Wim Bens

Wim Bens is managing partner at Bens & Partners.

10 November 2021

In past decades, we had the luxury of being able to obtain all kinds of government money via subsidies, grants and other public incentive schemes on the condition that we promise to create new businesses and, most importantly, new employment possibilities and new jobs. That was the holy grail to receive public funding.

This seems to be a thing of the past now. And, in my opinion, it should stay that way. In fact, it might be better to start handing out subsidies to kill jobs.

We’re in the middle of a rapidly growing war for talent. In many regions, in many sectors, in many companies, there’s a lack of qualified personnel. Not only of highly educated personnel but throughout the whole company employment pyramid. Finding drivers, for example, is a large and growing problem, as is hiring planners in the transport and logistics sector. We need lots and lots of people in the hospitality sector. In manufacturing, we’re short on craftsmen; in healthcare, we require more nurses and doctors; in education, more teachers – I could go on for a while.

Besides a shortage in the labor market, major transformations are manifesting themselves concerning the nature of jobs and the knowledge, skills and competencies required to perform them. Jobs are changing, they’re in transition, often by the adoption of new technology, automation or robotization.

Sometimes technological developments eliminate jobs – which would be a blessing, given the shortage. More often, technological developments change current jobs and even create new ones. So, for employers, it’s not only difficult to find the right people for growth and change, but they also need to make sure that their current employees are continuously learning new skills and competencies and learn to adapt to changes in work, processes and skillsets. This is true for every one of the aforementioned sectors and segments.

In all these challenges we’re facing, companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, should realize that they need to join forces to be able to compete tomorrow. Embrace the 1 + 1 = 3 idea. Employers – working in government-supported public-private partnerships of companies and knowledge institutes – should try to make their employees participate in collaborative learning communities, shared talent pools and field labs, aimed at learning together, learning from each other, inspiring each other and solving new challenges together. In one of my earlier columns (link in Dutch), I elaborated on such talent pooling concepts.

Another very nice initiative is the ‘open hiring’ concept, a beautiful initiative from the Start Foundation and partners. To hire someone, the traditional procedures with motivation letters, job interviews and assessments are set aside. Whatever candidate reports first gets hired. This eliminates the first, often negative impressions and prejudice in the (paper) procedure. Very often, candidates are very motivated, really want to start and make the new job a success. I’ve seen examples where candidates come in and happen to be excellent new colleagues, perfectly performing and very committed to their new challenge.

But even then, with all the activities we organize to attract, inspire, motivate, challenge, bind and captivate employees to our companies, we can’t find enough people to fulfill our needs. So what we need now is more technological (and other) developments, so we don’t need as many employees anymore. I can’t wait to see new subsidy schemes, grants and other public funding initiatives aim to kill jobs.