From 21 interviews conducted in 11 companies in Latvia representing the variety of sectors - banking, retail, construction, IT services, transport, food manufacturing, it can be seen that as in other countries the companies face challenges related to economic and political instability and uncertainty, when competition is becoming tougher and the rate of change is constantly increasing. The context when “environment changes faster than the skills of people” brings human factor at the forefront of the business challenges regardless of the sector the company is operating. Regardless of the fact that, on one hand, unemployment is rather high in Latvia (9.5% general unemployment and 18.50% youth unemployment) the companies complain of not having a sufficient pool of candidates for certain jobs and believes that the number of talented people is limited in the country. Getting qualified peopled, developing them, motivating and retaining is recognised to be crucial for company success.
Admitting that leadership skills are always among development priorities at all management levels, the companies tend to emphasise the need to differentiate development needs among the level of management, when top management requires more training and development in strategic thinking, coaching skills, whereas middle management development should be focused on digital and e-commerce skills.
IT sector companies see the challenge in the gap between professional IT knowledge and understanding of business processes. Customer oriented training and development for IT professionals is required by them. Developing customer perspective, ability to conduct benefit analysis, analysis of business processes and performance of the company are emphasised as one of the top development priorities. Interaction skills for IT professionals, establishment of expert/managers teams would make IT companies more competitive.
Many companies see the challenge of integrating and retaining young generation employees. Lack of social skills, different working patterns, attitude towards life, inability to keep attention provides additional challenges for companies. “Focused on self-searching, they would rather enjoy start-up environment, but don’t understand the order of a large organisation”. Additionally, quite often schools and universities provide wrong motivation to them, when rather than putting emphasis on professional development and getting experienced students are hypnotised with the idea of getting their own businesses or getting “good” jobs abroad making them overambitious and often failing due to their immaturity. This is referred to as teaching “folklore” in business schools, which is in conflict with the reality of life.
The next step of the research will be comparing the interview findings with on-line survey results in order to be able to draw some suggestions for the companies and educational institutions to improve the management education and practices in the future.