Melliand International 3/2023: The shortage o...
Melliand International 3/2023

The shortage of skilled workers – the painful path to new visions

Urs Konstantin Rouette (Source: Rouette Executive Search)
Urs Konstantin Rouette (Source: Rouette Executive Search)

A company's capital is not its product, but the employees who create it. If jobs remain unfilled too often for too long, this endangers the success of the company. The balance of power in the labor market has shifted, and this painful fact must clear the way for new visions.

The labor market is changing more than some prefer
According to a survey by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, more than half of all companies are already affected by staff shortages.
At first glance, the reason for this seems to be obvious: the baby-boomer generation, which has a high birth rate and is industrious, is beginning to retire. The following, low birth-rate generations, for whom their private lives are more important than their jobs, are not able to compensate for this. However, if you look a little closer, you will notice that the following generations are well educated, consider work and family to be of equal value and want to make a difference. Probably for the first time in history, workers are empowered to make demands, however uncomfortable and painful this fact may be for companies.
As is well known, lamenting is not a business model, the focus must be rather on improving all those internal structures that make a company so attractive to workers that it remains successful and sustainable.

Companies as applicants
Companies that have so far relied on the attractiveness of their brands or their innovative strength to attract and retain talent need to rethink this attitude in a timely manner. Employees are a company's most important asset and its most volatile at the same time. Personal priorities are shifting for employees at all levels. Their personality, competence and motivation are the driving force behind the company's success; their departure endangers it. In the meantime, companies are courting employees. How companies achieve this is outlined below.
The composition of the workforce is changing
For alleviating the shortage of skilled workers, people who previously had little chance of a career must be included. Often, these people fall short of their potential despite good training because their circumstances make them dependent on flexible as well as digital work opportunities. Companies should not miss the opportunity to unearth this treasure.

Leadership as a task instead of an end in itself
In this context, good leadership is becoming increasingly important. Managers must lead. This core task of personal leadership is often counteracted by corporate structures.
Some managers cannot lead. They became managers because they were the best at fulfilling the technical tasks or because it was time for a promotion, without having been prepared for it or their personality being suitable. Others are not allowed to lead because they are prevented from doing so by a heavy workload with day-to-day professional activities. Still others get lost in micromanaging their team, which not only eats up a lot of time, but also demotivates teams with outstanding professional skills. Leaders in highly hierarchical organizations, in which a lot of value is placed on status symbols, are particularly at risk.

Recognition in professional work
Some of the deficits in leadership described above can be prevented by rewarding professional successes not only through hierarchical promotions, but above all through appreciation. Appreciation is not an empty phrase if professional and disciplinary competence are equally valued by the company in terms of recognition and remuneration. Managers and specialists then work in their respective fields with full power, unhindered, self-responsible and fairly paid. Incidentally, this idea of self-responsibility and equality also underlies modern, very successful project methods and promotes a positive error culture.

And what does that mean in everyday life?
Companies need to take a critical look at themselves and their beliefs. Do we find status symbols, hierarchies and working in presence important or can we put the costs of previous structures and status symbols into our digital equipment so that processes become more efficient, and people can work for us without relocating and long commutes? Can we become so attractive with flexible working time and contract models similar to those of freelancers that specialists from all over the world want to work for us? Do we trust in the creativity, knowledge and motivation of our employees and pave the way for them to fully utilize this potential for us? Do we carry on as before, endure the associated pain, or do we break up the conventional structures with vision? The answer is simple. Or not?
Urs Konstantin Rouette
Rouette Executive Search

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