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Big Employers Becoming Creative at Tackling Labor Shortage

Hungary’s biggest employers are hit by the lack of skilled labor even harder than smaller entities. Increasingly they are having to strive to find and retain talent with redefined strategies.

Magyar Posta faces a shortage of staff, said to be worst in the central and western parts of Hungary. 

Although it seems that a mass strike of BKV, the Budapest public transportation company, has been avoided for now, it is widely-known that wages are only one of the imminent problems with which one of the biggest employers of the country is confronted. Scarce manpower poses even more risk.

Take the upcoming renovation of the third metro line, where it is feared that there will not be enough drivers behind the controls of the replacement vehicles. But BKV says that arrangements have been made to overcome the bottleneck. What is more, BKV insisted in a statement sent to the Budapest Business Journal, currently there is “no position where a labor shortage cannot be compensated” and the approximately 150 unfilled positions account for around a mere 1.5% of the total staff.

Still, drivers remain at the top of BKV’s most sought after employees, along with skilled workers and engineers. In the case of the latter two, BKV is seeking to establish long-term cooperation with schools to encourage dual training schemes. Targeted recruitment seems to be working as well, and even putting up job advertisements on trams has apparently intensified interest for that particular segment. It is hoped the total wage raise of 15% proposed for 2017 will keep the threat of a strike at bay, for now.

Recommendation Bonus 

The 38,000-strong state-owned MÁV Group (Hungarian Railways) is faced with no lesser challenge. Since it has the most positions to fill, it has to get creative. The latest tool in the recruitment kit is a so-called recommendation bonus, scheduled to be active from May onwards, under which an employee will be entitled to a HUF 35,000 bonus for every person they talk into joining MÁV. Needless-to-say, the payment is due only after the newcomer is actually put on payroll.

Substantial salary raises are planned here as well, with the specific purpose of persuading personnel to stay. “MÁV Group has concluded an agreement with the trade unions according to which the rate of the raise will amount to 13% in 2017, 12% in 2018 and 5% in 2019,” according to a statement sent to the BBJ by MÁVʼs communications directorate. “This means that workers at MÁV will witness a total salary increase of 30% in three years.”

This effort complements a scheme already implemented under which a systematic wage raise had been launched for those employed in the strategically most important positions.

Meanwhile, a 50-point action plan has been put together by the company’s HR management, which is subject to review on a monthly basis. The action plan includes, among other things, making short films presenting different jobs, reducing risks related to recruitment, and staff training. Key vacancies range from cashiers to conductors to switch operators. Manpower is recruited via multiple channels; direct marketing on suburban services plays an important role, alongside online advertisements and job fairs. MÁVʼs presence has been particularly strong at so-called career orientation exhibits targeting 13-14-year-old pupils: the company attended 30 such events last year.

State-owned postal company Magyar Posta hit the headlines with its chronic lack of labor at the end of last year when a great number of Christmas packages suffered critical delays. Worse might be underway. As Kálmán Majtényi, deputy corporate CEO of Magyar Posta Zrt. said earlier, the organization expects to be “processing 12.5% more parcels this year than in 2016 due to the dynamic growth of e-commerce”. At Easter alone, the normal daily volume of 55,000 shipments may double, and for April a total volume growth of 29% is projected compared to last year.

Dedicated Careers Office 

Still, as its statement to the BBJ reflects, it is confident that the “labor shortage has nowhere reached a level that would endanger the smooth rendering of services”. The area of logistics could use an immediate influx of employees, though, where a 25% wage increase is meant to improve employment conditions. Since there are also many vacancies in management, an intensive recruitment campaign is meant to improve the situation. Part of this was the opening of a dedicated careers office in March where HR specialists are ready to inform interested applicants about available roles and likely contract conditions.

Márk Maczelka, Head of Communications of SPAR.

SPAR, one of the biggest employers of the Hungarian retail sector, is trying to reach out to future colleagues in a similar manner. As communications officer Márk Maczelka says, the recruitment office, which opened in their supermarket on Nyugati tér in December, is intended to establish a direct link with would-be employees. “If it works out, others will be opened in different locations nationwide,” he adds. SPAR offers a wide range of bonuses to committed workers. It does not have much choice. Finding sales persons or cashiers is the hardest, but the meat-processing unit is also understaffed, partly due to the magnetic effect of Germany’s higher wages.

“Depending on the position, online and offline forums are used by us for recruitment, with social media being an inevitable factor in the game,” Maczelka adds. When it comes to attracting, and keeping talent he mentions another key component; establishing an attractive employer brand.

“A big emphasis is placed on employer brand building, during which process we would like to make sure that the corporate values, culture and goals of the SPAR family reach out to the largest number of people,” Maczelka says. He believes that this approach is paying off. After all, the bulk of employees have been with SPAR for more than ten years.