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.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.
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.
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?