How does an agile training help in your job search?

We asked ourselves this question during our last (remote) retrospective at Scrum Academy, when talked about how we could make the (working) world more humane, productive and sustainable. As an agile consulting company and operator of the Agile Academy, a platform that offers agile training and in-house education, it is important to us that our participants apply their learned knowledge in the company and thus further advance the Agile Transformation.

But what about the participants who are currently looking for a job or who use one of our trainings for professional development? Do we help these people with our current offer? What possibilities are there for us as a training provider and platform to help close the much-cited skills shortage? What do companies and HR professionals pay attention to when they recruit new employees and what soft or hard skills are important in the present and future?

It quickly became clear to us that we could not find the answers to these questions alone. Therefore we started looking for experts who might be able to give us answers to our questions. Today we found them at Engfer Consulting. The Cologne-based personnel consultancy was kind enough to answer our questions. 
If you are wondering how we found each other, besides the proximity, which also works quite well during COVID-19, the contribution of Katharina Engfer on LinkedIn (mostly german) played an important role, which convinced us to ask Engfer Consulting for an interview. This is our interview with Katharina and her husband and co-owner Thilo Engfer.

Scrum Academy:


Dear Katharina and Thilo, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! Would you like to introduce yourself and your company?

Engfer Consulting:

Dear Helen, gladly. Thank you for allowing us to take a closer look at this important topic together.
As HR consultants and recruiters, we always confronted with the topic of agility, both in our own company and with our talents and clients.
Together we run Engfer Consulting, a small boutique consultancy op d’r Schäl Sick, i.e. on the “other” side of the cathedral and the Rhine in Cologne.  We and our team help companies nationwide to recruit specialists and managers in the areas of corporate, IT, engineering & production.

Scrum Academy:

As you know, we are a training provider for agile trainings, online courses and certifications. Therefore our first question to you is of course whether you have noticed a change in demand or a greater demand for agile skills in your company (or in the industry in general) since March?

Engfer Consulting:

The demand has not changed all that much since March. The companies that rely on agility are still looking for appropriately qualified talent. Companies that only recognized the added value of agile work and modern work through COVID-19 are now busy creating the necessary structures. The mindset will gradually change among decision makers and new functions will be implemented. I expect an increased demand from March 2021.

Scrum Academy:

That sounds challenging. Do you think that the majority of companies in Germany have already understood what agility or agile values actually are? That it is more of an attitude, a mindset, rather than a way of working?

Engfer Consulting:

I think German companies have no choice but to go digital now. But this is not actually happening voluntarily in most cases. COVID-19 accelerates the transformation of companies, but this will lead in time to the development of an agile mindset. We have countless clients who were not yet ready, but were “forced” by the Corona crisis to change something and are now positively surprised. For example, the ‘demonized’ home office is now becoming the favorite place for many.

Scrum Academy:

I can imagine. We have grown fond of remote work. When companies turn to you to fill agile positions, what do you think is especially important to these companies when they give you the requirements for the position or the applicant?

Engfer Consulting:

Often it is certain certificates and further education. Just because these are new topics, there are many companies that require Scrum trainings etc. Here it is rather difficult for an applicant to convince with decades of practical experience. Furthermore many companies lack the knowledge to evaluate this experience.

Scrum Academy:

I think that the certifications can provide additional security. Do you think it has become more difficult to get your first job because of the pandemic? What would you advise our readers to do if they are fresh out of university or have completed their education and are now looking for an (agile) job?

Engfer Consulting:

It’s not difficult at all to get a job, neither as a beginner or with practical experience, we still have an active job market here, even during the Corona Pandemic.

Scrum Academy:

Practical experience is very important to most employers. A career start is sometimes not so easy, especially if you want to change your career and/or expertise. Do you have a tip for your “colleagues” in the HR departments of companies? I remember another post from you where you talk about realistic opportunities and an honest market assessment from both parties.

Engfer Consulting:

The challenge here is that the desired profile of companies usually does not even exist in practice. To put it very clearly, some combinations do not exist. It is impossible to find this person. Super young and super expert? How is that possible.

But it’s not just the wrong idea of who should fill a position. In fact, most companies are not really diverse. Just as agile work is condemned or rejected, there is often an old-fashioned way of thinking with prejudices.

Scrum Academy:

Maybe this will change in the coming time. It would be desirable for the companies.
During our last retro, when it was about whether we would like to offer online courses in the future, we spent quite some time on the question of whether and to what extent this expansion of the offer would be beneficial for the participants. In the end we came to the conclusion that we could reach people with the courses who do not have the money or time for a two or three day training.
What is your opinion as a personnel consultancy about this kind of online courses? Do companies and personnel consultants pay attention to such off-duty, mostly intrinsically motivated efforts?

Engfer Consulting:

Since everything currently takes place online anyway, you are quite early here. Many companies will switch to online trainings, great that you are already starting this.
As I just said, further education is right and important as long as the topics have something to do with the professional orientation of the talent, or with the subject area in which you would like to work.
We recently had an application in which over 30 completely different courses for further education were listed. This is not target-oriented and recommendable.

Scrum Academy:

This probably looks more like someone who has not yet found his passion and wants to explore. 😉
Let’s get back to the LinkedIn posting itself. I found your statements about the much quoted “knows-it-all” (german phrase for someone who did everything and is 20 years old) and the “perfect applicant” or rather the most “important skills” very exciting and above all honest.

The agile values of the Scrum Guide demand: “Individuals and interactions more than processes and tools” as well as “Reacting to change more than following a plan”. So how agile do you think are companies that are looking for “finished” employees? Isn’t it a fallacy that you are looking for someone who thinks of himself that he/she can already do everything, but at the same time you are looking for people who are open to change? How do companies and applicants come together here?

Engfer Consulting:

It depends on the role. Why is someone brought into the company? Who is the team? What is the goal?
The plan must be to attract someone who is extremely good for the job and to continue to develop this talent. Always further. Development should be an integral part of the corporate culture. That the egg-laying wool-milk sow is sought after, indeed it still is. – But the mindset will also change. Not immediately and probably not in all companies. But I have seen many companies that are taking up speed right now and driving change forward. Complete corporate cultures are changing and becoming more agile.

Scrum Academy:

It would really be desirable for companies to be able to keep up with the times and change. As a company you can or must choose from a variety of training, certification and EAP programs for your employees. For example, I have an annual amount that I can use for training or conferences. With my old employers I didn’t have a budget, but I was allowed to attend almost all the conferences and events I requested in job interviews. Do the applicants you meet pay attention to such things? Do they often ask about further education and training opportunities in the application process?

Engfer Consulting:

People who apply to us internally ask exactly that. What about further training and are happy to take up these offers. After all, every employee has a right to time for further training. Many just don’t demand it or don’t know it.

When it comes to talents that we bring into conversation with companies, the question often arises as to what development opportunities there are, and these often include options such as virtual learning, or flexible working hours for further training, or many also support qualification measures financially.

Scrum Academy:

You say on your side that you are “open, empathic and human” as a company and individuals. Our guiding principle is that we want to make the working world “more productive, more humane and more sustainable”. How important do you think it is that companies increasingly rely on such guiding principles and, above all, follow them? I recently read the sentence on Twitter: “Good Leaders have Vision. Great Leaders have Values”. How important are values in today’s working world?

Engfer Consulting:

A company without values – does that exist? Even if it is a value system that you and I probably wouldn’t be celebrating right now.
It is elementary to create and live values with which the entire workforce identifies and, above all, from which everyone can benefit.
You no longer just lure “the young people” via Kohle….

Scrum Academy:

Presumably, “soft” and “hard” factors are increasingly important when choosing a job and getting the right applications.
We are happy to give the participants of our Agile Leadership Trainings this definition of an agile organization: “Agile organizations need agile leadership to align corporate values as well as guidelines and metrics to build or dismantle organizational structures”.
We also call this the “inside-out” approach, which builds on the values of the company and then, if necessary, adapts the structures and processes so that the company can remain successful and innovative in the long term. This makes what is known as “Catalyst Leadership”, i.e. the openness of managers to new methods, a focus topic for us. How open are managers now to innovations in the field of leadership? Is there a tendency towards agile leadership, or is classical leadership still predominant, which sometimes runs the risk of falling victim to the Dunning Kruger effect?

Engfer Consulting:

I don’t want to give a blanket answer to this question. What is noticeable is that it is up to the companies, keyword corporate culture.
If managers don’t get the chance to set an example of agility, that doesn’t mean that they are free to decide for classic leadership.
On the other hand, there are companies that completely overtax themselves because there is no framework for agility.
If you want to work agile, you should find out whether companies can offer this.

Scrum Academy:

What do you think companies need today and in the future to be attractive for applicants and what do applicants need to pay more attention to in the future if they want to compete in the job market? Are there differences for beginners and experienced professionals or small and large companies? OK, sorry, these are 4 questions 😊

Engfer Consulting:

Many companies are already doing quite well and investing in employer branding. Others still think that talent is the end of the line. They have it harder and harder.
A tip for people who want to change careers: Ask yourself the question, does the company suit me? Is that how I see myself in the medium and long term? Can I identify with the values and philosophy?

Scrum Academy:

Is there a customer with you who has surprised you since March? And if so how?

Engfer Consulting:

Actually several. Home Office was excluded. Now it becomes part of the company agreement.
Or the other way around, there are companies that do not have a mobile infrastructure for home office. I could not imagine that at all. But entire departments have to come to the office.

Scrum Academy:

Do you think that companies that want to fill an agile role (no matter if Scrum Master, Product Owner, Agile Leader, Agile Coach or Scrum Team Developer) always know what this role is all about and what skills the person should have to be successful in the company?

Engfer Consulting:

I am quite sure that most people do not know. It looks more like this, hmmm, we need a modern role, let’s call it xy and this person changes everything and then everything gets better.
But you have that in other positions as well and for that there are for example personnel consultancies like Engfer Consulting, which help to identify the real need and give the child the “right” name.

So far Scrum Master, Product Owner, Agile Leader, Agile Coach or Scrum Team Developer are Bohemian Villages at most companies or are used redundantly.

Scrum Academy:

One final question: The Agile Academy is a platform that currently offers training in Europe, America, the Middle East and Australia. – What do you think this interview is equally relevant for readers from Great Britain or the USA? Do you know of any significant differences in the search for applicants in other countries? Do they pay attention to something more or less?

Engfer Consulting:

I think the interview is most relevant for the German market. The understanding for modern approaches in the working world is still missing for the most part, other countries are much further along and are role models for a new kind of thinking in HR practices.

Scrum Academy:

I am curious how the differences will develop in the future. After all, COVID-19 can be a huge opportunity, especially for large companies. Thank you very much for the exciting answers and the great interview! Of course I recommend the interested reader to take a look at your job opportunities, but otherwise I am looking forward to your further postings and the good work you are doing!

Engfer Consulting:
Thank you very much for the invitation and it was really fun.