Sergio Basto's interview for ‘RusslandInsider’

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"The market is not generating too much demand for new working time models"

The ManpowerGroup is one of the three largest personnel service providers worldwide. We spoke to Sergio Basto, responsible for sales & marketing and the company's strategic client management in Russia - about Corona, working time models of the future and the growing importance of CSR.

What is the current situation on the Russian labor market? Are there certain industries that are growing even in the crisis?

There is an interesting paradox here. In fact, we have observed that some industries have been able to develop well even during the crisis and some have even grown. These were mostly companies from the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, but also from the food industry. At the same time, the entire retail sector, gastronomy and service providers were down. In fact, this constellation was naturally to be expected. But what is much more interesting is that there are certainly exceptions to the rule. For example, our company has grown against the trend, unlike many of our competitors.

Does the current difficult situation require long-term, alternative working time concepts such as short-time work/part-time employment?

At the moment, many companies are in pure survival mode. The central question is often: how can I survive this crisis and what can I do to preserve as many jobs as possible. This is where many service companies or companies that are at home in the B2B sector rely on part-time solutions. Whether this will also be a trend for the future, I venture to doubt. Only the effects of the economic crisis, which will follow the current health crisis, will bear witness to this.

For the moment the Russian labour market is quite stable. Of course there are major problems in some industries, but overall the market is not yet generating too much demand for new, flexible working time models. On the contrary, there are even some companies that need to increase staff and work longer hours to meet the growing demand. These include some logistics companies, for example. We are even being told about staff shortages here because many employees, including those from Central Asia, are simply not allowed to enter Russia.

Has digitalization, which is advancing even faster due to the Corona crisis, picked up enough speed to make many professions disappear earlier than expected?

Digitization has always been an important issue for all companies. Not just since the crisis. This term is associated with an increase in productivity and flexibility as well as the chances of new clients and more profit. But in reality, and we have spoken to many companies about this, we find that many companies and their IT departments are not even able to maintain existing business and support functions, let alone initiate a digital transformation process.

However, once the crisis is over, we expect to see greater investment in digitalization. This will also have an impact on the number of jobs, especially in production or warehousing, where automation is advancing particularly fast; but also in traditional retail business or in the catering industry, where digital sales and delivery concepts are increasingly used. However, I do not think that this will lead to a loss of jobs overall; they are more likely to shift. The importance of 'remote working' could also gain in importance here.

Will the conditions and opportunities for qualified expats on the Russian market change in the future?

There will be many opportunities for qualified expats in Russia in the future. Of course the conditions will change. Already now, the conditions for many expats are very different than 15 or 20 years ago. In the future, the Russian market will also need fewer top-level managers, but the demand for technical specialists will still be high. I am talking in particular about CTOs, but also COOs and CFOs. The latter are functions that act as a link between headquarters and the Russian representation with all its cultural specifics and are therefore very important.

Do changing environmental conditions require new training guidelines? What is required of employers? To which new qualification requirements must candidates adapt?

We can observe all over the world that people were not prepared to work from a distance for long periods of time and to forgo direct contact with colleagues and clients for a long period of time. This has led to various technical problems and the process is still not 100% organized. Of course we have adapted, but it remains a challenge for companies to establish communication with their employees in such a way that they can work together efficiently even from a distance. Here, employers still have to invest a lot in technical solutions, but also prepare employees for the new realities through training. Because one thing is certain: our way of working will never be the same again after the crisis.

For many companies, Corona is also a welcome opportunity to make internal processes more efficient and thus save costs. On the other hand, in future employees must be able to organize themselves perfectly in the home office so that they are flexible and able to work under pressure. It is not easy to work isolated from home during the week, without direct contact to colleagues.

Responsibility towards society is playing an increasingly important role. How important is CSR for the attractiveness of an employer?

In Russia, it is still the case that for over 90 percent of employees, CSR ('Corporate Social Responsibility') does not play a major role in finding a job. The situation is somewhat different with the so-called 'millennials' or 'post-millennials', which are increasingly paying attention to how employers behave towards employees and how they perform their social duties. A number of companies that work with us, such as Lamoda, Yandex and Sberbank, are investing heavily in this area and are setting up their own departments for this purpose. It is clear to them that this topic will become increasingly important in the future, among other things in terms of a positive external image. But employees are also paying increasing attention to the positioning of their future employer in this area. Of course, financial aspects will continue to play a decisive role in choosing a job, but the importance of CSR should not be underestimated.