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“BROAD SKILL SETS WILL REMAIN A KEY QUALIFICATION IN THE FUTURE”

An interview with Bruno Gross, Managing Director of SAPHIR Deutschland GmbH

Will HR specialists be able to lean back and relax in the future and hand selection over to ingenious software? Or can (and should) such decisions still be made by people? Steinbeis expert Bruno Gross (SAPHIR Deutschland GmbH) is convinced that only human beings are capable of making the final decision. Gross tells TRANSFER magazine why, how the recruitment market will change in the future, and why he and his colleagues have specialized in finding young talents for companies.

Hello Mr. Gross. How does a theologian end up at a company that mainly selects, recruits, and ties in “high potentials?” What role did your career at Steinbeis play in this?

I’m interested in people and that’s had an influence on lots of my decisions, as it did with my theology degree. Basically, for me the big question is always how life can be a success for people.

It’s the same in my current role. Working alongside my colleagues at SAPHIR, I’d like to line up challenging tasks and projects for young people and by doing this, allow them to unleash their full potential.

I’ve been shaped by Steinbeis, not just through my degree but also in my role at Steinbeis University, and as a result I tend to concentrate on what’s possible in my work, without taking my eye off the horizon. Ultimately, manufacturing products or providing services is always about creating value and delivering prospects for the future. That’s what it’s all about. For me, that’s Steinbeis.

Changes in the markets and the business environment challenge companies to think differently when it comes to corporate development. And this has an impact on recruitment, because training and employee skills dictate success as a business enterprise. Where do you see the biggest challenges for recruitment at the moment?

What we’re experiencing at the moment is that lots of companies are still extremely conservative in how they approach things. What I mean by this is that they come along with a specific role and then look for a specific person with the right qualifications and experience for that role. I would recommend that companies don’t define jobs in terms of the individual tasks they involve, but determine the problems and goals that need to be solved or achieved.

In some cases, the way people solve a problem should dictate the type of qualifications they need or the experience they should have. Despite this, in lots of other cases it’s entirely possible to look for people who are in a position to approach an issue with open goals, so they approach things creatively and explore different possibilities. For example, an IT project doesn’t have to be managed by a computer scientist – depending on the task at hand it could also be successfully managed by someone who studied humanities.

Of course, qualifications will continue to play an important role in the future. But broad skill sets will also remain a key qualification.

SAPHIR Deutschland GmbH is a specialist in recruitment, selection, training, and the retention of young talents. Why was that target group chosen?

There are historical and rational reasons for this. My predecessor, Bettina Rominger, set up SAPHIR in 2007 with Prof. Werner Faix because at the time, they both recognized that developments in the recruitment market needed answers that were suitable in strategic terms, and the answer came through recruitment becoming more differentiated and specialized in terms of contextual focus – it should develop into a separate field of activity.

This insight into future developments evolved and became a conviction that, for a variety of reasons, finding and recruiting young talents requires specialization and different communication than when you’re dealing with someone like middle-aged specialists.

Also, it’s a lot of fun working with young people who are looking for direction in their careers – in ways that match them as a target group; reaching out to them with projects that offer plenty of prospects for the future; accompanying them during the application process; and then lining up individual opportunities for them.

Which trends do you think will affect recruitment in the future, and HR development? Will candidates be selected by algorithms?

HR work is probably sometimes seen as a conservative part of business because it’s about keeping things stable and reliable, whereas the “recruitment scene” tends to be a bit younger so it tries to be hip and enjoys experimenting because it needs to be adaptable. As a result, recruitment experts tend to be more open to new technological solutions – things like artificial intelligence.

I don’t consider it impossible that there’ll be purely “machine-driven” recruitment processes in several decades, but if there are, they’ll be the exception. But otherwise, increasingly people will be supported by smart technology when selecting candidates, but even in the future the final selection process will still be carried out by human beings. I say that because machines will be able to say whether qualifications, experience, and skills are a good match for a certain role, but they won’t be able to say if there’s a good match in terms of the personal chemistry. The only way to find that out is for people to meet and get to know each other. So basically, machines will look after preselection and people will look after final selection – a bit like working with a partner agency.

Of course, if that’s the setup, it’s still possible that some bad judgments will be made – as the saying goes, to err is human. But people responsible for selection should take care of that, not machines.