As a headhunter, Anja Minnerup knows the German fashion industry from the inside out. In her function as HR consultant for companies from Zara to Chanel, she has found the right people for the job, but has spoken to even more candidates who were not the right fit. "If it doesn't fit today, I can have the right position for someone tomorrow," she says. "One learns an incredible amount in the interviews with the candidates and through the company briefing beforehand.” In this interview with FashionUnited, she shares her insights from 20 years of job consulting for fashion professionals.
Ms. Minnerup, do all companies need a ‘feelgood manager’?
(Laughs) No, they don't. But the big companies nowadays invest in such a person who is there to see if there are problems in the company that need to be solved, to be passed on to the management level filtered as feedback, or to plan company events, for example. I personally like this very much, because employees today want to be perceived as individuals. Retaining talent is becoming more and more important and I consider a ‘feelgood manager’ a good tool for this. But of course, this is a question of cost that not every company can afford.
What trends do you expect in HR in 2020?
As mentioned before, probably the most important trend will be to think about: How can I retain talent? What do I do to retain these people, what work atmosphere do I want to create so that they feel comfortable? Every employee who leaves a company costs enormous amounts of money: know-how is lost, maybe even to direct competitors; I have to look for new people; in the worst case, the position is vacant for months, and in addition, I have to pay a headhunter and place ads.
And how does one retain talents best?
The solution does not necessarily have to be monetary in nature, and the feelgood manager or the weekly fruit basket is not necessarily the solution either. It is generally about creating a good atmosphere, questioning oneself and delegating responsibility - in other words, trusting people and trusting their abilities.
Today, young people want to take responsibility, and younger candidates are trusted with more responsibility than before, often already in leading positions, for example with a mentor by their side. The whole work situation has changed, from a hierarchy to togetherness.
As a headhunter, you are the intermediary between candidates and companies and therefore have special insights into what candidates expect. Do you pass on this feedback?
Thanks to our constant exchange with potential candidates, we are close to the pulse of the times, we also get to know from candidates how they see the companies from the outside. We are also happy to give feedback to the companies about this, if desired. It can be helpful today to know: ‘How do candidates see us, how are we spoken of as an employer?’ But not every company is ready for this.
Have you observed that younger candidates are more interesting for companies today than in the past?
Yes, for sure! The market used to be more experience-driven. Today, young people are wanted for their input. They are close to the zeitgeist, the trends and the market. The realisation has arrived in the industry that you need more young, trendy brands in the mix with the old, well-known ones. This is especially important in purchasing; this area is changing, especially in e-commerce, and is becoming more open for young candidates. To find fresh names that inspire customers with their special mix, to have a feeling for what is becoming a trend. Younger people bring this knowledge along.
How do the new generations, the Millennials and Gen Z, think?
Often, we are very impressed: "Oh wow, they really think in this direction. That used to not even be relevant earlier." The generation today wants feedback directly and not once a year. Knowing exactly where I stand in day-to-day business. Am I doing it right? And if not, then tell me directly so that I can improve.
In the past, careers were made at university; now it is much more important for companies to know: Do the candidates understand our company, our mission? Does this person fit in with us and the rest of the team, is there a cultural fit? What is she like as a person?
Can artificial intelligence help you in your work?
I have recently looked into this in detail and in my opinion, AI is not yet ready. You enter everything into the computer and it spits out a list of candidates, but you don't know what the algorithm has done. I think the human element is missing that way. And the algorithm is only as good as the available data on candidates and companies. In the end, you have a high bounce rate, because AI can't judge whether the candidate, who has the right professional qualifications, also fits the company. How do I enter corporate culture, for example, a feeling, into the data set? At the end of the day, I have to talk to people as a human being and assess them from a human perspective.
Photos: Christine Sommerfeldt, courtesy of headhunting for the best GmbH
This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE. Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.