Specifics of the Bulgarian HR market for 2020 through our consulting business

Specifics of the Bulgarian HR market for 2020 through our consulting business

We have all experienced an unforgettable and unprecedented year. This is true for both business and personal life. The coronavirus pandemic happened last year, which led to a business crisis, as well as changes to which we had to adapt quickly. We, the team of Horizons, believe that we are successfully dealing with this adaptation through more flexible services.
Horizons Bulgaria is a leading recruitment company with 18 years of experience on the Bulgarian market. Out team specializes in middle management and expert positions. With our expertise and approach of a career consultant we are able to contribute to the professional and personal development of the candidates. We provide them with opportunities in which they could demonstrate their potential and capabilities.

Here is a brief summary of our insights in the following areas:

  1. Business environment and challenges
  2. Candidates – the specifics of the Bulgarian HR labor market
  3. Clients – the trends and specifics in our work with them
  4. Types of positions that have been most wanted in the past year
  5. Interesting cases we worked on

1. Business environment and challenges

  •  Government measures for business in the face of lockdown and crisis

Our insights are that the government’s measures for business in times of crisis were untimely. They were late in order to support small companies caused by crisis. In reality, many companies did not immediately lay off their employees. They tried to use reserves from paid and unpaid leave, from reducing working hours. This forms hidden unemployment, which is yet to come, but is already greatly reducing workers’ incomes.

  • Decline in our business during the first lockdown

The unprecedented conditions in which we found ourselves as a result of the pandemic crisis, initially affected us very negatively. There was a huge decline in our work and projects. We had to lay off a small part of our team. Fortunately, we still managed to keep the core staff and rely on them in the subsequent recovery. In the summer we compensated for a large part of the decline in the spring and even managed to improve our results from the previous year.

  • New services we offer

We were able to quickly adapt to the new situation for the world and business with new and more flexible services.

  • The new office culture

The home office, which was forced due to the anti-epidemic measures, was well received at the beginning of the pandemic. At present, after ten months of mostly work from home, employees are looking for more flexible and mixed forms of work and a return to traditional forms. In our opinion, the office culture is changing significantly, but it will not disappear completely. Probably more hybrid and mixed forms of home / office work combination will be needed in the medium and long term. Flexible coworking spaces and the concept of a hot desk will be a more cost-effective and flexible option for the employer.

  • Business model, sustainable and fair relationships

We are known for our model of work with the retainer – engaging pay and exclusivity when working on projects. In support of this, our analyzes for the past year reveal that we have 100% or close to this success of the projects in which we were engaged as an exclusive external partner. Our insights are that a large part of the entirely success models of the recruitment service blur the commitment of the clients and the message to the labor market. Business commitment is also compromised when a client works with several HR service providers to select the same professionals.

  • Clients from the UK

There are an increase in the number of clients and requests from the UK due to changes in the business environment before and after Brexit.

  • The Bulgarian market of the recruitment service

Our local recruitment business is very fragmented. There are too many small companies with low capacity to cover the services of large employers and at the same time to ensure high success. The quality of many of the companies is questionable and our sector itself  suffered from the crisis.

  • International procurement practices and poor market judgment of multinational companies

As we marked, our business segment is fragmented by a large number of small companies that are willing to make many price and ethical compromises when negotiating with large employers (clients). Most of our large international clients are trying to apply their international procurement practices. Unfortunately, they are highly inadequate and difficult to apply to our small and fragmented industry. In addition, they distort the labor market and lead to many unethical practices.

  • Freelancers on the market

The market, the competition of employers for the limited number of qualified candidates, the insufficient professional level of some of the recruitment companies have led to the emergence of many freelance professionals who perform a similar recruitment service. We have noticed that their number has increased. Their practices are quite controversial without a reaction from regulators such as the Employment Agency and the Labor Inspectorate. Unfortunately, they usually do not lead to more satisfied companies (respectively, clients) with more employees. Additionally, they most often lower the professional level of the service, introduce controversial and unethical practices, do not comply with all legal frameworks, Employment Promotion Act, GDPR, etc.)

  • Bulgarian Employment Confederation

In 2020, Horizons Bulgaria became a co-founder and member of the Bulgarian Employment Confederation. It was founded by the largest and leading HR companies in the country. The aim of the confederation is together with all companies in the field of HR services, recruitment and staff leasing to create a sustainable partnership through which to build a better organized working, regulatory and labor environment in Bulgaria. It also aims to help Bulgarian employers to obtain good quality and ethical standards in the field of HR services. Moreover, to collect information about the market, to facilitate and advise foreign investors in the country regarding the labor market and its opportunities. BEC supports the two most important parties on the market – employers and employees.

  • We became a finalist in the Competition for the Annual Awards of the The Bulgarian Association for People Management for 2020

The category in which we are nominated is “Best Small / Medium Business Project”. Our successful project is Chatbot, a virtual recruitment assistant that optimizes and automates the work of recruitment specialists.

2. Candidates – the specifics of the Bulgarian HR labor market

  • Interviews and online business meetings

The epidemiological situation has forced the HR market to adapt to the online environment over the past year. We have complied with this specificity. It can be said that our business has shifted over 80% online. Our interviews and meetings with candidates and clients are taking place mainly in the virtual environment.

  • Professionals are less likely to change their current job

Due to the crisis and the risks of a career change, candidates have become less inclined to change jobs.
As consultants who regularly use the direct approach, we have experienced more difficulties than in previous years in motivating candidates for a change. We successfully coped with the ultimate goal of the assigned projects. However, we had several rejected job offers, after the intervention of a family member or spouse of the applicant in order to make the final decision to start a new job.

  • Many proactive candidates from the sectors affected by the crisis

The crisis and the measures taken have affected service sectors, such as restaurants, tourism and hospitality, small business services with shops in malls and others.
As a result, many  laid-off specialists entered the labor market and proactively contacted us through our website, Facebook or LinkedIn page.

  • Almost every position requires a headhunting approach

Passive candidates are reluctant to change their current job during the crisis. They consider this a high-risk endeavor. Our consultants have to use the direct approach in terms to motivate the right professionals to join our clients’ business.

3. Clients – the trends and specifics in our work with them

  • Bulgarian companies have been looking for options for international expansion

A small but specific part of the business in Bulgaria turned its attention abroad. For this reason, in 2020 we had clients who assigned us for a search for key positions outside Bulgaria.

  • Market rearch for foreign clients

At the same time, a significant number of foreign companies saw an opportunity in the crisis to enter the local labor market or remotely join their international teams of highly qualified Bulgarian specialists.
Some of them contacted us and assigned us specific business research on the local market. A few companies started a business here, others were surprised by what they found. We still keep in touch with some of them who have not yet decided what to do and we assist them with information about making that decision.

  • Temporary Employment

Temporary employment, also known as staff leasing service, is a business service in which one legal entity (enterprise providing temporary work) hires and provides personnel to another legal entity (enterprise, user) under its management and control.

Staff leasing and temporary employment are combined with remote work and are becoming increasingly popular. Some teams still need physical presence and personal interaction to do their job. The service is a flexible solution for companies that need new or additional employees, but do not want or are not able to hire them permanently or are in the process of establishing their legal entity in the country.
This kind of employment is appropriate in times of crisis and allow flexibility for both employers and employees.

  • Salary increase

Despite the crisis, staff salaries are rising steadily, as are total staff costs. At the same time, household costs are rising, as not all employers are inclined to cover electricity, internet, heating for the time when their employees work from home.

  • Difficulty in finding good professionals

There is a tendency for the difficult and increasingly problematic search and hiring of qualified profeesionals. Passive candidates calculate the increased risk of a change in their salary expectations, and the shortage of knowledgeable and capable employees is still large. This requires employers to pay higher costs for recruitment and hiring.

  • Incorrectness and difficulties in paying for services

Unfortunately, we, like many other businesses, become victims of unfairness from some of our clients to pay for work already completed projects. Total intercompany indebtedness directly affects us as a business service provider.

  • Increased supply of low-skilled specialists from recruitment agencies located in poor countries

Bulgaria had just begun to become interesting for the import of personnel from other countries. The import of personnel had only just begun to gain momentum before the pandemic. Now there is an increase in requests from staff agencies located in poor countries in Asia, the Middle East or the Far East. They offer us proactively low-skilled professionals who are currently unemployed in their home countries.

4. The most searched for jobs in the past year

  • IT, ITO, BPO – in these sectors we were looking for different types of specialists, mainly at the expert level, with more than 3-4 years of experience.
  • IT Hubs and Shared Services centers – most often this type of business centers were founded and started operations in Bulgaria last year. Clients from such centers often assigned us searches for experts who could not find or were very expensive in their countries.
  • Significant reduction in search for middle and top managers (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.)

The business also relied on security and decided to keep or optimize its current management team with focus on the search primarily for expert positions.

5. Interesting cases we worked on

  • Relocation of non-EU professionals

We had a specific case for our client in the IT field. Our search there was for an extremely narrow and rare specialist. We managed to find and attract such a professional, who did not live in our country, to be relocated to Bulgaria from a country outside the EU.

  • Exclusive partnership with a company that uses several of our HR services

Shortly after the start of the first lockdown, we managed to win and attract a partner from the gaming industry. Our partnership includes several services, incl. recruitment and staff leasing. The company had no activity in Bulgaria and chose our country to start an entirely new “office”.

  • UK company has chosen us as a partner and provider of HR services entirely online

An intensively growing British company, which was influenced by the business changes after Brexit, entered the Bulgarian market during the first lockdown through a partnership with us. This happened and continues to happen entirely online, without an employee of the company coming to Bulgaria. We have hired a team of highly qualified employees who are currently working in the form of temporary employment. We continue to expand their team in Bulgaria.

Conclusions

Covid-19 has accelerated digitalization around the world, but it has also caused a significant economic crisis. Management will need to be more adaptable and flexible than before and offer flexible employee packages to attract the right talent.
The traditional office model has changed. Remote work and teamwork have entered many unthinkable areas, including people recruitment and management.
We need to be flexible, adaptable and creative in terms to comply with legal frameworks, new business needs and the created uncertain and unpredictable environment.
We face the challenge and need to find new ways to attract, retain and manage talent from a distance.

Photo credit: Freepik

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