I just read a fascinating New York Times article, “Working (Part-Time) In The 21st Century”, about how part-time workers are becoming a standard part of the economy in the Netherlands.  All of those Dutch trends are also happening here in the States.  Our economy is just a much bigger ship that takes longer to turn, but turning it is.  And as all of you who have spent time on the water know (let me indulge a bit here with my Navy background), while the bigger ship takes longer to turn, the momentum once the bow starts to swing is much larger and harder to stop.

So any of us that want to hire the very best folks may want to look at what is going on in a northern European country with a well-educated labor force.   Since my own lineage is primarily Dutch, although five generations removed, I was doubly interested.  Hold on, because what is below will be coming soon as business requirements near you.

Women are huge sources of highly skilled labor but require flexibility. “Seventy-five percent of Dutch women now work part time, compared to 41 percent in other European Union countries and 23 percent in the United States, according to Saskia Keuzenkamp at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research. Twenty-three percent of Dutch men have reduced hours, compared to 10 percent across the European Union and in the United States.”

Flexibility will be key in the fight for the best workers. “Wouter Bos, a former finance minister and now four-day-a-week partner at the accounting firm KPMG, concurs: ‘More men want time with the family, but without giving up their careers. And more women want careers, but without giving up too much time with the family.’ He predicts ‘a huge fight’ for the best workers, with flexibility the key.”

Microsoft, with a bell-weather global labor force, is going flexible and virtual. “Ninety-five percent of Dutch Microsoft employees work from home at least one day a week; a full quarter do so four out of five days. Each team has a ‘physical minimum’; some meet twice a week in the office, others once a quarter. Online communication and conference calls save time, fuel and paper waste. The company says it has cut its carbon footprint by 900 tons this year.  Aspects of this “new world of work” concept have been exported to other Microsoft offices, including Norway, France and Australia – though not yet to U.S. headquarters.”

— Rob