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Untapped Labor Abounds in Hungary

January 26, 2001
Related Topics: Global Business Issues, Featured Article
Although Corporate America is wooing prospective employees as never before,these intensive efforts to recruit and retain qualified professionals often fallflat.

    Even as companies wave such carrots as staggering salaries, bonuses,incentives and a growing list of creative "perks" in the faces of adwindling supply of available workers, they are still scrambling to find new andbetter ways to attract and retain the best and brightest professionals.

    Too often management must suffice by filling key positions with employeeslacking the technical skills, innate capabilities, experience and training to dothe work at an appropriate level. The loudest and most frequent refrain that isheard in corporate boardrooms is the enormous shortage of qualified labor - andhow to find these elusive workers.

    In the past few years many U.S. companies have filled technology positionswith raw talent from India and a handful of other countries - but that oncegushing pipeline now produces only a trickle.

    Fortunately, despite today's intensely tight labor market, there stillremains a rich and untapped pool of highly educated and trained software,telecommunications and biotechnology engineers that are capable of spear-headingand managing leading-edge projects - in Hungary.

    This formidable Hungarian labor force offers a unique opportunity forenterprising U.S. companies seeking to exploit an as yet undiscovered wealth oftop-tier talent. For the Hungarians, the U.S. labor shortage presents anunequalled opportunity to align with highly desirable American firms whileperforming meaningful and fulfilling work. Filling the many gaps in our currentlabor crisis with Hungarian professionals is a win-win situation.

    A fact that suggests a serious and growing interest in the high-techcapabilities of the Hungarian workforce is that U.S. Hungarian Ambassador PeterTufo has joined in the IT development affairs of Hungarian Prime Minister VictorOrban. In so doing, Mr. Tufo is relying on the advice of several Americansoftware gurus for guidance.

The Advantages

  • For decades, the Hungarian culture has assigned great importance to thestudy and mastery of mathematics, biology, chemistry and the sciences ingeneral. This emphasis has led to the development of a highly educatedgeneration of young men and women with advanced degrees in these areas.

  • Since the fall of Communism ten years ago, the demand and subsequentremuneration for these technical workers has decreased dramatically in Hungary.Instead, non-techies working in the business sector - the banking industry,manufacturers and services businesses - are in demand. Although highly qualifiedand educated, Hungarian technology professionals are not yet highly compensatedor appreciated.

    This trend will not continue, however. In less than five years Hungary willcatch up with the U.S. and its technical pros will be in demand - andcompensated for their expertise. Now is the time for U.S. companies to takeadvantage of the current situation.

  • Hungarian engineers earn approximately 20%-25% of what a worker with anequivalent U.S. position earns. As an economical benefit, a U.S. company canfill a position with a Hungarian worker for a fraction of the cost of a U.S.worker, while still paying the Hungarian much more than he or she could earn inHungary.

  • A U.S. company can retain a Hungarian worker without the added overheadexpenses such as facilities, rent, security, benefits, tax and immigrationimplications that are incurred when hiring an employee here. The worker issimply treated as any other contractual employee.

  • Hungarian workers speak English and are willing and eager to work forAmerican companies. These professionals - most in their 20s and 30s - want to beinvolved in the development of leading-edge products and look to CorporateAmerica as the global model to follow. American companies are seen as exciting,enterprising and full of professional, personal and financial promise.

  • Tech professionals in Hungary producerésumés with valuable and high-levelwork experience. Some work for U.S., German and Japanese companies such as DelcoRemy, Delfi, Tredegar and GE.

The Challenge
    Managing the process of successfully bringing the Hungarian professionaltogether with Corporate America presents a challenge on cultural and managerialfronts. Finding and working with a Hungarian-American intermediary who is wellversed in the culture of Hungarian business and U.S. management issues is key tosuccessfully tapping into this labor pool.

    Since most Hungarian workers lack ameaningful understanding of the needs of U.S. corporations from a managementstandpoint, they must be managed by someone that is steeped in Americanmanagement principals to make the right fit. With the right intermediary, thehighly qualified Hungarian labor force can be a goldmine for Corporate America.

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