A deep-rooted system of industrial democracy has been developed in the Netherlands and has been in existence for more than thirty years.

The key institution in this system is the Works Council which has elected members, rights of discussion, recommendation, and crucially, access to information.

Although the Works Council meets in private, the meetings are always followed up with a meeting with senior management. Industrial relations have been historically good with emphasis placed on co-operation and conciliation, resulting in low levels of days lost through industrial action.

Larger companies in the Netherlands (NV or NaamlozeVennootsschap) have a supervisory board, in addition to a management board and managing director. This supervisory board is made up of members who are not employed by the company and whose job it is to oversee the direction of the company, appoint the management board and finalise the annual accounts. The Supervisory board seems to have many of the powers that might be vested in shareholders in some other countries, which possibly safeguards senior management from excessive shareholder interference. (For example, questions of merger and take-over are determined by the Supervisory board and not by shareholders.)

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the Netherlands

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in the Netherlands. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in the Netherlands and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips