The Growing Demand for Seniority

Foto: Accenture, 2013
Photo: Accenture, 2013

“Once you have understood the processes in a company, you’ll be able to cope with any other technological leaps forward,” says Stefan Ruppe. The specialist for financial processes and security, who spent 20 years as a freelance consultant, now has a permanent job again – with the SAP partner Accenture, and with the benefits of training during working hours and 30 days’ paid leave a year. The fact that he has been around for 30 years longer than the digital natives who are in particularly high demand in industry at the moment doesn’t worry his employer. That’s because experience is now evidently the name of the game.

According to Simone Wamsteker – head of recruiting at Ruppe’s new employer, the IT consultancy and SAP partner Accenture in Kronberg, Germany – it’s no wonder that an expert like Ruppe is currently so sought-after. It hardly matters that Ruppe is over 50, would be consigned to the virtual scrap heap in other areas of industry, and would even be categorized as “difficult to place” by an employment agency. The German IT industry association BITKOM recently registered 38,000 vacancies in IT. Wamsteker, who is responsible for recruiting in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, says that at Accenture alone there are currently more than 1,000 vacancies, with SAP experts and people with a knowledge of the Java programming language especially in demand.

HR: Seniors are making a comeback

Wamsteker is using all conceivable methods to attract qualified staff. These range from the company’s own pool of employees with 38,000 SAP experts throughout the world, through conventional job application channels, headhunting, and employee programs. “If an employee suggests a suitable expert to us, he or she is given a reward,” Wamsteker explains. Around 40 percent of new hires at Accenture are the result of such personal recommendations, she adds. The overall strategy sounds quite simple, but also exotic: Get older experts on board. Six years ago, only one in five new hires was older than 45, but now the figure is 40 percent. IT seniors are making a comeback.

Next page: Seniority suggests security

Ruppe sees a particular need for experienced SAP experts in financial processes. “Financials is a core topic that encompasses all areas of a company,” he explains. “From the ordering of items to controlling and production, the software has to take account of almost every nook and cranny in the business processes. Here, companies need experts who understand the entire process.” Graduates who come straight from university or who only have a few years of professional experience don’t usually possess enough practical knowledge to complete complex projects successfully. “And customers are increasingly aware of security,” adds Wamsteker, “which is why experienced people who have already implemented similar projects a number of times are very important here.” According to Ruppe, another advantage is that: “Once you’ve internalized the processes in a company, you can cope with any new technology.” Take the example of SAP HANA: “If you learned at university how to make relational databases from hierarchical databases, you’ll understand the technical principle of SAP HANA better.”

Inspired by Generation Y but nevertheless cautious

In the Accenture projects, Ruppe is no longer one of the code writers, but is now the person who “supervises and leads” as a manager. He explains that if a millennial with “dynamism and enthusiasm and this incredible energy” joins the team, he likes being motivated by this youthful gusto, but is also aware of the ifs and buts. Not every technology has his blessing. “Take, for example, the topic of social media and the use of personal data,” he says. “It makes sense here to think again about how you want to use social media in a company.”

Ruppe’s enthusiasm for modern communication technology may well run in the family. “My 84-year-old mother recently complained to me that Skype was very quiet on her laptop. I’m more used to dealing with enterprise applications, but I managed to fix that as well,” he says. After all, it’s his job to get IT up and running.