Doing Business in the Netherlands: Dutch Leadership Culture.

The Netherlands is among the world’s open economies and stands among the best countries in the world for technology and innovation. The country offers an excellent infrastructure, a strong treaty network as well as a business climate that is competitive. Netherlands’ tax incentives are diverse, and is stimulating innovation as well as business activities.

Every country has its own rules and other cultural influences to consider when doing business, and so does the Netherlands. When comparing negotiating in the Netherlands in other countries like the United States (US) or the United Kingdom (UK), there are a few differences. Below are some facts when it comes down to doing business in the Netherlands.

Why the name the Netherlands instead of Holland?

The Netherlands, often mistakenly referred to as Holland, means below sea level, as the country lies below the sea level,  with “Nether” meaning “low” in Old Dutch. The term “Holland” originally referred to only two provinces within the Netherlands, North Holland and South Holland, but it is commonly used to refer to the entire country. However, the proper name for the country is the Netherlands, and it is composed of 12 provinces in total.

Business Meetings in the Netherlands

When meeting your clients or investors, the Dutch tend to be informal even though formality is appreciated. The Dutch are direct (confront issues straightforwardly) get straight to business and spend practically no time with niceties, this will be done after the meeting. People also shake hands and finish off by saying, “Pleasure to meet you.” Make sure you do not shake people’s hands vigorously, the Dutch don’t like too much physical contact so don’t go hugging and backslapping everyone in attendance.

Dutch Negotiation Style

Negotiating in the Netherlands is also very different than in the US or the UK. The Dutch Leadership culture is about consensus. Consensual decision making sounds like a great idea in principle, but people from fundamentally non consensual cultures can find the reality frustratingly time-consuming, but it is always effective.

Therefore please expect the decision making to take longer. Do not expect the manager to jump in and decide for the group. The manager is a facilitator, not the decision maker. Everyone at the negotiation table is often treated equally regardless of his or her position (hierarchy). If you want to lead successful negotiations, make sure you are ready to listen more, talk less, and understand others. The good thing about the Dutch is that their decision is always final. They rarely go back on their word.

The process is on how to do business in the Netherlands, however, not hard, and if you are a patient person, you will find it to be straightforward to grasp. Similar goes to the negotiating process. You should also keep in mind that the Dutch do not like mixing business with pleasure. That means during lunch hours, you need to be fast so that you may get back to work.

Leadership Culture in the Netherlands

  • Punctuality is generally appreciated in the Netherlands. Last minute cancellation or rescheduling of meetings are not appreciated.
  • The Dutch have an extensive degree of organisation and planning, from scheduling meetings to book holidays far in advance.
  • Managers are vigorous and decisive, but the consensus is mandatory, as there are many key players in the decision-making process. The style has often been described as ‘Polder Model’: The structure of the Dutch landscape stimulated a type of politics that wanted to accommodate minorities, looking for compromises and consensus decision-making. The Dutch will share, comment, express their opinions and present ideas, based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.



    • Employees and managers are self-initiate and demonstrate flexibility on how to achieve goals, while working independently.
    • The Dutch Leadership culture is about Consensual and Egalitarian. Consensual decision making sounds like a great idea in principle, but people from fundamentally non consensual cultures can find the reality frustratingly time-consuming. Expect the decision making to take longer. Don’t expect the manager to jump in and decide for the group. The manager is a facilitator, not the decision maker.
    • The Dutch are direct (confront issues straightforwardly) get straight to business and spend practically no time on niceties, this will be done after the meeting.

Dynamics of Employment Law in the Netherlands

Employment law in the Netherlands is robust, protecting both employees and employers. It covers various aspects such as contracts, working hours, leave entitlements, termination procedures, and discrimination laws.

Dutch employment law is based on both statutory regulations and collective labour agreements negotiated between employers’ organisations and trade unions. Key aspects include the requirement of employment contracts for employees, minimum wage regulations, and the provision of paid vacation days.

Additionally, Dutch law provides strong protections against unfair dismissal, requiring valid reasons and proper procedures for termination. Discrimination based on factors such as age, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is strictly prohibited.

Overall, the Netherlands’ employment law framework aims to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for all workers while balancing the rights and obligations of both employers and employees.

High Skilled Workforce Netherlands

The Netherlands has a highly skilled workforce nurtured by its education system, consistently producing top-performing graduates. With a workforce adept in digital skills and possessing an international mindset, aided by widespread fluency in English,  the country offers an appealing environment for businesses seeking talent.

Moreover, the Netherlands stands out for its exceptional quality of life, making it an attractive destination for international professionals. These factors contribute to the nation’s allure as an ideal location for foreign companies seeking a vibrant and talented workforce.

HR Provider Netherlands

HR Services encompass a wide range of offerings (HR Consulting & HRO) designed to support organisations in managing their HR effectively. At the core of HR Services is HRO (Human Resources Outsourcing) or HR Operational Support, specialising on a tactical level, by taking over HR administrative tasks on behalf of the company, or supporting HR professionals who are responsible for the Netherlands but managing HR operations across multiple countries and lack local employment law and HR knowledge.

HR Outsourcing is a great HR solution for small and mid-size companies who need ongoing HR support, and do not have the time to manage all day-to-day matters. The business can access a wide range of operational support on a monthly basis, from day-to-day HR administration to more complex HR processes and work instructions.

By outsourcing these tasks to HRO providers, businesses can streamline their HR processes, reduce administrative burdens, and focus on their core operations.

In addition to HRO, organisations might seek the expertise of the service HR consulting. HR consultants are professionals with specialised knowledge and experience in Dutch employment law and Human Resources Management.

HR Consulting operates on strategic level, employment law guidance and HR advisory on a wide range of HR-related issues. This includes People & Culture strategy, HR policies and procedures, employee benefits, benchmarking, talent & performance management, HR audit for compliance in the Netherlands.

The HR consulting services can be tailored to meet the specific on demand needs and challenges of each client, helping businesses optimise their HR practices and achieve their goals.

Training is also a crucial aspect of HR Services, providing entrepreneurs, Works Councils and HR professionals in the Netherlands with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in their roles. Training programmes cover essential HR topics such as Works Council Fundamentals, Dutch employment law, HR Document Management, leadership development and more. By investing in training businesses can ensure they have the expertise and capabilities necessary to navigate the complexities of modern HR management effectively.

Human in Progress in the HR provider in Netherlands offering a unique blend of People & Culture expertise, efficiency, and compliance, ensuring your HR needs are met with precision.

With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Dutch employment law we provide bespoke HR solutions designed to optimise your workforce and foster growth. Whether the business is a startup, scale-up, or established enterprise, our dedicated team is here to support you every step of the way.

Contact us today to discover how our HR solutions can elevate your business and propel you towards greater success.

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