The shortage of skilled workers has by no means been solved by the Corona crisis. Mass layoffs, economic warnings, short-time work: Corona is bringing the labor market to its knees, with no end to the pandemic in sight. However, anyone who thinks they can sit back and relax in the fight for the best talent and best skills is mistaken.

Covid-19 infection rates are rising worldwide, and only a few countries appear to have the new coronavirus under control. This is bad news for the vast majority of companies: The event industry is completely down, tourism and hospitality are once again struggling with border closures and accommodation bans, and industry and trade continue to suffer from massive export slumps. The shortage of skilled workers, which was omnipresent just a few months ago, no longer seems to be an issue in many places. Of course: When it is no longer a question of growth but of pure survival, the recruitment of new talent with specialist skills is naturally at the bottom of the priority list.

Specialist shortage will keep employers busy

However, in the medium term, the shortage of skilled workers will remain a challenge, at least for the digital economy, healthcare, and STEM professions (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). It will reignite the battle for the best talent. These are the findings of a recent survey by international employer branding consultancy Universum. According to the study, 86 percent of global companies firmly believe that new employees’ needs will remain at a high level in the coming year or even increase.

More than every second (56 percent) of the most attractive employers assume that the battle for the best talents and the shortage of skilled labor will intensify in the coming months. For them, recruitment freezes or passive recruiting are therefore out of the question.

They know: Those who stay on the ball now will gain critical competitive advantages in the fight for the best talents and against the shortage of skilled workers after the corona pandemic. To avoid being completely disadvantaged by top employers in the future, companies should not put their recruiting activities on ice completely but rather get themselves in a strong starting position at a good time. Pay particular attention to the following aspects:

Step 1 against skills shortage: Strengthen your public image

Adidas, Google, Bayer, or Bosch – not every company has such a high level of awareness. It will be critical for small and medium-sized companies, in particular, to strengthen their employer brand in a targeted manner. This will not only help in contracting potential candidates but also strengthens employee loyalty and thus counteracts the shortage of skilled workers. A crucial aspect of nipping any likely attempts at poaching from outside in the bud, so that skilled labor does not leave the company in the first place.

Step 2 against skills shortage: Offering prospects

Against the background of scarce resources and limited recruiting budgets, post-corona recruiting should first be focused on strategically important positions and skills. After all, experience shows that these are incredibly difficult to fill. This skill shortage will not change in the future. It makes it all the more essential to convince suitable skilled candidates. Important arguments in this regard: versatile development opportunities and attractive working conditions. This, by the way, is also an excellent way to score points with young skilled workers with high potentials. Because while in the past they were reluctant to commit themselves to a company, this trend seems to be coming to an end: According to a study, one in three Generation Z job entrants wants to stay at their first job for more than four years, while only 6 percent still see their luck in the “Gig Economy”.

Step 3 against skills shortage: Staying in touch

Those who keep their eyes open now, address suitable applicants in a targeted manner, conduct exploratory talks and actively keep interesting skilled candidates on the pole will be ahead in the fight for the best talents after the pandemic. After all, experience shows that it often takes weeks or months to find the potential skilled specialist for an open position. To establish contact with the right skilled employees now is more important for companies than ever. Young employees, in particular, appreciate this: 81 percent of job starters think it is important to stay in contact with employers – even if they currently have no open positions to offer. Thinking ahead is, therefore, the motto.

 

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The Generation Z works to live. Not the other way around. The digital natives have correspondingly high expectations of their employers. 5 fields of action that you should work on as a boss or manager.

For members of Generation Z, living without Instagram, Whatsapp, or YouTube is possible but meaningless. After all, those born after 1998 have been at home on the (mobile) Internet since childhood. However, anyone who associates Generation Z with a high affinity for technology is falling short. Because the workforce of the future is characterized by one thing above all: They show attitude and have values. Whether Fridays for future, BlackLivesMatter, or the consistent renunciation of meat: Members of Generation Z know what they want and are committed to it.

This is even more true in the job: For many job starters, making a career is secondary for the first time, but it is much more important to do something meaningful. This is why the young generation of skilled workers cannot be inspired to take up a job by flexible working hours and remuneration models alone. Instead, they attach great importance to “soft” aspects such as the right to a say, open communication at eye level, and working in an equal team. This requires one thing above all: a modern corporate culture without rigid hierarchies and short decision-making paths.

Five success factors for companies that want to inspire members of Generation Z

1. Innovative remuneration systems

Money alone does not make you happy. A truism that nevertheless only a few companies take to heart. Of course, skilled workers of Generation Z also want to be properly paid for their work. However, researchers at the University of Basel have shown that classic wage increases do not permanently improve employee motivation. On the other hand, free company parking, company bicycles, fuel vouchers, or other flexible remuneration instruments contribute much more to making young employees feel comfortable at their workplace.

2. Flexible working hours

Time clock, time card, and working hours set in stone are a no-go for Generation Z. The compatibility of family and career is an important issue for the next generation of professionals. They want to decide for themselves when they work. And not only when they have small children. But in general. Some people are more productive early in the morning, while others tend to get into top form in the late afternoon or evening. So companies that don’t restrict their employees benefit twice over: employee loyalty increases. Productivity, as well.

3. Work opportunities independent of location

In addition to working hours, the place of work also plays a major role for Generation Z. At the latest, since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, the home office has become a matter of course for employees and companies. This is good news for the next generation of skilled workers. The crisis has made working from home acceptable – now companies should take the opportunity to offer their young employees even more flexible working conditions.

4. Cooperative management models suiting Generation Z

It used to be clear: What the boss says is valid. But in Generation Z, authoritarian bosses bite the dust. The future workers no longer want to be restricted from above but demand maximum freedom of action and decision-making. They do not want to continue to be the recipients of orders after school, training, or studies. True to the formula “Shared responsibility leads to double success,” companies should rely on cooperative management concepts.

5. A good working atmosphere

One of the most important aspects of scoring with Generation Z workers is a good working atmosphere. This starts with a good management style and does not end with the collegial interaction between employees. The design of the premises and workplaces as well as team events outside work also contribute significantly to a good working atmosphere. Those who keep in touch with their employees after work blur the line between work and leisure time. This goes down very well with Generation Z.

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Poor management, a lack of conflict, error, and criticism culture can cost a company dearly. Due to the shortage of skilled workers, demographic developments and digitalization, the demand for services related to mental health at the workplace are increasing more and more. ABO psychologists (Industrial and Organizational Psychology), for example, are a valuable support for organizations. But exactly this is their job and what are their strengths?

For a long time, the mental health of employees has received little attention. With the increasing density of work, ever higher demands and increasing burdens due to digital availability, mental health has also been the focus of attention for a few years now. By 2018, German health insurers had reported an ever-increasing number of cases of mental illness. They are now the most common cause of early retirement and occupational disability in Germany and, with 15.2 percent, are still the third most common cause of absenteeism. Poor leadership, a lack of conflict, error and criticism culture are sooner or later a business-critical issue that can endanger the continued existence of the organization. Above all, people can be overloaded to the point of burnout if they are only supposed to function on the factual level during change processes and are not heard. Fears, emotions and internal and external conflicts are still far too rarely discussed.

Looking behind the façade and promoting healthy cooperation

Unlike psychotherapists, ABO psychologists are not clinicians but analyze an organization and its actors at all hierarchical levels from a socio-psychological perspective. The job of an ABO psychologist is to look behind the façade of a company and analyze social relationships and interactions. How do individual people feel when, for example, they constantly experience themselves in change situations as a result of digitalization? To what extent do the demands and reality of a company’s social dealings soften and how does this affect the perception and behavior of employees? How does a manager lead and communicate? Are emotional needs addressed in communication in addition to factual issues, especially in change situations? And how does a company deal with conflicts, mistakes, and fears? Does a manager then also address the relationship levels between conflict parties and works up disturbed relationships in such a way that it can then continue on a healthy working level? ABO psychologists need a pronounced communicative and social competence. They must ask the right questions and above all be able to listen. They must moderate conversations and be emphatic and sympathetic to people of all hierarchies. Above all, they must impart knowledge and methods on how healthy cooperation in companies, departments or teams should and can be successful.

High qualification requirements for ABO psychologists

Ambitious providers recruit only graduates of a diploma or master’s degree course in psychology. In Germany, the subject has a numerus clause of 1.0. Other courses of study in psychology often do not fulfill the specialist and methodological knowledge that is ideally available. One recognizes quality providers by the fact that they submit enterprises no run-of-the-mill-offers, instead these can clarify beforehand, where the pain points are, what the enterprise needs and expects as purposeful solutions. Even though there are only a few legal requirements for ABO psychologists, large providers also attach great importance to the qualification of their colleagues along with the methodological and technical developments in corporate psychology research and practice.

Interdisciplinary cooperation

In 2013, the German legislator also recognized that mental health is a high value in a modern, synchronized and digitalized working world with increasingly older employees. It, therefore, included a guideline in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that all employers, regardless of the size of their company, must regularly carry out a risk analysis of psychological stress at the workplace. However, the guidelines for the implementation of the “Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy” do not stipulate that such risk analysis must be prepared by psychologists. For example, at AMD TÜV it has been agreed that the ABO psychologists will be in charge of the process, will advise on the methodology and will play a key role in supporting communication. Occupational physicians and safety specialists must also be involved. The cooperation in prevention teams with occupational medicine, occupational health and safety, occupational health promotion and occupational integration management is necessary in order to deal with the complex issues relating to occupational health and safety in companies.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), psychological stress is one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century. It can hit anyone and cause massive mental and physical problems. For this reason alone, employers should find the right way to deal with stress in the workplace early on and consistently, and support employees as needed. Find out how well this works.

Psychological stress at the workplace is increasing. As a result, the health insurance funds in Germany alone have been recording a steady increase in stress-related sick leave for years. Of about 15 days of absence per capita and year, an average of 2.5 days is currently spent on psychological complaints. According to a recent survey, one in five workers across Europe is under psychological stress every day and one in three is thinking about moving to a less stressful job.

Psychological stress costs the economy billions

Mental illnesses also cost the economy dearly. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the economic costs of mental illness in the European Union (EU) alone amount to around 600 billion Euros annually. Especially since many countries now even prescribe the risk assessment of psychological stress at the workplace by law. Workplace health management, therefore, pays off for companies in every respect. But not every professional requirement is detrimental to health. Thus, stress in moderation can also encourage higher performance, promote personal development and give positive impulses for the quality of life and work. It is therefore crucial for companies to recognize at an early stage what strains have negative impacts on the workforce and its motivation.

Facts decide

But how can well-founded insights be gained beyond the subjective statements of employees? With the Resilience Check, TÜV Rheinland for the first time offers a program that objectifies the subjectively felt physical and mental stress of employees based on reliable measured values – from heart health to sleep quality and recovery to general fitness. The resilience check provides companies with an instrument for realistically assessing the physical effects of psychological stress on the workforce – and initiating long-term, needs-based preventive measures. This makes it a useful addition to risk assessment and becomes a valuable element of occupational health and safety and health management.

Determine individual psychological stress factors

On the one hand, the individual employee benefits. After the online questionnaire on the physical condition (e.g. high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep quality) and psychological condition (work-related behavior and experience pattern) in the context of their work has been completed, a chest strap measurement is carried out. On two ideal working days, different vital data on heart health, sleep quality, psychological stress, and physical activity are measured using a sensor that is attached to the skin like a plaster under the breast. A personal health report is automatically delivered at the end of the measurement. On the other hand, the company receives an anonymous company report for the targeted planning of company prevention measures: With simple anonymized comparison values across e.g. departments or locations, focal points for action are prioritized.

A classic win-win situation: employees learn which psychological stress factors particularly motivate or burden them, employers get a holistic picture of the state of health of their own workforce – and can then focus on health prevention. For example, by realigning work processes, planning additional resources or designing offers for occupational health prevention in a target-group-specific manner, whether health advice, planning measures or introducing a holistic occupational health management system. Contact us to learn more about how you can optimize your workplace health management.

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In the context of digital transformation, how can and how should managers and executives ensure with qualified leadership that teams and individual employees remain healthy, qualified and motivated – despite the stress brought on them by change and dynamic working conditions? For example, first of all be self-critical: After all, if things don’t run smoothly in the company, productivity and innovation rates fall short of expectations and the company falls steadily behind in the market, this can be caused by the coexistence of traditional and modern management models. Some executives like to cling to outdated models of staff management – and at the same time hope to somehow manage to survive the change. Dr. Sven Grote, who also talked about the TÜV Rheinland dialog “Human and health”, addresses the most important management myths.

“In management research, there is nothing that does not exist,” summarized the organizational psychologist Prof. Nerdinger back in 1994. Since then, the world of leadership models and approaches has been no less diverse. The management development alone is bringing forth numerous blossoms, from being a leader of horses and wolves to personality coaching, outdoor seminars with and without raft building and a variety of esoteric offers, just to name a few. The same applies to requirements imposed on managers. Here it is necessary to examine exactly what really makes sense, what requires further scrutiny (also in the sense of evidence-based management) and what is perhaps proven to be a myth.

Myth 1: Skills are a trendy subject.

Skills of managers and employees cannot be considered a temporary trend or fashion topic. Rather, it can be seen as the timeless core of entrepreneurial change and as a guarantor of success in industry 4.0. Leadership skills exceed knowledge and formal qualification and also focus on the practical application of knowledge. It proves itself especially in new, unknown situations. Leadership skills were already considered relevant in times of “relative stability”. This makes the importance of leadership skills even more important in “disruptive”, i.e. exponentially unstable times. The systematic definition and development of relevant skills remains an important management task.

Myth 2: Professional skills are not important.

This is a myth that has been around for many years, often from consultants or trainers. Accordingly, professional skills are not that important for managers. Much more important success factors are social skills and emotional intelligence. However, this statement is not accurate. No evidence can be found for this either in research or in practice. The following are rarely found in day-to-day business Executives who are successful in the long term without distinctive professional skills simply because they would not be accepted by employees. Limited professional skills cannot easily be compensated for by social skills such as empathy or intuition.

Myth 3: Social skills are the key to success.

Previous studies (with Prof. Kauffeld and Prof. Frieling) with real teams from companies according to the Kassel skills grid (today Act4-teams) have investigated the role of skills. The Kassel Skills Grid, KKR for short, is a method developed in 2000 at the Institute of Ergonomics at the University of Kassel for the “External assessment of problem-solving skills of workgroups”. A group of five to seven employees worked on a current and relevant problem from the operational process during 60 to 90 minutes. The process of dealing with the problem was written down and evaluated on the basis of the KKR. This study showed in particular the importance of professional, methodological and personal skills; social skills made less or hardly any distinction between effective and less effective problem-solving groups. 

Myth 4: Managers must be extroverted.

The available empirical data does not confirm this. There are numerous counter examples of highly successful and at the same time less extroverted executives and company founders. Executives achieve acceptance among employees and organizational effectiveness in very different ways, for example through perseverance, patience, loyalty to the company and its employees, openness and trust. Extroverted people may find it easier to reach leadership positions, but this does not necessarily make them more successful than others.

Myth 5: Industry 4.0 and digital change is a new phase in the life of German companies.

Many companies have been dealing with digital transformation, end-to-end processes and the development of new business models for years. Digital transformation has long been the focus of attention for future-oriented companies, even though it is currently experiencing new impulses and gaining momentum.

Myth 6: If you want to understand what digital transformation means, you have to go to Silicon Valley.

Because this is where the thought leaders, the trendsetters, the visionaries of the new work can be found. But essential aspects of corporate culture are “invisible”. Also many things cannot be transferred on a one-to-one basis. Although many of Silicon Valley’s management strategies provide new insights, they also involve well-known and familiar aspects. Certain concepts, such as agile leadership, risk degenerating into buzzwords.

Myth 7: Digitization is above all a question of technology.

There is a risk that digitization and industry 4.0 will be narrowed down to technological aspects. It is often not enough to offer an app. Solutions that are too simple then turn into “digital soap bubbles” that burst in practice. Sustainable digitization processes usually also involve aspects of cooperation, leadership, corporate culture and even values. Avoiding these issues may seem like an attractive shortcut, but it usually turns out to be a dead end. For successful digitization, companies need leadership skills. The aim is to reflect, communicate and systematically develop one’s own skills. Trying out, failing and learning are just as essential as the right communication. It is important to give employees freedom to communicate with each other, to know what they want and to let them know that their ideas are appreciated. Organizations that rely on skills can react more easily to major transitions, to change, to an unclear future such as what digital transformation brings. Try out, fail, discard, recognize your skills and gain new ones. None of this is a magic formula. But they may be tips that one should pay more attention to as a manager for the sake of successful leadership in times of disruption and digital transformation.

About Dr. Sven Grote: Owner of the consulting firm Fokus-K, with work and research focus on competence measurement, modeling, development, management. Other focal points are personnel and organizational development, leadership, training and transfer, group work, team diagnosis, development, management, company change processes, process support, large group events. Teaching activities at universities, i.a. Leuphana in Lüneburg, the DISC at the University of Kaiserslautern, Business and Information Technology School, Berlin, UNIKIMS, Kassel. https://www.fokus-k.de

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