We always need a good story
The financial sector remains attractive for the young generation but their expectations with regard to employers have changed. This is one of the conclusions of Christian Scharff’s interview with LFF about the recruitment market in Luxembourg. As Partner in Advisory, Human Resource Services at PwC Luxembourg, he notes that crises are interesting periods that reveal good managers.
What kind of characteristics are you looking for in a young job seeker?
Besides a degree corresponding to the job, personality and motivation are very important to me. I am also interested in team spirit. The CV and interview often show some evidence of ability to work in a group, to lead, to make presentations, etc. Language skills are important but experience in different cultures, the ability to adapt and being curious are also essential criteria when selecting a young job seeker. Internships, summer jobs, hobbies and trips are good indicators.
Has the financial crisis brought more talented staff to the market?
Yes and no. It has brought many people from the financial markets that lost their jobs but it certainly hasn’t attracted lots of young graduates to this sector. During the crisis, we felt that students were eager to know how the sector was performing and how career opportunities were developing. It was an excellent idea during that period to stay close to universities and, for students, to adopt a ramp-up plan.
Today, the sector remains attractive for the young generation but their attitude or expectations towards their employer are different. They take more distance from the employer. It is harder to create real and tight relationships.
To remain competitive, Luxembourg has increasingly relied on highly skilled workers from abroad.
Two questions have to be asked: where do we find them and how do we attract them?
The Greater Region remains a good source for recruitment and Luxembourg is still very attractive. But it was showing its limits, even before the crisis. Both young and experienced staff are now travelling long distances to come and work in Luxembourg.
For the young generation, campus recruitment, internet and proper communications via events or sister companies in the targeted countries have shown themselves to be efficient techniques.
For more experienced people, it also works via internet and search via head hunters for specific profiles. The new rules on “expatriate” are certainly an incentive although limited to high profiles. We always need a good story. It starts with a clear business case for a company with a solid reputation. We then have to “sell” Luxembourg and its living environment which still needs to be marketed outside of the Greater Region.
Why should a qualified individual choose Luxembourg rather than Geneva, London, Paris or Singapore?
These are excellent places to work and live too. Each has its own advantages, opportunities and drawbacks. As mentioned above, the business case is of the utmost importance. The standard of living is quite competitive in Luxemburg compared to the cities you mentioned. Raising children in Luxembourg is totally different from Paris or Singapore.
But here again, some would find it better for children to grow up in a more international environment and in a foreign language. Opportunities for the spouse-partner, security, health care, distance to the family and friends, culture and education are certainly motivational factors.
What about placement assistance for laid-off employees? Is this common in Luxembourg?
The use of outplacement consultants is becoming more and more accepted in Luxembourg. People often have the choice between outplacement and additional money, which I think is a mistake; besides, it is not allowed in some countries.
Outplacement is an efficient and cost effective tool to support the employee in transitioning psychologically and practically from one job to another. However, being more accepted does not mean that it is already widespread in the industry. There is still a lot to do in this respect to market this practice to employers.
How do you look after your people during a crisis - and in general?
This is a time where proximity and communication are essential. People are uncertain, hearing a lot of rumours, fearing for their jobs. Presence, regular information about the situation and explanation about company plans are important for employees. Employment is a basic element of the Maslow pyramid, and when people feel it is in jeopardy, they lose momentum and engagement.
You might then have a snow ball effect on the company as high profiles leave and the others take the first opportunity to resign when the economy rebounds. This is what we are experiencing again in Luxembourg.
In other words, employees need to feel that you care. They know it is difficult, they understand the markets are tough but they expect decent information, regular contact and empathy. Crises are usually interesting periods that reveal good managers.
Christian Scharff, you are chairman of IMS Luxembourg, the Institut pour le mouvement sociétal. Why are ethics so important for a company?
The “social” control on the economic player has never been so strong. Via social networks, search engines, specialised sites, discussion fora, customers and employees can discover and track most of a company’s actions. It is becoming common to look at discussion fora before applying for a job, in order to discuss “work issues” on the net, to comment on advertising campaigns or lobby against products not compliant with some regulations (e.g. not ecological or produced by children).
Neither ethical behaviour nor CSR are any longer an option for businesses. Some companies have understood this very well. Some, however, are still focusing on the marketing side of it, trying to “greenwash” facts. Serious companies have understood the strategic interest of putting this item high on their strategic agenda. As resources and mentalities are changing, some new businesses will emerge but others will hardly be impacted.
Should we stop worrying that corporate social responsibility causes extra expense?
This is an old story. The answer is that, on the contrary, denying CSR strategies will certainly cost money. Customers, regulations, market analysts all scrutinise companies and expect new behaviour. Management can certainly also take this seriously and focus on seeking opportunities rather than taking issue with costs.
For example, PPR has asked each shop manager in the world to track energy consumption and has decided to pay part of their bonus on their “energy management”. In a year, energy consumption has dropped by 20 % in average. As you can imagine, it turned out to be a real opportunity, not only in terms of money but also in terms of image in the eyes of customers, employees and the authorities. It is all a question of management. CW
Photo: © PricewaterhouseCoopers S.à.r.l – Photographer : Blitz Agency