Magdolna Mihályi, Founder and Managing Director

How does a maths teacher become the head of one of Hungary’s most dominant temporary staff and headhunting companies? Magdolna Mihályi says it was a straight road: she wanted to combine her human-centred and empathetic teacher’s self with the business world. She therefore added a business degree to her teaching qualification and then took a job in a school cooperative. Within a few years she became a regional manager, and in the early 2000s she became interested in temporary staff hire.

In 2004, she and a colleague founded Jobtain Kft. Over the past nearly 20 years, the two-person company has grown to a 100-employee company with 2,200 to 2,500 temporary workers hired every day.

“At the same time, in 2004, my husband Sándor Varga and I started a business in Transylvania, which is now a well-established guesthouse near Șumuleu, in Șoimeni. For us, this wasn’t important from a primarily business perspective. Helping and supporting Hungarians living abroad, building the “HÍD” (BRIDGE) between Hungarians and Hungarians has long been a personal matter for us.”, said the founder, adding that the love and support of Hungarian culture has accompanied both Jobtain and their family throughout their history. Eleven years ago, they launched the Csíki Poetry Festival and the Székelyföldi Verstábor in Șoimeni for young people from the Carpathian Basin. For this work, Magdolna Mihályi was awarded the Áron Tamási Prize last year, of which she is very proud.

“These two threads of my life have come together. Because, when we were faced with the fact that we couldn’t find the right number and quality of workers for our clients in Hungary, we knew we had to find a new way. In 2015, we opened our office in Miercurea Ciuc, and started recruiting in Transylvania”, explained the CEO. She added that the world has changed a lot in 20 years. In the early years of Jobtain, all you had to do was post a classified ad and the opening would be filled in droves. There was no online database yet, but there was plenty of manpower and the best people were found for the jobs.

Now, she works with a professionally skilled marketing and customer service team, but it is harder to find the best people now than it was even ten or fifteen years ago. “In 2017, the company opened up to the Ukrainian workforce. It was not an easy job, four years ago; even the authorities didn’t know exactly when and what documentation was needed. “We had to figure it all out on our own and to ‘pave the way’”, she said. Nevertheless, she saw this period as an opportunity rather than a challenge. The two most difficult moments in the company’s life, she says, were the economic crisis of 2008-2009 and the economic crisis caused by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

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“The 2008 crisis was a true shock; it took a long time to recover from it. At the onset of the global pandemic crisis, we were on more stable footing. I have a very conservative financial policy, I reinvest almost everything back into the company”, she said, adding that although they did not lose much, they felt the effects of the crisis: by the beginning of the summer, the number of temporary workers had halved, which also reduced their margins. Despite this, the reduction in their own, not hired-out, operational staff was less than 10%. From the end of July, clients’ demand for labour slowly resumed. New processes had to be put in place to respond to the pandemic. It has become necessary, for example, to quarantine workers before they start work, which requires strict cooperation with laboratories, authorities, epidemiological authorities and the police.

“The team worked around the clock; we have 24/7 customer service. New workers often arrived from Ukraine at dawn. They were accompanied by my colleagues to the doctor, for testing and from there to their accommodation: everyone did a lot to meet the expectations of our partners in this situation, and to ensure that the workers were also safely accommodated, supplied and ready for work. All this, while we had to introduce strict health and safety measures to protect our own health.”, emphasised Magdolna Mihályi.

The Managing Director pays great attention to the training of talented employees and to the development of certain competences and, although she is still active and does not plan to hand over the baton to anyone else, she is already thinking about succession. She has two children. She believes it is important that they are aware of the company’s business, but first and foremost they should be self-motivated, gain work experience and live their own lives.

“Both of them are involved in the life of the company, know their colleagues, attend company events and are likely to take over the management of the company in time”, she said.

The world was completely upended after the outbreak of the pandemic, but things returned to normal over time: compa- nies are still scrambling for good workers and electricians; qualified industrial electricians, welders, logistics workers, forklift drivers, warehouse managers and assemblers are still in huge demand. The market is saturated; there are a lot of temporary employment agencies in the country, but Magdolna Mihályi is not worried about competitors: In her opinion, 20 years on the market means security and guarantees, and the fact that they use IT organisation and process development and controlling tools typical of multinational companies, given their size, is also in their favour. They can fully track the lifecycle of an employee joining the company digitally: from the moment they join to the moment they leave, they can continuously monitor their status and, since all processes are automated, any change of status is not a challenge; the system is smooth, traceable and up-to-date.

“We need to keep up with technological advancements in the future, constantly improving the system and training our colleagues. We’ve developed our own training system, defined the key competences for different jobs and broken them down into different levels. This is a product that could stand on its own and could even be launched on the market in time,” she said, adding that in the distant future she would like to see a greater focus on the placement of white-collar workers and would like to increase the number of temporary workers by 50% in five years.