Connecting the Mittelstand (German SMEs) and Indian professionals

After I wrote an article on the Severe Shortage of Skilled Labour in Germany a few months ago, we conducted a survey of young Indian professionals and German SMEs (Mittelstand companies). The study – conducted together with ProRecognition of Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC), and titled “Openness and Attractiveness of German SMEs for Indian Professionals” gave enormous insights for both – Mittelstand companies as well as Indian professionals and students in Germany aspiring to be the future industry leaders. Though interviewed professionals were primarily from India – the results are equally representative for foreign professionals in general.

Some contemporary issues in Germany

The issues of skill shortage, housing shortage and excessively high rents in large cities, environmental and sustainability issues, work-life balance, and a general regional imbalance are very contemporary in Germany. Bringing skilled foreign professionals and the Mittelstand together is a perfect solution for this.

The detailed study covering areas like Recruitment & Selection, Learning & Growth, Quality of Life, Organisational Culture etc. will be very interesting for the foreign professionals, the management and HR departments of the Mittelstand alike.

Here are some conclusions for everyone else:

(A)  Things the Mittelstand should continue to do:

• Fostering an innovation-driven environment that offers plenty of opportunities for skill development and professional enhancement, by giving employees the opportunity to bring in ideas, take over responsibility in a broad variety of tasks and make meaningful contributions to the business

• Building long-term employee relationships by retaining employees and offering them opportunities for re-training

• Maintaining a culture with flat hierarchies and access to the higher management

• Providing initiatives that support a good work-life balance of employees

(B)  Areas in which the Mittelstand needs to take action:

• Reducing perceived entry barriers for foreign candidates. Building an employer brand which embraces international candidates can facilitate this. SMEs should also consider expanding their mix of recruitment channels to be more approachable to foreign candidates.

• Breaking the glass ceiling for foreign management talent.

• Enabling better and easier integration of foreign employees. Indian candidates are eager to learn about and integrate into German culture, but they also seek openness and support in the process. This requires flexibility and intercultural sensitivity. Formal programmes for integration can be useful in the process.

• Ensuring a fair and consistent structure for compensation and benefits which avoid discrimination and attracts foreign candidates.

(C)  Aspects about which foreign candidates should change their perceptions:

• Work on improving your German skills. While candidates do not need to be fluent in dialects, knowing industry and job role-specific German terminology opens doors. Yet, German knowledge is not only useful for finding a job, but also in private surrounding.

• Consider that working and living in a smaller town is not necessarily bad for living. Often, it comes with benefits such as lower cost of living, less commute and more opportunities to connect to Germans. If the small town-lifestyle isn’t for you: Cities are well-connected by public transport or highways.

• Even if the German Mittelstand is still in the process of opening up to international management talent, leadership opportunities are available already today. Many SMEs with global operations provide the possibility of getting international positions such as Country Manager at an early career stage.

(Thanks to the survey participants, BVMW, IGCC and ProRecognition)

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