Spain's talent pool on the wane

2nd June 2008, Comments 0 comments

Companies operating in engineering and law sectors are struggling to hire the right candidates.

2 June 2008

SPAIN- In 2007, the prestigious US law firm Baker & McKenzie hired 57 lawyers in Spain. It had received 3,500 responses to its job advertisements, but even then it had a hard time finding the talent it was looking for.

Baker & McKenzie, like most firms in most sectors, wanted candidates who were motivated, well trained, able to speak languages fluently and who showed ambition and potential.

However, workers that fit the bill are becoming increasingly hard to come by, say companies operating in sectors as diverse as law and engineering. And, once a firm has found the right staff, it often finds them increasingly hard to hold onto.

"Talent management, in terms of long-term planning, will be a factor that sets apart companies competing in the current globalized market," states the most recent report of the Adecco Institute, a leading human resources research group.

Adecco's director, Donna Murphy, says that the key to attracting and keeping good employees is to treat them as you would clients. For that reason, many consultancies are now applying strategies they developed to help build customer loyalty to firms looking to foster employee loyalty.

Companies so far appear to be heeding their advice, if only to get the upper hand on competitors in an increasingly tight jobs market for skilled professionals.

Representatives of a dozen Spanish companies recently met in the offices of Towers Perrin, a professional services firm, to study the importance of branding and how to make contact with good professionals. However, experts are divided over whether the shortage is really as bad as some companies perceive it to be.

It is certainly true that human resources departments are receiving fewer responses when they seek highly qualified staff and that competition has increased, although there is also evidence to suggest that many companies have failed to keep pace with the changing demands of today's younger, more dynamic workforce.

"In reality there is no scarcity, but rather a disjunction between companies and the people that are currently in the labour market," argues Cristina Simón, a professor of human resources at the IE Business School. "On the one hand, companies have failed to adapt to the new employees who arrive; though, on the other hand, it is true that many are lacking in training."

That, she says, is the fault of Spain's universities, which still have a long way to go to match their courses to the demands of modern businesses.

"They're not teaching people what they need to know today," Simón says.

The demands of so-called Generation Y employees are certainly different from those of their predecessors. Rather than the largest possible salary and a job for life, many are looking for flexible hours and good working conditions.

"We're now getting young people in the office who want to work, but unlike before they are not interested in becoming partners because that takes a lot of dedication," notes David Gill, the director of human resources in Spain for Baker & McKenzie.

Companies, however, would be wise to hold onto their staff. The number of skilled workers looking for jobs over the coming years is likely to progressively fall as Spain's population ages and fewer young people enter the labour market.

Within 10 years, for example, most of the European population will be over 40, while in Spain people over 50 will make up a quarter of the population.

[El Pais / Cristina Delgado / Expatica]

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