Werkgevers in de omringende landen verkijken zich nog wel eens op de verschillen tussen hun land en België.
Language and cultural differences
Employers in the surrounding countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands often underestimate the differences between their country and Belgium. The most important thing to remember is that Flemish is not the same language as the eerily similar, but completely different language spoken in the Netherlands. If a very talented applicant, towards the end of an interview, says he has reservations or ‘bedenkingen’ in Flemish, he is not doubting whether to accept the job or not. The word simply means he has a couple of ideas that he would like to put forward, even though the very same word in Dutch has a completely different connotation.
Beyond the language barrier, there are multiple cultural differences that also play a role. Not just between Belgium and the Netherlands, but also between Belgium and other Northern European countries. Despite the language gap that divides Walloons and Flemings, they do have an awful lot in common. It is said that both Flemings and Walloons are actually South-Europeans, even though the Walloons speak French and the Flemings speak Dutch. In another article on this website, we go more into detail with regards to these cultural differences.
To successfully recruit a Belgian, it would be smart to really grasp and take note of these general language and cultural differences. But as so often is the case, it is not where the proverbial buck stops. The Belgian labour market has its own set of characteristics, that are deeply rooted in the Belgian culture.
The oddities of the Belgian labour market
Even in a time where a lot of countries have moved towards flexible contracts and job-hopping, a Belgian employee generally likes to stay put, according to the findings of Institut pour un Developpement Durable, as quoted in De Morgen in June, 2019. It turns out that a remarkable 30% of Belgian employees have worked for the same company for more than 15 years. And a staggering 13% has worked for the same company for 25 years. On top of that, since 2011, the number of employees that work for five years or less at the same company, is declining. All of that makes the Belgian employee one of the least flexible employees in Europe.
On the other side, however, the Global Talent Acquisition Monitor of Intelligence Group (GTAM, 2018) found that when offered their ‘dream job’, Belgians are above average in pursuing opportunities abroad, and thus are willing to move to another country in order to do so.
Compared to other European countries, it will generally prove to be more difficult to successfully hire a Belgian – especially now, due to a growing economy and a tight Belgian labour market, where the amount of job seekers is at an all-time low. Moreover, within industries such as IT, health-care, lorry-driving and callcenters, they still face challenges filling jobs within the country. The shortage of construction workers, on the other hand, is relatively small. (GTAM, 2018)
Distinctive recruitment channels
The recruitment and selection of employees in Belgium also varies from other countries.
Corporate job sites
Corporate job sites are the main instrument in Belgium to recruit new office staff, according to LinkedIn research among Belgian employers (Recruiting Trends België, 2015). They state that corporate job sites deliver a staggering 55% of candidates for a vacancy, compared to an international rate of 38%. Another remarkable result is the fact that 43% of all Belgian employees generally prefer to grow and develop within their own company, rather than moving elsewhere to pursue a promotion of sorts, compared to an average of 29% in other countries.
Employment agencies and recruitment and selection agencies are also popular, particularly amongst young people. 14% of Belgian job-seekers use an agency in order to find work, compared to a European average of 10%. Only the Netherlands, who leads that category with 17%, is more agency-minded than Belgium. (GTAM, 2018)
Online job sites
Online job sites are less popular than usual in Belgium. Only 36% of Belgian employers views these ‘job-boards’ as important, compared to a more consistent rate of 50% internationally (Recruiting Trends België, 2015). According to the GTAM, the five most-popular vacancy sites are: vdab.be, jobat.be, indeed.com, leforem.be and vacature.com.
The first-placed vdab.be, the public employment service of Flanders, owes its position to the fact that Flemings are mandated to sign up as soon as they finish school and/or want to qualify for unemployment benefits.
With the exception of indeed.com, all other websites in the top 5 are based in Belgium. If we expand the list of sites to a top 10, we finally see more internationally-based companies. Stepstone is still popular in Belgium, finishing 6th. Monster.be, LinkedIn and randstad.be all follow in 7th, 8th and 9th. References.be rounds off the list, with leforem.be being the only Belgian job site in French.
Social media as a way of recruiting is also rising fast in Belgium. With that, Belgium is no different than other countries; LinkedIn’s high position (3,7 million users in Belgium) in the list of job sites confirms this idea. Other social media websites such as Facebook (7,1 million users) and Instagram (3,3 million users) would also likely score high, even though there are no numbers that confirm that notion.
The informal circuit
Finally, many people in Belgium find a job through friends or acquaintances, through the informal circuit. But how many? And would it be more compared to other European countries? Unfortunately though, no such figures exist – as can be expected when something is called informal. Considering the other things we know about the Belgian culture, which is generally a little less individualistic and thus more relationship-oriented, you would be inclined to say yes. However, evident details on that matter are simply missing.
Stay tuned for parts 3 and 4 in this exclusive ToTalent series about Belgium. If you missed part 1 of the Belgium Series, click here.