in today’s labor market, we've snoozed the alarm that's gone off for this crisis too many times.

The growing mismatch between supply and demand in the labor market is increasingly manifesting as a social crisis. Current policy in the Netherlands is outdated and focuses on waiting for people to become unemployed before it starts working for them. This also means that financing for recent initiatives is also ineffective and difficult to control. A proactive, transparent and, above all, timely public/private approach is needed to prevent permanent damage to the overall labor market. 

learning from the pandemic

In 2021 we are confronted with the fact that the world we live in is changing faster than we can plan. The pandemic has certainly accelerated this growing gap and played a significant role in it. In our fight against the virus, we see that merely reacting to change means that one will always be playing catch up and will be overtaken by a new reality. We have to get used to it and, more importantly, learn from it. Because this doesn't just apply to the course of the virus. 

Digitalization, increasing sustainability and changing needs means that certain professions and sectors are changing or disappearing altogether. According to recent research from McKinsey, these changes have been taking place since industrialization, and the pace has only increased. This will come as a surprise to no one. Employers, social partners and politicians have been discussing this for years. The alarm has gone off, yet it looks like we have collectively pressed the snooze button. The general attitude on this matter is still focused on the cure instead of prevention.    

empty desks at evening courses

If we know that the labor market is rapidly changing, which means that people will be out of work even as there is a significant employee shortage in some sectors, what are we waiting for? Why don't we get right on it? Why aren't the digital evening courses and lateral entrance programs full of people who are retraining to work in a different, more promising sector?  

Labor market research (commissioned by Randstad) points out that the problem may lie in the question of who bears the responsibility. As an example, almost seventy percent (67.3%) of Dutch employees think that their personal development is the responsibility of the government and their employers. Only a quarter of them sees it primarily as their own responsibility.

However, in practice, at Randstad we have noticed that, if only we act proactively, there is also very little movement. During the peak of the pandemic, we contacted 14,000 gig workers who had few long-term job prospects. We offered to help them enter a high-demand sector with free training and a development course. Barely a thousand people took us up on the offer. The reasons varied. Above all, it seems the candidates lacked a sense of urgency. 

And that is where the major bottleneck is. If we wait for people to feel that sense of urgency, it will already be too late. Then people will be unemployed, and they'll quickly fall out of sync with the labor market. 

an honest perspective and an accessible solution

The solution lies somewhere in the middle and can be found in cooperation. It is not yet clear to many employees why and how they can play a role in their own development. That is still too complicated and abstract. 

A first step is to make smart use of the potential of economic/labor market data and knowledge in order to proactively and timely identify which professions are disappearing or changing in such a way that people will become unemployed.

That is just the start of a good conversation that public/private partnerships should have with candidates. We can then provide a clear and honest picture of where people are now and where they can find their opportunities to become future-proof. 

The key success factor is providing straightforward access to the widest possible range of training and retraining, combined with continued employment. And it has to be kept in mind that it is terrible to hear that the work that you love to do is suddenly, or will very soon be, no longer available. And hardly anyone wants to go back to school for pleasure on their own time. However, everyone wants as pleasant a job as possible so that they can live a good life. 

A personalized, honest and clear perspective, in combination with timely and straightforward development possibilities, should be the starting point to convince people of their own interest, opportunities and responsibilities. Together we can really encourage people to remain employed. Together with the new cabinet and employers, we should be the ones to take up the initiative to facilitate this.

about the author
Dominique Hermans MD Randstad Group Netherlands

Dominique Hermans

ceo randstad group netherlands

Dominique Hermans joined Randstad Belgium 20 years ago and has since worked in various positions within our organization, joining the Randstad Belgium management team in 2005. In 2015, she moved to Randstad Group Netherlands as general manager of Tempo-Team, and was subsequently appointed as general manager of Randstad Netherlands in April 2018. As of 1 April 2021, Dominique is responsible for the activities of Randstad Group Netherlands, comprising the Randstad, Tempo Team, Yacht and BMC brands.