Founded 2014 in the Netherlands, Swapfiets is today present in more than 50 cities across 6 countries. Before this year’s end, the company aims to expand also to the UK market. With more than 1.000 employees and 220,000 users in September 2020, it has grown tremendously within the last 12 months. In Germany alone, launched in 2018, Swapfiets’ micro mobility solutions are available in 30 cities across the country.

Swapfiets’ success is a result of its unique selling point (apart from their signature blue front tire): rather than offering its bikes for sharing, the scale-up offers a monthly subscription model. If your bike needs repairs, you schedule an appointment and either the proficient Swappers repair it on the spot or you get a new bike that you can take with you; all included in the monthly fee. A very contemporary approach to cycling.

To sustain growth and expansion you need a strong and reliable partner for all Human Resources matters, every step on the way. Martin Schreiber from DONE! joined Swapfiets as their interim HR Advisor in July 2020 to support the refining of current and building of new HR processes.

Advising the Territory Manager for Germany and Denmark, Andre Illmer, Martin is currently responsible for the German HR operations, while preparing to take over the Danish HR operations as well. Martin acts as the link between management and the employees as well as supports in planning headcounts, budgeting, labour law matters and payroll.

Swapfiets could not be a more fitting client for Martin: as a passionate cyclist he approves of Swapfiets vision of healthy and sustainable transportation while also enjoying the openness and working culture the Dutch are famous for. As Swapfiets grows, there are a couple of essentials we want to look into further:


1) Automation of processes: the right tools and trainings

With a growing employee count, more complex operations and a plethora of tools in use, a company has a bigger need to spend less time and manual labour on data achieved by automating these processes as much as possible. Martin and his team, together with the HR IT team from the HQ in Amsterdam, are currently working on implementing an interface for data exchange between the most important tools.

Having an automated flow of data between the salary tool, HRIS and shift plans is vital to streamline the work. Martin is providing advice and requirements from the German labour law perspective for the engineers building the interfaces for tools that, out of the box, do not communicate with each other. Especially when having more than two tools communicating with each other, a well thought-through plan has to be made to reduce errors and redundancy of data streams.

This requires thorough testing and a few iteration cycles to get the systems running. Apart from having the systems running you also need to make sure that the people using those are well trained. Some tools are more intuitive than others so having initial and recurring training sessions to have all key users set up is also an important part of maintaining a company’s tool environment. To ensure this, training sessions for the Team Leads will be conducted to bring everyone up to speed.

2) Be on top of local hiring and employment rules and regulations

Next to having an efficient and digital HR structure in place, Martin takes care of the local compliance, labour laws and regulations. For a successful internationalisation, it is vital that the local specifics are identified and factored into recruitment and people management processes. Paid time off or maternity leave, for instance, differs greatly between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

Luckily Martin is a specialist in international payroll and quickly adapts to international labour law regulations. He proved this extensive experience and knowledge with the former DONE! client Infarm. During his interim People Operations job at Infarm Martin was responsible for 5 country’s payrolls in different stages, be it the daily payroll business or setting up new presences in new countries together with local payroll providers.

One of Martin’s most important learnings is the importance of capable local partners, from labour lawyers to payroll providers. Companies also need to have a blueprint for expansion at hand to keep needed timelines in mind. Depending on local requirements, the timelines may vary so it is even more important to familiarize yourself with these specifics to make way for rolling out the local operations.

3) Being sensitive to cultural differences

Having worked with different international companies and working within the requirements of multiple countries, Martin understands the need to be sensitive and aware of different local cultural habits. What goes in one place can be rude in another. Having an eye for these differences and the needed empathy to act on those is important for communicating across multiple countries and teams. This becomes even more true when trying to use the blueprint of an existing company culture on a new market. The process of adapting is a two way street; you have to incorporate the local nuances which is a constant process of learning and developing your own company’s culture, which, although ever so challenging, is a great opportunity to grow.

4) Plan ahead with your workforce needs

Flexible bike rental turns out to be a seasonal business. While during summertime many people happily bike through the city to commute or enjoy their vacation on a Swapfiets bike, the autumn and wintertime is less busy. To save unnecessary ad-hoc hiring or ending up overstaffed a thought-through workforce plan for the seasons needed, to complement Swapfiets’ business model. Martin is working with the Territory Manger and the District Manager to plan ahead to be ready for the seasonal changes to give more security to all parties involved.

These are just the essential factors for a successful growth and international expansion. If you have more specific questions about international payroll, labour laws and people management, Martin is happy to support you. (