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Power & Love at Zorgwerk’ | NPM Capital

Healthy Life & Learning
July 15, 2022
Power & Love at Zorgwerk’ | NPM Capital

Zorgwerk is the Dutch market leader in HR services for healthcare, wellness and childcare. Over the past fifteen years, the company developed a fully fledged online platform that is now used daily by thousands of healthcare professionals and hundreds of clients. Zorgwerk is planning to start matching professionals with organisations in other sectors, like education and the government, as well. Paul Bisseling, Investment Director at NPM Capital, talked to Daniëlle van der Burg, CEO of Zorgwerk, about growth, culture, and future plans.

Bisseling: “We have been working together intensively for about two years now, and what has increasingly struck me is how negatively the media tend to write about healthcare professionals. As if they are a pitiful group of people doing taxing and difficult labour, while being structurally underpaid. How do you see that?”

Van der Burg: “Yes, that is an interesting thing – and if you ask me, that picture does not align with reality. The professionals that we match really have their ducks in a row. They receive a respectable starting wage and get a lot of responsibility, and they tend to love their jobs. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a momentary shift in the public perception: all of a sudden, all healthcare workers were ‘heroes’. But in my eyes they have always been that, and they still are. One thing that may play into this, is that a lot of women work in healthcare, and they are sometimes inclined to take very good care of others, while not taking much space for themselves. For that reason, too, it is part of our mission to empower workers. I think it is very important that people do something that they are good at, and that they are energised by that.” Bisseling: “I definitely have the impression that your target audience is strongly intrinsically motivated, but they are also attached to a degree of autonomy. Would you say that's right?” Van der Burg: “Absolutely. It makes a big difference whether you have to follow someone else's weekly planning or whether you can make your own. Younger people, especially, do not like to feel like anybody's 'inferior' and they want to be in control of their work hours, their professional development and the way they contribute to society. We are able to grow very rapidly because we understand this fact perfectly. Our sickness absence rate is only at 2%, which is extremely low in the healthcare industry.”

Bisseling: “What about your clients? Would they not prefer a bit more predictability?”

Van der Burg: “I speak to clients every day who provide nursing care, home care, mental health care and disabled care. Their top priority is solving their lack of capacity in the short term. That hinges on two things: the quality of professionals and the quality of information. As for the first, we screen all our professionals and only work with people who are qualified to work in their required role. Because we check that carefully, clients are not afraid to work with us. The quality of information is something that is really embedded in our digital platform. So if you, as a client, want to ensure a certain continuity in overnight care, you can indicate that on our platform and we will assign you the same person as much as possible. But whoever it is: we fully inform each professional of the expectations, the status of the job, even things like whether they are expected to eat together with the client, just to name an example. In part, that information is constantly supplied and updated by our community itself, so it becomes more complete and reliable over time. If something ever doesn't go according to plan, we can also learn from that and strengthen the platform with that experience.”

Bisseling: “So you're not afraid that tomorrow some disruptor is going to come along who links some planning software to some payment software, builds a nice little app and starts competing in this business...”

Van der Burg: “No way. It is very difficult to develop an app that does not just work, but is also used and highly valued. There are very few successful apps in this industry. The many different collective bargaining agreements, reimbursements, and the wide range of the qualifications required from professionals, all make this an extremely complex field to operate in. And then I haven't even talked about coaching, training programmes, recruitment, selection, or scheduling our contract staff – we also handle the entire HR side of things. Consider lateral entrants who are coming back to work: we will guide and coach them to the necessary level. The relationship we have with our clients is also difficult to replicate. But in the end, I think it is the combination of people, platform and company culture that makes us unique. Nobody will be able to simply copy that. I sometimes like to say: Zorgwerk has two sides. The first side is the one of care, of personal engagement, the right skills, the intrinsic motivation, the ‘Love’ side. And the other is the technical, organisational pillar, result-oriented, correctly valuing people's work, making sure we have the right people in the right places. There, the key word is ‘Power’. And we take both sides into account while growing the company.”

Bisseling: “As an investor, we have been closely involved with your expansion plans. In your multiannual strategic plan, you are moving into education, where there is a high demand for teachers and teaching assistants; you intend to start matching professionals in the public sector; and you are looking into expanding abroad. Do you think that three years from now, when I interview you again, Zorgwerk won't be called Zorgwerk anymore?”

Van der Burg: “That is definitely a possibility. To be honest, we are more interested in a business like Netflix than we are in other temp agencies or payroll companies. We have built something unique, that can be used in any industry where there is a staff shortage combined with a requirement for a certain level of qualification, expertise and skill – that is not just limited to healthcare. We want to provide people where they are necessary, at exactly the right time, in a way that is also extremely efficient for the client.”

Bisseling: “Are you saying that the way healthcare is organised right now could be more efficient?”

Van der Burg: “Let me put it like this: I would recommend every healthcare manager to implement our system. For requests submitted to us, we are able to match somebody every twenty seconds. Compare that to spending half a day making calls to fill a shift. We do sell licenses for our software, but we also want to keep providing our service. It is not our intention to become a software company.”

Bisseling: “You are a very driven entrepreneur, the company is growing very rapidly and you speak the healthcare industry's language. What do you consider your most important role at the moment?”

Van der Burg: “My job is to ensure we keep moving in the right direction. First of all with the platform itself, that needs to be continuously improved to maintain our digital leadership. Artificial Intelligence is going to play an increasingly important role, allowing us to better predict fluctuations in demand. But of course, I also want to focus on the development of our pool of professionals. I want Zorgwerk to literally energise people and I want people to choose us because of that.”

NPM - Sfeer - 173 - clara tafel

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