Recruitment was never the plan for RecruitGiant CEO Tomas Mikalauskas. It all began in the UK when he himself, a Lithuanian national, was looking for employment in London. He saw that there was a need for third-country nationals to find work, as well as employers to find potential employees. His company began bringing in workers from Latvia and Poland before they became part of the EU in 2004. The savvy CEO then began bringing in trained employees from Ukraine, India, and Nepal.
Tomas admits that the journey to set up RecruitGiant in Malta has been an arduous one and the pandemic hasn’t helped. He has faced stonewalling from various governing bodies for bringing non-Maltese workers to the island who might be taking up jobs from locals. “I’ve been in Malta for ten years but in general, I’ve found setting up here as a foreigner very hard. For the first couple of years, no one liked our non-EU workers, such as the Indian and Nepalese. However, in the last two years, they’ve had no option. The employers either take work from somebody or nobody is going to do the job. Before, most Maltese employers would refuse an Indian worker, even if they were overqualified and educated. Now they don’t care, and they realise the quality of the workers is actually quite high.”
Tomas prides RecruitGiant on the insurance that the standard of their workers is high. Various programs have been set into place to increase the value of the candidates that they can offer. Tomas says, “For our workers from India, we set up a training ground in Lithuania to prepare them so that they understand the mentality of Europeans, as well as the way of living and working. When they come to Malta, they have an idea of where to start at least and it helps them find jobs.”
Malta is not a forever home for many of the foreign workers brought in by RecruitGiant. Tomas ascertains that the workers gain experience and training in Malta before moving on to other countries, such as Sweden or Norway. Another circumstance is that they gain the work experience in Malta before going back to their own country to get a better job.
When reflecting on RecruitGiant’s major developmental triumphs over the course of the past few years, Tomas says, “The whole process of growth has been a key moment. I’m still working in the UK and there are 2,500 people working for us. The idea with Malta was to use UK trained people. When the UK started closing their borders, we were trying to move people from the UK to Malta, but it’s been very challenging as we had to work with government institutions, which was extremely problematic in the beginning.”
Tomas describes his typically long workday as beginning at six in the morning and ending at around ten in the evening. He explains, “We need to have support for our people who work on the road until ten or 11 at night, helping with any questions they might have. Plus, we’re dealing with time differences of four to five hours. I don’t really have time for any hobbies or anything of the like, but I just cannot leave the business until the structure is fully set up and we know the direction we are going in. I’m always waiting for what’s going to happen tomorrow and we need to be ready to adjust. So right now, my personal life is non-existent. At Christmas, I might go and see my parents, but that’s it.”
The recruitment landscape in Malta has changed since RecruitGiant was originally set up. “It changed when we began to gain recognition and acceptance in Malta. I have some huge clients who would use us four to five years ago, but then chose different companies. Now they’re coming back to me because we have proven ourselves in providing quality candidates.”
In some ways, the pandemic actually helped RecruitGiant grow the business. Tomas admits, “When the whole world moved to online working, we still physically saw people daily. Even now, our management team are a lot more exposed to the risks of COVID infections than others who choose to limit everything to online. We were and still are meeting loads of people all the time, but we choose to stay here and be available for them anytime they need us. This includes workers from all sectors – from construction and manufacturing to hotel cleaners and IT technicians, to name a few.”
As with almost every sector, 2021 wasn’t the year RecruitGiant expected. “We had an issue at the beginning of the pandemic when the country began to close and people were laid off. Construction companies, restaurants, everything closed and hundreds of our people were left jobless. But then, we managed to move our personnel over to the delivery business. It happened almost overnight. Hundreds of restaurants were closed, and we had people without a job, so the decision was taken to invest in the delivery business and at least keep people working.”
Tomas’ approach to running RecruitGiant is extremely hands-on. “I am there for my staff – I am a friend to them,” he says. “Anybody can call me at any time, night or day. They have families calling me, they have friends. I don’t feel that I am superior to them.”
While Tomas’ approach as a CEO did not change over the pandemic period, there were surprises which the company faced, one of the biggest being complete border closures. He admits, “This we didn’t expect. It meant that we had to shift our business and rethink our strategy. Where would we get employees? Since we were unable to get non-EU workers at the time, we looked at EU workers and we moved our resources to look into Lithuania and Poland.”
It doesn’t sound as though things will be slowing down in 2022 for RecruitGiant. While Omicron might force a re-think, the plan is huge growth and expansion into Africa and Europe for the year ahead. The biggest lesson Tomas has taken away from the pandemic is simply, to keep going.
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