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SSCs must fight hard for talent

Shared service centers need to use new recruitment tools and to look beyond Hungary’s borders if they want to find the qualified candidates they require in large enough numbers.

Job title: finance analyst. Employer: a world-leading agribusiness company, recruiting across all departments for its brand new European Finance Center in Budapest. Requirements: a relevant degree and understanding of financial processes within a shared service environment. Offered is a rewarding compensation package.

Job hunters in Hungary tend to come across vacancies of that sort evermore frequently. In the battle for investment, Budapest has apparently developed an edge over rival cities in the region. A survey by Site Selection Magazine in 2013 found that Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest and Sofia all fared worse based on six criteria. Still, it appears that the quality of local labor is the lead factor that makes the Hungarian capital so attractive to firms willing to bring their global hub of operations to the region.

But as Hungary-based shared service centers shift towards more complex functions beyond mere transactional activities, demand for skilled workers is becoming harder than ever to meet.

“We, in the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary believe that a challenge today is to keep providing a well-qualified, competitive workforce for this dynamically growing sector,” Bea Előd, AmCham board member and head of the Citi Service Center Budapest, tells the Budapest Business Journal. “Therefore, AmCham takes an active part in further developing our talent, so that they can be ready for the new demand for an agile workforce.”

SSCs face the particular challenge of finding quality candidates in large numbers as every third center will hire more than 500 people, according to a Randstad study. Top areas hungry for talent include customer service, IT and HR support, finance, pay roll, and logistics. But only those with proper language skills stand a chance of being selected.

“French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch are the most sought languages after German and/or English, which are deemed as the minimum by now at such employers,” Tamás Sellyey, managing director of Workforce, an HR firm says. Speakers of truly exotic tongues are the scarcest, of course, but even knowledge of Nordic languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish can entail a major salary hike.

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At recruitment company Hays, another trend noted is that the Hungarian SSC market is being considered as a global service center location, and no longer limited to the Europe time zone. “It is very difficult to fill 24/7 operating IT service desk positions due to the shifts, where the pool of candidates is more limited because of the working hours,” says Hays.

Competition for talent within the market is also growing. Applicants tend to be much more knowledgeable about job seeking than before since they are familiar with the sector’s characteristics. “Job-hopping” is another phenomenon, where an employee changes companies and not positions for a higher salary.

Sellyey says it is essential to embrace a new approach in recruitment methods. It is time to replace conventional means by head hunting and direct search to reach out to motivated candidates. HR executives, in turn, tend to maintain a close relationship with language schools teaching the more unusual languages or embassies in order to meet swiftly growing demand.

SSCs sometimes make their own life harder by not being clear enough when describing vacancies, a problem confirmed by Adecco’s managing director, Ottó Vég (pictured, right).

“Some of them use their own company-specific terms and abbreviations in adverts. Consequently, applicants don’t understand what duties are to be performed exactly,” Vég notes. “The other extreme is having way too general descriptions where the given firm is looking for colleagues for several similar posts and they want to decide during the selection procedure in what area a job will be offered to successful candidates. This makes it tough to judge whether the positions in question are the right challenge for those currently holding a job.”

Surging demand for quality human resources requires broadening the search perimeter where cross-border recruitment seems inevitable. “There are many Western European young professionals who would love to start in a Hungary-based BSC (business service center) or SSC after graduation,” Sellyey says. “Multinational companies should encourage candidates from outside the EU as well by granting visa or work permit sponsorships or relocation allowances. Native Spanish, Portuguese or French speakers could be attracted in large numbers from South America or the French overseas departments.”

Pundits also expect the Hungarian government to take measures to further ease SSC activity. Funds for job creation and retaining purposes should be extended to the sector, and the country should be engaged in a long-term strategy of strengthening its domestic language education system.

Special needs require special attention

The solid market presence of SSCs has caused HR firms to pay special attention to their needs; the biggest players have even assigned separate departments for this purpose.

Sándor Baja (pictured, right), managing director of Randstad, a market leader among recruitment companies specialized in the sector, notes that fluctuations must be handled on a permanent basis, whereas one-time large-scale recruitments represent another sector-specific challenge due to migration of new teams.

Several SSCs have set up in-house recruitment departments with the aim of pushing down the role of agencies. However, very few can fill positions effectively at short notice.

“A vast array of creative recruitment techniques needs to be used. The mobilization of passive candidates and finding graduates are of key importance, which requires alternative tools and substantial resources. Beside standard recruitment tasks, a quality agency partner can help improve the reputation in Hungary of particular companies through professional market analyses and by holding presentations and providing consultations,” Baja concludes.