4 characteristics of a modern workforce


4 characteristics of a modern workforce

Today’s workplace is changing rapidly. Digitalisation, use of big data and the growing skills gap are some of the challenges your business has to deal with. Additionally, the current employment market is candidate-driven; there is a scarcity of good employees which means that job seekers can afford to be more discerning about where they work and under which conditions. In order to attract ‘super-stars’ for your business, it’s important to know what motivates the modern workforce to apply, join and remain with a new employer.

We carried out some research on this topic and would like to present you our findings regarding the top 4 characteristics that define a modern workforce in the Netherlands.

Part-time work

In 2018 more people than ever worked part-time in the Netherlands: 4,289,000 compared to 3, 780,000 10 years ago. This may not seem as a huge change until you take into account full-time employment in the same time period. In 2008 4,578,000 of employees had a full-time job, while in 2018 there were 4,485,000 full-time workers. More and more people opt-in for jobs that offer fewer work hours. Currently almost half of all people employed in the Netherlands are part-timers. This means that they work less than 36 hours because the Dutch law recognizes full-time work as 36-40 hours per week.

Reduced working hours are also more common in certain job positions. Many Dutch people in Office Management and PA & Secretarial roles consider 32h per week to be a full-time job. Numerous HR professionals are only interested in working 3-4 days per week, with the percentage rising up to 60% in senior positions. Students and experienced professionals in Customer Service often prefer part-time jobs over full-time work. Even in Finance, traditionally a sector with long work hours, part-time work is not so uncommon anymore.

Working fewer hours is also linked to specific parental leave in the Netherlands commonly known as ‘Mamadag’ and ‘Papadag’.  The Dutch parental leave allows both parents to take unpaid leave for 26 times their weekly working hours until the child is 8 years old. Parental leave can be taken at once or spread across a few years by taking one parental day per week. Both parents are legally entitled to parental leave but the gender imbalance is still present and female employees generally work fewer hours in order to take care of children.

Remote work

Remote work is not a cutting-edge advantage anymore, it’s a benefit your company needs to offer. This is not just a U.S. trend or something ‘digital nomads’ are seeking. The number of people in the Netherlands working remotely, at least for a part of their week, is growing rapidly for high-skilled workers across all industries. This is often the first thing a potential employee will ask for if part-time work is not an option and it can be a potential deal breaker. Various case studies and academic papers suggest great advantages of remote work: workers are more satisfied and more productive, voluntarily put in more effort and job turnover is lower due to higher loyalty. The assumption is that once an option for remote work is offered, employees will increase their effort in order to show that they can be equally or more productive while working from home.

Having remote employees also cuts costs such as travel reimbursement, electricity, and related bills, Of course, if you have only remote workers you don’t even need an office space. This is also one of the reasons why many Dutch companies are very flexible when it comes to remote work even in the traditionally rigorous sector as Finance. Working from home is not just something tech start-ups or big international companies offer; more and more small to medium companies provide this benefit as well.

On the other hand, there are counter-arguments. Working from home can jeopardize work-life balance since the boundary between work and home is blurred. People working from home often have difficulties switching-off and in the long run, this can lead to burn out. Moreover, employees often state loneliness and isolation as the main disadvantage of working from home. This can lead to anxiety and depression. Failing to provide a structure and support for remote workers can result in a higher turnover of employees or extensive sick leave.

Flexible work hours

The classical 8 hour day, 5 days per week work schedule was not introduced until the early 1900s. Henry Ford was among the first industrials to implement 40h work week in order to give workers more time to rest and buy things. This resulted in higher productivity of workers, and yes, profitability: workers were buying Ford cars since they had time to enjoy driving them!

However, many things have changed since Ford’s time: technological advancement, a higher percentage of highly educated workers, women and minorities entering the workforce in high numbers. All this, as well as the higher concern for employees’ well-being and focus on the end result, not long hours, have influenced companies to provide more flexible work schedules. The most common forms of flexible schedules include flexible starting and leaving times and the compressed work week.

Flexible work times have shown many advantages, providing employees with more time to deal with their personal matters as well as allowing them to work when they are most productive. Not everyone is a morning person. Some people experience a peak of their productive time in the afternoon or even late evening. Flexible starting and leaving times are highly preferred among commuters since it allows them to avoid traffic jams. Employees working a compressed work week may stay longer during 4 working days, but they have an additional day off which means more time for family, friends, and traveling. This can lead to less absenteeism since private matters can be scheduled on their day off.

But keep in mind that not working core office hours can jeopardize business agility and lower customer satisfaction while a compressed work week can result in lower productivity that comes with longer work hours. 

Autonomy and feedback

Employees nowadays want more autonomy and freedom in their work. They want to grow and experiment. This is the reason many companies offer clear predefined career paths and opportunities to engage in projects outside the normal job scope. This often results in more trust and a closer relationship between a manager and an employee. The focus is shifted to the deliverable results. Taking ownership of ideas and decisions is highly encouraged. The Dutch are famous for providing their employees with great autonomy which is epitomized in the ‘flat-hierarchy’ organizational structure. Many internationals choose to work in the Netherlands precisely for this reason.

There is a global trend among younger generations to ask for regular feedback. Millennials and Gen Z are eager to learn, develop and contribute to society. To achieve this, they request frequent validation of their work and continuous support from the supervisor and teammates. But feedback is not a one-way conversation. More sources of feedback ensure less bias, subsequently, the 360 feedback method grew in popularity recently. Introduced back in the 90s, this feedback technique is today implemented in many Fortune 500 companies. It allows an employee to hear the opinions of his/her manager, colleagues, subordinates and to take a more sincere and strategic look at his or her own skills, strengths, and weaknesses.

How do you attract the best talent?

Now that you know some of the preferences and characteristics of today’s workforce, especially here in the Netherlands, what can you offer in order to attract the best talent? The key words are trust and flexibility. You need to make your employees feel trusted that they can do their best, bring amazing ideas and take initiative no matter when and where they work. Moreover, work is just one part of a person’s life, next to family and friends time, leisure and hobbies. If employees do not have an optimal balance between all these areas, their mental and physical health can be jeopardized, which consequently will affect the quality of their work. The Netherlands is ranked 1st in the world as the country with the best work-life balance which is not surprising when you take into account all of the above. If you want to recruit the best people to work with you, you must provide more than a ping pong table and a gym membership.

If you’re still struggling to attract talent, we can help you out.

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