Event report: A solution to the growing shortage of Dutch IT professionals
by Stefani Mans
Attracting and Retaining International IT Talent
This Esti event was organised in cooperation with the Economic Board of Amsterdam and hosted by Accenture.
Local Dutch IT people are becoming scarce, as the Dutch IT sector continues to grow. There is more and more demand for professionals. Local government and Dutch companies put in an increasing effort to find and attract the right talent, and to keep them once they’re here. During this session, three speakers share their knowledge, insights and approach to the growing challenge of attracting and retaining international IT talent.
- Fighting the odds: A deep dive into the ‘War on Talent’, by Nina Tellegen, Director at Amsterdam Economic Board
- Alarm is ringing: Time for a ‘New Approach’, by Marco Hooghuis Senior Manager at Accenture
- International rockstar: Engineering team from the ‘Ground Up’, by Roline Spijkervet, People Operations at PICNIC
The event kicks off at 19:00 when Anastasia Karnaokov, founder of Esti Developers, gives a brief introduction speech, in which she introduces the central theme of the evening and the three speakers that will share their knowledge and experience.
Nina Tellegen, director at Amsterdam Economic Board
Tellegen gives a brief introduction of the Amsterdam Economic Board and provides insight in the way that they enhance the prosperity and wellbeing in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.
The Amsterdam Economic Board:
- Signals opportunities for innovation regarding the challenges,
- Forms consortia of cross-sectorial partners for innovative projects,
- Offers access to regional and international networks,
- Creates physical and online meeting points.
- Provides data-driven information regarding the challenges.
One of the objectives of the Economic Board was to secure a position among Europe’s top three innovative regions by 2025. However, they were able to realise this ambition this year already, considering the fact that Amsterdam has been voted the European Capital of Innovation 2016-2017. Tellegen elaborates on the different ways in which the economic board helps to secure the position of Amsterdam as a leader in innovation and how they help to create solutions for urban challenges that will contribute to the liveability of the Amsterdam region.
The main objective of the economic board of Amsterdam is fostering sustainable economic growth in the region. Tellegen explains that hereby the focus lies on ‘five interrelated urban challenges which bear relevance to urban issues in the region and around the world’, respectively: jobs of the future, health, mobility, digital connectivity, and circular economy.
To realise this objective, the Economic Board encourages innovation and collaboration between businesses, knowledge institutes and government organisations. Tellegen points out that one of the unique things about Amsterdam is that there are a lot of ‘bottom up’ initiatives, so it is not just the government, but also the citizens who are actively helping to create solution for the urban challenges that the city faces.
Labour market AMA statistics
Providing insight in the current situation of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) labour market, Tellegen continues to share some gathered data; The statistics show that currently there are a total of 81.698 job vacancies. Most of these vacancies can be found in the ICT sector; about 11.000 vacancies, which amounts to 14% of the total vacancies in the AMA. Categorising the job vacancies by occupation, the statistics show that software developers are the most sought after.
The Economic Board tech company survey
Together with the the municipality of Amsterdam and Startup Amsterdam, the Economic Board of Amsterdam has conducted a research to gain more insight on the current situation in the Amsterdam tech-scene. A major part of the research consisted of a qualitative survey amongst 25 of the top tech companies. The findings of this research have helped them to identify which initiatives will strengthen the tech ecosystem of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.
There is strong competition between Amsterdam and other tech hubs like Berlin and London. Developers and data scientists are in high demand, because of the huge shortage of IT talent on the Dutch labour market. Another interesting finding is that the tech teams of the organisations that were included in the research consist of 70% non-Dutch employees.
Tellegen states that the lack in Dutch IT talent can be partially attributed to the fact that there is a mismatch between the educational system and the labour market. She argues that in this day an age coding and programming should be taught to children at school.
Children who attend the gymnasium (the precursor for university) learn two old languages – Greek and Latin -, but they don’t learn any computer languages, while there is such a high demand in our society for people who posses these skills. She points out that in London, children already start to learn how to code in primary school. Tellegen emphasises that it is therefore important to establish a stronger link between the labour market and traditional educational institutes; for example, by giving CTO’s a seat in in Advisory Boards of educational institutions,
Attracting international talent
The research’s findings in general confirm that in order to keep its competitive edge and frontrunner position, it is vital that Amsterdam continues attracting and retaining international IT talent. Different actions and initiatives are set in motion to make it easier for internationals to relocate to the Netherlands;
- The Municipality of Amsterdam is increasing the capacity of international schools; by opening a new school in Amstelveen, and by increasing the capacity of the international school in Amsterdam.
- To increase housing capacity, there is an initiative involving the designation of the so called ‘tech houses’; residential homes where international IT talent has the opportunity to connect with peers and become part of a community.
Marco Hooghuis Senior Manager at Accenture
Marco Hooghuis states that inclusion and diversity form the fundamental base of Accenture. The international company employs 68 nationalities in Holland alone, from which 15% is staffed on short or long term assignment in the Netherlands. Hooghuis explains that different programs have been put in place to facilitate cross culture training:
Their Global Career Program, allows people to work 3 years on assignment in a different country. Another example is their their International IT Traineeship, during which employees will go on an assignment in India or the Philippines for 6 months. When they come back, they’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the culture. This knowledge can be passed on to others when they return to Holland.
Retaining international talent
Hooghuis explains that to retain international talent it is important to make the employee feel at home; social integration is key, and this social integration should take place both at work and at home. He emphasizes that Accenture goes the extra mile to make sure both the integration in the organisation, as well as the social integration transpire smoothly. In order to to stimulate integration in the organisation, it is vital to really understand the culture and the person behind the employee. Accenture keeps a close eye on the individual developments and integration process of each individual employee, and each international employee receives career counselling.
Stimulating social interaction & integration
To stimulate social integration Accenture offers a Dutch language program, to help new arrivals get acquainted with the Dutch way of speaking, preferred interactions with the locals, and some quirks of the indigenous Dutch people. To aid international employees in developing a local social network, social events like the Code4good hackathon are organised.
Attract & retain
He concludes the presentation by providing a summary with his top three tips. To attract and retain international talent, it is vital to:
- Invest in building a relation, culture, and integration
- Make the international employee feel at home
- Stimulate social integration at work and home
Roline Spijkervet, people operations at Picnic
During the final presentation Roline Spijkervet, the People Operations Manager at Picnic, provides insight in the company’s unique hiring/ recruimtment process. She shares the principles that Picnic swears by, when building international tech teams. Picnic is the world’s fastest growing online supermarket with an unique business model. Also, of the 17 different nationalities working at Picnic, 15 nationalities can be found in the tech team.
The hiring process
Picnic’s hiring process is quite costly and time intensive, ’but for a good reason’, Spijkervet argues. She explains that in the long run it is much more cost efficient to invest some extra time and money in the recruitment process, because so called ‘dead hires’ are more expensive. The company’s main principle when it comes to hiring is: ‘Hire the best talent and never compromise.’ She emphasises that talent attracts talent.
Diversity of personalities
Another of Picnic’s principals is that the team is the star and not the individual. They believe that teams should be balanced in terms of personalities: a balanced team will have a diversity of personalities. During the hiring process it is therefore important to evaluate which type of personality would really complement the team, and hire people with complementary skills that can make the team greater than the sum of its parts.
Besides looking at resumes, conducting interviews and making use of assessments, Picnic goes the extra mile to make sure they hire the perfect fit for their team.
Spijkervet explains that if you hire people from abroad you usually only get to see them via Skype, but at Picnic it is not uncommon to fly people in for an interview. This way they really get to experience the atmosphere, and this helps them to form realistic expectations about their potential future workplace. She emphasises that it is really important to discuss these expectations, so there are no surprises later on. Picnic also involves the tech team in the hiring process, increasing the chance that the new hire will indeed be the perfect fit for the team.
High threshold, high gains
Picnic is an inclusive company – nobody is excluded from the application process based on nationality or gender. However, the requirements to land a job at the company are quite high, and they are quite particular about the people they want.
Firstly, the company mostly hires people with a master’s degree from good universities. Secondly, they focus on hiring people who are exceptionally good at something, instead of hiring someone who sort of knows how to do everything a little bit. It’s hiring for strength, rather than lack of weakness.
Spijkervet argues that when you want to hire the brightest minds, you need to realise that this kind of talent is not only driven by financial gain.
This kind of talent needs to be challenged to keep them engaged and motivated. You’ve got to offer them the opportunity to really make an impact and build something meaningful. Roline states that a scale up engineer should:
- Dream big,
- Get shit done, and
- Know how to have fun!
Atmosphere & conclusion of the evening
After each presentation there is a brief Q&A, and after the last presentation ends there is time for the guests and speakers to mingle and network, and ask additional questions. The atmosphere is good, and guests enthusiastically share insights and some concluding thoughts on the presentation and the evening itself. Before they leave all the guests receive an Esti magazine with in depth articles about innovation and the latest developments in the (Amsterdam) tech scene. Altogether it was a very fruitful and collaborative evening, with a lot of new insights.
CONTRIBUTION ESTI – IT RECRUITMENT
There is a huge shortage of IT professionals in the Netherlands. This challenge will only get bigger in the future. We believe that recruiting international IT talent to work in Amsterdam is the solution. To attract and retain international IT talent companies need to develop and enhance their international orientation. Esti developers, IT recruitment Amsterdam, also guides companies to develop a company culture that will generate maximum employee engagement and in which international professionals thrive.