Mersiha Mehić, We have assisted in employing 400 thousand people

Mersiha Mehić is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Kolektiv/ with over 20 years of business experience. Mehić leads in the Bosnian market in recruitment, human resource management, and employment.

What is most significant that you would highlight in two decades of managing clients, employees, and the company in general? What does a successful company mean to you, a market leader? Do you assess it based on financial success, overall market position, or other criteria?

Even though I have been part of the management for over 20 years and led the company Kolektiv/, my role in the company has changed over the years depending on internal needs, market demands, or engagement in other projects. A few years ago, I took on the role of the company's CEO.

Soon after its establishment, in addition to advertising services, we began providing advanced recruitment and selection services for companies at the request of one of our clients. Although we were initially focused on the Bosnian and Herzegovinian market, we quickly gained the trust of global companies and started working on significant employment mediation projects beyond the Adriatic region. This certainly served as confirmation of the quality of our services.

While financial parameters are certainly important, I believe the essence of any business is to create value for society or the client, and money comes as a result of a well-done job. Some of the most beautiful moments in my job are when I hear from someone how we helped them find a job and how their life changed forever.

Today, the company Kolektiv has 50 employees and is the leading private employment agency in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one of the largest in the Adriatic region. We are part of the Alma Career group, operating in 16 countries, and a leader in employment in Southeast Europe, the Baltics, the Balkans, and Finland. I am especially proud of our organizational culture and the large number of loyal employees who have grown and learned together with the company over the years.

How did Kolektiv/ grow? How did you react in years when the numbers were not satisfactory and in line with the financial and strategic growth plans of the company? What challenges marked your career?

The company initially dealt with the development of IT solutions and software, and the portal was supposed to serve as an example of the various purposes online platforms can be used for. At the time of launching the portal, the internet was very underutilized, unemployment was high, and job offerings were scarce. When we explained to clients what we were doing, they often looked at us in disbelief.

Due to good results, in 2008, just before the global financial crisis, the company was acquired by the British Daily Mail. This provided us with the opportunity to connect with labor markets in Britain, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, and other parts of Europe. Access to experiences and knowledge from other labor markets certainly helped us overcome the crisis and later grow faster.

In addition, we developed additional services aimed at the development of the labor market. We worked with various foreign governmental and non-governmental organizations on educating and retraining job seekers, as well as the development of specific sectors for employment.

Over the years, there were certainly other moments when changes in the market affected the internal strategic parameters of the company, not necessarily reaching the goals set, such as during the pandemic. I think our adaptability came to the fore again, and we used such moments to develop something new and offer it to the market.

Financial parameters are not always achievable and are not the sole focus. It is important to develop services and products and strengthen our position in the market. I often jokingly say that the role of a leader is like a mudguard on a car, meaning their role is to preserve stability, protect interests, and ensure mobility regardless of the conditions they are in.

I am the mother of three children, and through different life phases, I have been in situations where I had to give my best in various fields. This certainly represents a special kind of challenge. I believe the main reason for successfully balancing private and professional life is the flexibility within the company.

What do you think is your greatest advantage as a female entrepreneur? What is the characteristic or skill that has brought you to your current position? What does it fundamentally mean to be a female entrepreneur in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is it (un)important to highlight gender ahead of professional achievements? Why?

I would say that my natural curiosity, good risk assessment, and insatiable desire for learning have helped me a lot in all areas of life. I believe that due to biological differences, men more often and quickly enter risky situations, but women by their nature constantly assess risks, and this can be very beneficial for business.

Also, I believe that adaptability is a key characteristic for any kind of long-term success. The business climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina is certainly a special kind of challenge, but I think it is crucial in any industry to constantly seek new business models and be creative. A lot has been done in certain segments to provide support for women in business mentoring, but we still have a lot of work to do.

The most significant difference I have seen over all these years in male and female leadership is that women are empathetic and lead with their hearts, understanding the needs of others better. I would also say that, besides profit and financial parameters, women much more often focus on purpose.

I think as a society, we have suppressed and ignored the biological differences we have between men and women in favor of equality, and ultimately, business processes and jobs are not always designed to provide a balance between private and professional life.

The world is now moving out of the era of collectivism and entering the era of individualism. People are now more able to choose because globally there is a struggle for human resources, and corporate and global attitudes towards employee treatment will simply change.

How do you comment on the well-known phrase in the business community "Pick a boss, not a job"? Are these values recognized in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and what is the importance of the company leader for the career development of employees?

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to be led by different people, and I would say that bosses who, in addition to support and understanding, gave me a lot of autonomy, actually influenced me the most to grow and learn. A leader is very important, but it is crucial to be self-critical and always focus on personal development and see what else you can learn.

I think we all often forget that at the end of the day, we are all human, and work is a small part of life. It is crucial to treat people the way we would like them to treat us.
Our business community has indeed undergone a transformation in the past decade, and now global trends of chronic labor shortages are certainly influencing the prioritization of employee well-being.

What is common among women in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are looking for jobs? Is there a characteristic that binds them (positive and/or negative)? Are they bold in changing jobs or requalifying and starting businesses? What message would you give to young female entrepreneurs at the beginning of their careers?

I think we don't talk enough about the fact that more than 50% of women in Bosnia and Herzegovina are inactive in the labor market, and around 20% of women are unemployed. On the other hand, it is crucial to keep in mind that a woman's biological clock is in absolute collision with career development and advancement. Women are often forced to juggle the private and professional segments and face the difficult choice between their professional success and personal fulfillment.

Our market is now in a situation where due to the lack of infrastructure and insufficient competitiveness of salaries, we are unable to attract foreign workers. That is precisely why the activation of the female population is a measure that can solve part of the labor shortage. To ensure a higher rate of female employment in the labor market, changes in legal legislation and greater flexibility are needed, as well as the introduction of policies that align family and work.

I would definitely advise young women to join women's business mentoring networks because within such networks, they can gain experience and make business contacts that can serve as a stepping stone. I am very happy to be a member of the Women's Mentoring Network, which has done a lot in this segment.