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Software superstar: 700 employees and 75 job openings

Milestone Systems is struggling to find IT specialists. Even so, CEO Lars Thinggaard refuses to leave the country in the hunt for employees, even if it might mean better opportunities to hire globally.
Lars Thinggaard, President and CEO at Milestone Systems, can pride himself on a fast-growing business. Many new employees are recruited from abroad, drawn here by Danish values.

Publiceret: 14.06.2018
Af Niels Brandt Petersen mail

Once in a while, two Danish employees will cross paths in Milestone’s offices in Brøndby and begin their conversation with “Hi, how’s it going?” After exchanging a few words, they realise that they could just as well be speaking to each other in Danish.

Since its founding in 1998, MilesMilestonetone has grown into a large, global software company, and today has nearly 700 employees. At the offices in Brøndby, about forty nationalities clock in each day.

“We’re a very international company, but at the same time, we hold onto the fact that we are Danish and rooted in Denmark,” says Lars Thinggaard, CEO and President at Milestone Systems.

Danish focus despite the challenges

From his corner office with the sofa set, potted plant and oversized whiteboard, Lars Thinggaard oversees a strategy that may incite both awe and apprehension.

Milestone Systems’ success as a provider of IT solutions for video surveillance is undeniably impressive. The company is a world leader in the field and has grown by two-digit percentage rates in recent years.
But the success and growth demands fuel in the form of more IT specialists. This is where the apprehension comes in, because specialists are in short supply – and not just at Milestone Systems.

A 2016 study from the Danish Business Authority found that by 2030, Denmark will be lacking 19,000 IT specialists. Today IT graduates are offered jobs before they walk out the university’s gates. According to Statistics Denmark, 61% of Danish businesses had difficulty recruiting IT specialists in 2016 – a marked increase from 42% in 2014.

“When I speak to colleagues in the digital sector, IT and cybersecurity are generally the top priority. But the lack of qualified workers is in the top three. It’s something everyone is worried about. If you cannot get the employees you need, it ultimately means you cannot deliver the products you want to. That affects the company’s bottom line,” says Lars Thinggaard.

Forced to look longer and change postings

When you click “Jobs and Careers” on Milestone System’s website in mid-May, the list of job postings is long. The company currently has 75 positions waiting to be filled, among which are titles such as “Experienced Senior Software Developers for R&D” and “Junior Software Engineer”.

Some of the job postings have been there for quite a while, says Lars Thinggaard. 

“We’re having a much harder time finding the employees we’re looking for. So far, we have been relatively good at finding the people we need eventually. But it takes us a long time, and we are often forced to extend deadlines or change job descriptions,” he says. 

Considered relocating to the US

Like many other software companies, Milestone Systems considered relocating to the United States and Silicon Valley in its early years. The travel plans were quickly cancelled, however. 

“Back then, we decided that Milestone Systems should be based in Denmark and work from there. For better or for worse. But mostly the former, because I believe that Danish culture and management style have ultimately been the reason for our success,” says Lars Thinggaard. 
He believes that many other businesses are too quick to move abroad when they grow. 

“I believe that it is possible to build a successful global business in Denmark,” says Lars Thinggaard. 

Some businesses forget the advantages of being in Denmark. 

“Yes, we pay high taxes in Denmark, and it rains and it’s cold. But we also have a unique approach to management, stability and a well-functioning welfare state. We have many international employees who have settled in Denmark permanently and who are really happy about it,” says Milestone’s CEO.  

“We sell ourselves to international employees based on our open culture, a dynamic staff culture and great dedication. The things we believe in matter,” he says. 

Politicians must ensure flexibility

Back on the battlefield where the fight to recruit employees plays out, Milestone has both intensified its presence at educational institutions and increased its use of recruitment agencies in recent years. 

“Today we go out and market ourselves at many of Denmark’s universities and use headhunters. That’s the game today. As a business, you have to do things differently in order to keep up,” says Lars Thinggaard. 

But one thing is a company’s own ability to attract employees on the basis of good work conditions and the Danish culture. Another thing is the legal regulations that affect opportunities to recruit labour beyond Denmark’s borders. 

Lars Thinggaard concedes that the current political debate does have focus on ensuring that businesses are able to obtain qualified labour. But it is not enough. In the past, he has seen recruitment processes with international candidates go down the drain because employment regulations have become too difficult.

“We need to be able to attract labour from abroad. Politicians must support this. I understand when the prime minister says that we must attract labour without simultaneously inviting the whole world to Denmark. But we need to make the legal framework more flexible if we want to recruit the right employees – no matter where they come from,” says Lars Thinggaard.  

Founded in 1998. 
Revenue in 2017: DKK 881 million 
Approximately 700 employees in 20 countries, of which 300 are based in Brøndby.
Milestone Systems creates software for video surveillance on open platforms that can be integrated with existing cameras.  
Lars Thinggaard 
Age 53 
President & CEO of Milestone since 2003 
Author of the book Business Magnetism about Milestone Systems’ journey from start-up to global enterprise.
Source: Milestone

The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) pays close attention to developments in the IT sector and the lack of IT specialists. 
“We keep a close eye on the digital transformation and the many advantages – but also challenges – it brings for Danish companies. The lack of IT specialists is a major issue here. DI continues to work to ensure that politicians take steps to alleviate the labour shortage. So far, these efforts have resulted in a number of initiatives such as the technology pact, but more is still required,” says Lars Frelle-Petersen, director of the Danish ICT and Electronics Federation. 
For the last two years, DI’s work in the digital sector has been gathered under DI’s Digital Taskforce, which has helped put focus on digitalisation in the public and among DI’s members. DI’s Digital Taskforce aims to bring even more of DI’s 10,000 member companies to the forefront of the digital transformation. So far, the taskforce has resulted in contact with more than 3,000 businesses. 

Yes, we pay high taxes in Denmark, and it rains and it’s cold. But we also have a unique approach to management, stability and a well-functioning welfare state.
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PUBLISHED: 6/14/2018 LAST MODIFIED: 6/14/2018