Of course, there are also new women or diverse individuals! (But in 1982 Ina Deter sang “the country needs new men”. The gender asterisk did not yet exist.) And the people (m/f/d) don’t really have to be new, but need some skills for the digitalized and networked world that has always been important, but can now be decisive. In her presentation at the Online Print Symposium 2022, Hanne Dinkel from the Spread Group gave an impressive account of how she is addressing the skills shortage.
What are the most important skills is always the question. When you interview with Hanne Dinkel, it’s certainly English. According to Statista, 75% of Germans believe they can speak English. Statista hasn’t recorded how well, but Wirtschafts Woche commented back in 2013: “Germans speak better English on average than most other non-native English speakers.”
With missing opportunities for English conversation, one or two of us may have felt the pandemic setting in. We often chatter away on vacation, but then in business meetings many are inhibited about embarrassing themselves. I always think to myself, I am happy when a foreigner tries to speak German, I would not laugh at him for his grammar.
At school, not all of us were lucky enough to have a really good teacher. Stubborn cramming, vocabulary tests and embarrassment in front of the class, that’s how many are conditioned. And we always want to do everything right. There are great programs like Babbel or Rosetta Stone. But I have to have good intrinsic motivation to stick with it. Personal coach? Yes, if you need it fast. But maybe not for everyone’s wallet. I went searching once and found Patrick Obermann on Instagram. He emigrated to the States with his family at the age of nine and is now back in Germany and has founded a start-up with English Hacks. He has an interesting approach and I talked to him.
Max: How did you learn English?
Patrick: I emigrated to America with my family in 2006. From 2006 to 2009, I lived in Texas and was “forced” to learn English, so to speak, because none of the other kids at school knew German.
Max: How can I improve my English in the most sustainable way?
Patrick: Improving your English is only possible if you actually speak English!
Max: Yes that’s clear, but not everyone has someone to talk English with.
Patrick: True, and many providers neglect that as well. In my opinion, the goal should not be to speak perfect English and never make a mistake. Rather, it’s about functional English.
Max: What does that mean?
Patrick: Does your counterpart get across what you wanted to communicate in terms of content? If so, you have spoken English successfully. It doesn’t matter if you had a small timing or prepositional error in your sentences.
Max: If my old English teacher Mrs. Engelstädter hears that, good grief.
Patrick: My concept has nothing to do with the English lessons at school. Grammar and vocabulary are important, even more important is the courage to speak. I follow this philosophy with my company English Hacks. To take your English to the next level, feel free to check me out on Instagram: @englishhacks
Max: Will do. Thank you very much for the interview.
English and what else?
English – Check! But we can’t solve the personnel shortage “just” with English. What are other industries doing to recruit and retain staff?
In the skilled trades, more and more companies are offering their employees a four-day week. Is that only possible in the skilled trades? The Icelanders have gained experience in this area. Doesn’t work in a print shop? Yes, it does. I had it myself every two weeks. The late shift was only open from Monday to Thursday, from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I was particularly attracted by the fact that I could work a four-day week. What was particularly attractive to me was that my shift colleague Franky preferred to work the early shift. So I was often off from 10:00 p.m. Thursday to 2:00 p.m. Monday. I thought that was pretty cool, being in my mid-20s and pretty close to the mountains.
Being a bit of a boss yourself
Employee ownership of the company is also a possibility. Now you don’t have to immediately think of the communards of the 60s. (Uschi Obermaier could certainly say something about what that was really like). There are examples in many different industries. In Switzerland, I have often seen very exciting models. It is new territory for many in Germany, but one that is worth looking at. Employees who have a stake in the employing company often excel in generating higher productivity by being much more cost- and profit-conscious, and by thinking and acting in a more customer-oriented way. These are just a few of the benefits for the employer side. On the employee side, a large number of benefits can also be identified that can be achieved by introducing an employee share ownership model. Last but not least, employees benefit by having access to a transparent and often attractive capital investment. There is the possibility of actively and directly influencing the return on the investment, of benefiting from a tax- and social security-free contribution from the employer or from tax-free deferred compensation. In principle, I think employee participation is a good thing, but it has to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Is the staff shortage real?
Although everyone is talking about it and even the youngest are already being informed about the problem by ZDF, I simply ask myself now, if we are becoming more and more people, why do we have the problem of staff shortage at all? Perhaps providers and seekers simply do not find together. If you always search for the same parameters and find nothing, you should change the parameters. Even Amazon had to learn that. The online shipping giant wanted to recruit new employees with the help of artificial intelligence. But because the algorithms learned from men and processes that favored male applicants, female applicants were left out. That was a while ago now, though, and I believe in the evolution of AI methods.
More upscale matching with resume analysis and personality testing is promised by Dutch startup 8vance with its Jobliebe platform. “We use 39 algorithms that analyze what skills and qualifications a person has based on their resume. One algorithm classifies a job title, another identifies skills, another weights the relevance of a skill,” explains Han Stoffels, one of the founders. Now whether this is a Tinder for jobs, I can’t say. I really lack the experience to make a comparison here.
Encouraging unsolicited applications
In my opinion, there is too little emphasis on speculative applications. Unfortunately, I still find really cool company presentations that highlight the opportunities for employees far too seldom. Some print shops have web presences that are literally frightening. I doubt whether any job seeker interested in machines or IT technology would apply there. Whenever an HR manager tells me that he can’t find any employees, I always look to see what the situation is regarding jobs/careers in the company. There is either nothing or a job as a bookbinder, where every newcomer must believe that they are talking about Rocket Science. Quiet, you hearty colleagues, I know your value! But I know lateral entrants who do a really good job! Moreover, I know companies that have created the job for the applicant after an outstanding application, because a new idea came into the house with the application.
Whichever way you choose to find employees and inspire them for the company in the long term, please show appreciation to everyone in the company, because too little appreciation by the boss is at the top of the ten most common reasons for quitting.
The JFK quote is invoked from time to time: ask not what the government (corporation) can do for you, but what you can do for the corporation (government). Even though Chris Matthews, U.S. news anchor, claims in his book that the saying is stolen, I’ll gladly accept that if the Beletage sees itself as part of the workforce for the enterprise. I don’t believe that companies have exhausted all their options yet and recommend being more creative and courageous when it comes to job offers.