interview by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

The Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Bulgaria on the smart ways to make the best of the current labour market

Aleksandar Hangimana.jpg

Finding and keeping talents for any business is one of Bulgaria's greatest challenges. The country's official unemployment rate of 5.4% is both good and bad news. More people work and the wages in the most rapidly developing sectors have significantly increased. Shortage of skilled labour, however, can become an impediment for Bulgaria's economy.

A recent survey of ManpowerGroup Bulgaria, the local branch of the leading global workforce solutions company, has put the trend into data. In 2018, 68% of the companies in the country experience difficulties in finding proper talent compared to 42% in 2011. The largest companies face the biggest challenges – 81% of them struggle to fill their positions compared to 52% of the microbusinesses. The most sought after talents include skilled workers, IT experts, engineers, sales representatives, drivers, managers, hospitality professionals, administrators, healthcare personnel, finance and accounting specialists. The lack of people is the main reason for companies to experience difficulties in finding proper talents.

ManpowerGroup has the expertise in connecting companies that search for talents, and professionals who want to change their job. As of May 2018 ManpowerGroup Bulgaria has a new managing director, the young and energetic Aleksandar Hangimana who is now responsible for the company's operations in the Balkans.

What are the specificities of the Bulgarian labour market?

The transformation the country went through is striking – Bulgaria has become a candidate-driven market and there is a tremendous lack of job applicants in all industries, from factories to white-collar positions. There are two big factors behind this. First, the open borders. People can now travel, work and live abroad, and they prefer to do so in the Western countries where the salaries are significantly higher. Second, Bulgaria has become an attractive market for investors. They have been present for years here and they continue to arrive. This has had a number of positive effects such as decrease of the unemployment rate. As a result, however, there is now a shortage of people in all industry sectors.

Is Bulgarian work culture different in any respect than the rest of Europe?

No, it is completely the same. People here are very reliable, the quality of their work is excellent and they properly communicate what they are happy or unhappy with in their job.

How does Bulgaria compare to other countries in Eastern Europe?

All countries in the region offer good education and a labour force that is qualified, skilled and reliable. In this regard, Bulgaria is among the top emerging markets in the region. Add to these the low capital taxes and you see why when investors analyse whether to open a business in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria is always shortlisted.

The big issue is that Bulgaria and the rest of the countries in the region are not as wealthy as other European countries, so they experience a steady emigration of workforce. We also lack outside markets that could compensate for the lack of people like, for example, the Far East or North Africa are for the Western countries. This is a challenge that all countries in Eastern Europe face. To deal with it some companies from the Czech Republic and Poland have begun recruiting workers from Bulgaria offering them not only higher salaries but also the experience of living and upskilling abroad. Governments have also begun to address the problem. Romania, for example, increased the salaries in some sectors in order to prevent further emigration. I believe that Bulgaria also needs a policy of the kind in the near future in order to tackle the problem with talent shortage.

Of course, we also witness a reverse trend, that is, a significant number of Poles and Czechs who had emigrated to the UK, going back to their native countries.

How does ManpowerGroup deal with these challenges?

The current situation is not only a challenge but also an opportunity. The situation we see in Bulgaria has already happened in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic. This is a phase and Bulgaria is yet to go through it. So it has the benefit of learning from others' mistakes.

ManpowerGroup's advantage is that we connect qualified candidates to the best employers on the market, and that we educate companies on how to develop and keep them.

Businesses have started to realise that they need to provide their employees with a long-term engagement in order to stay on the market. Others are yet to recognise this. A business nowadays has to be prepared and to invest in its workforce. The faster a company reacts in the current situation, the better its position will be.

It is important that all stakeholders in a company – directors, HR managers, owners, realise that the current labour market is highly competitive and there is a huge demand for talent.

Who are ManpowerGroup's corporate clients in Bulgaria?

We partner with both local and international companies from all industries. Our expertise is beneficial in two respects. Being part of a global organisation we have broad know-how, but we are also experts in local issues. In addition, we have set up designated teams of industry experts – from IT to production to retail, who provide in-depth and personalised service to each client in Bulgaria.

What are your advantages over social networks for professional connections?

ManpowerGroup can spread the right content to the right people in the right locations. This works excellently for both candidates and clients.

When a company turns to us for help, we start by providing an analysis of its competitiveness on the current labour market regarding wages, benefits, policies, retention programs and similar. Then we develop an action plan on how to find the people our client needs, including where to spread the company's employer brand message, attracting candidates, assessing and finally recruiting them.

On the other hand, when a job-seeker turns to us, we first look at his qualifications, experience and professional background. We also discuss whether he wants to find a job in the same field, to upskill or to change his current industry and position. Then our consultants assess the candidate's skills and advise whether he would need to expand certain soft or hard skills such as learning a new computer programme or a foreign language. Such details are very important, particularly when one has spent years at his previous position and as a result is not well-informed on the needs of the current labour market. In order to find their new dream job, job-seekers have to be relevant to the environment.

How ManpowerGroup measures its success?

This is a twofold process. On the one hand, it is the extent to which we identify candidates who fit clients' requirements and needs. On the other, it is the ratio of employees who stay in their new jobs.

So far, due to the specificities of the Bulgarian labour market, the bigger challenge has been to find people for the free positions. We excel in keeping employees at their new jobs because we work only with companies that have proven to be good employers. Businesses today have to understand that the salary they offer is but a part of the solution when keeping an employee is concerned. Providing additional benefits, flexibility, comfortable working environment and opportunities to develop new skills are key for having loyal and committed manpower in such a competitive market.


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