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The recruiting specialists, AVANTGARDE Experts, have recently published a new study that examines the frame of mind among German employees. In a double interview, AVANTGARDE founder and CEO, Martin Schnaack and AVANTGARDE Experts managing director, Philipp Riedel interpret the results of the representative survey.

How are AVANTGARDE and AVANTGARDE Experts connected?

Martin Schnaack: AVANTGARDE Experts is one hundred percent a subsidiary company of AVANTGARDE Gesellschaft für Kommunikation. The Experts started, in 2007, as a classic small subsidiary company to allow faster growth. In the recent years, the company’s size has grown from a speedboat to a cruise ship, which nevertheless, still crosses the water very dynamically.

How would you describe the character of AVANTGARDE Experts, Philipp?

Philipp Riedel: As a recruitment and consultant agency, we have two large target groups. On the one hand, we want to be for companies, “the smartest touchpoint to all experts.” That is our mission. We help to shape company developments and ensure their entrepreneurial success by recruiting the most suitable employees for their vacancies. However, we also see ourselves as partners in the careers of our applicants, whom we internally call “customers.” We guide careers over many years—from student jobs into entry level jobs up until management level.

AVANTGARDE Experts examines job satisfaction, in Germany, at regular intervals. The new study “Working in Germany 2019” has just been published. What are the most important findings?

Philipp Riedel: Since 2016, we measure job satisfaction, in Germany, as part of an annual population representative study. An interesting observation is the satisfaction index increases every year, although this year not as considerably as in the previous years. Additionally, this year the motivation to change jobs has sharply inclined. Indicating that people are totally satisfied with their employer, but still plan to switch jobs in the next half year. This could be explained by the fact that almost half of the respondents feel that their full potential is not realized. Both the extremely high willingness to switch jobs and the feeling of not using one’s full potential, I personally find really interesting. In times of increasing stress and with it accompanying rising burnout numbers, one does not assume that only a few people feel overworked by their job.

Where does the lack of loyalty to the employer come from?

Martin Schnaack: My observation is that it has to do a lot with societal pressure. In today’s world, people who work a couple years at one company have to explain to their friends why: “What, you have been here five years now? Do you not want to do something else?” One cannot blame the Millennials for their job-hopping mentality. In fact, companies have begun to harm the loyalty and nature of long-term job relationships through mass layoffs and fixed term contracts. Now the tables have turned, and companies are complaining that there is no more reliability in the workforce. Of course, the dramatic shortage of specialists triggered this development.

On the one hand, the survey reports a high job satisfaction rate, and on the other hand, an enormous motivation to change employers is noticed. How does this fit together?

PR: As already mentioned, one of the causes could be the wasted potential which leads employees to be more likely to change jobs. Also, it is interesting to consider which factors would prevent people to change their job. Seventy percent of the respondents say they would not switch jobs if they had the opportunity for higher earnings at the current employer. So, a raise seems to buy loyalty. That money plays such a profound role surprised me and does not correspond with the personal experiences I have with employees and colleagues. I am currently observing a determined strive for self-realization and more autonomy, not only in a work environment but also in private life. For this, one needs more money but above all time. The desire for more flexibility in time is 42%. It is the second most important satisfaction factor, after salary.

MS: In my opinion, the noticeable high importance of salary for employee loyalty and satisfaction has to do with the mechanisms of our economic system. For me, the reason for this growth madness is the last ten years – always faster, higher and further. If you have not received a pay raise after two years, its suggested that something is wrong, because money is still the most important value with which we measure progress.

Companies pressure themselves to demonstrate that they take on their societal responsibility. How important is it for employees that their company represents this?

PR: In our current study of employee satisfaction, this factor interestingly does not play a significant role. Nevertheless, for recruiting and employer branding, the corporate social responsibility still plays an immense role. For instance, successful companies that positioned themselves as environmentally friendly, find it much easier to attract applicants than companies that do not have a CSR theme. I also see it as our responsibility as a successful medium-sized company to work as resource-efficiently and sustainably as possible, for example by switching to paper-free, purely digital offices.

MS: As always, there also is a gap between theory and practice. In our company, for example, there is a lot of talk about climate neutrality. However, when you say to the people: “We refuse to turn on air conditioning in our offices.” or “From now on everybody has to take the train to clients,” there’ll be long faces. This shows quite well that what is discussed in society is not yet widely internalized. Nevertheless, the discussion is leading us to rethink our impact on the environment.

Due to the rapid pace of innovation, further training is becoming a decisive factor for companies. What findings does the study provide?

PR: More than half the employees have understood the implications and believe in further training – especially in digital topics. However, people do not have the motivation to use these new digital possibilities, the majority prefers classic classroom seminars. They do not want to sit in front of a virtual coach or learn through a Webinar. More so they prefer to sit with their colleges in a room with people who tell them about personal things.

MS: In my opinion, social contacts are the main reason why in the future people will also want to go to work, even though the tech possibilities allow us to work from anywhere.

Avantgarde has a rooftop with actual grass and sheep, the Experts will be soon moving into an office with a gym, swimming pool and climbing wall. What role does work environment play for the attractiveness of a company and the satisfaction of the employees?

PR: Working environment is ranked as the second reason, after salary, why people change their job. Together with a pleasant atmosphere among colleagues, a good working environment is a vital instrument to show appreciation. In addition, to the amenities you mentioned, it is critical that architecture supports work culture and cross-departmental thinking and action. Today, the best executives are no longer the highest in the hierarchy, but those who are best networked within the company. In the future, this matrix organization will become even more important. In this respect, it is necessary to create spaces in which people can exchange ideas, even though at the first glance they have nothing to do with each other.

What does this precisely mean for the new location?

PR: We reserve a separate floor, the so-called marketplace, for networking across the various areas. There is a high-quality coffee machine with free coffee available, and there are various ways to get a healthy lunch or snack and eat your meal together with colleagues in a cozy atmosphere. In this way, we shift the exchange from the work rooms and departments to a central, attractive contact point and provide our employees with good reasons to meet at the marketplace and fill the area with life.

About AVANTGARDE Experts

AVANTGARDE Experts places specialists and managers in more than ten skill areas including Marketing, Communication, Sales, Digital, Creation, Purchasing, Logistics, Engineering, IT, Office Management and HR. In addition to the placement of permanent positions and freelancers, the company focuses on personnel consulting for the implementation of projects alongside the search and selection of specialists in the context of employee leasing. AVANTGARDE Experts is a subsidiary of the Munich-based communications agency, AVANTGARDE and has offices in Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart and Dubai. With more than 1,000 clients, the types of businesses include national and international brand groups, medium-sized companies as well as agencies and start-ups.

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