Klaus Hansen is what is commonly called an old hand. Since 1995, Hansen has worked for Odgers Berndtson. His specialty is filling management positions. In other words: Hansen is a headhunter.
His work consists of finding the best candidates for filling management positions in German companies and then persuading these candidates to leave. With good arguments and financial incentives such as an attractive salary.
This work has recently become unexpectedly complicated. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to persuade potential executives to move within Germany,” says Hansen. “To put it bluntly, statements such as: I’m fully mobile – in the south of Munich, are heard more and more frequently in conversations.” Michael Kramarsch, founder of the Frankfurt management consultancy HKP, confirms: “Mobility among German managers is not particularly pronounced.”
The rest of the country could care less if it wasn’t accompanied by a problem: In times of a shortage of skilled workers, it’s not good news for Germany as a business location if companies can’t fill important positions for a long time because many candidates don’t feel like moving. This applies above all to medium-sized companies, which in Germany are traditionally not based in a large city, but rather in Gütersloh or in the Swabian Jura. Hardly any company wants to officially confirm the development, the fear of damage to their own reputation is too great. But underhand, it can be heard that many vacancies have become more challenging.
Home office, Corona and the consequences
But what exactly are the reasons for the lack of willingness to move? One explanation is obvious: The corona pandemic and its consequences have now helped the home office to gain broad acceptance. Anyone who has experienced that working from home can be done quite smoothly does not see the need to move. But presence is still important to many medium-sized companies in particular. In companies like this, it is still considered good manners to get involved in local society, for example by becoming a member of the local Rotary Club or taking part in the local Sunday festival.
But it fails not only because of such secondary conditions that used to be taken for granted. Odgers-Berndtson partner Klaus Hansen has also noticed “a new satiety and less willingness to go the extra mile.” “Work has a lower priority in the life of the average executive than it did in previous years,” he says. Quite a few people have also inherited a property or at least have the prospect of an inheritance. This almost inevitably leads to greater perseverance and less willingness to leave the traditional region.
In addition, many know that demographics play into their hands. As more and more baby boomers are leaving the labor market and fewer and fewer new workers are coming, most people who refuse to move know that turning down a lucrative job in the province doesn’t have to be the end of all career dreams. In view of the shortage of skilled workers, those who wait still have a chance of finding an exciting position close to where they live.
Better Singapore than Cologne
But it would be too easy to blame the candidates alone for the situation. Some difficulties also have to do with welcome social progress. Of course, it is no longer the sole breadwinner, traditionally the man, who can decide on the move without much consultation. “Today, the family plays a much larger role in the decision-making process,” says management consultant Michael Kramarsch. “A move from Munich to Singapore, for example, is often easier to sell than a move from Munich to Cologne.”