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Europe – ManpowerGroup President shares view on staffing market trends

29 January 2014

Returning from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, ManpowerGroup’s President for Northern Europe, Hans Leentjes, sat down with Staffing Industry Analysts to discuss the current state of the staffing market.

Mr Leentjes’ primary concern for the staffing industry in 2014 is stagnation: “The only certainty is uncertainty. The market is in better shape and the worst of crisis over, but the hard work is not over. Germany in the long term looks good and the UK performing better than expected… in the Netherlands growth has been gone for two years but it’s getting better.”

A high number of smaller staffing firms in the Netherlands have closed down or been declared bankrupt since the financial crisis, leading some to suggest that there was an overcrowding in the market that is now normalising. Mr Leentjes disagrees: “It’s not that there are too many companies. Good competition keeps us sharp. Before the [global financial crisis] Dutch companies were used to high margins, which are now coming down. Some companies may not have aligned [themselves] to the new business environment or transition[ed] to new business models.”

The concept of ‘glocal’ (global-local) is still an important one for ManpowerGroup as they move into 2014. As both countries and businesses look for talent, the creation of a global talent pipeline will become more important.   

“Technological advances will impact labour environment,” Mr Leentjes explained. “Taking the UK as an example, you see that at the lower side of the labour market [that] coming back. 3D printers, for example, means that manufacturing and production could return to the UK. Companies will be able to manufacture goods, not to the same level as what it was previously, at the same cost [as overseas], without the cost of transportation, and create less emissions; which is increasingly important to corporations.”

“We are in a transition,” Mr Leentjes replied when asked about concerns about an influx of unskilled migrant workers. “Can we afford to say that we don’t want to do certain jobs? The labour force is unsustainable. But what we are seeing is more and more labour migration at the top level. If you can bring in skilled people, they can help create jobs.”    

“More and more it is about talent-based outsourcing. Specialisation is key. We are known as a generic staffing company because we cover so many specialisations. Now it’s about strengthening our verticals,” Mr Leentjes explained when asked about ManpowerGroup’s outlook for 2014. “Our specialisations are decided at a local and regional level, with our Experis brand working at a global level focusing on IT, engineering, and finance. We have made three acquisitions in the UK to strengthen our IT specialism.”

“Our Right Management brand has been brought in closer to the rest of the organisation. It used to be more standalone, and still operates independently, but it has been more integrated and gives us greater opportunities for collaborations and cross-selling.”

“There is a lot of focus on MSPs (managed service provider) and we are getting a lot of traction in Europe. It’s beneficial to be a US-based company where MSP started. We are really pushing it in Europe,” Mr Leentjes added.

According to research from Staffing Industry Analysts, ManpowerGroup is the third largest staffing firm in the world. Claiming the top spot, however, is not a priority for the company. “We want to be the most innovative company [of the top three]. Being number one is not a goal in itself. We have the clients and candidates at the centre of our vision and it’s more important that we build a footprint than strive to be number one,” Mr Leentjes explained.

Hans Leentjes (48) has worked in the staffing industry for more than 25 years. He joined ManpowerGroup in 2005 as country manager for the Netherlands, before being promoted to the position of head of EMEA’s central region; covering the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. In 2011 he joined ManpowerGroup’s Executive Management team as Executive Vice President and President of Northern Europe. 

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