Welcome to the Exponential Age

Future or Past

The Exponential Age: That’s what Udo Gollub calls life as we now know it. He begins a recent article with this:

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.

What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again? Surprisingly digital cameras were invented in 1975. It was a disappointment for a long time and written off as fantasy…until it wasn’t. And then a fixture of American innovation and business crumbled. Why didn’t they see it coming? Do you view the future through the same lens as Kodak?

The same thing is happening with artificial intelligence, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and even jobs. But this time structural changes won’t take centuries or decades to complete. The technological change of the next 10 years will have the same impact as the Industrial Revolution did in the 19th century. But instead of 100 years, it will happen in only 10 years.

Leading the disruption is software. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties. What software might rock your industry, your business model, your job?

Will it be artificial intelligence?

Watson already helps physicians and nurses diagnose cancer, 4 times more accurate than humans. Facebook has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get basic legal advice within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.

How about autonomous cars?

In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. You will call a car with your phone. It will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Think taxi without a driver! You won’t want or need to own a car anymore. As traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google, etc.) take a revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

It’s not just the automobile companies that will be affected. Self-driving trucks will solve the problem they have with finding enough qualified drivers. But they will also detach nearly 9 million truck drivers from their current jobs. Insurance companies too will have massive trouble because, without accidents, insurance will become 100 times cheaper. The current car insurance business model will disappear.

Even real estate will change. If you can work while you commute, people will have more options and may move further away to live in a more affordable community.

3D Printing? The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past.The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. At the end of this year, new smartphones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

Longevity? Right now, the average lifespan increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years. Today it’s 80 years. By 2036, there will be more than a one-year increase per year and 100 years old will bethe new 60!

Education? By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone. The cheapest smartphones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. Every child in the world can use Khan Academy to access everything a child learns at school in First World countries. That means everyone will soon have the same access to world class education regardless of socioeconomic status or geography. What will this do the traditional classroom model from elementary school to universities?

Whatever the industry you’re in or the goods or service you use or produce, here’s a simple rule: if it doesn’t work with a phone, your business and business model may be history. Gollub (along with a lot of very smart people) agree that “almost any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to fail inthe 21st century.”

Will they be right? Or are you still betting on your past and feel time is on your side?

And last but not least. Here’s an app that can’t come soon enough. By 2020, there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where its results are displayed while the candidates are talking.

To read the full article by Gollub, click here.

Podcast|Confessions from a Recovering Millennial Basher

I have a confession to make. I’m a recovering millennial basher. For several years I hopped on the stereotype bandwagon and spewed rhetoric about the narcissistic, digitally obsessed, trophy-kid millennial Generation. I even devoted a chapter or two to it in my book Geeks, Geezers and Googlization.

Listen here or continue reading!

But time and blinding confrontation with the obvious has changed my views.

Over the past seven years or so, I’ve had thousands of interactions with these young adults, born between 1980 and 1996. Yes, it’s true—the oldest millennials are no longer just young know-it-alls but 36-year-old managers, parents, spouses and teachers. Without hesitation I can say many of them have been pleasant, and even inspiring.

I’ve been impressed and awed with the courtesy, knowledge and positive attitude of the 22-year-old restaurant server who is going to school full time, while working two jobs.

I’m a bit jealous of the savvy, ambitious and entrepreneurial college graduate who is wooing investors to support his new venture, while simultaneously attending classes in pursuit of his graduate degree.

baby Boomers Life Magazine 1968For sure, some millennials are self-centered, spoiled and socially immature. But so are many of my baby boomer peers. Just like each generation has its fair share of introverts and extroverts, slackers and winners, there’s no place better to discuss entitlement than a group of aging baby boomers commiserating over young people’s horrible work ethic and how great America used to be. They seem to forget that just four decades earlier, baby boomers were described in a LIFE cover story in May 1968 as “privileged, narcissistic, entitled, spoiled and promiscuous.”

Generation X doesn’t get off the hook so easily either. Equally frustrated and often resentful of the generation breathing down their necks, Gen X also grabbed headlines in their teen and young adult years. In December 1985, Newsweek hit the stands decrying “The Video Generation.” It read,“There they are, those preening narcissists who have to document every banal moment with their cutting-edge communications technology.” Yes, that’s right. Three decades ago, Gen Xers—often the most vocal bashers of millennials—were the brunt of everything wrong with America and now they are repulsed by the digital fixation of today’s young adults.

Irony rules, or as many of our parents warned, “I hope your children give you the same heartache as you gave me!”

Once we cut through all of the noise, each generation begins to seem more similar than different on the big issues of life and work. For example, 25 percent of millennials value “making a positive impact on my organization” during their career—not so different from Gen X (21 percent) and baby boomers (23 percent). Similar numbers were shared for “solving social and/or environmental challenges” and “working with a diverse group of people.”

Younger generations seem to catch the blame for the environment in which they grew up. But teens didn’t create the smartphone, tablet and all of the other devices that seem to be distracting them—just as baby boomers didn’t create the television and Gen X didn’t create computers and video games. The kids didn’t purchase these devices either. Their parents did.

So, next time you consider bashing a Millennial, remember that they didn’t cause but were born into this world of economic, demographic and societal disruptions. They are simply adapting to the only environment they know.

Previously published on ReWork, May 2016

9 More Workforce Trends Worth Knowing

Trends to watch1. There have been job gains at the highest paid level — engineering, finance, computer analysis; and there have been job gains at the lowest paid level — personal health care, retail, and food preparation.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank


2. The jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty — education, construction, social services, transportation, administration — have seen a decline since the recession, especially in the northeast. At a national level jobs gained are paying 23 percent less than jobs lost.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank


3. The lowest paid workers, those in housekeeping and home health care and food service, have seen their wages drop 6 to 8 percent (although wages overall rose about 2 percent in 2014).

Source: Federal Reserve Bank


4. By 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require some kind of post-secondary education and training. Including both new job openings and the replacement of retirees, high skills jobs will represent 33 percent of job openings, low skills jobs 22 percent and middle skills jobs 45 percent through 2014.2 This means roughly 78 percent of all available jobs will require education beyond high school. These projections of high, middle and low skills jobs are fairly consistent across all states.

Source: Brookings Institute


5. Forty-five percent of individuals with some college and 45 percent of individuals with associate degrees (those most likely to be employed in middle skills jobs) were in the middle income classes in 2007. » More than 85 percent of the nearly 73 million individuals who earned minimum wage or less in 2010 did not have a postsecondary degree — and nearly 60 percent had only a high school diploma or less.

Source: Brookings Institute


6. While a total of 21 million jobs are needed to put Americans back to work at prerecession rates, six sectors (health care, business, leisure and hospitality, construction, manufacturing, and retail) are projected to contribute to the majority of the growth.

Source: Brookings Institute


7.  Every 1,000 American women between the ages of 15-44 delivered 122.7 births in 1957.  The rate was just 62.9 births per 1,000 women in 2014

Source: Census Bureau


8. More than 1 in 3 American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 19 to 35 in 2016). In 2015 they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce. The youngest Baby Boomer is now 52 years old!

Source:  Pew Research Center


9.During the next year, 1 in 4 Millennials will quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or do something different.  That figure increases to 44% if the time frame is extended to 2 years.

Source: Deloitte Millennial Survey


To read about 9 more trends, click here.

Is Your Company Ready to Welcome Millennials?

If your company is typical, the answer is probably NO! Few organizations welcome Millennials well. In fact, many companies consider Millennials the enemy and unwelcome outsiders.

are you ready to welcome Millennials?Traditional recruiting, hiring, and management techniques that survived the test of time are nearly worthless. Without an ambitious make-over of recruitment, selection, and talent management, almost every organization is facing an unprecedented disruption to life as usual.

Let’s take a look at a company called The American Dream or TAD for short. (The company is real – the name changed for anonymity.)

Tad was started over 40 years ago with a pocketful of change, a vision from its founder, and less than a handful of hard working employees.  And like many family owned businesses started in the 60s and 70s, the company was transitioned recently to the second generation.

Looking forward, its future is bright and on course for continued growth– if it can overcome one major hurdle.  Throughout its history HR was a business function that ran almost silently in the background. And that might be overstating it a bit.  For employees who worked hard and stayed the course, life-long employment was the reward. TAD had enviable metrics to prove it, too.

Long spans stretched between new hires, and most of them were hired to fill new job openings, not replace terminated workers. Employee turnover was almost non-existent and loyalty was the envy of all those businesses around them.  Once hired at TAD, employees stayed…and stayed… and stayed. For many of its 75 employees, this was often the first and last job they held.

TAD’s workforce, like that in many companies, is graying. Right now 32 percent of the workforce is over 60 years old, nearly half are 50-plus. At the other end of the generational spectrum only 2 employees are under 30 and less than 12 percent are under 40!

With retirements pending, TAD for the first time in its history is faced with replacing not one but a dozen or more employees. Within ten years, more than half of the workforce might need to be replaced. Some of these vacated jobs were held by the same person from the day the job was created.  Talk about culture shock when the replacement workers will be Millennials and Gen Z, two or more generations removed!

Fortunately, TAD’s management team recognizes HR cannot operate under the fallacy of it-is-business-as-usual. But like so many other businesses, it is also a bit fearful of the attitudes, work style, and life dreams of young workers.  That admission of the unknown may be exactly what the doctor ordered to find an effective fix.

With Millennials knocking at its door with every new job posting, 3 to 5 years, not decade-long careers, may be the best one can hope for.  What many companies experience these days when they attempt to replace a long-term employee is “churnover.” It’s not uncommon for an employer to replace one 30 year veteran with three or more employees within the first year.

Unfortunately churnover is often blamed on the Millennial attitude.  But that’s only partially true and a poor excuse for outdated and lazy management and strategy.

When a company like TAD uses time-tested-traditional recruiting methods to recruit in today’s labor market, their job opportunity message sounds like chalk screeching on a black board to the Millennial (if Millennials even know what that sounds like!) It’s the same theory that suggests shouting louder and speaking slower to get the attention of a deaf person! It doesn’t work…and worse, it frustrates both parties.

Recruiting in the Age of Googlization requires a re-examination of the screening and hiring process, on-boarding, and the preparation of supervisors to manage, engage, reward, and retain younger employees. Effective talent management isn’t just about replacing a body but hiring the right employee (regardless of age) who has the right abilities and skills and an attitude and behavior that fits with his co-workers and within the culture.

How ready is your company to recruit, welcome, and manage Millennials and Generation Z?

Walk in the shoes of a Millennial (and Gen Z).  Do a demographic analysis. Who will they see when they show up at your doorstep? What is the age distribution of your workforce?  How many 60 years and older workers do you employ compared to 30 years and under?  How many are in their 40s vs 50s?  The older the workforce and the longer they’ve been on your payroll, the more planning and adjustments you will likely face.

All risks are not equal. Identifying the age distribution of your workers is one step in the right direction. You could have a healthy distribution for all positions except one but that one vacant job could disrupt or curtail operations, production, or sales.  It is important to identify hard-to-fill key positions and have a plan ready for succession or recruitment without notice.

Readiness is more than a job posting. It’s inevitable that Millennials and even Gen Z will be the target of your next recruitment campaign? How prepared is your organization to recruit them? Is your website mobile ready and application process Millennial-friendly?  Are managers prepared to interview and on-board these young adults?  Will your workforce be welcoming or treat these new hires like flies at a picnic?

Within five years or less the scales will tip faster than it has in decades as the aging Baby Boomers retire and Millennials and Gen Z come on board.  Without preparation and training, management and its managers will experience a rude awakening.

4 Ways to Appeal to More Millennials

Asking for a quick show of hands, an overwhelming number of people at a recent workshop acknowledged that “frugal” and “no-nonsense labels” described the pre-WW II generations. Likewise coddled, entitled, and self-involved were typically accepted as descriptors of the Millennials.

And there lies a problem for many companies.

talent acquisition magnetNew studies are showing that many Millennials and their successor Generation Z have more in common with their grandparents and great-grandparents than the media lets on. Yes, Millennials are hyper-connected and tech-dependent. They are by far the most diverse generation since the late 19th century. They are also more environmentally conscious than previous generations. But they are also more frugal with realistic expectations for the future than any generation since the Depression babies.  And those qualities and backgrounds are often overlooked when discussing Millennials.

But whatever and whomever Millennials are is almost irrelevant when it comes to business.  The fact is that by 2020 Millennials will make up almost 40 percent of the U.S. population and by 2025 75 percent of the workforce.  Treat them poorly and many businesses will succumb.

It’s time to take a step back.  Best practices and traditional experiences are rapidly becoming things of the past. For businesses hoping to attract and retain Millennials must understand the Millennial mindset.

How might your business appeal to the Millennials?

1. Get connected. Millennials are digital natives. They don’t remember a world without cellphones and the Internet. Millennials prefer the Internet to TV. Mobile devices outnumber desktop computers and laptops combined. Google reports about  300 million employment related searches each month. Seventy-five percent of jobseekers use their mobile phones; nearly half want to apply right away. If jobseekers can’t find and read your job posting on screens as small as smartphones, they won’t take the time to apply.

2. Be authentic.  There are few secrets anymore when it comes to branding. Social media has disrupted how the game is played. Companies can’t conceive a brand and hide behind a wall of hype anymore.  A company’s brand now falls into the hands of its consumers and employees. Branding is no longer a marketing message paid for by management but a consumer experience. Millennials also trust the word of their peers more than the dictum of management and that trend is crossing the generations. Authenticity and transparency are essential.

3. Don’t waste their time. This generation grew up with instant access to information and service at their fingertips. Millennials can search for any product or service, check out reviews, get approval from hundreds of friends, and purchase it within seconds.  They like engaging, fast, and efficient. That’s a far cry from the experience many encounter when it comes to applying for a job. Instead most companies offer them memories of a pre-digital stone age. More than half of companies don’t offer candidates the option of applying via mobile device. Mobile optimization is a sure and easy way to stay ahead of the competition.

4. It’s ALL about the experience. Take the hospitality industry for example where “fast casual” dining is thriving. It’s fresh, fast, and efficient. It offers personalized choices and an engaging experience. Likewise, career websites and recruiter follow-up need to be “fast casual”…at least to get Millennials to convert from a casual applicant to an interested candidate.  Unfortunately a user-friendly mobile-optimized job application may be the easy part. Changing the attitude of recruiters and hiring managers is often a higher hurdle.  Applicants need to feel like you care and are interested in them. That requires the common courtesy of responding to applicants quickly and keeping in touch often. “We don’t have the time to respond to every applicant” is an unacceptable excuse. It’s time to figure out a better way if you want to attract enough qualified Millennials.

Is The Pre-Employment Assessment Skating on Thin Ice?

What’s new in pre-employment assessment?  The answer may surprise you.

The talent assessment industry is thriving with growth expected to double by 2020. The value of pre-employment testing as well as leadership assessments is well-documented and less than half of the approximately 50 million hires made yearly in the U.S. are tested. According to Dr. Charles Handler, “there is an increasing amount of evidence that companies with solid, well-executed Talent Assessment programs outperform those who don’t.”  All those reasons point to a golden age for pre-hire assessment.

Unfortunately, most employers and HR professionals lack the understanding and experience required to reap the benefit. Handler, one of the most respected and innovative thought leaders in the talent assessment space, believes “most talent assessment programs are clumsily executed bolt‐onsPre-Employment-Assessment-Form.”

I tend to agree that pre-employment testing is often an after-thought. Choosing an assessment is akin to trying another flavor of ice cream on a hot summer afternoon because you’re bored with vanilla. Testing is a last ditch effort to fix everything else that isn’t working in the hiring process. It’s implemented as a band-aid, not  a strategy.

The problem facing the assessment industry shouldn’t be shouldered by companies alone.  The industry deserves a lot of blame for low acceptance and poor engagement. It has been noticeably slow to adapt to disruptive changes in the workforce and labor markets.

For starters, nearly half of all jobseekers use a mobile device to apply for a job.  But today’s job applicant is forced to endure pre-hire testing designed to be completed on paper or a desktop computer.  Few pre-hire assessments are optimized to be completed on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet.  A growing gap exists between the assessment items and mobile capabilities. When attempting to attract Millennials and other tech-oriented workers, mobile optimization is not just desirable, it’s a necessity.

But the pre-hire test industry isn’t only struggling to meet expectation in the way tests are delivered. While pre-hire assessments still offer significant value to employers, the very essence of traditional pre-employment testing – a series of carefully selected questions selected to predict future behavior and performance – is losing relevance.

It is my prediction that as early as 2020 new technological advancements will change the way employers screen and hire. For the last century, psychologists and scientists have squeezed traditional testing to extrude the best possible result. But the stakes for making the right hiring decision and avoiding mistakes is higher than ever.  Besides, the velocity of change is accelerating and its trajectory of that change is much steeper.  Within this new environment, improving the status quo won’t get the results that both employers and job applicants demand.

The time is fast approaching when the traditional pre-employment test as we know it will become as useful as using a typewriter to search the Internet.  Assessment providers will be forced to change both the structure and delivery of employee tests to provide more precision and user-friendly experiences. Watch for significant advancement in the field of pre-hire assessments over the next 5 to 10 years driven by these three factors:

Predictive Analytics. Moving forward, the employment testing industry will be disrupted by advancements in technologies and tools such as artificial intelligence and data mining.  Testing applicants and employees will shift from an “active” model to “passive.  “Passive” assessments will not look like tests at all and will have a very low impact on job applicants’ time and attention.  In the passive model, a profile will be collected from data using ongoing interactions by and with candidates; much like the insurance industry collects data from motorists.

Social Job Matching.  Social media data is already an integral part of hiring, especially for companies recruiting skilled works, the tech-savvy, and Millennial generation.  Employing social media to source and screen applicants of course sends up red flags for violations of privacy, EEO, and ADA. But the genie is already out of the bottle there’s no putting her back in. While new technologies will all but guarantee discrimination and privacy challenges, laws and regulations will be revised and rewritten to meet the contemporary workplace. If not, employers will be crippled in their ability to source, recruit, and hire workers.

Gamification.  Virtual reality and other forms of interactive assessment are already starting to transform the pre-hire assessment industry.  Currently they lack validation and reliability.  But by blending the science of psychometrics and artificial intelligence with the art of social media, assessment tools that are engaging, relevant, and scientifically sound will emerge.  Watch closely in the next few years for the emergence of gamified psychometric assessments that predict job fit with better precision and meets the engagement expectations of demanding candidates.

New Technologies Rewrite Business Playbook

R.I.P. to the the way it was. An epic shift is underway.  From social media to the Internet of Things, digital fabrication to robotics, virtual reality to synthetic biology, new technologies are rewriting the playbook for managing people and leading organizations. Is your business future proof?

For some this shift is the light at the end of the tunnel following years of anticipation. Hope and opportunity await.

standing on train tracksFor others it’s the feared smack-down as the oncoming locomotive’s light accelerates toward them. Today is the future that was forecast for decades, but ignored in the hope these predictions were just were just hype and hot air. Time has run out. Reality is ready to crush those clinging to the status quo and reward those who see possibilities.

I’ve been tracking this shift for nearly two decades, beginning with my forecast of The Perfect Labor Storm as early as 1999. Few surprises revealed themselves other than a Great Recession and unprecedented acceleration in technology that only disrupted the traditional ways we work and live faster and deeper.  For employers and employees alike, this convergence of globalization, demographics, and technology isn’t just transforming fundamental employer-employee relationships.  It’s blowing them up.

The result is an environment that is becoming uncomfortable for anyone over 35. For younger workers, the Millennials and Generation Z, today is the only world they know. What does this mean?

There is no going back.

We live in a world with changing labor markets, changing workforce, and even changes in the very nature of work. Events are unfolding in plain sight. The default presumption that employers offer jobs that are long-term, full-time, and on-site with longitudinal career paths are history. Employment relationships will be increasingly short-term, transactional, and variable.

Anything can become obsolete at any time.

The pace of technological advances and disruption is unprecedented…and it’s just not in computing.  Every aspect of our lives and business can be impacted without notice. Think communication, transportation, entertainment, medicine, education. Companies continually restructure, reengineer, downsize, merge or acquire. Everything and everyone is vulnerable.  Who ever imagined that venerable institutions including governments could run out of money?

Loyalty – Part 1

Continual employment is dead. Job security is history. Responding to both disruptions and possibilities, organizations eliminate jobs regardless of employees’ length of service. They implement technology to replace jobs. They hire fewer full-time employees and more contingent workers.  Employers will work hard to optimize human resources: having the right people in the right place at the right time, moving away from offering long-term stable employment and toward a more efficient supply-chain management approach.

Loyalty – Part 2

The free agent mindset rules. Without credible long-term promises and job security from employers, employees are learning to live one day at a time. Free agency is no longer a stigma – it’s a career strategy. Baby Boomers seek free-agency as they expect to be active and work long after traditional retirement. Millennials and Generation Z have never known the world any other way. Employees are not dumb, deaf, and blind. Not only do most employees worry about wages and benefits but they live under a veil of uncertainty their jobs will be automated or eliminated. They see how susceptible their organization is to uncontrollable events – from global economics to terrorism.  They worry if their company’s management is resilient and smart enough to compete in the marketplace.  And to put the final nail in the traditional employment coffin, turnover is increasing among supervisors and managers. Thanks to better job opportunities and the rising tide of Baby Boomer retirements, the loss of direct supervisors has a subtle but profound impact on productivity and retention.  These supervisors are the people within the company who know employees best. Without them, anxiety skyrockets and ties to the organization are cut.

These are just a few of the factors creating this epic shift. How will they affect your company?

Managing people will only get harder. 

It’s always been hard to manage people. There have always been people of all types and generations working side by side in the workplace. But today there are as many as six generations.  Generational gaps merely skim the surface of how different the workforce is and will be. Diversity, gender equality,  sexual preference, and skill gaps exponentially increase the number of issues confronting managers every day, not to mention run-of-the mill interpersonal differences. It’s like the potential for disruption has been injected with steroids. It’s no wonder that people management has become a thriving and growing industry!

Beware the “youth bubble.”

Millennials and Generation Z are bringing a whole new set of expectations and behavior.Organizations that rely on young workers will face the challenge of an increasingly high-maintenance workforce. Compensation, benefits, work schedules, work conditions, rewards and recognition are still offered like it’s the Baby Boomer generation that is in control. What worked in the full-time, on-site, job secure past will surely fall short in the new normal of uncertainty and change.

Churn and squeeze.

quit job employee turnoverWith fewer long-term traditional employees, a revolving door will become the norm.  Best practice metrics of retention and employee turnover will become irrelevant…or at least be used in a different context. Every person from the senior executive to the warehouse worker will be squeezed to produce more work faster with fewer resources. To maximize efficiency and productivity, organizations will have to staff-up (and down quickly) while acquiring a higher quality worker. In addition to figuring out what full-time and part-time classifications mean, management will need to deal with managing more telecommuters and free agent workers as well as consultants and other contingent-type employees. Employers will need to be nimble, flexible, fluid, and smart in how they recruit, hire, and manage employees.

To remain competitive, companies must recruit faster, hire smarter, and manage better. The ability to get the right people on board, up to speed, and delivering results quickly will be the key.

So I’ll ask the question again – is your business future-proof?

Eight Trends That Will Transform Small Business Recruiting

8 Trends That Will Transform Small Business Recruiting in 2016

By Ira S Wolfe

As 2016 revs up, many companies are facing the same challenges that were in place when last year began: recruiters are pressed for time, desperate for qualified candidates, and using every tool they can to unearth difficult to find qualified workers. So what does that mean for small business recruiting in 2016?  Here are 8 trends that will likely impact your company’s ability to recruit good workers.

Recruiting takes longerTrend No. 1: Longer Time To Fill Positions

For starters, get ready for talent acquisition to take longer. The average duration of a job vacancy reached an all-time high of 29 days this year, according to DHI Hiring Indicators’ metrics. That’s a fairly conservative number compared to the 68 days reported by CEB.  STEM positions could take twice as long; advanced employees with a specific set of credentials could take up to six months to be placed into higher level jobs.  With an increase in the number of skilled jobs available and more Baby Boomer exits, competition will become even more fierce and the search, much more difficult.

Trend No. 2: Pay to Play

A combination of escalating recruiting costs, longer search times, and pressure to increase wages will require bigger investment in sourcing, recruiting, compensation and benefits. Expect the cost to fill an open position to jump seven percent. Wages are projected to increase over three percent. CEB estimates the average vacancy cost equates to $500 a day per open position.  Companies will have to pay to play.

Trend No. 3:  Faster Adoption of Technology Tools

Until recently applicant tracking software (ATS) was available only to large organizations with a  big budget and designed to help store, track, and manage resumes. But today one might call an ATS a “recruitment success platform.” Costs have plummeted and ease of use simplified. To lighten the burden of increased workloads and staffing cutbacks, an ATS relieves recruiters and HR of tedious and repetitive administrative tasks (posting jobs and screening out applicants who don’t meet even the most basic qualifications) and frees them up to identify new sourcing channels and interview high potential candidates quickly.

Trend No. 4: Go mobile.

Among Americans who have looked for work in the last 2 years, 79% utilized online resources in their job search. Twenty-six percent of all adults (and 53% of 18-29 year-olds) used a smartphone to begin the search and half of these “smartphone job seekers” used their phone to fill out a job application. And yet nearly half of these job seekers have had problems accessing job-related content reading or entering the text because it wasn’t displaying or working properly.

Trend No. 5:  Recruiting Function Goes In-House

With employment branding and candidate experience impacting success or failure in talent acquisition, many businesses will bring recruiting back in-house. Staffing agencies just can’t represent your company unless the agency agrees to enter into an exclusive agreement (which is often cost-prohibitive.) Otherwise, the agency is recruiting for you and your competitors simultaneously. Building an in-house recruiting process and system allows your company to maximize its brand and focus on building a steady pipeline of good talent.

Trend No. 6:  Extensive Social Media Outreach

Sixty-five percent of American job seekers use social media platforms.  One in three jobseekers uses social media to look for a job or inform friends of an available job. As the number of popular social media platforms grows, so too will the number of social pages that companies turn to for wider exposure. The utilization of social media to reach, attract, and engage a younger and more diverse labor market will continue to grow.

Trend No. 7:  Extraordinary Candidate Experience

Attracting applicants is one thing. Getting top talent to come onboard is another. Businesses will need to improve the candidate experience significantly. The application process must be friendly, engaging and highly responsive (see Trend #4). It’s essential to clearly communicate company perks, describe what it’s like to work at your company and offer a glimpse into the corporate culture.

Trend No. 8: Millennials Are Game-Changers

Millennials are a force to be reckoned with. They have vastly different views on the workplace and now make up the largest single working age demographic at 35 percent of the workforce. They want exciting and purposeful work, a valuable mentor, and to work with people they like. While the recruiting world continues to learn as much as they can about this group, managers too will need to appeal to their need for transparency, regular feedback, and fairness if they expect to retain them.

The year 2016 is just one step closer to a world of work that is changing dramatically at an accelerating pace. These trends are just destinations on a long journey.  People management must adapt accordingly. How prepared is your company?

Different versions of this article published on Cornerstone Blog and Lehigh Valley Business Journal.

Millennial Females Enjoy Options Baby Boomers Didn’t

If you can believe what you read, the Millennials may not be left with a world that is better than the world Baby Boomers inherited. But that conclusion is not a given. It will take a few more decades sort things out.

What we do know for sure right now is that life is different for Millennial women than it was for Baby Boomers when they were the same age. What a better place to start than what it was like to go to work in the 1950s compared to the present day.

Millennial FemalesMillennials females, especially in the U.S., have a world of opportunity that just didn’t exist in 1950. Few female Millennials could imagine being turned down when they tried to open a bank account because they are single or required to get a husband to cosign a loan in order to start a new business. (And boyfriends and partners don’t count because it was illegal in most states for unmarried couples to cohabitate!) And let’s not ignore the ability for an employer to fire you on the grounds you were pregnant…and the woman had no recourse.

For an aging Boomer like me it’s particularly disturbing and even embarrassing to admit these situations even existed in my lifetime. But they did and it’s an important reminder that despite the challenges that exist today, the world may still be a better place even though it is far from perfect.

To get this party started, let’s compare a day-in-the-office in 1955 and 2015.

Joe and Sue Arrive at Work

Baby Boomer Femaie1955 – Joe arrives at the office in his suit and tie, carrying his leather monogrammed brief case. He heads right for his private office where his secretary Sue is waiting patiently.  Sue arrived a few minutes earlier dressed in her conservative colored dress or suit wearing high heels. As soon as Sue arrived at her desk outside Joe’s office, she rushed off to get him his first cup of coffee before he arrived. When Joe arrives, she greets Joe with a “Good morning, Mr.Boss” then exits his office to empty his ashtray filled with cigarette butts. She returns in a minute with a clean ashtray to start his day and hangs his dry cleaning that she picked up for him. She then pulls out her stenographer’s pad, pulls up a chair, and begins taking notes.

2015 – Joe arrives in his tee shirt and jeans carrying a back pack and bike helmet. Sue arrives in skin-tight jeans and a top showing some cleavage, revealing the small tattoo on her right breast. Both are carrying cups of Starbucks coffee…and a bottle of water. Sue and Joe grab seats in the “bullpen” with all the other associates. After giving each other a morning hug and fist-pump, both Sue and Joe head off to the lunch area and pop in a K-cup to refill their coffee cups. (Did I forget to mention that Sue is now the CEO and Joe works in sales?)

While life for Sue and Joe is representative of many workplaces it is definitely not universal.  So allow me to highlight a few more scenarios that are distant but real memories for Baby Boomers and things Millennials may take for granted.

  • Up until the 1960s, a bank could refuse to issue a credit card to an unmarried woman; even if she was married, her husband was required to cosign. Women were not able to apply for credit until theEqual Credit Opportunity Act in 1974.
  • Many women who did enter college pursued a “Mrs” more than the BS or BA. An educated woman was considered to be a threat to a husband’s self-esteem. Many females bypassed college or deliberately produced “C” work in order to avoid embarrassing a male suiter.
  • Top schools were off-limits. With the exception of Penn and Cornell, Ivy League schools were closed to women until 1969. Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977. Columbia delayed admitting women until 1981.
  • Women were kept out of jury pools until 1973 because their primary responsibility was considered to be caregivers. They were also thought to be too fragile to hear the grisly details of crimes and too sympathetic by nature to be able to remain objective.

Before anyone dislocates his shoulder patting himself on the back for all this “progress,” take a deep breath. New laws and regulations have done a lot to improve equality, but we still have a long way to go. Women in the C-level are still the exception and gender wage gaps prevail. The good old boy network still exists and many still believe the ideal role of a woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It is however helpful to reinforce with Millennials how much gender equality has improved and to remind Baby Boomers how much more work needs to be done.

Is It True What They Say About Millennials?

Published in the November 9, 2015 issue of Lehigh Valley Business Journal

What you hear (and maybe even believe) about millennials is not always true.

That was the gist of my keynote at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Manufacturers’ Summit VIII on the morning of Oct. 28 and attended by more than 80 business and workforce leaders. The theme was, “Is it true what they say about millennials?”

The message was reinforced when six father-son panelists discussed how they deal with generational differences in their respective businesses.

Ira S Wolfe MillennialsI opened my keynote by holding up a floppy disk to show how different generations view the world differently. Workers over 30 vividly remember the object.

Younger workers, however, thought it was cool that someone 3-D printed a model of the “save” icon.

The point is that few workers under 25 have ever used, let alone seen, a floppy disk (or 8-track or 45 rpm record, for that matter), but most workers over 35 assume everyone has.


Millennials, to be sure, are different. But that’s not good or bad.

The members of every generation are different from their parents’ generation for a simple reason. They were born and grew up in a different time and place. They have different memories, different influences and different historical moments.

Baby boomers grew up crawling under school desks to protect themselves in case the Russians attacked. Today, millennial (and Generation Z) students experience lockdowns when a classmate brings an automatic weapon to school.

Different times change how each of us view the world. That’s just life. It’s not bad. It’s just different.

The consensus of the presenters and audience was that generations are more similar than different.

Each generation has extroverts and introverts. They have some people with great work ethic and others whose best skills are negativity and bad attitude. Each cohort has leaders and followers, superstars and slackers.


Participants Millennials in WorkplaceDuring the question-and-answer session, one businessperson asked how to get older and younger workers to engage with other.

I fell back on a trusty tool – the DISC assessment. (DISC is a behavior assessment tool that centers on four traits: dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance.)

The root of many conflicts has more to do with “how” someone might interact with others or approach work, and little to do with intentions. It’s the introvert who seems aloof but really is just observing or thinking.

The same goes for the extrovert who thrives by talking things out but is perceived as a blowhard.

But once you get to know the person, you realize how sometimes first impressions don’t paint a true picture.


With tools such as DISC, workers from different generations may begin to recognize that many styles and values cross generational boundaries. In fact, boundaries blur and similarities open doors.

DISC doesn’t solve all problems, but without getting different generations talking with each other, generational gaps will only widen.

Much to my surprise, two of the companies on the panel confirmed they were already using DISC to help bring their multigenerational workforces closer.


Throughout the hour-long summit, several themes kept coming up from baby boomer fathers and millennial sons. These sentiments were echoed by the audience and moderator, a millennial recruiter from Crayola.

The three businesses at the summit attributed part of their success and low-employee turnover, even among millennials, to a few reasons:

(1) They all manage a flat organization with little hierarchy. They give young and old workers a “seat at the table.”

(2) They all have a story to share, and their employees are an integral part of it. (You can tell by their passion and enthusiasm that “people are our most important asset” isn’t just a set of words but a way of life for them.)

(3) Purpose and community involvement of the business and their employees are drivers for growth and high retention.

(4) They became more flexible with time, creating collaborative workspaces, allowing telecommuting, adapting benefits and rewarding an “intrapreneurial” spirit of workers.

(5) They focus on similarities and value differences between generations.


I closed my address with the following: “Millennials didn’t create the environment that they live in. [Baby boomers and older Gen X parents] did. They grew up in our world. Don’t make millennials scapegoats for how they were educated, how they work and how they play because we shaped their lives.”

But my favorite quote of the morning was by Bill Hindle, president of Easton-based HindlePower Inc. His words epitomized the attitude about how his company, like the others, exudes success and leadership especially when dealing with millennials and the multigenerational workforce.

“Tattoos don’t tell the character of the person,” he said.

Millennials’ attitudes are not poles apart like the media and many consultants want you to believe. For sure, there are differences, but similarities between individuals trump the different world-views that arise from growing up in different times.

Ira S. Wolfe is president of Lehigh Valley-based Success Performance Solutions and author of “Recruiting in the Age of Googlization” and “Geeks, Geezers and Googlization.” He can be reached at iwolfe@super-solutions.com or 484-373-4300.