« In Südtirol fehlen hunderte Lehrer, viele Schulhilfskräfte und Sekretariatsmitarbeiter » (Tageszeitung, 29/08/2018)
« Personalmangel in Südtirols Kindergärten » (Südtirolnews, 15/09/2017)
« Sommerteilschließungen wegen chronischem Personalmangel. Die Postgewerkschaft… » (Südtirolnews, 25/05/2018)
« Die Region wird in Kürze einen öffentlichen Wettbewerb ausschreiben, um den Personalmangel bei Gericht entgegen zu wirken » (Provinz News, 18/01/2019)
« Immer mehr alte Menschen, steigende Kosten für die Pflege und Personalmangel… » (FF, 07/06/2018)
« Mitarbeitermangel im Tourismus wird noch weiter zunehmen » (Rai News, 17/10/2018)
« Mitarbeitermangel ist derzeit die größte Sorge der heimischen Wirtschaftstreibenden » (Südtiroler Wirtschaftszeitung, 16/11/2018)
To make a long story short: the lack of employees in South Tyrol is a phenomenon that can be found in all economic and public sectors (the titles quote teachers, school administration, nurseries, post officers, juridical personnel, the caring industry and tourism). The local economic Journal “Südtiroler Wirtschaftszeitung” forecasts that the problem will get worse in the next years. The Chamber of Commerce instead claims that the future will demand even more specialized talents. Thus the education system has to do its part as well. The demand for more and higher education can though be an issue itself, as show the examples of France and USA with tech professionals (see a dedicated article here). So there must be more to be done than pointing the finger at the education system, such as by starting to analyze the causes of the problem.
Generation change, outdatedjob packages and competitiveness
The causes of a shortage in the job market can be various, especially if concerning a geographical area and not a specific economic sector. So first of all there are some macroeconomic factors to consider, such as demographics. Needless to say that young workers become less, while retiring employees increase. This evolution will intensify with the baby boomers starting to retire progressively. It certainly requires companies to restructure their organization chart, by helping themselves with digitalization on the one hand, and by making certain processes simpler and more efficient on the other. Or, by integrating the precious retiring silver generation as mentors, consultants, or coaches.
Another reason why in most companies throughout all economic branches there is a lack of candidates is doubtlessly that there is a discrepancy between demand and supply on the job market. More and stronger efforts need to be made by companies to attract the little demand. Some companies offer job packages that look the same since ten, twenty years: run-off-the-mill job descriptions that are the same for most positions; unpaid over-hours, fixed working hours, work to rule, strict hierarchy… “because we have always done it like that and we have never had problems before”. This unfortunately is an approach that does not lead anywhere. In public institutions, the same happens with outdated calls for bids, that are regulated in laws back in the Nineties and have never been updated since. Not to mention the complexity of such bids, which only makes it even more difficult and complicated to reach the candidates. On the contrary, complexity in the application process frightens off the young generation. There is a strong need of openness to new, more innovative approaches to recruitment strategies.
The economic structure of South Tyrol has to be taken into account as well. In 2018, the need for manpower was mainly in tourism (according to the Chamber of Commerce, around 30,000 employees were searched) and in commerce (8,790). The economy of the region is mainly built on these two sectors. Unsurprisingly, these are two sectors that have rather little flexibility in job designing. Working hours that are linked to opening hours and rush hours, working evenings, weekends, working on public holidays – just when everyone else enjoys free time. These conditions are the opposite of what youngsters look for. Working overtime is a habit in tourism and in commerce – while the young generation strives for a proper work-life balance. This certainly does not make it easier to catch young workers, who belong to a generation that has very specific requirements (also check out The Millennial profile).
Since the young generations mostly study, and usually do it abroad or far away from home, other countries and regions have become competitors to South Tyrol’s job market. Keeping in mind that youngsters are not as attached to their homeland as was the after-war generation, a return to home needs good motives. After studying, having an exciting and fun job is the next step. Being paid well is a plus. Having opportunities to climb up the career ladder is important. Having the choice among many companies, many branches, many cities, many countries is luxury, but a realistic situation of our days. So South Tyrol must overcome a harsh exam to become competitive. It must develop competitive advantages if it wants to re-attract their talents back home. The Italian state has tried it for all his citizens around the world by granting tax benefits to those who come back and stay home for at least 5 years (the so-called Rientro dei Cervelli benefits). Nice try, certainly with some success. But it might have been a positive side effect of coming back, not necessarily THE reason to come back.
Start small, but do start thinking about it
As previously mentioned, there definitely exist companies in South Tyrol that seriously started to tackle the issue and to find suitable solutions. Even if it starts small; we cannot change macroeconomics overnight. But companies can start by thinking about competitive advantages that they can offer to keep up with the rest of the world. First of all, the HR department has to start to function as a marketing department. The demand on the job market has to be studied, the target market has to be defined, to be segmented and creative and attractive jobs have to be designed. They have to be packaged in a sexy way and they need to be offered on the market. The communication channels have to be analyzed and have to be chosen thoroughly, according to the target group. Ideally a tailor-made communication plan is required. Recruiting is no longer a side task that a secretary does, but it becomes a truly essential department that needs to be organized, planned and budgeted.
By having a look at concrete examples, a typical appealing job package should not only include the classic “flexible working hours” – which means everything and nothing. One could interpret it as “flexible for over hours”. It should rather contain concrete offerings like “working from home”, “work can be organized personally”. Or, like a South Tyrolean manager posted on his job ads: “4-day-working week”; which sounds highly interesting for work-life balance seekers. While this can be interesting for young degree holders, there is another segment that have different requirements: the working parents. If a company holds a family audit certificate for example (see dedicated article), it certainly gains a competitive advantage compared to a company that just says “family friendly work”. Since women are more and more qualified, becoming a parent should not mean to stop working. A precious candidate could then get lost. Thus, thinking about a family friendly policy like working from home, working part-time hours, company nurseries, job sharing etc. can be worth it (find some ideas here). The family friendliness should be integrated in the HR management as a fix component, which additionally can be marketed.
Last, but not least: employees have to be taken care of. An example for a South Tyrolean company that went the extra mile to satisfy the current and future job market is Brandnamic, based in Bressanone. They focus on a very pleasing working atmosphere to motivate their employees. Their new headquarter is located in a green area with a beautiful view on the mountains and over the city. Big spaces to encourage creativity, a health-based canteen, a community play room and a gym make the employees feel at home. The complementary program to work, such as breakfast for employees, cooking classes, yoga sessions or run trainings should encourage the communication and make cross-departmental acquaintances. All these fringe benefits should raise motivation and consequently generate more revenue to the company. And definitely, attract the young generation. Even though the frame is not everything – the job itself needs to be meaningful and exciting as well, of course – but a positive setting is an excellent start.
To conclude – if there is a problem, there exists a solution. But it needs an effort, it needs analysis, it needs strategy, it needs a plan, it needs concrete measures and it takes time. It is time to tackle the problem on a company’s base and to rethink HR. The HR department becomes now also a marketing department. Since there is a shortage in demand, candidates need to be considered on a same level as clients. And the approach to the whole recruiting needs to become innovative and dynamic – just as we would do it with our precious products.