HeadFirst Group CEO Han Kolff on the company’s strategic plan

01 October 2021 Consultancy.eu 6 min. read

Just under a year into his role as CEO of European staffing giant HeadFirst Group, Han Kolff has unveiled his strategy for the coming five years. Kolff spoke to Consultancy.eu on how the plan will help the company become one of Europe’s largest labour market platform and provider of talent solutions in the professional segment. 

Founded in 1995, HeadFirst Group is a talent provider headquartered in the Netherlands. The firm helps more than 450 clients across Europe to source external and permanent professionals, via a suite of HR services and solutions, including HR consultancy, temporary staffing services (matchmaking, contracting), managed service providing (MSP), and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO). On any given day, the company has over 14,000 professionals working at clients across sectors. 

Under CEO Han Kolff the firm has sought to double down on its growth, and prepare for the future. Prior to Kolff’s appointment, the firm’s growth strategy already centred on perpetuating and expanding its role as a full-service HR service provider, innovating with smart online solutions and adding value with rich data – but now he has reaffirmed this with the publication of a new five-year strategy.

Han Kolff, CEO, HeadFirst Group

“We believe that scale, enhanced by our online platform, and combined with a personal approach is the key to success,” Kolff said of the firm’s plans. “I look forward to achieving our ambitions together with our team.” 

Despite a challenging environment, the group managed to kickstart its strategic plan with growth. In 2020, HeadFirst Group saw its revenue jump to €1.5 billion – something which was further helped by the acquisition of Between, a former business unit of France’s Devoteam. Between has subsequently become an important part of HeadFirst’s plans going forward. 

“In the fourth quarter of last year, we started the collaboration and integration of HeadFirst and Between,” Kolff explained. “Through a carefully designed plan, we are capitalising on the best of both organisations, solidifying a market leadership position in the professionals segment of the market.”

Strategic ambitions

The strategy is two-fold. First it sets out three visions for innovation: a vision for the supply side, one for the demand side, and an overarching vision to become a leading platform company. Then, it focuses on a five-step plan to map out the realisation of these visions.

Supply side vision
The first vision of HeadFirst’s strategy hones in on the sell-side of the labour market by 2025. According to Kolff, the flexibilisation of the North West European labour market will continue up to 2025. As a result, this will see an increased number of independent professionals enter the landscape, as well as more and more companies tapping into the power of the gig economy.

While this will allow workers more space to dictate their own routines and to be entrepreneurial outside of traditional employment, this will at the same time bring rise to a number of challenges, such as a mounting need for personal development or interaction with peers.

“There will be a shift towards communities of independent professionals and suppliers,” Kolff suggested. “HeadFirst Group will look to claim this spot by offering ‘career partner’ solutions to flex workers. These solutions include income stability, upskilling and training, personal mentoring and career planning, cross-company traineeships, and permanent advice; all designed to propel people forward to their next dream role.” 

In this way, the company aims to provide the support environment – and technological platform (known as Select internally) – that corporates “used to provide before”. 

Demand side vision
In response to these changes, HeadFirst Group believes the HR and recruiting industry in North West Europe will have to become more and more digitalised. Dedicated HR platforms will automate most of the matchmaking process to save time and resources when filling roles, and will play an advisory role in terms of putting forward best practices. 

HeadFirst Group expects to be at the head of this shift, using its market expertise as a full-service HR service provider to provide its clients with the best of both worlds between technology and human touch.

“In the Netherlands and abroad, we have developed a scalable way of using soft skills to find the best talent,” Kolff went on. “On the technology front, we have designed best-in-class tech solutions for every step of strategic workforce planning. We then complement this with company-tailored advisory services.” 

Platform company vision
These first visions will culminate in an opportunity for HeadFirst Group to fulfil a gap in the changing human capital market. The stage will be set for a large platform to offer best practice assistance to employers as they automate their recruitment process, and one which can use data driven services to help increasingly independent minded professionals find the right work for their development and networking needs.

In this scenario, HeadFirst Group aims to create a fast lane for matching the supply and demand of flex work, interconnecting it with other relevant systems and by creating top notch features for professionals, suppliers, and companies.

“By 2025, we will be leading the way for matching supply and demand of work through our platform. On the supply side, we aim to be the preferred partner for professionals who strive for a lifelong flexible career by focusing on unburdening and supporting them in the most personalised way. On the demand side, the way we support our clients will be driven by an optimal balance between technology and human touch. Digitalising the process where this is possible will allow for more time for personal contact when it matters,” Kolff stated.

Five bold steps

In order to realise its vision, the CEO and his fellow board members have crafted five core steps for execution. First, the group needs to establish a clear technology roadmap, outlining how to innovate its platform to fulfil the matchmaking and execution goals. Meanwhile, it will focus on becoming a data-driven organisation, looking to build a culture of data-driven improvement in helping maintain that platform. 

In parallel, the company will ensure it remains a trusted advisor to clients by offering value-added services to professionals and suppliers. Further, HeadFirst Group will seek to scale up operations, as a data-driven, automated, open platform, while targeting new segments, and fifth, will look to expand this platform into new European markets, tailoring its approach to local conditions.