“Having the right person at the right workplace at the right time”

September 11, 2023 | Academy

AN INTERVIEW WITH Jane Melmuka, Senior Advisor at Staufen.Inova AG

The experienced HR expert Jane Melmuka supports Staufen.Inova as a Senior Advisor. In an interview, she explains how companies with strategic HR planning and active knowledge management can ease the consequences of the shortage of qualified specialists.

An expert contribution to the White paper 2023 “Advancing excellence through training and development”

Portrait Jane Melmuka

Jane Melmuka

Senior Advisor


At this time, every second company is on the lookout for suitable personnel. Add to that that on average open positions are vacant for five months. How does this development affect the performance of a company?

The shortage of qualified specialists often means that internal process chains are disrupted and may need to be rescheduled. What may happen is that the qualifications and experience of the remaining workforce do not meet the requirements to the extent that would be necessary to continue having the internal process chains run in the accustomed quality and time. In turn, this can impact order fulfillment and the success of the company.

In this context, how important is strategic human resources planning and where do companies stand in this respect today?

Strategic HR planning is an essential element of an actively practiced “Employee Life Cycle”. On the basis of the actual situation, it helps to identify both quantitative and qualitative deficits in the workforce in the medium and long term. Obviously, we must also take demographic change and new job profiles into account. The goal is to have the right person in the right job at the right time so that the corporate strategy can be implemented. Important here: This also includes having the courage to part ways with employees, despite the shortage of qualified staff. Personally, I think that management and HR departments still make insufficient use of strategic HR planning as a control element.

For instance, to attract external talent to their company?

As a matter of fact, it is a mistake for companies to look outside their corporate boundaries for skilled workers without taking a look inside their own ranks. So the question is: What can they do to retain their own employees, especially those in key positions and high performers, with active knowledge management before they have to bring in new people from outside? As I see it, employee reviews – embedded in the “Employee Life Cycle” – are the be-all and end-all in this respect. Executives need to be well trained for this. Discussions on personnel development reveal which employees want to pursue career opportunities within the company and should be encouraged to do so. But they also show which employees may need to be retrained through various measures.


Understanding demographic change as an opportunity

Peer-to-peer learning” is a model based on collaborative learning and describes an equal learning situation at peer level, in which colleagues exchange ideas, experiences and knowledge and learn with and from each other. Thus, for example, younger colleagues supply experienced employees with digitalization knowledge and people at the start of their careers profit from the knowledge of long-time employees. In peer learning, all participants are encouraged to become involved and play the role of knowledge provider on a temporary basis. In a group of like-minded people, it can be inspiring to listen to those who have achieved outstanding results in their task areas.

Generally speaking, organizations that are fundamentally eager to learn and develop always respond positively and appreciatively to an individual’s desire to expand qualifications and skills.

Jane Melmuka
Senior Advisor, Staufen.Inova AG

How important is it to make use of the expertise of the senior employees? What are the hurdles to be overcome here?

60 is the new 40! Many employees still feel fit and dynamic at this age. They really want to work longer. In order for that to be successful, a lot still needs to happen. With respect to the legislation, we need to move away from automating the retirement age to making it more flexible. There must be incentives for those who want to work significantly longer, for example until the age of 70. At the corporate level, there is also a need for a major cultural change. Currently, the biggest problem is the mindset of executives and of those in the HR departments. Prioritizing and in so doing raising awareness of this issue must be firmly embedded in the corporate strategy and is a top management priority if the given workforce potential is to be fully exploited. Because, I have not seen a single study stating that older employees are less productive than younger ones. On the contrary!

Let’s look at the other side of the age spectrum. How important is it to get more young people interested in cooperative education?

The integrated degree program appeals to high school graduates for whom a purely academic education would be too theoretical and a traditional apprenticeship not enough. In an integrated degree program, practical experience is gained right from the start, and work experience is already gained during the academic year. For companies offering vocational training, students are therefore considered a part of their internal talent pool. So students have a good chance of being hired right after graduation. In my opinion, the possibility of offering an integrated degree program should be introduced at schools as early as possible.

The requirements of specific job profiles are in a state of flux. What can be done to ensure that employees see continuing education not only as an unpleasant transition, but also as an opportunity to improve their own personal performance?

Initially, it is always up to the individual to decide whether or not to acquire new skills. Employees are enormously motivated, especially if there is a generally positive culture of innovation in a company. Generally speaking, organizations that are fundamentally eager to learn and develop always respond positively and appreciatively to an individual’s desire to expand qualifications and skills. Statements such as “We don’t have a budget for that” or “What do you want that for” are an absolute no-no.

Yet continuing education and qualification also make employees
interesting for the competition. How do companies manage to retain high performers in the long term?

Qualified specialists are quite aware of their value these days. While a few years ago companies were willing to let them go, now they are depending on them to stay. They do this by responding to their needs as personally as possible, offering interesting career and development opportunities, and guaranteeing a good work-life balance by means of flexible working time models.


Basic knowledge on demand

This form of learning training describes short, entertaining learning units in the form of short videos, articles, audio, and practical activities that can be completed easily in a lunch break or on the way to work. Microtraining enables learners to advance at their own pace. Interactive elements such as gamification increase the processing depth and motivation to learn. This type of training is especially suitable i methodological instructions (“recipes”) or basic and method knowledge should be communicated or refreshed ondemand.

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