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The Warsaw Voice » Business » November 28, 2013
HR & Recruitment
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Ambition and Potential
November 28, 2013   
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Piotr Wielgomas, CEO of executive search and HR consulting firm BIGRAM S.A., talks to El¿bieta Wrzecionkowska about the Polish labor market.

Poland’s labor market has changed dramatically over the past two decades. What do you think of these changes?
The rules of the game are indeed fundamentally different for most of us now. Employment has become a much sought-after commodity. Poland has moved from an economy of shortages to one of surpluses, not only on the labor market. This was a kind of shock therapy that many people were unable to accept and they were the ones to be left outside the labor market. To most adult Poles, however, the changes became an opportunity that they were able to embrace. I think we passed through several development stages in a very short time span and that has brought us closer to the well-developed markets in the West. The Polish labor market is now as developed as international markets and in many areas it has been evolving even more rapidly owing to its considerable human resources. Twenty years ago, we did not have the thousands of well-educated and experienced managers we have today, we did not have the dozens of good colleges and, most importantly, the thousands of businesses that have significantly contributed to this transformation.

In part thanks to its skilled labor force, Poland is an attractive country for foreign investors. What opinion do Western businesses have of Polish employees?
To begin with, Poles are very hard-working and creative people. What may come as a surprise to some, they also have a relatively high work ethic and are committed to what they do. They are incredibly ambitious, because they are proud and because they feel an urge to prove to others that they are in no way inferior to employees in the West. We Poles are flexible and act fast and we have a way of adapting to different circumstances. Personal traits like these are very much in demand these days. Many experts consider us to be a highly enterprising nation, ready to pursue unconventional solutions.

Still, even though we have been working very hard, we still have not caught up with well-developed Western countries in terms of productivity, but things are improving year by year in this department as well. Western employers can see this potential and that is why they keep investing in Poland.

A generation of managers has emerged on the labor market who obtained their education in the “new” Poland. What do you think about their expertise and prospects?
People from this generation hold degrees, including MBA degrees, from very good universities. They attend all sorts of training programs and hundreds of courses and are really well educated. I am not worried about their future. It is only a matter of time before Polish executives start holding key positions in corporations where national and cultural backgrounds are not seen as decisive. Even today, the slightly older generation is working at corporations as expats who travel the world with the “corporate circulatory system.” This used to be unthinkable. These people hold prominent posts at the head offices of their international corporations and have salaries and benefits identical to those of their Western colleagues. This is a real and tangible change. For example, the demand for Polish IT specialists and analysts is so high that, in order to hire them, Polish companies need to compete with half of Europe.

Using headhunting and recruiting services is a standard practice at large companies. What services are especially in demand?
We can see the highest level of interest in executive search and search and selection for middle management. This, of course, depends on individual sectors of the economy. The market is developed enough to require companies like ours to possess thorough knowledge of these sectors and constantly explore them. There is also some demand for professional services such as assessment and development centers, management audits, employee satisfaction surveys and outplacement. Customers also pay a great deal of attention to international credentials as a guarantee of service quality. BIGRAM S.A., for example, is a member of IIC Partners Executive Search Worldwide, one of the three largest independent executive search networks.

As the economy picks up speed, employment is expected to increase. What is going to happen next year?
I am positive that 2014 will see a strong revival and economic growth, which is sure to result in new jobs. We have seen many signs of this and these signs are too clear to be ignored. We are starting new recruiting procedures as companies are launching new projects and bringing them to Poland.
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