Eight things Germany can do to attract (and keep) international talent
What can Germany and its employers do to attract and make life better for internationals who work there? Here are eight key ways suggested by The Local readers.
1. Stop focusing on perfect German
A common theme touched on by readers was language. If Germany wants to replenish its workforce, it has to relax the need for its international workers to speak German without any mistakes.
That’s according to the majority of The Local readers who responded to our survey on working life in Germany. They said German firms place too much emphasis on the language – even when fluency is not needed for the job.
“German companies must understand that most of the expat candidates already speak two to three languages perfectly and on top of that they cannot expect the candidates to master the German language fast,” said one of The Local’s readers. “This is unrealistic.”
The reader explained how one of his Russian friends was asked to leave a firm because her German was deemed not good enough after two years.
“She is amazingly talented but her contract was not renewed,” he said. “This obsession with language skills has to go out if German companies want good international candidates."
A respondent to our survey has experienced similar difficulties with potential employers.
“As a job hunter I am really struggling with the language,” the reader said. “Every recruiter, even international companies, are rejecting me only because of language criteria.”
This reader suggested that recruiters “could be more liberal with the language criteria during recruitment”.
Another respondent said firms needed to “understand that not every international is capable of learning German” but that they should be promoted anyway if they excel in other skills.
According to The Local's career coach Chris Pyak, only 1% of German companies hire candidates in English yet there are many jobs out there for English speakers.
2. Become more foreign-language friendly
On a similar note, respondents said although many Germans speak English, the country could embrace this even more – and be open to other foreign languages.
Germany should “become more English-language friendly,” one reader told us. Another said Germany could make life better for internationals by “being more flexible with the English language and being more international”.
Some readers said to attract more international workers, authorities could offer services in a range of languages.
They pointed out that there is no option for multiple languages in services such as telephone service helplines, for example for most banks, and in offices such as the Finanzamt or Bürgeramt.
“All cities should adopt the option for foreigners to do administrative tasks in English,” said another reader.
A respondent also pointed that in companies there is “little information in English, procedures and policies are all in German and not shared or explained to international employees”.
"There are many international people living in Germany," added another reader. "I think at least some of the official paperwork which people face in daily life should have an English version."
Another reader said there should be a "cultural change to accept and offer more English speaking positions".
3. Offer free German lessons
On the topic of languages, some readers said firms who want to attract foreign workers should offer more free language lessons to create a sense of community and improve skills.
One respondent told The Local that it can be very difficult for non-native German speakers to integrate into working-life culture and language courses could help with that.
4. Focus on what internationals CAN do not what they can’t
Many of our readers felt the obstacles internationals face when coming to work in Germany – like trying to gain the right to work and live in the Bundesrepublik or lack of language skills – are focused on by employers rather than what international people can bring to the country.
This results in Germany missing out on incredible talent and skills from abroad, they argued.
A reader told us: “My recommendation would be that the companies must focus on candidates' positives rather than the negatives. And focus on what they can do rather that what they cannot do.”
Another respondent added: “Give access to upper management roles for internationals and a growth path irrespective of nationality.”
5. Streamline processes and become more modern
Although some readers praised Germany’s “fair rules” for working and residence permits such as the Blue Card, they also pointed out that the process of getting these permits and visas was often stressful.
One reader said government offices, especially the Ausländerbehörde (the immigration authority) “are a nightmare for foreigners”, a sentiment shared by many non-Germans.
As The Local reported, the Bundestag passed a new package of laws on June 7th, aimed at attracting foreign skilled vocational workers, including those from outside the EU, and promises them eased visa procedures.
They are being created in a bid to address the shortage of skilled workers in many regions and industries across Germany. The law is aimed at both foreign citizens who have applied for asylum in Germany and to those applying for a work visa.
And it looks like reform of immigration rules is badly need. A reader told The Local: "There needs to be less red tape in Germany!"
Respondents said Germany should “reduce the amount of bureaucracy” international workers face and try and develop shorter waiting times and less long and drawn-out processes to get visas.
A reader also pointed out that Germany was “extremely bureaucratic and 20th century old-school considering that fax and post is the main way of communication".
Many international people in Germany find visits to the Ausländerbehörde stressful. Photo: DPA
In fact Germany's arguable reluctance to embrace the digital world fully was touched on by other Local readers too. A respondent to our survey said registration (Anmeldung) plus “all other bureaucratic processes” should be digitalized in every city and state.
6. Tackle discrimination and work-based racism
Germany's tolerance for foreigners – in general, not just in the workplace – is an issue under the spotlight, not least because of the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric pushed by political parties such as Alternative for Germany (AfD), and movements such as Pegida in recent years.
Many of our readers raised issues of racism and discrimination in the workplace despite EU anti-discrimination laws. It led to calls for tougher laws and enforcement of rules.
“The government has to make stricter laws against racism,” one reader said.
Another said employers needed to become more familiar with laws and make sure they have "solid processes" in place to tackle issues if they arise.
7. Workplaces need to become more diverse
This is something The Local readers believe could help fight discrimination and make working places in Germany more inclusive and foreigner-friendly.
One reader said recruiters should actively try and get people from different backgrounds, minorities and abilities on board.
“They need to think outside the box and recruit different kinds of people,” said the respondent to our survey.
“German workplaces have to become more diverse,” said another. “Or they’ll never compete on a global scale.”
Another respondent said firms “have to loosen up a lot” because there's a lot of global talent out there that they’re missing out on.
8. Provide help on practical matters
Another point that internationals highlighted was practical matters such as getting a place to stay, registering in Germany and setting up things like health insurance.
Respondents to our survey said workplaces could offer more support to expats on these matters.
There should be “more awareness about integration programmes” and how to get involved with them, said one reader. Another said employers could "provide support for international people to integrate well at work".
Respondents also said initiatives such as the Mietpreisbremse (rent control law) plus improved health services and “availability of doctors” nationwide would help attract more workers to Germany.
Just under 40 people responded to The Local Germany's survey in April.