Everyone Is Looking For Employees. But How? And Where?
About the importance of employer branding and HR in times of chronic staff shortages.

Schindler Parent > Blog > The importance of employer branding and HR

A Bertelsmann-study recently reconfirmed the following: “Better care is only possible with half as many clinics.” Just about 600 facilities with greater technical and personnel-related means would be more useful for patient care than the current 1400 clinics, many of which lack the experience and equipment needed to adequately treat life-threatening emergencies and complications. As expected, there was a nationwide outcry. Especially since it is not very comforting for those affected to die of a heart attack on their way to a hospital which is optimally equipped, but simply too far away.

At around the same time – in mid-July 2019 – the press reported that our Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, was recruiting nursing staff in Kosovo. The report cited a Federal Employment Agency statistic stating that there were only 19 potential applicants for every 100 geriatric care vacancies. Five years ago, the number was at 38 unemployed professionals looking for a new post. Nowadays, it takes 183 days for a position in a nursing home to be filled – that’s 12 days longer than two years ago.

Well, some may say, that’s health care for you. But in other industries things aren’t looking much better. Studies by the Bertelsmann Foundation have also been conducted in this respect. A February 2019 article in der Tagesspiegel refers to a study that points out that Germany needs 260,000 qualified immigrants every year to cover the shortage of skilled workers. This means engineers, craftspeople and, of course, caretakers. And this is assuming men and women in Germany were to work up to the age of 70. Each and every year until 2060. With so much immigration that is economically necessary, the AfD has to gloss over the topic. One might think that if this is the case, then thousands of immigrants should be able to qualify relatively quickly for certain professions – even if, as the article notes, there is still much to be done. But that is another matter.

The fact is that our economy is desperately looking for suitable personnel now. Not just in fields that are structurally weak, but everywhere. Many who want to be recruited will have to be immigrants – and as the study clarifies, they will not even come primarily from EU countries. So if this is the case and federal ministers are leaving the country to try to come back with workers, then what’s the point in having elaborate recruitment campaigns at home? Isn’t this like going fishing in a paddling pool?

Certainly not. Just because the “war of talents” has been lost, it doesn’t mean the fight is over. On the contrary: it’s becoming more intense. And these days it’s not just about acquiring talent and getting the best (reminding ourselves that talent has won). Companies and institutions are simply happy if they get anyone at all. That’s why, as one would expect, they’re campaigning. They are right to invest in their employer brand and to look for new ways of communicating. Online, of course. That’s because today, everybody searches online first (unless that person is the health minister – he does an analogue search with a telegenic approach at the best broadcasting time in Kosovo).

But we must remember that the new approaches are no miracle cure, either. That’s because the search has to strike out along many paths. And because everyone is bustling in all directions, the messages that companies use to advertise are also becoming increasingly louder, more garish, more strident. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this approach – but only if it’s suitable. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. It marks the fine line between targeted, strategically consistent communication and ineffective, quick-burning attention-grabbers. They can also prove effective. But the briefing to “Do something bold” usually falls far short. Plenty can go sideways. And then all that remains is a stale aftertaste.

If large corporations appear “bold” on their career page, the message quickly has the effect of being chummy and so fails to encourage trust. Not that it doesn’t work. It just requires a lot of communicative tact. And communicative tact is usually based less on a feeling than on very precise knowledge of the target groups being approached. On very precise knowledge of the respective communication behaviour, and of the “places” (in both an analogue and digital sense) where these target groups bustle about. In other words: this “communicative tact” is based on a lot of experience and plenty of strategy.

Both experience and strategy are not always found in companies’ personnel departments. And this isn’t because these personnel departments are incompetent or don’t understand what their business is. It’s just that they primarily deal with their target groups, in their industry and in their territory. Simply put, in their environment only. This isn’t the case with agencies that specialize in employer branding and HR campaigns: They have acquired their experience in all industries, across the most diverse target groups and at a local, regional, national and international level. What’s more, they have tested and optimised their strategies in these domains.

This is a good reason for companies to start recruiting with an agency
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