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As a Western European I probably carry a conceit based on the belief that the “world-wide workforce” would prefer working in Europe. But the latest figures released by the United Nations suggests that the rest of the world has taken a more ‘global’ point of view. China, Singapore and Australia discovered their way to European talent at the turn of this century – and now countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia are steadily increasing their sourcing of the most talented Europeans (aided in no small part by after-shock of the euro crisis and continuing high unemployment rates amongst young and highly educated talent).
Europe is Losing the Talent War to the Rest of the World
It’s now a stark fact that a growing number of European workers choose to leave the continent in search of better careers and lifestyles. During the euro-crisis, over 700,000 Spanish people (from a highly educated and very talented workforce) left the country to continue their career abroad. That leaves Spain with a shortage of scientists and other key skills. And this phenomenon will not stop while Europe struggles to recover from post-2008 events. According to Rainer Munz (Chief Economist of Erste Groupe and a prominent member of the Brussels think tank, Bruegel), a “war for talent” will arise in Europe – to take European workers elsewhere.
In 2050 there will be a shortage of 60 million people within the European workforce. Meanwhile, European institutions and companies continue to complacently follow a basic assumption that ‘every Asian wants to come to Europe’, while the statistical facts show the opposite: Europe loses more talent (in quality) to Asia and the rest of the world than vice versa. China’s own need for an international workforce is still set to increase, despite the recent stock market volatility and reduced growth. Put together all these ‘internal’ and ‘external’ factors and it’s clear that European employers will have to develop initiatives to source, attain, and retain talent internationally.
There’s No Such Thing as a “European Market”
Europe will increasingly become a hunting ground for talent. Indeed, up until now, European employers have probably been protected from a skills migration because of the enormous complexity of the continent. Simply put, there’s no such thing as a homogenous “European Talent Market.” So there’s no ‘standard recruitment strategy’ that will work across 51 different labour markets, each with distinct local characteristics. Those differences are incredibly strong: they’re set by historical events and cultural roots. So even though 28 countries are members of the European Union – and many countries share the same language and legal systems – it’s still a herculean task to manage the supply and demand dynamics of talent, even within the EU.
This lack of a ‘European Standard’ means that there are ‘structural’ differences (e.g. it’s common to look for a job on a job board in Finland, but in Italy candidates rely far more on personal networks to find them a job); and there are also ‘informal’ differences (so in France handwritten application letters are not unusual; in Italy the application letters are extremely polite and formal; and so on). The HR laws, of course, represent probably the single most important ‘variable’: with a huge difference between the rigid status of the French/German employee and the more relaxed regulations found elsewhere on the continent.
Those cultural, linguistic and judicial differences obviously throw up major strategic questions – even if you get that far, as dealing with tactical delivery can dis-rail the best laid plans. LinkedIn, for example, effectively ‘ends’ when entering the German-speaking borders, while Viadeo in France holds significant candidate mindshare – and in the eastern part of Europe, social media companies such as Goldenline in Poland are active players. It’s a simple truth that there’s no ‘United States of Europe’, no ‘single solution’ that will deliver the right results – and this conundrum will become greater as the competition for talent comes from outside Europe as well as within.
So where can talent be found ‘locally’ across Europe? And how do you connect, ‘on-brand’ and ‘on-message’, with candidates from so many different countries – in an empathetic way that meets their ambitions and needs? It’s a challenge to attract talent from this sometimes fractured, occasionally frustrating but ultimately most fascinating of continents – a challenge that the team here at Resource Central rises to every day.
Resource Central is a unique people engagement and resourcing solutions service firm. Created from the focus and desire of its founders. We are all experts from the Job Board, HR Communications and Recruiting industry, bringing a wealth of expertise and knowledge of specialist and large corporate campaign hiring projects across the recruiting markets of Europe.
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