Headhunters adapt to changing market trends

  • 2004-05-06
  • By Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Just as Estonia is joining the European community of nations, the country's human resource and recruitment service companies say they are busy in the development of adopting new services to adapt to the rapidly changing trends in the local labor market.

According to Kaire Sutt of the Fontes human resource agency, which has offices in all three Baltic states, fewer and fewer companies are bothering to advertise in print media in the hope of finding a suitable manager. Instead, they are using a complicated targeted search. What's more, most Estonian companies nowadays prefer to use a human resource agency to find professional managers.
In Sutt's opinion, the new approach helps reduce risks.
"A professionally performed personnel search is time-consuming and costly, but the potential damage that may be caused by hiring an uncompetitive manager to the employer can be much worse," she says.
Sutt adds that in Estonia, the number of top manager searches has decreased in the last several years, while the number of employed top managers in Latvia is on the rise.
As most organizations are in the so-called stable development phase - fewer cases of ultrarapid growth - the main issues are not about finding new workers, but about developing existing personnel and increasing their motivation, Sutt explains.
In Estonia, it is difficult to find top managers for construction companies because the reserve of professional managers in that field is small. This is also true for some specific media companies. The local labor market also lacks production managers who have contemporary education and the necessary experience, says Sutt.
"There are enough managers who have both the experience and achievements in developing large enterprises in the transition period and who currently have several jobs and are looking for new challenges," she says.
However, the Estonian labor market does lack technology specialists and engineers.
"The lack of engineers troubles both large companies, like shipyards and electronics producers, and also smaller developers. Finding a sales engineer is quite a difficult task for a human resource agency, which means the universities do not train enough engineers," insists Sutt.
The biggest change in the recruitment business and related services has been caused by the rapid development of Internet-based human resource services, by which lower positions can be fulfilled in a timesaving and inexpensive way.
Still, an experienced headhunter is usually hired if the position to be filled involves responsibility for human safety or major financial resources, says Agu Vahur, vice president of CV Online, the largest human resource agency in the Baltics in terms of turnover.
Even with the development of online databases, the traditional form of personnel search remains the same, says Vahur.
According to him, because of the EU-sponsored clauses on the prevention of discrimination, the human resource services market in the region will likely grow in the next several years.
"Personnel questions will become more risky, as employers will have to pay more attention to discrimination issues. By using a human resource company employers can avoid that risk," says Vahur.
Also, since the end of 2003, the labor market increased in activity, as people are more optimistic about EU membership.
As of March 2004, the registered unemployment rate was 42,535 in Estonia, or 5.2 percent of the population aged 16 to 63, according to the Estonian Labor Market Board.
"In Estonia we have this American-type labor market when everybody is always looking for a better job," Vahur says.
He adds that the next step for Estonia's human resource companies is the development of labor-rent service. An officially hired employee can save on human resources and accounting costs by renting. Such services, however, are mostly used by larger international companies and are only now beginning in Estonia.
"Local employers are accustomed to consider the people they hire 'their own' and maybe do not trust rented workers yet," concludes Vahur.