Dominique Hermans: ‘Invest in talent, even when they leave’

There are serious shortages of personnel in healthcare, IT and technology. While it is precisely in these sectors that people are needed to work on the smart, green and healthy future of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. In the Board Talk series, we talk with Board member Dominique Hermans (CEO of Randstad Netherlands) about mismatches in the labor market.

“We know that there are shortages, we know that there are also people who are unemployed, but supply and demand do not come together on their own,” says Dominique Hermans. “And we have to do something about that.”

As a member of the Board, Hermans contributes ideas about how we can make the education and labor market more agile and future-proof. That starts at an institutional level, she says. “There are vacancies, we know which people are unemployed, so you would say that we should be able to map out very precisely where the mismatch is and how we can better match supply and demand. But unfortunately it is not that simple. The municipality has part of the data, the UWV has part of the data, companies have relevant data. We have to somehow bring them together.”

Circular labor market

But we’re not there yet, says Hermans. We will not solve the problems in the labor market by just helping the unemployed to find a job in one of the sectors with a shortage. “Companies should be encouraged to look more closely at the potential of their employees. I advocate a circular perspective on employees. Then accept that an employee will not stay with your organization forever and contribute to his or her training.”

That requires a major culture change, says Hermans. “A company alone cannot achieve this, we have to work on this new perspective as a whole MRA. In an ideal world, a higher organ helps. This shows that people in a certain organization are suitable to help with the energy transition or to be retrained for care. But for those people there will have to be skilled replacements, so that companies that participate in this do not cut themselves in the fingers. That is why this issue is by no means a hallelujah story.”

Mindset change

This topic was also discussed at a recent meeting between members of the Board. “We then talked about the mindset change that is required for this. Organizations must be prepared to invest in people and we see, for example, with the TechGrounds initiative that this is difficult. We can certainly find people who want to be trained in IT, but companies prefer someone who is already very versatile and who doesn’t have to invest too much energy anymore.”

Employees also need a different mindset. During the corona crisis, 26,000 people were out of work at Randstad. They all received a development interview and the offer to do training. A large proportion of the people did not opt for an education. Hermans: “We asked very carefully what considerations people had in this regard. Some wondered if it was really necessary to train for something else, they didn’t really see a problem. Others found it financially difficult: they were without income for some time and could not absorb it. In addition, we also saw a fear of learning in a large group, a group that became insecure from exams, from memories of school desks.”

These are valuable insights, as well as insights that are necessary to resolve the mismatch. That is why Hermans is arguing for better data on this subject. “We can of course offer a lot of data from our role in the region, but we also really need other authorities to come up with smart recommendations for the long term.”

Concrete matches

Randstad can play an important role not only in the figures, but also in the concrete matching of supply and demand. “That is our profession, we already have a lot of experience in it. In the municipality of Amsterdam, for example, we are coordinator of the regional mobility team (in Dutch). There we try to guide people from job to job and there we see, for example, that there is still some legislation that could use improvement.”

Hermans cites the SER (Socio Economic Council) advice on the labor market, which is now also on the table during the negotiations for the new cabinet. It contains some suggestions for adjusting the rules regarding work. “For example, it is now very complicated for companies to exchange people among themselves, while that could contribute enormously to the agility of the labor market. Suppose that as a company you temporarily do not need two scaffolders due to a project that has failed. Then wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could lend it to a colleague company, without someone having to leave the company first and then re-enter the service of the other party?”

Where are shortages?

Something else Hermans would like to see happen: better communication about where exactly there are shortages, so that people can make better choices. For example from The Hague. During the first months of the corona crisis, the cabinet made money available for career coaching and retraining. “The money for this ran out within a few days, so it was very successful. But I recently asked the Secretary of State if they knew what kind of people had received coaching and/or retraining, and he actually didn’t know. While with such a program you could ideally focus on the sectors where we need people: healthcare, technology and IT.”

Text: Mirjam Streefkerk

More Board Talk

The interview with Dominique Hermans is part 14 of the Board Talk series. In this series we talk with Board members about the biggest challenges for the Amsterdam metropolis. A region which offers healthy, sustainable living, responsible digitalisation and meaningful work for everyone. These are also the most important themes for the Amsterdam Economic Board. Read more interviews in the Board Talk series.

11 January 2022

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