“Nobody can keep away from the problem of digitization”

In an interview, Hans-Jörg Zik and Christina Michaels, founders of the Dusseldorf-based employment agency SEARCH Sportmanagement, presented a report on the consequences and opportunities of the Corona crisis in human resources.

Stadium world: Short-time work, home office, budget cuts – will Corona change professional sports work in the long term?

Founders of the research: Hans-Jorg Zeck and Christina Michaels Image: search

Michaels: Fans are returning to the stadiums, work has been largely canceled for a short period in clubs and the circle of people has shifted once again in the sports industry. At first glance, “normality” returns to professional sports. But appearances are deceptive, in our opinion, that Corona has led to drastic changes in the sports labor market, which will also change the work in the professional club in the long term.

Corona has significantly accelerated the topic of digitization in sports: canceled sporting events and travel restrictions have forced clubs to actively deal with the topic of “digitization” and the resulting digital transformation in a short time. Events had to be brought ‘from the field’ as a digital ‘on screen’ event. The topic of esports has developed a huge boost during Corona because it is an excellent opportunity to interact “at home” with other people interested in sports and continue to identify with your team. Because Corona has significantly increased the risk of isolation from the fans and their clubs due to the lack of physical and emotional closeness. Thanks to digital knowledge, clubs now have the opportunity to use existing data, for example b. About fans and their purchasing behavior, to evaluate in a more targeted way, for example, to increase the fan experience in the long term. To this end, they are increasingly looking for employees with creative digital skills who have mastered new technologies and social media.

Corona has also shown that digitalization and the home office go very well together: New technologies enable efficient work from home, and the ability to continue working “remotely”, that is, from the home office, has become a natural occurrence for many employees. The topic of work-life balance has also received a new impetus from the pandemic: work is important, but Corona has also shown how fragile life is. Today’s employees tend to prefer a variable work model in which work, leisure, and family are in a proper balance. Concretely, we see in football that candidates eg B. To work on match days – usually on weekends – ask for more days off. The idea that you work for your favorite club and get paid for overtime is no longer new. In short: The job market for professional sports has changed in the long run as a result of Corona and we all have to adapt to that.

Stadium world: Has the status of applicants settled in the past few weeks and months?
He drinks: Yes, the situation in the labor market for applicants has stabilized, moreover, it has clearly improved. We see that the market has shifted more than it was before the pandemic – more towards the applicant market. Good candidates were scarce even before Corona, but now it is more difficult to optimally fill vacancies.

We are primarily looking for candidates with numerical knowledge or sales experience and several years of professional experience. There are very few of them, or those present either know their qualities and make their demands, or others rely more on security due to negative personal experiences in the pandemic. A permanent job that you know and feel comfortable with is often valued more than the opportunity to change careers and earn more money.

We have to adapt to this when we are looking for candidates, but this also applies to our customers, who sometimes have to break new ground in order to get the best applicants on the team.

Take your career planning into your own hands!

Stadium world: To what extent have the requirements for applicants changed in recent years from the point of view of professional sports clubs? What should applicants definitely bring with them these days?
Michaels: If work changes in professional sports, it will also have an impact on applicants and employers. We have noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the best candidates for our clients. One reason for this is that decision makers in professional clubs usually belong to a generation whose values ​​are weighted differently today than they do for the new ‘sports management generation’. Getting a job at a professional club used to be a priority to get into sports. Conditions and desires had to be determined by good results. Today, the market has turned 180 degrees and employers can consider whether they will respond to the individual ideas of the applicants. If telecommuting is not possible, weekend work is not compensated, and fitness club subscription is not part of the remuneration, then these are new KO criteria for the current generation of applicants, which did not exist in this prevalent form in the past.

An interesting job, a wide field of responsibility and an adequate salary is a matter of course. In relation to the workplace, this means: telecommuting or hyperwork is the order of the day. Often, a return to a mandatory presence in the workplace no longer fits into the situation of the modern world of work. The topic of current gasoline costs: Applicants have returned the company’s cars, which are a discontinued model for many employers in the sport, back on the agenda. Mobility is very important, especially in sales, and a company car is an additional incentive, not only for reasons of prestige, but also as an element of salary. The possibility of offering company cars with an electronic tag offers advantages to employers: it is a corporate social responsibility friendly company philosophy, and electronic car premiums support the model, as an additional component of salary, they create incentives or are sometimes necessary if the site employer makes them necessary.

Stadium world: What training and education opportunities should job seekers looking for a career in sports business be looking for?
Michaels: No one can avoid the topic of digitization, it is the trend in general and of course also in the field of sports business. This refers to the individual application as well as competence to understand topics from this field in a way that can be used for the benefit of the association’s partners and ultimately allowing the business owner to appear as up-to-date.

It is also an advantage to know about developments in other clubs at home and abroad. What does competition do, who is state of the art? Can these developments also be carried over to your area? Stay curious!

Finally, job seekers must make a career plan for themselves, where they want to be and when. To what extent does the employer support this plan, what training and further education opportunities are available? Take your career planning into your own hands!

Stadium world: As a personnel consultancy, what experience do you bring to the table for your clients? How do you support?
He drinks: It’s simple: network, network, network! In addition to experience combined with industry knowledge. Our customers simply expect us to know the market and the players involved. This knowledge and connections come from the more than 30 years we have been active and have been in various positions in the sporting field. As a result, decision-making processes are removed from theory and thus speeded up as much as possible – eg in finding the most suitable potential candidates or new orders.

Our support mainly lies in transparency towards clients and applicants. We honestly communicate with candidates for our interviews and also inform them of what our clients do not allow. As a result, we may have to do more quantitative exploration, but we get better results. And the classic long list is sometimes not that long. In addition, constant interaction with our customers creates agile exchange, which means that specifications can be adjusted at the appropriate time in the process in order to achieve overall goals. (Stadium World, May 10, 2022)

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