Recruiting talent in Poland’s increasingly saturated market

As featured in theHRDIRECTOR.

Smart, young and highly educated, Poland’s growing workforce hails from all over the world, including Western and Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. As the country’s Deputy PM put it last year, “some time ago Poles were departing to London, but now it is the other way round”.

The country’s population is skilled and highly proficient in English, while Poland’s position in the EU gives it a climate favourable to foreign investment. These factors, combined with a relatively low cost of living and lower salaries, have encouraged an array of world-leading businesses to set up in the country.

In the recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of companies, such as UBS and Credit Suisse, move or expand their operations in Poland. This trend has been echoed in our work at Wilbury Stratton as numerous clients have commissioned us to undertake location analysis projects in Polish cities such as Warsaw and Krakow. Our conversations with sources living and working in these cities depict an increasingly competitive market. Sources agreed that new entrants will need to go to greater lengths to attract talent.

Are cities such as Krakow and Warsaw are slowly becoming victims of their own success? Those we engaged with spoke highly of their cities and the climate they provide for businesses already well-established there. However, they were less confident about the prospects for new companies trying to get a foothold in these increasingly competitive landscapes. The problem, they suggested, is that there are simply too many companies chasing the same talent, especially for tech-related roles.

The fact remains that Warsaw and Krakow are popular locations for businesses setting up operations abroad, and for the determined employer there are tried and tested ways of attracting talent. Most of our sources suggested that success (or, at least, better results) will be determined by the following factors:

Recruiting talent from further afield – There is evidence that it is becoming harder to prise local candidates away from their current employers. With this in mind, employers in Poland may want to consider recruiting talent from outside of major cities. Our sources say that the public transport is excellent in both Warsaw and Krakow, reporting that thousands of people commute into the centre from the outskirts. Moreover, a source from a global bank in Warsaw reported that his talent team had addressed the problem of people shortages by bringing in individuals not just from outside the city but from as far afield as Egypt.

Considering Krakow over Warsaw – Sources said that Krakow has an advantage over Warsaw in that it can lure people from the “smaller, quieter towns”. Krakow, they reasoned, is a gentler step-up for these individuals, providing the ‘buzz’ of an urban centre without the fast-paced, impersonal quality of a huge metropolis. In this sense, it might be likened to cities like Bristol or Brighton in the UK. Additionally, sources reported that professionals often look to relocate from Warsaw after a short while. This means that smaller cities like Krakow offer an advantage in terms of staff retention, providing a gentler pace of life for people looking to escape the capital and start a family.

Building relationships with the universities – Both Krakow and Warsaw benefit from a large graduate talent pool. Warsaw produces over 59,000 graduates per year and Krakow over 40,000. For this reason, entry and mid-level roles are relatively easy to fill with younger talent excited by the prospect of moving to a new company. Many companies in Warsaw and Krakow have developed strong links with local universities in order to gain access to their students before they graduate. Citi in Warsaw, for example, is actively involved in recruiting students through various university outreach programmes and even sponsors a course at Kozminski University.

Choosing your office location wisely – Location is key; locating an office near a metro station is attractive for commuting talent. Also, for younger staff, locating an office in the vibrant city centre rather than on a business park serves as a strong draw.

Hiring senior talent first – The value of a local network cannot be underestimated when attracting talent. Establishing Polish nationals in senior positions across the business drives trust and engagement among local talent. This point is particularly salient for talent leads who benefit enormously from a strong local presence.

Offering flexible and remote working – This is fast becoming a market norm in Poland and an expectation among the best candidates, especially for women. As we are finding in markets across the world, employers who stick rigidly to traditional office hours risk losing out on talent.

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