached and was approached by several companies and got to see much of the recruitment culture from the other side. So what have I learned? Let us dive in and take a look.
So what’s this “Brexit” thing we’ve all been hearing about then?
The HR Cat (Sarah Murray): Back in 2016, in order to retain the support of nationalists within the British Conservative party, Prime Minister David Cameron offered the UK a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. The people voted “Leave” by a margin of 52%/48%. The current Prime Minister, Theresa May, subsequently activated Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, and the UK is now set to leave the EU on March 29th 2019 as an automatic operation of law.
Oh I see. So why is this in the news so much?
If you work for a single company for a long time, especially a large company, you’re probably familiar with the common workplace rituals that have developed which mark the beginning and the end of the employee life cycle. The welcome cards, the little speech when someone starts, the little mementos people buy for you when you start. Then there are the leaving parties, the speech on how great an asset someone has been and how sorry everyone is to see them leave, and the post-work trip to a local pub with a few of the people the person leaving became close to. Perhaps you’ve shed a few tears yourself or had others shed tears on your behalf after moving on from a company you grew attached to.
As negative as the actual experience of leaving a job can feel, losing people is an absolutely necessary part of the work ecosystem. People come and people go. It’s in the very nature of most forms of social human activity. Whether it’s a circle of friends, a royal lineage, a scientific project, a private company, or a public service, fresh blood is regularly introduced and others move to something new. It’s a vital part of how social structures adapt themselves to a changing world or try to influence the changes that occur around them. Without this exchange of people stagnation and weakness sets in.
Recruitment, one of the principle functions of HR, has become such a sophisticated and involved process that it is now handled mostly by specialist people who know the questions to ask and the qualifications that matter to the role. Whole businesses have proliferated, worth millions, which do nothing more than offer specialist recruitment services. The reason it is such a weighty topic is obvious – having the right people work for you will make the difference between success and failure.
There have been numerous articles written on recruiting in HR publications across Europe, and even more on the internet. Besides from some notable exceptions, few have impressed me. An overreliance on buzzwords and corporate phrasing (“Reach out and pick a dynamic candidate who’s core competency gives them an attitude of thinking outside the box, enabling them to synergise rapidly with your business ecosystem!”) might be good for grabbing the reader’s attention, but such articles do nothing to advance the readers actual knowledge of the topic. One of the problems is that a lot of these articles are simply stealthy advertisements with email addresses or clickbacks to recruitment agencies, so exist to sell the process as opposed to inform about it.
As someone has done a fair bit of recruiting, let me try to inform, or at least illustrate the enormous amount of variables involved that make recruitment such a massive task.
Modern technology has made travel easier than it ever has been. I can buy an airline ticket today and be in Australia by tomorrow. When I was interviewed for a job in Germany I boarded an aeroplane in my native Britain, flew to Berlin, spent several hours with the team I would be working with, and then flew back home again, all in a single day. Before I made this trip I had several initial interviews remotely via Skype. When I was offered employment I gave serious consideration to working here, staying here during the the week, and then flying back to the UK for the weekend, such is the ease of travel that being able to cross several hundred miles and a few countries every week is simple and easy.