SWOPS partner of the month: Austria. On “Daddy month”, “pension account” and HR strategies
In 2013, some 67% of women of working age were in employment in Austria, but still today more than half of the Austrian women are working part-time. Most women were unaware of the devastating consequences for their own pensions for long time. This changes now with the newly introduced pension account even for men: After the introduction of the “daddy month”, fathers are now allowed to engage more in family work in Austria. SWOPS gives new insights on recruiting: complementing competencies.
The mills of the Austrian authorities grind slowly when it comes to equality between men and women at work. Although the Chamber of Commerce has a section called “Women in Business”, but it appears that their representatives feel responsible only for women entrepreneurs in the strict sense. In the Chamber of Labour, which is avowedly also responsible for employees, officially promotes the improved of career opportunities for women, but the responsibilities at a higher level of decision making do not seem clearly regulated. Fortunately, the industrialists association, roughly comparable to the Chamber of Commerce in Germany, has committed itself to women in leadership positions in recent years. One example is the program from 2012 “Frauen.Führen” (engl: Women.Lead) which also serves business and politics as a guide. The Ministry of Women demands for more transparency of salaries and promotes women in leadership positions – even if not exactly with the utmost firmness.
Currently, the Austrian Family Ministry is working on new parental leave models that should include e.g. a partnership bonus. Most recently in the public service, the so-called “daddy month” was introduced in Austria, which is to allow fathers to take leave for up to one month after the birth of their child. In Germany, fathers can choose to take leave for at least two months and thanks to the recently introduced parental allowance plus, both parents can decide who would like to stay at home and take care fo the family and in what time scope.
In the 1990s, Austria seemed to be further ahead: The legendary PR campaign of the then Minister Helga Konrad, who promoted equal share of professional and private obligations between men and women with the slogan “fifty-fifty”. This action has been burned into the collective memory of the Austrians until today, partly ridiculed, partly as a claim and target, partly as a reminder. The total distribution of roles in Austria is still very traditional today.
A large push in information and motivation for working women in Austria has been the introduction of the so-called “pension account”. With this, women can calculate how high the expected pension will be taking into account possible family-related acquisition pauses. At the same time, it gives women the opportunity to correct their own retirement upwards by higher employment conditions even in advanced age. As a result also younger women discuss about the fact that it may be useful to work more rather than fewer hours.
For many employers today, the recruitment of qualified specialists and managers is no longer as easy as before. A reality that Austria shares with many other countries in Europe. The expectations of job seekers from potential future employers go far beyond monetary incentives. Therefore, some employers offer their potential and current employees career models and further education courses that are specially adapted to their individual needs, which are often defined as part of the long-term human resource planning and are critical for both staff retention as well as for attracting young talent.
These career training offers include, for example, e-learning, the possibility to complete a part-time distance learning, blended learning (a mix of classroom sessions and e-learning), and also inter-company qualification such as the so-called combined training. Combined training, also called training partnership, is understood in Austria as the cooperation of individual firms in training. The companies complement each other in the interconnection of the practical vocational training, in cases where the training company cannot offer specific training courses due to its business processes. Combined trainings are often subsidized through the Public Employment Service from EU funds. Here great attention is paid to gender equality-promoting design, for example through better funding opportunities for participating women. Some of these programs have made it their goal to bring more women into leadership positions. The reasons: 2012 a mere 5.1% women was active in Austria as managing large companies with more than 250 employees. Most managing directors came from the service sector. In the same year, only 9.4% percent of supervisory board seats in listed companies were occupied with women.
In fact, 185 of 1,000 women in Austria are taking taking advantage of these offers in vocational training. For men, there are 180 out of 1,000 – thus professional development willingness is virtually equal between genders. However, there is a significant difference in private training: 188 of 1,000 women as compared to only 116 of 1,000 men in Austria are willing to invest into their professional development for the future from their own money.
Same as in Germany, also in Austria particularly dedicated companies have the opportunity to be certified as an attractive employer. In this context, the Manual for Equal Opportunities is published, which provides an excellent overview of companies, some of which have been engaged in diversity issues and advancement of women with particular attention to work-life balance activities since the 1990s. One of the most prestigious awards in Austria is given away by the Ministry of the Family, the National Award for the most family-friendly companies. Another important distinction in Austria i s the Quality Certificate for Social Integration Companies, an EFQM-based quality management process which places great emphasis on gender issues.
Among the most important work-life balance measures in Austria are in particular: Occupational Health Management, performing part-time, the right to parental leave, the possibility of family hospice leaves as well as the widespread occupation of qualified part-time positions, consisting of about 30 or 35 hours a week and offering flexible working time models. Amazing Fact: The opportunity to work in the home office is given in Austria, but is de facto not widespread, nor job-sharing which is widely touted, but rarely applied.
The incentives for workers are entirely given in Austria, but what are the strategies in recruiting in the Austrian SMEs? The answer: often enough none. SWOPS triggers self-awareness in decision-makers and decision-makers: When it comes to the renewal of positions, job titles and descriptions are often written as always before, due to simplicity or from routine: with the internal corporate jargon and therefore not very meaningful when it comes to the actual content of the work field. Then the team gets together and sifts through the applications. Some people can look forward to the invitation to an interview, which often lacks a clear structure: Hardly comparable questions and then at the end, the decision is made for someone who might “fit well into the team.” The new employees are then usually people with skills and personality traits that are similar to those of the existing team members. Conclusion: Not the most appropriate people do apply, because the job description often remains unclear and was not specifically tailored to the respective task. As a result, even more of the same and a real opportunity for renewal and diversification has been squandered.
Two of the companies surveyed in the framework of the EU project already benefited noticeably from the positive impact that the SWOPS consulting brought to them: job vacancies are now described in detail, the job description formulated appreciative. The requirements for the potential new employee are realistically. Even before the interviews attention is paid to possible diversity dimensions. Applicants who proved to be particularly interesting after the first sighting receive written questions from the everyday work, asking them to reply in writing within a few days. These responses are evaluated and ranked anonymously by a selecting team. Only after this selection the most promising candidates are invited for an interview. Now there is a prepared question raster, which markedly increases the comparability.
The result is a mixed team that successfully cooperates and produces creative, innovative solutions. The new credo: SWOPS helps to complement skills!