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Happy Rebels in Recruitment

Welcome to the “HAPPY REBELS,” episode a no-holds-barred journey through the chaotic, snark-filled corridors of human resources with the fearless Rika Coppens at the helm. As CEO of House of HR, Rika tears down conventional walls, sometimes literally, all while her company pulls in cool billions. Want to learn how to balance being a Happy Rebel and a powerhouse CEO? Or maybe just figure out whether chatbots are killing your vibe more than your operational inefficiencies? Dive into the depths of European HR like never before, from the comfort of your own headphones. Forget the bland and the boring—here, it’s all about shocking stats, bold strategies, and a sprinkle of HR snark, because who says employment strategies have to be dry? Not us, and certainly not Rika. Buckle up; it’s going to be a rebelliously enlightening ride!


Podcast Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcasts. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark, buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up, everybody? It is Rutger Howard's favorite podcast.

Chad: Wow.

Joel: AKA the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheeseman. Joined, as always, the red light to my district, Chad Sowash, as we welcome Rika Coppins, CEO of House of HR, to the show live from the E-recruitment Conference in beautiful Amsterdam. Is it Amsterdam, Holland? Is it Amsterdam, the Netherlands? I don't even know exactly.

Rika Coppens: Officially, it's the Netherlands. Holland is a part of the Netherlands, actually.

Joel: So is it Amsterdam, the Netherlands?

Rika Coppens: Yes.

Joel: Okay. We'll roll with that.

Chad: There you go.

Joel: Rika, welcome to the podcast again.

Rika Coppens: Thank you so much for having me and thank you for being here at the E-recruitment Congress.

Joel: Our pleasure. Our pleasure. So some of our listeners won't know you. There's kind of a lot to introduce here. Introduce yourself, introduce House of HR quickly, and introduce the Congress that we are at currently.

Rika Coppens: Okay, very good. Well, my name is Rika Coppens. I'm the CEO since 2017 of House of HR. I used to be a CFO and then I entered into this famous or infamous space of HR, which I really love. It's dealing with human beings and I think that's what we like at House of HR. When we talk about House of HR, we're a collection of 50 brands and companies, all involved in the world of staffing or engineering and consulting. Very specialized, very focused on the candidate and customer experience. And we actually say HR stands for Happy Rebel. And that's what really sets us apart from everyone, because we always try to do different stuff. We try to, when everyone goes left, we wanna go right. And that's a little bit the mentality we have. And I think it's in that context we are organizing this E-recruitment Congress for everyone.

Joel: How big is the footprint now?

Rika Coppens: So house of HR today we are at 3.4 billion euro revenues in Europe mostly in...

Joel: Love the transparency.

Chad: Hello.

Joel: Love the transparency.

Chad: Hello.

Joel: I was talking about regionally...

Rika Coppens: Originally, okay.

Joel: Like what countries we're talking about if you want to talk money...

Chad: She's dropping the big bomb, I love it.

Joel: The CFO goes right to the dollars. I love it.

Rika Coppens: But we're in Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, and we also have branches in Spain, Portugal, and also in Eastern European countries.

Chad: Oh, Portugal. Oh, lovely.

Rika Coppens: Yeah, very nice. So we're spread over there. And as I said, our revenue has grown quite quickly. We're now at 3.4 billion euros, but a lot more profitable than the big staffers because, we do things specialized and we try to get close in terms of understanding candidates and customers' needs. And I think that's really what sets us apart from everyone else.

Chad: Well, that's one thing. But I think one of the things that you've taught Joel and I as we started this relationship is that, there's a thing called a branded house. And then there's a house of brands. And you guys are a house of brands.

Rika Coppens: Indeed.

Chad: And in Europe, that to me, in what we've seen thus far, just allows more of that natural, state of being, as opposed to getting kicked out, like Stepstone got kicked out of France.

Rika Coppens: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Chad: Because they're a German brand. And they went into France. They're like, no, get the hell out of there. You guys keep that brand, you keep the founders in many cases, the CEOs. I mean, there's really this culture that is much different than we see in the US where it's like bring everything under one brand. It's cheaper, it's more efficient. You guys have really figured that out.

Rika Coppens: It's bullshit because that's actually one plus one is one strategy. That's what I call you pay a lot of money to buy a company. And then basically what you do is we buy goodwill on legs. The people run away. And so if the people don't like you as the acquirer of a company.

Chad: Which we see a lot.

Rika Coppens: Which is actually, in most of the cases, what's exactly happening. You try to change the culture. You're forcing the culture down. You're forcing systems, IT systems, computer systems on people. They don't like it. They say everything was better in the old days. And then they run away. And then they start up their own company. They talk to your customers and they run away. And that's what we try to prevent. And I think we're succeeding in that and trying to, the companies that we acquire, we're basically listening to them, asking them, what is it that you need from us? And then trying to help them with what they need from us and then make them grow in that way. And I think it's a much stronger proposition for founders.

Chad: The thing is that generally that whole idea, that paradigm, it's hard to keep ahead of, right? And you and the entire group are really focused on innovation. So was that like the key to ensure that you don't get into atrophy and you don't just kind of like dwindle all the way, that you really focus on all brands as their own brand, but under House of HR and innovation is the biggest key.

Rika Coppens: Innovation, obviously, also we help them with administrative processes and support, but indeed innovation is one of the key things where we try, especially to inspire each other, because we're all more or less in the same business. We're all dealing with candidates. We're all dealing with customers. So the idea is really that the brands amongst themselves and the founders and the people in the different companies, in the different functions, they inspire each other. And then we exchange best practices. And from those best practices, that's where the innovation comes from, because someone says, oh, I have a great idea. And then the second thing I think that I mentioned the Happy Rebel thing, and it sounds like, oh, it's just one of those things that you shout out and blah, blah.

Rika Coppens: But it's really a culture that lives inside House of HR. We love to destroy ourselves. It's really something that we constantly ask ourselves, what is it that can kill House of HR? What is it that can kill your brand? And that's how NOWJOBS came about. Indeed, that's how we started NOWJOBS. But actually, NOWJOBS started in 2017 after asking that question, how to kill Accent, which was our first brand. And now we recently organized a workshop, how to kill NOWJOBS. So, I mean, this thing is continuing. So really, we're constantly trying to ask ourselves the question, what is our right of being here? And are we still entitled to exist as a company? And if not, then we need to try to invent something else. And I think this is also the spirit of the E-recruiting Congress is that we don't mind that competitors are here. Everyone is invited. We really give them insights in how we function and the technologies we use. And we really want everyone to know about it. And then probably it's also challenging us to continuously stay ahead of everyone else.

Joel: Yeah. Separate brands, but there's unification in the Congress that we are currently attending.

Rika Coppens: Yeah.

Joel: Why do the show? Why have other people come in that aren't part of House of HR?

Chad: Competitors.

Joel: Yeah. What? Just talk about the genesis of this conference, where you see it going in the future, because I've been, this is my third or fourth one. It's out of Belgium this year, so you're obviously growing, extending the brand. Why do it and where is it going?

Rika Coppens: I think first of all, it's challenging ourselves, right? I mean, organizing this Congress, it's getting us really out of our comfort zone and we say that's where the magic happens. So getting ourselves out of our comfort zone, constantly having our eyes and ears open about what's happening in the HR and recruiting world, but also outside of the HR and recruiting world, what could be actually impacting our business that we see in other businesses. And it's forcing us to keep our eyes and ears open so that we truly understand what's happening. And then inviting the best speakers to continue to challenge us, I think, is the second thing. We like to be challenged, by giving that knowledge also to competitors or people outside of House of HR, we know that they can also bring valuable ideas. And I mean, it's also a little bit about steal with pride. And so we don't mind also that it's better to steal good than to invent bad. And then this is also helping us to achieve that. So we invite competitors. They also give us feedback. And from that, we learn again.

Joel: And where's it going?

Rika Coppens: Oh, that's a very good question. I think we're...

Chad: To the moon.

Rika Coppens: To the moon and back.

Joel: When's the American Congress coming?

Rika Coppens: Oh, yeah, I think House of HR, we're a European-based company still, so we're going...

Chad: I love her focus. I love her focus.

Joel: Me too.

Rika Coppens: Yeah, we're staying in Europe for the moment. I think there's plenty of opportunities in Europe still. We love the complexity of Europe in a way, because the complexity of Europe is also helping us deliver better service and more value add to the customers, which leads also to our profitability. I think once we are satisfied with where we are in Europe, then maybe we'll make the step to the US.

Joel: By the way, the trail of dead leading from Europe to America is not pretty.

Rika Coppens: Oh, yes.

Chad: She's paying attention. She's paying attention.

Joel: I know she is. I know she is.

Chad: So as we take a look at Europe, right, and it is so different country by country, but also job by job. And we were just talking about being able to really engage with chatbots, right? And you found that there was an area that you thought would actually work, but it didn't. So you're constantly trying new things out. Can you tell us about that?

Rika Coppens: Yeah. So at some point we invested in chatbot technology ourselves. It was five years ago and we launched it in our own companies. We sold it internally. Again, people had to buy it and they had to be motivated to use it. And, the complexity was it was mostly for blue-collar roles.

Chad: Gotcha.

Rika Coppens: That we use it with very simple questions, with must-haves and nice-to-haves. And so we got a feed of candidates. And then the difficulty was, first of all, to reach the candidates. Because at some point, some of them filled out the questionnaire. But then when you said, okay, now we are going to schedule an interview, they were unreachable, impossible to get hold of. So that actually demotivated a lot of our recruiters. So the second step was, okay, let's not put it in the day-to-day operations. Let's put it in a separate digital cell, whose only job is to contact the digitally generated candidates that we have and who can deal with the disappointment because it's kind of their role to deal with the disappointment. And it's not interfering with their day-to-day operations where customers come in and what have you.

Rika Coppens: So then they did it. We had slightly better results because they were more focused, but still, they then did the interviews and then it was very difficult, and we still have that today, to get the recruiters to have those pre-screened candidates to accept them as their candidates. And it's still one of the struggles that we have today is that you have pre-screened candidates, that you get a fully filled out form, CV, all the skills are there. We say this is a top-notch candidate. We then send it to the recruiter who does the matching with the customer, and still they feel it's not my candidate.

Rika Coppens: And this is a human thing where you feel that there has to be this connection between the candidate and the recruiter before they are willing to take a leap of faith to present that candidate to the customer. And that's a human thing that we need to overcome. And that's something that we're really working very hard on to get that mentality change. Like, listen, this is a perfect candidate. We've done the screening for you. You can trust it. Please, present it to your customers. So this is what was also today in some of the sessions, AI, it's not only about the machine, but it's also about your organization and the mentality change that you need to get into people.

Chad: So this to me sounds a lot like a marketing qualified lead, that marketing would pass on to sales and sales would just eat up. They would say, that's mine, right? Hot lead. But you're saying recruiters are like, oh, I'm not really sure about this. Really? See, that just tells the evolution that we need to go through in our industry. I think a lot has to do with education and demonstrating, hey, other industries are doing this and they're kicking ass and taking names. You could too.

Rika Coppens: Yeah. So it's indeed, it's about education. It's about information and making sure that we show successes of this, that what is in it for me, this is really things that we need to teach internally. And that will lead to acceptance. And we're not there yet. And I think like it is with a lot of things, adoption sometimes with the chatbot, maybe we were just too early, right? It's like with coffee shops in fuel stations. BP started it in 2000. No one went to buy coffee in a fuel station. Today, everyone does. So it's also about acceptance. Like, okay, there's also good quality coffee now in fuel stations. No one trusted that.

Chad: Yeah. Just not sushi. Just not sushi.

Rika Coppens: No, not yet.

Joel: No fish.

Rika Coppens: But we might get there. We might get there.

Joel: No fish.

Rika Coppens: We might get there.

Joel: No fish. So we won't be expecting you to come to America anytime soon.

Chad: Maybe vacation.

Rika Coppens: But we bring America to Europe.

Joel: The American money is something that you are interested in. Bain Capital invested in you a year or two ago, I believe. What is that infusion of capital meant to you? I know acquisitions or looking at companies to take in your fold has been part of your focus. But what else has the capital meant to the business?

Rika Coppens: I think Bain, first of all, comes with a lot of experience, right? So they know a lot about investments and they know a lot about how can you improve businesses and how can you also market your businesses better so that investors trust and believe in what you're doing and can take you to the next step. So I think this is the first thing they bring. They bring a lot of knowledge. They bring a lot of know-how of how things should be done in our business and how to present our company. Access to capital definitely is an important one because half of our growth historically has always come from organic growth and the other half from acquisitions. So helping us detect acquisitions, identify acquisitions that could fit House of HR, and then onboard those acquisitions. I think that's the second thing. And obviously, also the financing that comes with it, to continue to grow parts that we've been on. That's what they bring.

Chad: So what has really blown your mind today? Anything? Anything that...

Joel: Takeaways.

Chad: Yes.

Rika Coppens: Takeaways, takeaways. I think a lot of things of course, but when it comes to AI in the sense that you have to be careful, there are things that you need to be in terms of bias and stuff like that. So we need to be careful with AI, implementing it, especially when humans are involved. On the other hand, I think the main takeaway is, things are moving very fast and the train has already left the station. And I think if as a company, especially in HR, if you haven't jumped on the train, there is a big chance that you'll miss it. And so we really need to think differently about how to incorporate AI technology in our day-to-day operations from an efficiency point of view, but also from a business model point of view. And I think we really need to speed things up because it will move very fast and it can change businesses rapidly, especially in our space.

Chad: Talk about risk tolerance because, I mean, you can take a lot of risk, right, and then fall down right in front of everybody. Yes, that's how innovators actually work, but your clients aren't innovating that fast, which is one of the reasons why they look toward you, right? How do you actually balance that risk tolerance piece, not just for yourself, but also for your clients?

Rika Coppens: I think, first of all, the advantage we have as House of HR is that we have so many brands. So we can experiment in a small corner and no one notices when we go flat face. So that's a big advantage. Second thing is also that, we do have customers in a lot of different spaces and some are more advanced than others and some are more open to new stuff. So we try to identify those and it's always those early adopters that we try to work things out with and find out if they would be open to experiment with us. And then the same for candidates. But that's also how NOWJOBS started. Also a little bit fake it till you make it, is how NOWJOBS started. It looked like an app in the beginning and as if everything was done digitally, but in the background, we had people riding bikes to put on the electricity. [laughter] So you also have to experiment and be a real entrepreneur. And I think this is the biggest danger also for House of HR, becoming bigger. Is that you try to do things too well. And if you try to set up an experiment, but all of a sudden you get security officers and you get programmers and architects.

Joel: Nothing gets done.

Rika Coppens: Nothing gets done and you get paralyzed. And so we need to allow in House of HR in those small corners to really look at it in a very entrepreneurial way and say like, how would a startup deal with this? Someone with no money. How would they set this up? And then start from there, and then gradually learn and fail and learn and fail, and then take it from there.

Joel: Paralysis by analysis, I think is what they call it.

Chad: Analysis paralysis, yes.

Joel: In America, we're a little bit spoiled economically. I want you to give the listeners a sense of the economy in Europe. Germany seems to be in recession. UK seems to be struggling. France, Italy, down the line. Talk about the European economy from your point of view and how that's impacting the business.

Rika Coppens: But Germany, I think, is one of the biggest engines of European economy. So the fact that they're struggling is trickling down in all the surrounding countries, especially also Belgium and Holland, who are mainly export countries towards Germany. I think France is doing not too bad. I think Macron has done quite a good job in getting France a little bit more liberalized in a way and making it a more industry friendly country. And you see that also in the balance. In terms of politics, where Merkel was really strong in Germany, now with Merkel gone, you see that actually the power has shifted to France.

Rika Coppens: So I think they're not doing too bad. From our point of view, the good thing is that given that we are in so many different businesses with so many different profiles, you can clearly see that high skilled, white collar jobs, they are still going very strong. You still see the demand there. The scarcity of talent is still the main driver of demand and is still driving revenue. But you do see, especially in Germany, that's where we see the biggest struggle. I think the other countries, they are kind of, it's not growing fast, but they're kind of getting through the recession calmly. But Germany is where we see the biggest struggle for the moment. And let's hope that as from Q2, Q3, we start to see also some recovery over there because that will hit us really bad again, the scarcity. I think it will come back also with a vengeance.

Joel: Is it an acquisition opportunity? Are you seeing companies strained and possible acquisitions?

Rika Coppens: I think acquisition landscape is a bit slower. So there's a lot of companies preparing for sale, but I think most of them are a little bit in waiting mode to see, okay, what is '24 going to do?

Joel: In limbo.

Rika Coppens: We had the elections in Holland at the end of last year. We now have elections in Belgium in June. There's the US election. So there is some uncertainty going on. And I think '24, therefore, there are a lot of companies preparing and they're kind of hoping that 2023 performance will continue to be there. And I think probably second half of this year, we will see more companies again popping up for acquisitions.

Joel: You'll let us know when those acquisitions.

Rika Coppens: We'll definitely do that.

Chad: How much of an impact does the presidential election in the US have on business here? Is there like pins and needles kind of waiting to see what the hell those idiots do across the pond?

Joel: Or is it full steam ahead?

Rika Coppens: Yeah, the election is not the impact, right? I think it will be more who wins the election that will give us an impact potentially in terms of what will be the attitude of the US versus Europe and how will, for example, the support be for Ukraine in terms of the war against Russia and how much uncertainty is that gonna bring on Europe? I think that's going to be the biggest question mark post-election and depending on who's winning it. Last Sunday, we had President Obama coming to Belgium.

Chad: Oh, wow.

Rika Coppens: So there's a supernova innovation and tech conference going on there. And yeah, I think he's also a bit scared about what the December outcome could be in terms of the attitude towards Europe. And I think Europe has now finally maybe woken up a little bit more. I think we've been too naive in thinking that US support would be there eternally. And now, obviously, we need to speed up in terms of defense spending. But it's a lot of things going on at the same time, right? There is spending for defense. There's spending on climate neutrality.

Chad: Pulling out of Russian oil. I mean, there's just so many different layers.

Rika Coppens: So many things going on for the moment.

Joel: America is here for you, Rika.

Rika Coppens: Oh, okay.

Joel: America is here for you.

Chad: At least these two Americans.

Rika Coppens: Yeah. I know you'll advocate for us.

Joel: American business is here for you, for sure.

Rika Coppens: Very good.

Joel: For sure. Curious your thoughts. This is a digital focus conference, innovation. And you guys, obviously manage a lot of job sites and employment sites. How do you see innovation changing how job seekers find a job in the future?

Rika Coppens: I really liked Bill this morning who said that it's not gonna be job seekers finding jobs, but it's gonna be jobs finding the job seekers. And I firmly believe in that. I think that if you can get the right job to someone, at the right moment, I think this is what we should focus on much more. And indeed telling someone like, we know what your next step should be. And we can really help you build your career and give much more value to the candidates in that sense. I think this is going to be the way forward. So in a way, we should reverse job boards in the other way around and actually ask candidates more what job they would want to do instead of posting jobs and asking candidates to apply.

Joel: So our listeners are aware of Cardboard Chad. You may not be, but our listeners are.

Chad: Where is this going?

Joel: And now we have digital twin Lieven, our listeners know Lieven, we got to meet digital twin Lieven.

Chad: He speaks very good english.

Rika Coppens: Yes, his english is impeccable.

Joel: I'm not sure where my line of questioning goes other than will digital Lieven haunt your dreams going


Chad: He will mine. I know that, Jesus.

Joel: Look, thoughts on, digital Lieven, should we expect more of him in digital format?

Rika Coppens: Well, I think it...

Joel: Was that his idea or yours?

Rika Coppens: It was actually my idea.

Joel: Oh, so we've no one to blame but you.

Rika Coppens: Because I said, it would be great to have a digital avatar on stage and people could ask questions.

Chad: And you notice it wasn't her, though. She's like, Lieven go do this.

Joel: She knows how to spread the wealth. It's not about me. It's about you guys.

Rika Coppens: But because of legislation, actually, we said it's probably not yet a good idea to have a digital avatar somewhere out there without having any certainty what it can be used for. Yeah. And the digital avatar is somewhere on a platform. And we don't know whoever gets that avatar in hands, what they could do with it and what they could make me say at some point. So I said, it's probably not a good idea if it's me. So then Lieven said, you know what? I'm already out there. You can abuse me. And so, happy to be abused. And so that's what we did. I know there's a lot of things going on. And I truly believe that intellectual property around digital avatars is something that should come into place really quickly, rather sooner than later.

Chad: God, I hope so.

Rika Coppens: I know this Belgian guy, Chris Ume, who participated in America's Got Talent. He was this Belgian guy who did, what's the guy's name in the Jury?

Joel: Simon Cowell's the only one I know for the show.

Rika Coppens: That's the one. Simon Cowell.

Chad: Howie Mandel's the other one.

Rika Coppens: And Heidi Klum, they were at some point on stage because he created their digital avatar. And so that was the spectacle. But he's working now with his company on putting an IP legislation in place so that avatars actually belong to you as a person. And then everyone who's trying to use your avatar has to pay money.

Joel: Got to pay. So you mentioned Amsterdam is your favorite European city. What is your favorite thing to do in Amsterdam?

Rika Coppens: My favorite thing to do in Amsterdam? It's a good question, actually. I think it's just stroll in the Nine Streets. There is this area here, this neighborhood, which is called the Nine Streets, and it's really gorgeous. It has nice shops, but it also has a very nice atmosphere, and you're strolling along the canals, and that's my favorite thing to do.

Chad: That is amazing.

Joel: Chad and I will be in the red light district. You can be on the Nine Streets or whatever that is.

Chad: Speak for yourself.

Joel: That's another one in the can, Rika Coppens. For those that want to know more about you or connect to the company, where do you send them?


Rika Coppens: Well, you can go on my LinkedIn. I always respond to all the messages you send me. So it's just Rika Coppens, House of HR. And my email address is

Joel: There you go. Mention Chad and Cheese. That's another one in the can. We out.

Chad: We out.

Podcast Outro: Thank you for listening to what's it called? The podcast. The Chad. The Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of shout outs of people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one cheddar blue nacho Pepper Jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any who. Be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. It is so weird. We out.


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