On Tuesday June 26th I spoke at the employer brand event in Veenhuizen, near Assen in the North of the Netherlands. Veenhuizen? Never heard of it. Me neither! But when I arrived after a 4.5-hour train journey, I landed in a truly beautiful area with a lot of history (known from the National Prison Museum, typical housing and wide green terrain). I was really surprised. Together with a colleague from the upper North, Erik Oosterveld, and two regional companies, we spoke to 130 SME entrepreneurs about the topic of employer branding.
After the formal kick-off, Erik provided insight into the most recent developments in the Labor Market North, which is characterized by strong economic growth (especially in the Construction and Care sectors) and the resulting growing vacancies that are difficult to fill. In short, the character of the labor market is changing: employers are having more and more problems to get the right employees. Employers can arm themselves with short-term and long-term solutions, Erik explained. One of the long-term solutions is employer branding, which was my cue to tell my story.
It was great to feel a warm welcome as a presenter, because the audience was truly fascinated! With great attention I was able to tell my story and the interaction with the audience was pleasurable: many questions from the room, spontaneous reactions and I really got the idea that these employers were interested in what I had to say. Subsequently, two interesting business cases were presented by local companies: Voys, a telephony company, and Maallust, a local beer brewery from Veenhuizen itself.
I particularly liked the story of Voys. Contrary to what I indicated in my presentation where many companies struggle (giving employees attention by their boss), Voys had a special solution: no boss at all. In fact, nobody also had a formal position within the company. On the basis of Zappos' holacracy principle, employees were given roles, there was full transparency and a high degree of responsibility. These self-managing teams were able to deliver very good business results and build a strong employer brand. Without any problems they had grown from two to more than 150 employees in a very short time span.
The evening was concluded with a presentation by Bierbrouwerij Maallust, an initiative of 25 local entrepreneurs who, without a bank loan, had bought their own property in Veenhuizen and converted it into a truly magnificent beer brewery. In the traditional way, a complete product line of different beers is now being produced and the brewery's reputation extends beyond Veenhuizen alone.
What I missed in their story though was the link with the employer brand. It would have been nice if at least a link with the role of employees within the organization could be made. Fortunately, this was partly made up for by the drink at the beer brewery itself afterwards. All in all a good meeting and now take it from me: Veenhuizen is a must and I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome as well when you decide to visit it.