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Remote or not?

Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink
Hi, I hope you are having a good day and a bit of time to read!
Several of you responded to last week’s question about the topics I should write about. Thank you! If you haven’t yet, you can still add your requests to the list.
And I am keynoting the HR Masters Summit in Bucharest on June 16. Grab a ticket and let me know that you are there!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of keynoting the Landing.Jobs conference in Lisbon. As I was preparing my slides for the Tech Hiring Community, the news broke that the Dutch labor market now has 133 vacancies for every 100 unemployed people.
In other words, even if we perfectly matched everyone, we would still be unable to fill all vacancies. Employers are scrambling for new hires, and even while some of them are very creative, they still can’t find enough people. But are they exploring all avenues?
Demographics are key
The main problem underneath the labor shortage is demographics (and yes, it’s also skills, but that’s a conversation for another time):
When you look at the Dutch population, it’s not a pyramid. The cohorts that are retiring are larger than the young workers that replace them. The population is shrinking by about 60k people every year. And when the population shrinks, you have fewer potential workers. The current labor shortage is only the beginning.
When I show this population slide during keynotes, what surprises me most is how many audience members see this for the first time. Their companies don’t use these macroeconomic insights, even though it’s so key for future workforce projections. Do you know the numbers for your country?
This is not just a Dutch phenomenon: it’s happening in Europe, Japan and North America. Even China isn’t exempt. Only one continent shows a real pyramid: Africa.
Which means that companies can’t assume they can fill all vacancies with local people. They have to embrace remote hiring and automation as the only options left to handle all the work.
Are we really embracing remote work?
Because I was researching the Portuguese labor market for my keynote anyway, I decided to take a quick look at the Dutch labor market and add Germany for comparison. I knew that Portugal is a famous location for remote work, and my assumption was that considering the labor crunch, Dutch companies would have the same attitude.
But I was wrong - when I compared last month’s LinkedIn vacancies for these 3 countries, the Netherlands came in last with only 2% of open jobs advertised as remote. It makes you wonder how we can afford that in such a tight labor market.
Now, I know what you might say: Portugal is known for a higher number of remote tech jobs and that skews the total. And you’re probably right. So I looked at those separately.
Turns out, the Netherlands still comes in last. Only 9% of tech jobs are advertised as remote. And the numbers don’t change much for hybrid.
I don’t have an explanation (yet): the Netherlands has the infrastructure and the technology to support remote work. That’s how we got through the pandemic. Why don’t we use it now? Have we already outsourced so much that we don’t have any work left to do remote? I very much doubt that.
In the meantime, roads and public transportation are at full capacity, even more than before the pandemic. Which tells me that people are back in the office for most of their workdays.
We’re still trying to address 2020s problems with 1920s concepts: an 8 hour workday, a 40 hour workweek. When you run a 24x7 plant, it’s understandable you need people on location. But when you run an office, less so.
The good news: this is fixable. And if you’re willing to hire remotely, you might just win the war for (tech) talent.
What about automation?
When it comes to automation, a recent study revealed that 86% of employees are open to use automation but only 30% of business leaders give them access to it, and even fewer (5%) allow workers to create their own automations.
The days that people were afraid to be replaced by robots are behind us. It’s clear that this will happen to some jobs, but not all. It’s much more likely a robot will replace some of what you do, and humans and robots work side by side.
Employees struggle to cope with the amount of work and feel that working with robots, meaning automating repetitive activities, will allow them to focus on value-add work.
It’s a big change in perception. And it’s an opportunity for companies to deal with vacancies. Just imagine if you could automate 10% of a person’s job. That would mean you gain 1 FTE for every 10 you employ. Wouldn’t that help you fix at least part of the labor shortage?
What do you see? Are you back to your pre-pandemic work life? Or are you seeing some glimmers of change? Let me know!
Have a great day, Anita
PS: Go to https://www.populationpyramid.net/ to find the chart for your country and compare it to the world. It’s free.
What's next?
One survey to complete: There’s only one HR Tech Survey, and this year Stacey Harris is celebrating the Silver Anniversary edition, the 25th Annual HR Systems Survey! Don’t miss this opportunity to add your voice and help transform the future of HR Technology. The 2022-2023 HR Systems Survey is open and available for completion through July 1, 2022, so don’t wait to be heard!
One conference to attend: I am speaking on The evolving HR tech ecosystem during TGTHR 2022: Redefining hiring through collaboration. Join me virtually on June 9.
One book to read: The Nowhere Office by Julia Hobsbawn. I met Julia during Learning Technologies and she gifted me a copy of her book. She writes that it’s time to “create a new beginning in the story of the office”. I liked that one chapter of the book is devoted to encouraging management to change, which is probably the key issue to address. In light of the ongoing remote debate, add this book to your reading list.
One podcast to listen to: Nick Day invited me back to the Payroll Podcast to discuss the future of pay, and how fintech is moving ever closer to payroll. I hope you enjoy listening to “How Fintech is Disrupting Payroll”.
One article to read: What happens when a law that was designed to prevent worker injuries causes companies to accelerate automation so they don’t need any workers at all?
Get in touch
I offer keynotes, workshops and one-on-one sessions to help you understand the future of work and pay.
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Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink @let_anita

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