Despite the generally poor economy, and turbulent status of the Euro-zone, many business-to-business technology firms continue to thrive, as their customers seek to streamline and optimise through tech. Obviously, when intending to conquer a new European territory, there are a vast number of issues to consider, not least how to attract and manage your most valuable asset – people.
However, this can present perhaps the most significant obstacle to expanding companies – the plethora of different rules and regulations governing employment law, as well as particular nuances of interview technique and the differing skills favoured in different geographies can make it very difficult for firms to smoothly transition into new regions.
Some European countries are harder to recruit in than others, and some present particular challenges. In Germany, candidates can be suspicious of recruitment consultancies. Typically speaking they are reluctant to use consultancies and websites and much prefer to find new roles through networking, meaning talent can occasionally be elusive. Also, salaries are relatively high, and candidates expect good benefits packages – notably, a very good car allowance or company car is typical in Germany.
In sales roles, employees are also often on a higher basic, with lower commission earnings – so may well have 60% or 70% of their package fixed, as opposed to the typical 50% with a US Company. The situation is similar in the Netherlands and Sweden. In Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Finland it can be hard to fill roles because they are small countries with small pools of candidates – if companies are looking for someone with very specific skills, then this is not always possible.
Continental countries differ significantly from the UK and US in other ways too. For example, German and French companies often have longer notice periods, so it is not unusual for someone to be on a three month, rather than one month notice period, although this is changing.
In Germany, candidates will also often expect for travel to interviews to be paid for, and this is actually something that should be covered by law. Typical across most European countries, candidates will be a lot more stringent in checking their contracts. Often they will even want to run it past their lawyer, so this can sometimes mean that it takes them longer to accept an offer.
There are some common pitfalls and requirements for firms seeking to expand in Europe.One of the most common is having a legal entity in that country – candidates typically want to be hired under the laws of the country. Office location is a very important factor that is sometimes overlooked. In the Netherlands for example, candidates may not be happy to travel into central Amsterdam.
Being flexible on where employees are based, and being prepared for employees to want to be home based, can be a significant advantage. In Germany this is particularly important with candidates being split between Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Duesseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg etc. There is a similar situation in Italy with Rome, Milan and Turin.
Realistic language expectations are critical – for example, often companies think it will be easy to find someone located in Paris or Amsterdam who also speaks fluent German! Expecting the candidate to speak fluent English is broadly realistic, but other languages in addition to their native-tongue are exceptional. It should be noted, however, that in more technical roles it is harder to find someone with fluent English – and this is a Europe-wide reality.
Although these are fundamental, high-level considerations, there are too many local and industry-specific idiosyncrasies to individually list. Knowledge of the technology market across all of Europe and within individual countries is key to hiring correctly.