In 2015 we were able to accelerate our growth as well as achieving an improved return on sales. This development is in line with our strategic objectives to reinforce our existing positions and, from 2014, to evolve towards an average EBITA margin of 6% across the economic cycle. Our strategic objectives remain in place unchanged in 2016.
Based on the current general projections for economic growth and the associated demand for HR services we expect to see continued growth in the countries where we operate. Against this backdrop we expect to make further revenue gains with a high rate of conversion to earnings. The execution of the Optima programme, launched in 2015 and aimed at achieving annual cost savings of € 20 million in the Dutch organisation, will be completed in 2016. Along with our effective cost management this means that a rise in revenue will be accompanied by a relatively moderate increase in costs, leading to a further reduction in costs as a percentage of revenue.
Furthermore we expect to see a continued pick-up in growth in services that recover later in the cycle (such as recruitment and selection), our services in the SME segment and placement of specialist profiles. The contribution of these high added-value services has a positive effect on our results.
In 2016 we will maintain our focus on constantly improving the services we provide and developing added value for our clients and candidates.
If Recruit’s offer for our shares, which was announced on 22 December, is declared unconditional, USG People will continue as part of a globally operating organisation. A merger with Recruit will enable us to accelerate our growth and advance the development of our position on the European mainland. It provides us with the opportunity to execute our existing strategy faster.