What’s Ahead in Recruiting for Q4 2015

The success of your company depends on a team of qualified, competent, and engaged employees who keep every aspect of your business running smoothly. But according to the Jobvite 2015 Recruiting Nation Survey, the ability to be fully staffed and productive is getting much harder. Fifty-six percent of recruiters are hurting for skilled or qualified candidates. In many industries the problem is much worse.  The CEO of the National Association of Home Builders describes the situation as “an epidemic.” The Associated General Contractors survey reports 86 percent of commercial builders are having trouble filling hourly and salaried positions. Sixty-five percent of HR officials at small companies are struggling.
hiringStories like this pop up in the news on an almost daily basis. And it doesn’t seem to matter if the company is large or small, product- or service-oriented, domestic or international.
There are a number of reasons why filling open positions quickly is getting worse in the U.S. as well as in many other countries.
Growth:  While the economy is not robust, it has been growing at a steady pace and is expected to continue.  Many companies are hiring especially in skilled positions. While this is great news for their companies – and the economy in general – it can be a challenge for hiring managers to fill many positions quickly enough to keep their companies operating efficiently. But 95 percent of recruiters expect the hunt for talent to remain or grow more competitive.
Recruiting Options:  The growth of the Internet has led to an explosion in recruiting opportunities.  Job seekers used to rely on classified ads and word of mouth; now, they can use job search engines like Indeed, job boards like Craigslist and Monster; social media, online recruitment agencies, and corporate recruiting websites.  This onslaught of new job-seeking opportunities has made it made it ridiculously easy to apply for jobs and more difficult for companies to screen and vet a high volume of applicants efficiently.

Time:  Most hiring managers are bombarded with multiple tasks, from placing ads to screening and interviewing potential job candidates.  The average hiring manager spends 4.5 minutes reading each resume that lands on his or her desk and 15 hours each week sourcing candidates.  And yet, because of the high volume of resumes coming in combined with inadequate applicant management capabilities, the time to hire hit an another record high recently at 29 days.  For jobs requiring more advanced skills and for companies looking to find candidates who have the right skills and fit the culture, 6 months or longer is fairly common.

As you can imagine, there are several business-changing consequences to these trends:

  • Too many unqualified applicants congest the hiring process, making it harder to find qualified applicants.
  • While jobs remain unfilled, related tasks are either delegated to inexperienced staff, or not performed at all.  In both cases, the company’s overall productivity and profitability suffers.
  • Conversely, jobs are filled by people who are a poor fit for the job, either temperamentally or professionally.  This leads to poor organizational synergies, low productivity, and overall inefficiency.
  • HR teams spend too little time with applicants to determine whether they’re right for the position, resulting in the hire of unqualified or poor fit candidates.
The new reality is if your business is going to compete effectively for and hire the most talented people in your industry, traditional recruiting practices are no longer good enough. They must be multi-faceted, streamlined and responsive too.

Millennials Aren’t So Different After All

Plato was said to have complained that young people “disrespect their elders” and “ignore the law”. Peter the Hermit griped that they “think of nothing but themselves” and are “impatient of all restraint”. Child-rearing expert Haim Ginott scolds parents who talk about the younger generation as if they didn’t have anything to do with it.

Millennial Generation

Millennials Aren’t Do Different After All

For centuries older generations have been reprimanding young workers about their lack of loyalty and work ethic.

Let’s start with the hypocrisy of loyalty – managers and executives seem to like to call the kettle black. They forget how mergers and acquisitions led to wholesale job terminations, how outsourcing and offshoring decimated production floors and call centers, how pension plans were raided and guaranteed benefits erased, and how greed stifled wages and benefits for the past 30 to 40 years.  Generation X and Millennials are the by-product of companies and even government terminating their parents’ job and disrupting career paths. Is it any wonder they don’t trust management? Who could blame them for taking back as much control over their careers as possible?  Loyalty is a two-way street and much like our infrastructure, the side that corporate America controls has crumbled.

What was good for the goose became good for the gander and workers responded accordingly.  It happened in the 1990s when Generation X entered the labor market and Baby Boomers complained about the Gen X free agent attitude. And then a decade or so later, Millennials came along.  And guess who was doing the loudest griping this time -Gen X.  Yep, history repeated itself – just as the Matures and Veterans complained about Baby Boomers and our great-great-grandparents dwelled on the attitudes of their kids, Gen X bellyached about the flighty-no-loyalty-lousy-work-ethic Millennials.

Are you getting the picture? Today, managers, older workers, and the media tend to paint the Millennials as a privileged, narcissistic, entitled bunch of spoiled job hopping Trophy Kids. As every new generation enters the work force, it’s amazing how quickly they’re mislabeled with attributes that are common to young people. These labels tend to stick, and they become increasingly inaccurate as the generation ages (assuming they were at all accurate to begin with).To paraphrase Jennifer Deal (Center for Creative Leadership) and Alec Levenson (University of Southern California), most generalizations about millennials as employees are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst.”

Truth be told most Millennials get a bum rap as the current older generations abuse the privilege of age as much as anyone ever did.

The numbers don’t lie. When economists compare people who started their careers in the 1980s with people who started their careers in the early 2000s, they find that the two generations (Gen X v. Millennials) are more or less identical in terms of how often people change jobs – about 50 percent change jobs each year. That turns out to be 6.3 jobs for Millennials between the ages of 18 and 25 and 6.2 jobs for Gen X when they were the same age. And how about those loyal company “men” – the Baby Boomers?  Well, they too worked an average of 5.5 jobs by the time they reached age 25. In other words, when young people change jobs and look for new opportunities to learn and grow, it does not represent a lack of loyalty; it’s simply the time in their lives when they are seeking these experiences.

The commonality between generations just doesn’t stop at job change either. Studies from CEB and Center for Creative Leadership reveal how much workers of different generations have in common. Every generation has their share of introverts and extroverts, capitalists and socialists, superstars and lost souls, givers and takers. But as a group they want roughly the same things regardless of when they were born: to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given the chance to work hard. And like Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, the top three motivating factors for changing jobs are to enter the fast lane (by far the most popular for all generations), shoot for the top, and follow one’s heart.

The truth is that although millennials may be the “selfie” generation, they also care about the world around them. They want jobs that affect social change, and they give what they can.  Contrary to popular belief millennials rate “contribute to society,” “correct inequalities” and “be a leader in the community” higher than baby boomers did when they were younger.

The first wave of Millennials is rising up the ranks at work and shaping — or making — key business decisions. It’s important to understand the impact they’re having on today’s changing workplace – from jobs they will hold to parental leave and same sex benefits. So, what’s really going on? Commonality between generations is not time for complacency or finger pointing. It’s time to dispel the myths and respond to the truths.  And the truth is that our society and our workplaces will never return to the good old days. Companies and workers can either fall victim to the change or become agents to shape the good new days. Technology, automation, and globalization have no innate bias. They target all people, regardless of age and without discrimination. Whether you belong to the oldest generations or the youngest Gen Z, adaptation is necessary. And to accomplish that, collaboration and communication between generations is essential.

(Published in Business2Business Magazine, September 2015)

Best Practices for Creating a Multi-Generation Workforce

Today’s multigeneration workforce poses unique challenges to employers. If your organization lacks an understanding of what individuals in each generation need and want, you risk lower productivity, increased turnover and conflict within and between departments and teams.

mulit-generation workforceOlder workers can become frustrated when they work with what they see as an aloof, spoiled younger generation seeking instant gratification. Younger employees can become disillusioned with bureaucracy, hierarchy and the phrase “that’s not the way we do it around here.” Those stuck in the middle — Generation X — are annoyed equally by upstart millennials attempting to leapfrog over them and by graying baby boomers standing in the way of their rise through the ranks.

The way to keep the peace is to achieve “generational competence” by making adaptations necessary to meet the diverse needs of workers of different ages. Employers will be better able to attract, retain and motivate talented people if they recognize what drives each generation and take those factors into account as they develop approaches to recruiting, hiring, onboarding and employee engagement.

Here’s my list of best practices for creating a great place to work — for everyone.

  1. Build a broad employer brand. For the first time in history, we have four generations (and soon five) working side by side. It’s not unusual today to see a 70-year-old and a twentysomething in the same office, alongside people from several generations in between. Effective branding requires paying attention to each of those audiences. An older job candidate may prefer to tour your facility in person, while a millennial applicant will almost certainly watch a video tour online. Make sure your recruitment efforts cater to each.
  2. Promote generational competence. Be aware that your managers likely need training on how to effectively supervise a multigenerational workforce, particularly when it comes to giving feedback. For example, boomer managers accustomed to once-a-year formal performance reviews may struggle with millennials, who thrive with ongoing feedback and prefer mentoring over constructive criticism. While all employees should be expected to meet the same standards, today’s most successful leaders find ways to give individual feedback when and how their direct reports need it.
  3. Mentor up, down and across your organization. Pairing less-experienced people with veteran employees can help multiple generations develop a better understanding of one another, in addition to transferring crucial skills. Mentoring partnerships are no longer just about matching a younger worker with an older, more senior employee. Ideally, mentoring and “reverse mentoring” programs foster the exchange of ideas and information up and down and laterally within an organization. Mentoring options include traditional one-on-one sessions, small-group meetings or discussion panels where a speaker presents to a large group.
  4. Realize that we’re more alike than we are different. The best places to work boost collaboration and engagement by focusing on shared principles and goals that all employees can embrace, regardless of their age. The members of your multigenerational workforce have more in common than you or your managers may realize — and that’s a strength worth building on.

Previously published on Computerworld.com

Baby Boomers Still Got Game; Where Does That Leave Gen X, Gen Y?

Boomers still “got some game” in their life and work and, unfortunately for Gen X and Gen Y who were poised to take the field, they have hit what I called the “gray ceiling” – the inability of younger generations to be promoted and move up the organizational chart.

baby boomer v gen yDon’t worry Gen X and Gen Y (also called Millennials), Boomers can’t live forever. But for now, the apocalyptic silver tsunami that many economists predicted has rained on the workforce more like a sun shower. One day Boomers will finally retire completely…or at least slow down. But for now, the labor force participation rate for people 55 and older is near its highest level in several decades, up by approximately one-third since 1990.

A combination of delayed retirements, improving but still slow job growth, and increasing life expectancy has disrupted the once orderly exodus of older workers and the entrance of younger ones. A recent report by AARP  finds that one-third (33 percent) of older workers are delaying the age at which they expect retire and nearly half are now planning to work part-time after they reach retirement age. Economist Matthew Rutledge calls this idea the “the lump of labor”: “There’s only a certain amount of jobs out there, and if an old person’s holding that job that means a young person isn’t.”

Millennials who complain, “It’s not fair” are justified to some extent especially with all the hype pre-2010 when the first Baby Boomers turned 65 and the retirement floodgates were supposed to open.  It’s like an Olympian enduring years of practice preparing for the big event and at the last minute the event is cancelled. “Why can’t you be like all the generations before you? Retire, play golf and bridge, go to the rest home, or die? It’s our turn to play.”

What does this gray ceiling mean for employers?  For some it translates into complacency. Unfortunately, that’s the absolute worst option management could choose.  The longer a company can hold on to older experienced workers is a good plug for the brain drain but bad stand-alone strategy for future growth and sustainability. It just postpones the inevitable. Besides, complacency and procrastination nearly always backfire. What are better options?

Pay attention to Gen X

Companies must begin to recruit and hire and promote younger workers.  Generation X, who has patiently been waiting, is next in line for management and leadership roles.  With these roles at highest risk for turnover, enforcing the gray ceiling may force these heirs apparent to follow their dreams and careers elsewhere…and there are plenty of opportunities available.

Boomers Will Act Their Age – Eventually

But succession planning shouldn’t stop at the top. No position is immune from an unexpected job opening particularly in companies that have enjoyed long tenure by Baby Boomers and low turnover.  Whether it’s time off to travel, replace a hip, treat cancer, deal with an ailing parent or spouse, or just spend time with the grandchildren, Baby Boomers will eventually begin to act their age. The more physical the job (and this includes jobs that require a lot of travel or long hours) the more likely a Baby Boomer will be forced to cut back sooner than later.

All Good Things Come to an End

Finding new talent is just the tip of the iceberg when succession planning these days. While Baby Boomers may be the last generation that enjoyed 30 and 40 plus year careers at the same company, Millennials will seek multiple careers. For many young workers, five years in the same job is a lifetime! Succession planning isn’t just a matter of finding more high-potential talent but dealing with higher rates of turnover.

Arghhh! The Dreaded Multi-Generation

Another insidious impact of the gray ceiling is that allows many organizations to avoid addressing the inevitable changes that are disrupting many company cultures. It is the event that sends chills up and down the spine of many managers. It’s the dreaded generational gaps.  As long as Baby Boomers stay put and replacement can be avoided, managers can avoid dealing with the multi-generation workforce.

But as sure as the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, every manager in every company will be faced with managing multiple generations.  In some organization that could mean 5 generations working side-by-side – Matures (also called Veterans), Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.  This unprecedented generational smorgasbord is enough to turn even a Millennial’s hair gray. From attitudes about work and career to vacation schedules to training and development, each generation has different needs and wants. Breaking down barriers and bridging gaps is no task for the faint of the heart, naïve, or unprepared.

That leads up to these key questions:

  1. How prepared is your organization to replace older workers?
  2. How prepared is your organization to recruit, manage, motivate, and retain a multi-generational workforce?
  3. What infrastructure (policies to work environment) do you have in place that will become obsolete?
  4. What infrastructure (policies to work environment) will need to be created or tweaked?

If you can’t answer all those questions with confidence, the only advice I have is – good luck! Without a talent management and succession plan to ensure a smooth transition, every company’s productivity and competitiveness is vulnerable.

Baby Boomers Then and Now

Before the Millennials, Baby Boomers were the most talked about demographic in the U.S. By virtue of their sheer numbers, 78 million strong, Boomers transformed everything from our housing market to Social Security to our workforce. But Baby Boomers, or those born during the post wartime ‘baby boom’ of 1946 and 1964, have grown up and are now ages 51 to 66. 

social security for baby boomersSince the Boomers have previously driven societal trends for the past 50 years, it is likely the Boomers will continue to exert their influence on the way we live and work. The future that the once-idealistic young adult Baby Boomer envisioned didn’t quite pan out. Many Boomers are experiencing (or will experience) major life changes like caring for an elderly parent, health changes to them or a spouse, careers that begin or end and many more. These changes have financial consequences and of course will impact their quality of life, their goals and spending habits moving forward.

Let’s take a look at where Boomers are now as a group and as individuals.

Some are retired but many are still working

Remember when Baby Boomers were forecast to leave their jobs in mass at their earliest eligibility? The apocalyptic forecast warned us that 8,000 Baby Boomers turned 65 each day … suddenly employers would experience a mass exodus. The reality is that they are staying put. Many are starting second careers and businesses. Sixty one percent reportedly work because they want to, not because they have to. A MetLife Mature Market Institute survey updated those results in 2013, showing that more than half of those boomers born in 1946 have now fully retired—up from 19 percent in 2007 and 45 percent in 2011.

Many Baby Boomers aren’t downsizing their homes

Housing is an area that demonstrates some of the distinctions within the Boomer generation. Only about 21 percent of this group is actively downsizing their living space, the highest percentage of any age bracket. And 25 percent of Boomers want bigger homes, perhaps to house all of the possessions that they accumulated and possibly a teenage dependent. Fanny Mae research also notes that many Boomers currently display no hurry to trade in their houses for retirement condos, much to the surprise of real estate professionals. One reason is that Boomers far outnumber Generation X, the chronological successor generation who traditionally have purchased homes from retirees and older generations. Generation X is also only about half the size of the Baby Boomer generation which means fewer buyers. Finally we have the up-and-coming Millennials who unfortunately are not looking to purchase large homes or are able to afford them.

Boomers are retiring in place, close to their families

Baby Boomers are staying where they are, according to Census Bureau data that shows that just 1.6 percent of retirees from that era moved across states lines in 2010. And those who did move are going all over the country, not necessarily moving to a retirement address in Florida. Many who did relocate have returned “home.” Staying close to the grandchildren, working at home or caring for someone else may factor into that trend. Compared to a generation ago, Florida claims only about half the share of out-of-state retirees.

Their debt levels are declining but still higher than ideal

After 2008, many households radically pulled back on spending and focused on reducing their overall debt. More than half of Boomers have similarly cut back on spending and reduced credit card debt–one-third even paid off their mortgages, according to a 2011 report by Bankers Life and Casualty’s Center for a Secure Retirement. So too did the Baby Boomers, many of whom having been cutting their credit card debt. A recent report from TransUnion found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans at least 60 years old has debt and the average balance is more than $60,000. That’s up sharply from 2005 when only 22% of seniors 60+ had debt and the average balance was $40,000. Unfortunately, older Americans are indeed living with more debt as they reach retirement. 

Many are supporting a grown child and elderly parent—at the same time

Pew Research says 15 percent of people in their 40s and 50s are paying to support a grown child and a parent at the same time. Over the next 5 years, 1 in 5 older workers between 45 and 74 say they may need to leave their jobs to care for an adult family member—with more women than men expected to face this dilemma, according to an AARP study released in January. College expenses are also taking a big bite of boomer budgets, as loans and scholarships cover only 31 percent education expenses according to Sallie Mae’s study, “How America Pays for College.” Nearly 40 percent of the total—is paid by mom and dad.

Health-wise, boomers are not in great shape

Even though they have a higher life expectancy, many Baby Boomers are in worse physical shape than their parents. Obesity, disability, blood pressure and chronic illness are more common. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey gathered data on those between the ages of 46 and 64 (average age: 54.1) during 2007 and 2010 and then compared them to their elders, who were previously surveyed at same age range, between 1988 and 1994. The results showed that only 13.2% of boomers rated their own health as “excellent,” compared with 32% of those in the older group. Boomers were more likely to have high blood pressure (43% vs. 36.4%), high cholesterol (73.5% vs. 33.8%) and diabetes (15.5% vs. 12%). A full 38.7% of boomers surveyed were obese, compared with 29.4% of their elders. Which means that while they will remain disproportionately in the labor force (compared to estimates of their withdrawal) at some point their health challenges will surely challenge Boomer productivity relative to younger generations anxious to advance

2 Trends Changing the Face of U.S. Jobs

You’ve heard it before!  We’re working the Perfect Labor Storm. But there are two trends impacting U.S. jobs that are often pushed aside. They involve working women and teens.

are you redy?What the future workforce will look like is clear as mud.  Demographic and job market surveys and studies produce contradictory and ambiguous results. But one thing remains sure. The workforce will look and function differently than any previous workforce.  Jobs won’t be tweaked but replaced. New jobs we never imagined are being created.

The only certainty we know is the workforce of today and tomorrow will be continuously evolving. And yet many companies react like they are spectators on the sidelines and not active participants.

A recent report from Career Builder, “The Changing Face of U.S. Jobs,” explores how an increasingly diverse population is affecting the composition of nearly 800 occupations by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.  Two of the most significant trends follow.

More women working but losing ground in high-pay jobs

There are more women in the workforce today than at any point in U.S. history:  4.9 million more female workers since 2001 compared to just 2.2 million additional male workers.

One reason for the increase is that women are less likely than they were in the past to leave the labor force for family or other reasons.  Men, on the other hand, are increasingly more likely to leave a job and opt not to look for another.

But as radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to tell us, “and now for the rest of the story.”

Despite declining male labor participation since the 1970s, it is men that are gaining a greater share of jobs in 72 percent of all occupations.  While fewer men are working they are getting jobs, and thirty-seven percent of those jobs are in female-majority occupations. Women gained a greater share of employment in just 21 percent of occupations.

How is it women are losing ground in most occupations?  It’s because 76 percent of occupations that lost 10,000 jobs or more since 2001 were male-majority occupations.

Conversely, of the 32 occupations that gained 75,000 jobs or more, 69 percent were female-majority. The largest gains in the workforce for women occurred in a smaller number of occupations, many of them at the lower pay scales such cashiers and clerks.

That leads us to the next chapter in this unfolding story of how our workforce is evolving.

One controversial topic is gender pay gap. But same pay for the same work offers a limited solution to an insidious shift.

A socioeconomic event called “occupational segregation” is in place. Women have lost ground in 48 out of the 50 highest paying occupations including surgeons,  orthodontists, and psychiatrists. Men are gaining in higher paying jobs while women  are gaining mostly in low-paying, male-majority jobs.   Male-majority jobs pay significantly more per hour, on average, than female-majority jobs ($25.49 median hourly earnings for men vs. $20.85 for women).

That trend is perplexing because women now dominate college graduation numbers.  But the degrees that many women receive are just not in top-paying fields, such as STEM jobs. While total male participation and college graduation is down, men continue to lead in programs that typically lead to higher-paying jobs, such as computer science (83 percent of 2013 grads) and law (54 percent).

The aging workforce is felt in virtually all occupations.

In addition to gender shifts in our workforce, we have an increasingly aging workforce  and it is impacting younger generations, even teens.  Part-time and summer jobs like hosts/hostesses, food prep/serving, dishwashers, and ushers/ticket takers have disappeared.

Faced with a tumultuous job market, Millennials (now in their 20s and early 30s) continue to experience high unemployment and underemployment.   At the same time the age 55 and older workforce increased its share of employment in 99 percent of occupations!   There are now 8.3 million more older workers who were supposed to retire but didn’t.  The near-apocalyptic exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce has not occurred as predicted creating a “gray ceiling.”

That’s good news for employers because the brain drain has been postponed, but it’s bad news for the three succeeding generations (Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z).

What’s my point? Waiting to see what happens is no longer an option.  Any company that expects to grow (or even survive) must recognize that the labor and job markets are evolving and how they recruit, hire, manage, and retain workers will need to evolve too.

Millennials’ Lack of Financial Literacy Costs Employers Too

Previously (in 9 Workplace Trends Worth Knowing,) Ira Wolfe wrote about the troubling statistic between recent graduates (Millennials) and their preparedness for professional environments. Specifically it was stated that four out of five CEOs worry about the availability of key skills, and that only 45 percent of young people believe they’re prepared to enter the workforce.

Millennial financial literacyFor the most part, these pieces of data are referring directly to young people’s often inadequate preparation for jobs and career growth, and this is something that CEOs and senior employees can help with to some extent. That is to say, programs can be implemented and Millennials can be coached so that they may catch up and succeed in their careers. However, the idea that young people aren’t always ready for the workforce doesn’t solely concern performance in the office. The same problem exists on a more personal level for many young employees in that many simply aren’t ready for the financial management that comes with securing a job and salary.

If that doesn’t sound like a problem that could negatively impact a workplace, think again. According to a 2012 survey conducted by Fidelity Investments, 78 percent of employers say “concerns over financial problems can have a negative impact on employee productivity.” That statistic comes on the heels of a number of troubling findings about the financial literacy of American employees in general, though it’s only natural that the problems are more concerning with younger employees.

So how can small business owners and managers help ensure a young employee’s financial future instead of unfortunate fate?

Well, the best solution may be to set up some sort of course or training to educate employees on the basic financial skill sets and understanding they’ll need to succeed. Here are a few ideas that can make for a good start.

  • Confirm the advantages of savings vs. paying off debts. One of the biggest challenges facing Millennials entering the job market these days is the mountain of student loan debt so many are buried beneath. Debt can be a constant source of stress, and in ways it becomes even trickier to deal with once you have income, because a new problem arises: how much money should you save, and how much should you allocate for paying off debts? S. News & World Report provided a very helpful worksheet for addressing these questions. It’s a helpful resource for young professionals struggling with all this.
  • Discuss the very basics of investment. For the young and even many more mature employees, investment can be confusing and complex. It may be a difficult concept to understand and implement especially for many young people coming right out of college and joining the workforce for the first time,. Providing a basic guide to how the market works and how investments are conducted can make a world of difference to a young employee. FXCM offers an outline of the New York Stock Exchange’s history and functionality that can be a terrific starting point while serving as the foundation for more specific financial strategy.
  • Provide a simplified explanation of how employment will affect the employee financially. For young employees not used to filling out forms with information on everything from health insurance to retirement funds, the whole process can be a bit overwhelming. Also, the forms themselves sometimes seem almost as if they’re designed to confuse. The fine print is necessary, but to help any employee – regardless of age – fully grasp and embrace financial commitments and benefits associated with a new job, providing a simplified explanation can be extraordinarily helpful. This allows the employee to understand where he or she stands with income and investment, so as to better address personal financial decisions.

In the end, a small business owner or CEO can only go so far in helping new and young employees to become more financially literate. Unfortunately, though, it’s a reality in much of America that Millennials are often unprepared not just for the workforce but for their own financial planning. Helping them to get off on the right foot in this regard can go a long way toward improving productivity and promoting ease of mind in the workplace.

Special thanks to Jenna Batten, a freelance writer based just outside of Baltimore, for submitting this post. She enjoys covering topics related to financial management and investing.

The Truth, Myth, and Consequences of Skilled Worker Shortages

The combination of an improving but fickle economy, the accelerating integration of advanced automation into our daily life, and a seismic demographic shift in the workforce have all but pushed traditional recruiting strategies into obsolescence. Aside from all the economic and social disruptive changes, it’s created a tug-of-war between employers’ anguish about widening worker skill gaps and workers’ distress about the lack of opportunity to get jobs or move up the career ladder.

Tug of war - internal recruiting vs outsourcingFor those people looking for a paycheck, what they see is smoke and mirrors.  If you stand in their shoes, a shortage of workers is pure myth – a crafty message concocted by employers to keep the flow of cheaper, imported labor open and wages low.

The view from the boardroom and production floors is apparently different. It’s like someone flipped a switch and scripted a completely different story line.

From management’s window, worker shortages are painfully real; so much so that strategies are altered and growth plans slowed to accommodate the frustrating inability to attract and retain qualified skilled workers.

So who is right? Is one of the parties blinded by bias and even greed while the other lives in a fog of naiveté and denial?   Or are both parties correct because it just depends on the region you live and on industries in which you work?

The answer is yes.  It’s all of the above. Shortages of skilled labor are not homogenous across 50 states and all industries. They are not even consistent between countries and continents. Shortages of workers concurrent with unemployment and underemployment this time around aren’t based on quantity alone. The popular formulas used for full employment and productivity are outdated. Most metrics only see through the rear view mirror. Government agencies report lagging indicators when business requires leading ones. Data is collected based on numbers of job and numbers of workers without regard to the skills, knowledge, experience, or sophistication required.  And with a dynamically changing and often volatile environment, near real-time data for employment and productivity is essential.

Here are a few examples of trends and changes that are disrupting how our workforce works today…or doesn’t work. It seems these shifts are often ignored or lost when the volume of bureaucratic and political noise increases. And equally if not more impactful is the fact that these trends are not isolated incidents but concurrent events – a Perfect Labor Storm, creating changes that are complex and far-reaching yet subtle. The end result is a continuously evolving labor market that is structurally different than anything anyone of us imagined.

As Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be,” which is an apt description of the current and future state of our workforce.

86 percent of US jobs today involve offering services instead of making things.

Since the 60s when many Baby Boomers entered the workforce, our economy has shifted. Fifty years ago, just 60 percent of the workforce was employed in service jobs.  Today it’s almost 84 percent, a 40 percent increase.  Simultaneously goods-producing jobs were cut in half, dropped to less than 1 out of 8.  Many workplace policies and mindsets still ignore how the very definition of work and jobs has changed.

Skilled jobs grew 2-times faster than unskilled jobs.

Unfortunately for many of the workers educated and trained in the 20th century, they focused on technical skills required for routine jobs. Today it’s cognitive skills plus expertise and knowledge in a given skill that is in high demand.  The demand for high skilled, non-routine cognitive workers is 2 times more than just 30 years ago while the demand for all other jobs is stagnant. It is estimated that by 2019, 17 percent of workers will only use mobile devices to do their jobs (Cisco).

People are working longer, and working after they retire from their main careers.

For many reasons, including the near extinction of defined benefit retirement plans and a significant drop in employer sponsored plans, people are not leaving the workforce. Many baby boomers, forecast to leave jobs at their earliest eligibility, are staying put…or starting second careers.  Between 2006 and 2016, the 65 and older workforce grew nearly 84 percent; 55 to 64 year olds grew over 36 percent. The core of the workforce (at least the workforce we knew since the Industrial Revolution, 25 to 54 year olds grew only 2.4 percent.

Millennials have become the biggest population of workers, starting this year.

For many employers, “doomsday” has arrived.  Millennials (age 15-35) now make up 35 percent of the workforce. With both Baby Boomers and Gen X holding down about 31 percent each, that officially makes the Millennial Generation a force to be reckoned with.  Compare that to just 5 years ago when the Millennials made up only 25 percent and 10 years ago at 15 percent. That’s a problem for companies who are still trying to figure out how to attract, manage, and retain a younger generation with very different values than the Baby Boomer who re-wrote many of the workforce rules 50 years earlier.

What Would You Do If Your Candidate Refused To…

The war for talent is hot.  Last week I wrote about a company who recently lost many of its top sales producers to a competitor.  This week a client called me in a panic after 3 key skilled workers left – at the start of his busiest season. Employee turnover is climbing and several surveys recently reported that the time to fill vacancies has increased since the beginning of the year.  (It has been steadily rising before then!)

Confused workerWith skilled workers hard to find, it is tempting to compromise hiring requirements and standard practices and to make exceptions for some candidates.

So how far would you (and your company) go to make an exception for that hard-to-find skilled applicant who tries to circumvent your process or refuses to comply with your selection process?

I hope you will take just a minute to respond to the 5-question survey at the end of the article.  I plan to report back the results (if we have enough participation) at the end of the month.

Let’s begin by asking you to imagine this scenario. For many of you, you don’t have to think too hard – the situation is very real.

You have a job opening for a very key position in your company.  After exhaustive sourcing and recruiting for several months, a colleague calls you with the name and contact information of a candidate who appears to meet all your qualifications and more. You immediately contact her but are met with one or more of the following objections. What would you do? Would you stick to your process or make exceptions?

She submitted a resume directly to you via your email or LinkedIn account but refused to complete one through your online system.She refused to complete parts of the application until after she was granted an interview.

She refused to answer certain interview questions because she considered them too personal (even if they were legal, job relevant, and important to your hiring process.)

She refused to complete a personality test (or other types of testing) because she believes her personality should have nothing to do with her job qualifications.

She refuses to join you and a few co-workers for lunch because she “keeps her personal and business lives separate.

We’d love to hear your opinions. Please click here and take a minute to complete the anonymous 5-question survey. We will post results at the end of the month.

9 Workforce Trends Worth Knowing

In 1999 I coined the term “Perfect Labor Storm” to describe the multiple factors working in concert to create a critical shortage of workers.  At that time the situation was a bit different – more jobs were being created than we had available working age adults.

Well 16 years later, the Perfect Labor Storm is still alive and growing. While its consequences are still the same- employers struggling to find enough qualified workers. Today we have enough “bodies” but the quality and quantity of skills required is much more advanced. Today we have enough workers to fill every job and still have a surplus. The problem is that not every worker has the skills for the jobs being created.

What follows is a list of trends that every employer (and job seeker) should know. While the exact number or percentage of jobs is off a few digits or the timing is not exact, the trends are real. They are changing the future of work and the workplace as you read this. While the exact timing of the Perfect Labor Storm is always a work in progress, the path on which we are headed is inevitable.

1. Cheaper, better robots will replace human workers in the world’s factories at a faster pace over the next decade. Only 10 percent of jobs that can be automated have been taken by robots. By 2025, machines will take over 23 percent of jobs.

Source: Boston Consulting Group


2. Sophisticated algorithms could substitute for approximately 140 million full-time knowledge workers worldwide.

Source: The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation,  Frey and Osborne


3. Jobs employing up to 47 percent of today’s workers are likely to disappear by 2033.

Source: Trends Magazine, November 2013


4. Workers aged 55 and older will make up approximately 26 percent of the labor force by 2022; up from 14 percent in 2002 and 21 percent in 2012.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


5. Four out of 5 CEOs worry about availability of key skills

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


6. Only 42 percent of executives believe that students entering the workforce are prepared for the available jobs; even worse, only 45 percent of these young people think that they are prepared. Maybe worst of all, 72 percent of education providers believe the young people are prepared.6.

Source: McKinsey and Company


7. Thirteen (13) percent projected increase in STEM jobs from 2012 to 2022

Six (6) percent projected increase in STEM graduates 2011-2019

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


8. More than 80% of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage in highly skilled resources.

Source: Manufacturing Institute


9. In 2015 the business community must face the reality that there is little slack in the U.S. labor market. As skills shortages grow, businesses will need to begin raising wages to attract and keep workers for the long term.

Source: Edward Gordon, Imperial Consulting Group