Friday, September 28, 2007

We Have Some Good News & Some Bad News

There are some very interesting and informative articles on ERE as anyone who cruises the staffing world is keenly aware.

Saw one the other day written (extremely well I might add) by Lisa Calicchio, who is the Director of Recruiting for the Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson. She calls the piece People Are People: Don't Fight It, Work With It. I am not going to reiterate all she had to say here (a) because you can read it for yourself and (b) because she certainly doesn't need me to speak for her at all.

After I read the article, however, it caused me to reflect on my own 45+ years experience in the HR world in general and the portions of that which were and to some degree still are focused on staffing. It also made me think of the number of "hiring tools" to which I have been exposed over that same period. Someday I am going to sit down and try to see how many I can write down!

While certainly progress has been made by both recruiters and candidates alike, it is still abundantly clear that given the number of hiring decisions that end up going South, we still have much to learn.

While it has been a while since I have seen some stats, it is still my perception that the failure rate in terms of hiring decisions that turn out to be successful, especially at the executive level, would compete well with the divorce rate.

You could give every applicant every test known to man plus a lobotomy and still end up with what amounts to a coin toss. Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but it still feels more right than wrong.

Of course, the big question is why, and if you are looking for the answer to that one, you might as well stop right here. If I knew, obviously I would apply it to our own company first and then bottle and sell it.

So maybe your experience has been different, but for me, it just seems that there are certain things in life that no matter how much you study, test, prepare, visualize in yoga class or whatever, you just don't know how it "feels" in the real world until you are there. Getting married is one; becoming a parent another. How it is really going to feel and turn out for both the employer and the employee is one more.

It may be frustrating, not to mention painful and expensive for all concerned, and that's the bad news.

On the other hand the fact that we are still searching for answers provides a living for a significant portion of the population, and that's the good news.

Friday, September 21, 2007

If You Had To Pick Only One

This past week I had the chance to share some of our Executive Job Market Intelligence data with the members of ESIX (Executive Search Information Exchange) who were meeting in New York. The group, which was organized in 1996 and is chaired by David Lord, who prior to founding his own consulting firm in 1995, many remember as the former Editor at Kennedy Information, publishers of Executive Recruiter News and The Directory of Executive Recruiters among other things. Needless to say, the focus of our discussion was on the challenges of recruiting and retention in today's environment and beyond. It was a very stimulating morning.

Much of what we talked about was still on my mind as I headed back to ExecuNet's offices via Metro North. Rather than the morning's discussion fading into the background as I started to wade through my email, it was immediately brought back into focus as I came across Pete Weddle's newsletter (always of interest) and read the lead piece. It was entitled: What Do Employers Want?

The piece was prompted by Pete's reaction to a joint survey by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills and SHRM. Essentially it was a survey of what U.S. employers felt were the most critical skills needed by employees going forward. Pete took exception to some of the conclusions of the report, and I can't say I blame him. Of the issues Pete raised, one in particular caught my attention when he said:

"The fact that employers in this survey did not cite such skills for college-educated workers is incomprehensible, especially in light of the problems we've seen at Enron, Worldcom and other organizations. Whatever this poll may suggest, therefore, you can be sure that honesty and ethical behavior are prerequisites for employment regardless of your educational background."
It wasn't just the comment on ethics that got my heart rate up, but the whole issue of education college or otherwise, especially as it relates to our ability to compete in a global market.

Pete's point reminded me again of something that I had shared with the ESIX group earlier in the day. It was a list complied in a book called Workforce Crisis by Ken Dychtwald, PhD, Tamara Erickson and Robert Morison. If you are concerned about recruiting and retention and our ability to stay in the game, I commend it to your attention. Here's the list:

Tightening labor markets: As the rate of labor force growth plummets to 2-3% per decade, labor markets will tighten and competition for talented people will intensify.

Shortages of skills and experience: As the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age, organizations face a potentially debilitating "brain drain" of skills and experience.

Shortages of workers: Overall demand for workers is already beginning to exceed supply. The gap is projected to grow to millions, perhaps tens of millions, of workers, with potentially profound effects on economic output and standard of living.

Shortages of educated candidates: Despite continuing progress in average educational achievement, colleges will graduate too few candidates to fill the technical, information-intensive, judgment-intensive jobs five years from now.

Aging: The average age of employees will continue to rise, and the workforce will become more multigenerational. Proportionately, mature workers are the fastest-growing age work segment, and large employers can expect to double their percentage of workers over 55 during the next 5-10 years.

More ethnic diversity: By demographic standards, the racial and ethnic mix is changing very rapidly, with minorities now accounting for one-third of younger workers.

More women: The proportion of female workers, already high, will continue to rise slowly.

Tension around HR policies and practices: The whole range of management practices — compensation, benefits and especially work arrangements — must appeal to the new workforce and accommodate the expanding variety of workers' needs and preferences

Pressure on training and development: Employers must not only encourage employees' continuing education but also provide that education directly to maintain needed skills levels.

Strain on organizational coherence: As the workforce diversifies and disperses — adopting flexible schedules, telework and other technology-enabled arrangements — leaders must find new ways to cultivate and nourish organizational culture and identity.
As you look over the list, one could pick any one of the ten issues and be challenged for a long, long time, but if I only had to pick one, my vote is the shortage of educated candidates.

Education, of course, is not a panacea, but having said that, I absolutely believe it is the most potent weapon we have as well as our best hope to continue to be a world leader socially, politically, and economically.

What would be at the top of your list?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stress Busters

For many, "have a great day" just doesn't get it done.

We added an EAP program (Employee Assistance Plan) to our benefits program a year to two ago, and given the pressures created and faced by all of us, both in and outside the office, I am very glad we did. Based on the feedback we have received, there are lots on our staff who feel the same way. Indeed, to say that we live and work in an environment that produces a fair amount of stress for all of us would be an understatement to say the very least.

I can remember somewhere along the way reading or hearing that some "experts" say that some stress is good for you. I don't know about you, but if that's true, there are probably millions of us who are in such "good shape" that we can't stand it anymore. Just kidding.

In truth, however, I actually do believe that some stress is good and that it helps to keep us focused, energized, interested, competitive, goal oriented, and committed. All that being as it may, however, most of us still spend a fair amount of time trying to manage our stress levels so that we retain the positives so that they continue to help rather than reaching a point of diminishing returns.

What got me to thinking about all this was when I read the September newsletter that comes to us from our EAP service provider. It was just an electronic one-pager the title of which was Stress Busters: 10 Little Things to Try. After reading it, I thought it was worth sharing here if for no other reason than while not everyone has the advantage of an EAP plan to turn to, everyone is subject to any and all of the factors that bring stress into our lives.

Stress Busters: 10 Little Things To Try!

Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that many of us experience a growing sense of stress during the fall months. In some cases, this is related to the opening of school and all that this entails, such as shopping for clothes and readjusting schedules. For others, it is the anticipation of the coming winter months as we say goodbye to the laid-back days of summer. But the concept of “stress management” can itself become stressful when one considers intimidating therapies such as “autogenic training,” “biofeedback” or “transcendental meditation.” However, stress management can sometimes be achieved by making minor adjustments rather than radical makeovers! Here are 10 such suggestions that are easy to try:

1. Go to bed just 15 minutes earlier at night. You will feel noticeably refreshed in the morning and more energetic in taking on the day and its challenges.
2. Nourish your friendship circle. Reconnect with an old friend.
3. Learn to say no. Resist the urge to accede to someone’s request for your time or assistance if you’re already multi-tasking. This does not make you a selfish person.
4. When faced with stressful situations, reflect on similar situations that you have successfully withstood in the past. You survived those and you’ll survive these!
5. Learn to appreciate your family and co-workers. All too often, we tend to take their positive traits for granted and focus instead on traits we wish we could change, alter or redirect.
6. Don’t procrastinate. When we postpone burdensome tasks, they continue to loom on the horizon and drag us down.
7. Avoid perfectionism. The discovery of fuzz balls under the bed doesn’t mean that you must embark on a cleaning crusade.
8. Focus on improving yourself in some small way. According to Leslie Bonci, a dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, “four fewer bites of food per day can translate into a weight loss of ten pounds per year.”
9. Limit interaction with “negative” acquaintances who chronically reinforce feelings of hopelessness, anger and despair.
10. Catch yourself when tempted to “catastrophize;” i.e., when your mind fixates on some remotely threatening situation and anticipates an horrendous outcome.