Ireland Inc: This country needs YOU
A Europe-wide marketing campaign to attract multilingual workers for our multinationals will not only bring essential personnel but is key to spreading the good news about Ireland, writes Paul O’Donnell.
International recruiters based in Ireland spend much of their time trying to attract European workers into this country. There are more than 2,000 live roles on Irish recruitment websites targeting European professionals to come and work here. Top multinationals are crying out for people to work in IT, Finance and Customer Services but there simply are not enough suitable candidates to fill these jobs.
This statement might seem strange when we have people leaving the country to look for work and an ever-increasing live register. So how is this the case? Many of the top blue chip multinationals service their European markets from here and require people with European languages to native level to do various roles. They will of course have a large Irish workforce throughout the company but they are in short supply of people who can speak a wide range of European languages to a technical and business level, notably French, German and Dutch.
This market is buoyant and includes some aggressively performing computer services companies and financial services companies based in the IFSC. These companies are continually announcing new job creations.
The difficulty recruiters face is the current perception of Ireland amongst Europeans. We have taken a battering in the European media of late. The banking crisis has been covered extensively, culminating in the recent reports on the stress tests. We have a number of local commentators repeatedly predicting an imminent default and this is being picked up across Europe. In fact in the last three years the only news stories that travel from this country are negative ones. Pictures of Irish construction ‘ghost towns’ adorn the respected newspapers. Even reports of the plight of Irish horses during the recession received widespread coverage in the Swedish media.
Fair enough. But what about the positive news? The fact that Irish companies have had continuous export growth for 20 months in a row and now stands at 8%? Or the two young Limerick brothers that have investment from a Facebook Director for their second successful IT company. How about Ireland becoming the Hollywood of the games industry? Those stories won’t make the business headlines in the Financial Times or Bild. It’s being eclipsed by stress tests, default and disadvantaged horses. That means European candidate’s decisions as to whether they will come to live and work here are being influenced adversely.
It may seem like a slightly trivial topic, but it’s more serious than it first appears. A multinational company’s decision to locate large portions of their operations in Ireland is not entirely based on the 12.5% tax rate. Other important factors come into play. When the IDA pitches for foreign direct investment they promote access to local and other European talent as a key reason to locate here. Can we stand over this as a selling point these days?
Most companies will, quite rightly, cite attracting the right talent as central to their success. A company’s ability to grow and outperform expectations depends hugely on their ability to attract talented people. If a multinational with a strong international brand is having trouble with this, simply because of its location, then it will more than likely relocate somewhere where that ceases to be an issue. And if multinationals start leaving Ireland then we may brace ourselves for the worst. If you thought we were at the lowest ebb now, consider emigration reaching higher levels than the 20th century, no jobs, no production, no economy.
Service export and the knowledge economy is rightly seen as a way out of our difficulties so let’s ensure we protect it. We must do everything we can to ensure conditions are right for these companies to remain here and recognise that this goes beyond just the tax rate. The recent debate on corporation tax highlighted that effective rates of corporation tax are easily tinkered with so other locations will be able to match our offering without difficulty. We therefore cannot rely on this as our key differentiator.
And what about attracting new companies in? The IDA do a fantastic job of convincing prospective investors to choose Ireland, even in this climate. They are working towards lofty targets of 640 new investments by 2020 – creating 105,000 new jobs. Again a sizeable portion of these jobs will call for European professionals with native language ability. But will we be able to attract them if Brand Ireland is perceived to be an economic wasteland? The good news is that it is just a perception. It is very much acknowledged we are a much safer bet for recovery than Portugal or Greece because of the continued performance of our export market. New developments like cloud computing have massive potential in Ireland, with the likes of Microsoft complimenting us on how we are embracing it and subsequently investing more. For quite some time, commentators such as Dr Garrett Fitzgerald and Frank Ryan of Enterprise Ireland have been trying to promote these positive elements of the economy. However it’s only picked up in the Irish media, the message doesn’t seem to reach our European neighbours.
It’s the responsibility of the Government, the recruitment industry and Ireland based exporters to turn the tide on the negative PR. To spread the positive news at a European level to ensure talent attraction does not become an issue for multinationals. Germans considering working in another country should know that they there are over 600 live vacancies for native German speakers in Ireland. But they don’t. French candidates should know that the 500+ jobs are waiting for them with the top technology & financial services companies in the world. Right now they don’t.
We should acknowledge the contribution mainland European professionals make to Irish life and the economy. They are effectively mini-investors in our country contributing to the exchequer and we need to keep them here and help them spread the good news to their compatriots. A European wide marketing campaign is required to show that Ireland is still open for business. It is still a great place to live and work for the French, Germans and the whole of the EU.
Paul O’Donnell is a director with Hays Ireland