Written by: Tomáš Prouza, Petr Vykoukal (www.penize.cz)
Photo: V&V, Petr Poliak
Looking for a new job because you consider yourself underpaid? Choosing a new employee and not sure how much to offer? Our exclusive salary survey will guide you through the jungle.
FINDING A NEW JOB in middle management is not as easy as it once was. Firms are making their selection procedures more strict and more comprehensive, and they are often paying less. Candidates don’t have as strong a negotiating position as they did before. It’s no wonder, considering that the number of available positions has not kept pace with the amount of suitable, high-quality candidates entering the employment market. So what can you expect when you decide to find a new job?
Several years ago it was enough just to be in the right place at the right time. Today the market demands are substantially greater. “The time of the revolution is over. Back then it was enough to have a university education and a little experience. Today the prerequisites are a high-quality university degree, experience and a willingness to educate yourself,” says Iva Šubrtová, senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Šubrtová adds that the applicant also has to be patient, because it is necessary to have at least five to six years experience before one can become a manager. According to personnel experts, people interested in managerial positions are a lot better prepared. “In most cases they purposefully target one position and are better equipped with skills to succeed in the selection process,” says Olga Marušová, head of the recruitment department at Česká spořitelna. According to Jiří Vacek, human resources director at Nestlé Česko, the once typical fast-track to the top could now be an obstacle, since such people don’t have the experience in the “lower ranks”, and in the future they could be rolled over by the coming generation. This generation has been largely educated since the Velvet Revolution, it has study and work experience abroad and, thanks to a slower rise to the top, it has deeper knowledge and experience. For now, insufficient managerial skills are its main weakness, and these skills are considered essential by many firms. “In most cases we are not looking for top experts to fill middle management positions, but a person with good managerial skills and a broad focus,” says Marušová. “For us, managerial skills are the key for middle management positions,” she adds.
Good things to those who wait
Most personnel managers confirm that only a few years ago, finding a job was not only easier, but also substantially quicker. According to Petr Žídek, senior consultant at Synergie Recruitment, filling a managerial position in two to three weeks was not rare. Today the selection process often takes two to three months, and most candidates are “browsing the market” while still working in their existing positions. According to Dita Závorová, sales and marketing division manager for Robert Half, being unemployed for three months is regarded differently now. The view of personnel managers towards changing jobs often has also changed. According to Žídek, in the mid-90’s it was usual for candidates oriented towards a career to change jobs every year or two. Today, this period has extended to approximately three years. Candidates who change positions more often are now considered to be fluctuants, which could negatively influence how they are regarded by prospective employers. But Renata Součková, consultant for Hill International, notes that frequent changes are usually tolerated in the case of recent graduates who are trying to “find themselves” in their early job search.
Change doesn’t improve salary
The development of the market can also be seen through the willingness of candidates to lower their salary expectations. Žídek has met candidates several times who have worked for CZK 120,000 per month and today, due to problems in finding adequate positions, are willing to work for half this amount. Součková feels that this is an understandable trend. “These people gained experience, devoted themselves to their job and worked overtime in previous jobs,” she explains. “Now they wish to enjoy work and life more and so are willing to work for less money.” Závorová agrees that many people working in middle or higher management are tired of the tempo of their life and are looking for a better balance between their work and their leisure time. Besides wages, benefits connected to the job also play a significant role when choosing. In the experience of Robert Sládek, consultant at World Experts, these benefits can make up for the significant wage difference between two offers for many management candidates. Some are willing to accept a position with lower salary with a more prestigious company. Besides factors like image or market position, the employees also value a personal approach of the top management and the feeling that the company values their work. “A personal thank-you from the company’s CEO or public acknowledgement are more important for many employees than a bonus of a few thousand crowns,” Sládek points out.
While in the beginning of the ’90s it was not unusual for the same position in two different firms to offer up to three times the difference in salary, today the differences are significantly smaller. Vacek claims that today salary differences in FMCG firms do not exceed 20% and are becoming more balanced in other sectors as well. However, companies and sectors still exist where salaries are out-of-line from the average. One such sector is the tobacco industry, where the reasons for overpayment are large profits and the fact that many candidates don’t want to work in these firms. “They tell us that they would not be able to identify themselves with the product,” Sládek explains.
Somebody’s in, somebody’s out
Market stabilization can be seen as well through the saturation of formerly sought-after fields of education. While today graduates from economics and the humanities find themselves in a more difficult situation than before, there is still a large demand for graduates of technology schools. The need has been more and more noticeable with the arrival of new production plants of foreign companies. Other factors reveal the advantages of a technological education. “A technician can become a manager, but it is difficult for a manager to become a technician,” says Vacek.
The desired qualifications also include specialists in quality control, production control, CRM, consumer services and call-center management. In contrast, IT specialists, that were much demanded before when there was a lack of such people, find themselves in a saturated field because of the dwindling technological boom. One of the few exceptions is the banking industry – a test case for the striking reduction of employees in many areas, except for IT specialists which banks need to suceed in the information age. Likewise, top IT consultants need not be afraid of finding a job since there are still some companies hiring headhunters to find them. Positions in corporate IT system administration have staved off saturation in this market.
Regardless of economic development, the smallest swings in demand are in positions that bring money to the company directly, above all salesmen. In contrast, the supportive and back office positions such as public relations, marketing or human resources are disfavored at the moment of economic problems and are the first to be scaled back. Those people who, in past years, took it for granted that it was possible to get a new position quickly, and even improve their salary significantly, will have to change their attitude. It is no longer advisable to begin looking for a new position after leaving an existing one. Massive overpayment and headhunting of middle managers are also matters of the past. “It is no longer a problem to find several qualified candidates for most positions – and employers are well aware of this,” Šubrtová says with a hint of warning.
|Financial benefitsYou can get more money if the employer contributes to your supplementary pension insurance or life insurance. You cannot touch the money immediately, but it does force force you to save for a pension that will be beneficial in the future. You can also ask for an interest-free loan or
a loan with lower interest than a bank would ask.
Taxes: No taxes on state-supported supplementary pension insurance up to 5% of your social security tax base, and on life insurance up to CZK 12,000. No taxes on interest-free loans either, unless they exceed CZK 20,000 for a loan the law determines as “for getting through a difficult financial situation” or CZK 100,000 for housing needs.
|Cars and phonesCompany cars are the most visible “perks” and are more common here than in other countries. For the firm, it is less expensive to pay for leasing or buy the car than to add enough to a salary for employees to buy a car themselves. However, with regard to the strained economic situation, the firms have started to look at the price/value ratio and are buying more Škodas. These days, a company mobile phone is not usually considered to be an above-standard benefit, but rather a job-related tool.
Taxes: If an employee is allowed to use the car for private purposes, 1% of the purchase price of the car, including VAT, is added to the gross monthly tax base. Job-related tools such as mobile phones and notebooks do not influence the tax base, unless the employer also pays for private calls.
|Other benefitsMany employers offer various other benefits such as educational courses, contributions to vacations, permanent passes to fitness centers or squash clubs, membership in golf clubs, or meals in the company cafeteria. Some employers even offer the employees accommodation in company apartments free-of-charge or the possibility to purchase company goods for lower prices.
Taxes: Non-monetary contributions from your employer (from the Social and Cultural Needs Fund or from profit after taxes) are tax-free for employees without a limit. The only limit is set for holidays abroad, at CZK 10,000, including family members. Taxes must also be paid on free or discounted goods or services (including subsidized housing). The taxable income is the difference between the price that you pay and the market value.