Computer Futures

Getting 'started' in the Netherlands

For a tech company, or indeed anyone with IT experience, the Netherlands may be an ideal place to enter the European market. The Dutch are famously good with languages and a very high proportion of the population speak English – 87 percent according to some sources. Some Dutch companies are even happy to recruit directly from England. Meanwhile, the Netherlands economy is doing well and is supported by a strong technology and manufacturing base.

A centre of tech excellence

While Amsterdam remains the main centre for tech start-ups, the Netherlands is not so much dominated by one or two central cities as is often the case elsewhere in Europe. Perhaps because of its origin as an association of distinct provinces, the Netherlands has fine universities and technical centres-of-excellence in a number of cities. There are clusters of tech companies around Delft University; for example in Deventer where is based and Philips has a research facility at the High Tech Campus at Eindhoven. Similarly, IT companies can also be found in the Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam. This spread of activity is also encouraged by the willingness of Dutch companies to use modern technology, such as the cloud, to allow staff to work nearer their homes in smaller offices rather than commute on the country’s notoriously busy roads to a national head office.

With all this activity it has become noticeably harder to find skilled workers. According to Albert Van Reenen, Managing Director of Computer Futures Netherlands and Flanders, “At present the biggest demand is for junior and mid-levels in comparison to the more senior positions. This shortage gives candidates increasing leverage over the type and terms of the contracts they choose.”

Flexible working improves retention

While there has, inevitably, been an increase in freelance hourly rates, competition is also encouraging employers to make changes to allow staff greater flexibility over how they use their time. For example, in return for taking calls and emails outside of working hours, some employees now expect to spend equivalent time on their own projects, even while in the office. Moreover, employers are making particular efforts to ensure women with children or other dependents, can fit work around these commitments. In a nod to American tech culture, some companies are also trying to build a more creative atmosphere around staff facilities such as games rooms.

Data analysts are in high demand

As elsewhere in the EU, and indeed further afield, some skills are particularly in demand. Many vacancies relate to data handling. Van Reenen notes: “There are many new business models involving data processing. Many companies are generating huge amounts of information and are now asking: we have the data, so what are we going to do with it?” Making sense of it all has created a strong demand for data analysts. Cyber security is also an area rapidly climbing up the corporate agenda but, according to Van Reenen, companies can be nervous about allowing outsiders too much access to their security systems, so this kind of work is either for permanent staff on indefinite contracts - or they employ specialist contractors.

Find talent with a trusted search partner

For anyone looking for skilled staff, especially those new to the Dutch market, it is increasingly important to find a trusted search partner. The usual approaches via social network sites such as LinkedIn are gradually losing their effect owing to the harassing effect of some search techniques. Indeed, according to Van Reenen, some sought-after employees are de-activating accounts to avoid this problem. Increasingly, personal referrals and a long-term client networking approach are the most effective methods of finding people with the right attributes and experience – which demands a little patience and flexibility on the part of those with positions to fill.