March 7th, 2012
With a career dedicated to recruitment and staffing, I am a student of the workplace and workforce. I pay close attention to the realities of the industry as trends emerge and realignments change the way we do things. What do I mean? Workforce realities are the collective impact of globalization, technology, government, demographics and social norms on running a business. And currently, there is a lot of debate about how business is doing workforce planning.
Post-recession thinking has it that business is prone to using a contractual workforce for six months–one year after a recession ends to handle increasing productivity needs. This mild, tenuous recovery followed right along with history, with one big exception! That one year quickly became two, and now three years. So what gives? What happened to the shift where companies stopped using temps and started hiring directly to the payroll? There has been a fundamental realignment in workplace planning thinking.
The business leaders of today know that the range and fluctuation in business can be extreme. Does anyone remember the last recession? Of course we all do. The last recession was akin to that 100 year flood that none of us can imagine happening to our town. But this time around, it was us that lived through it.
We will continue to use temporary workers to be flexible and adaptable to fluctuations in business demand. But the realities of today’s workforce is that we need to get used to it. The social norms still suggest that everyone should go get a good job and work for a great company where they can feel secure. But that security may come from our skills and our focus on building them — more so than where we work. Loyalty may not be completely dead, but almost. No company can make forever employment promises any longer.
Today, we are all responsible for our own career. It is our job to build our skills and to manage our career. And with a shift like this, skill building will come in the form of projects, contract work and temporary assignments.
Are you ready for the shift?
November 16th, 2011
It seems that everyone is trying to guess what the story is for holiday hiring this year. Some company’s plans are up from last year, some are down. Many companies are hiring later in the season and others appear to be paying more than in past years. The only consistency is well, inconsistency. This is no real surprise (to me at least) that the hiring picture is so schizophrenic. Holiday hiring is a sampling of the broader marketplace. And in a recovery that is getting better but still uncertain, more work will be temporary in nature. It makes you wonder if temporary work was, in fact, invented at holiday times. The work is seasonal or part-time, peak times.
Holiday hiring is temporary work defined.
A strong holiday hiring season will ignite the economy. I guarantee it. From where I sit our customers are busy. Hiring is coming back strong for the right skill sets. Unemployment claims are down below 400,000 a few weeks in a row. But there is still a stigma about holiday and temporary work. That must change. Workers must embrace today’s new reality, working is better than not working. Staying busy is better than waiting for the perfect fit, especially if you have been unemployed or looking for some time. Don’t believe me? Get your foot in the door and amazing things can happen. Doing a great job gets you noticed. And perhaps an introduction to others in the business. And a full-time job in your field can happen.
At CBI Group, Placers and Barton Career Advisors, we have heard it all around holiday hiring. Here is more advice this season if you or someone you know is looking for work this holiday season.
- As many as 1/3 of all seasonal jobs will be evaluated for part-time or full-time status after the holiday season. What a wonderful opportunity to show your employer what you are capable of and for you to see if you like working in a particular company.
- “Hiring does not happen during the holiday.” This is just not true. Yes the world slows down a little. But hiring managers may actually have more time for planning and hiring than the rest of the year.
- The world is hiring more than retail this holiday season. Temporary work exists for businesses to hire talent quickly; many companies have forever changed their internal hiring resources. And the temporary jobs are abundant well beyond retail. Consider temporary work as a avenue to speed up your job search.
November 1st, 2011
Certain industries count on the power of alumni to grow their business. The world of consulting and accounting depends on the transition of alumni into corporate America. It keeps staff moving up and out providing career paths and opportunities for a dynamic workforce. Public accountants become CFOs every day and in many cases, do business with their old firm.
Recently, we have been seeing more organized efforts to achieve recruiting goals through organized recruitment efforts involving alumni. “Because so much great talent is being released into the labor market right now, it is a great time to either start a formal program or upgrade your existing corporate alumni or “boomerang” program,” says Dr. John Sullivan in an article posted the advice section of ERE.net. Today the workforce is going back as retirees look to work differently as contractors or as staff realizes the grass is not greener on the other side (in their new job). A local, Fortune 100 chemical company has had great success bringing back their workforce for special projects and contractual work.
This week, CBI Group approaches alumni recruitment in a big way. This Thursday we are having a networking event for the launch of Placers, the contract and temporary staffing arm of our business. Placers has been around since 1971 and has hundreds, if not thousands of past employees. This week, we are bringing our alumni consultants and recruiters together — a reunion that should be fun and full of story telling and memories.
While there is power in numbers, there is also power in like minded people reconnecting to share ideas, stories, business needs, openings and so on. CBI Group is adding value by organizing it for others to gain. And in that value is the power of our alumni. We will have fun and also get lots of business done in the process!
If you are Placers alumni and would like to join us we will be at the Concordville Inn in Concordville, PA (directions). Frankly any reader that wants to come gets their first drink on me.
Here is to the power of alumni!
October 5th, 2011
I talk to many small business and Talent Acquisition leaders and have discovered an interesting trend emerging in terms of how firms use their contingent workforce. Many use a temporary workforce by accident or as a path of least resistance. I am reminded of an old Placers story from many years ago.
Our business provided temps of all levels and skills for an entire banking operation. The company was staging planned emergency preparedness drills and the leadership was discussing how to communicate the emergency plan with all their employees. When we suggested that all temps should know about emergency drills, the leader mentioned that it was probably overkill, after all how many contractors did they have in the building anyway? Well wasn’t the President surprised when they had 767?! This news did not diminish their use of temporary workers — it actually encouraged them to use more contractors. If this process was so effective and bug free that the President did not know about it, then why not leverage the use of a temporary workforce to get hiring done. Instead, the news prompted the question, who is responsible for this workforce strategy?
Today, with such uncertainty in the economy, doesn’t the rising temporary workforce prompt the same question? Who is responsible for the workforce strategy in your company? If it is not the President, then who is it? There is more visibility and transparency in the business world these days and we are never short of data and numbers to crunch. Gone are the days of the wild west where business does not know about purchased labor or temp usage. Businesses now survive by being flexible, by limiting the built-up, fixed costs in their company. With temp usage on the rise, it is critical to make sure someone is paying attention and managing this part of your business. So how can you apply some simple business principles?
• Appoint someone on your organization chart to own your workforce strategy.
• Develop a contingent workforce strategy: what percentage of your workforce should be contractual?
• Take a look at your work peaks and valleys: how much risk is there in having your entire workforce be yours at the peak?
• Talk to some staffing partners. Most partners today can be consultative and help you put together a strategy that fits your business needs.
• Reporting. Do you have visibility into your spend? Into how your workforce is performing? Do you have retention information?
Being accountable is considered “in” today. Sometimes responsibility avoids us because no one has been assigned the job. Are you certain someone is responsible for your workforce strategy? Check your organizational chart please.
September 7th, 2011
Sometimes seeing and acknowledging workforce and workplace change happens very slowly. For the past fifteen years there have been predictions that almost 50% of our total workforce will be contingent workers. To be specific, contingent means temporary, contractual labor, even seasonal and part-time workers.
We are not close to 50% yet, however, it seems with each economic business cycle the numbers edge upward. And you know what? I am beginning to wonder what ‘temporary’ means when it comes to jobs. But I will get back to that premise in a minute. First, let’s talk about the business side of the workforce.
Smart businesses have learned to manage their labor costs. Much attention and press has been given to our slow moving economy and the minimal job growth. Companies survived through the recession by trimming their “core” jobs and by reducing their contingent workers. In fact, from 2007 through mid-2009, the temporary workforce dove by 33.7% while the total private workforce dropped by just 5.8%, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data in The Atlantic.
For years the staffing industry has been espousing the benefits of a “contingent workforce strategy.” The numbers from 2007-2009 are evidence that businesses could reduce their costs and were able to do so quickly. In other words, the plan worked. Typically cost comes into play, simply put, there are less employee benefit costs. And for most, cost is a driver for using “temps.” However, the real benefit has been flexibility. The flexibility to lower labor costs quickly. The flexibility to change your workforce overnight. The ability to NOT have to build a permanent Human Resources department to screen, qualify, hire and fire. And finally, the ability and flexibility to add skills and competencies for project work.
And the numbers support that. In 2010, employment in temporary help services rose by about 300,000 to 2.21 million, according to the BLS. “By 2012, contingent employment will have returned to 2008 levels,” says Dana Shaw, senior vice president for strategy and solutions at Staffing Industry Analysts in Mountain View, Calif.
Growth and decline and temporary jobs will happen as a part of smart business. But isn’t every job temporary anyway? Have you ever looked at the average tenure of leaders of public companies? Some studies support that they average a little over year. I know some contract work that is longer than that! Besides, think about your job. Yes, the one you are in right now. Think about how much project work there is with a beginning and an end. Think about how frequently you are challenged to do things that aren’t written in your job description. Businesses demand both productivity and a growth in skills from its workers.
Burkhard theory suggests that most people are congruent or right for their jobs just a few times a year. Companies change fast. Jobs evolve. We grow in interest and in skill, and our job might not. Or the job changes around us and we might not be capable or even interested in how it evolves. If you’re in a fast-growing company, skills and work experience will change faster than people can settle in. If your business is shrinking? Many employees become too experienced for their role.
It seems like just yesterday that we all wanted was to work for parental companies and retire with the gold watch after thirty years. Many of us lived through the “age of free agency” in the workforce and perhaps scoffed at it for our own careers. Change comes slowly. However, change does come. And perhaps we are beginning to realize that every job is in fact “temporary.”
January 7th, 2010
Happy New Year to everyone… I hope you took some time to recharge and re-energize this Holiday season. As a leader did you take advantage of the Holidays and give people time off when the world is a little sleepy? My mentor always taught me that this was a great time to let the “rookie” take vacation or to take that key day off and to cover for them as a leader. It sends a critical message; we are all in this together and we are all equally important. Nothing is more empowering than equality.
You ask what is “The Water Cooler Effect”? My blogs cover a variety of topics. Primarily focusing on leadership, specifically the issues and challenges one faces in business. I take the entrepreneurial point of view. Be flexible, adaptable with your business. Stay lean. Stay in control.
The “Water Cooler Effect” is about symbolism. When I worked for my father with the Placers, we knew we would grow fast and take advantage of market opportunities. As we did this we might take our eye off of costs occasionally — not on purpose, of course. We would shift our attention to what was important and it is human nature to look the other way on something else. How did we get it back? The Water Cooler? We sought involvement from staff to focus on the costs side of the business. We asked for suggestions. We wanted staff to be “intrapreneurial” and to think like an owner. We did this by constantly looking at each and every line item to figure out how to lower the costs. When all else failed? Out went the water cooler.
When the water cooler disappeared people grumbled. They could bring their own water or get it from the tap. They knew it meant that as a leadership team and as a company we had costs under control. The removals sent a message. People missed them. People wanted them. Staff got them back when their business P&L made its goal.
History repeats itself; wait until my Father hears this. In this time of conservation and rethinking what is really important, I discontinued our water cooler service. The funny thing is we have two. During times of plenty, staff decided to get water delivered. They did not want the filtered water we already had and pooled employee monies to pay for it. Times change and, over the past 5 years, staff moved onward and upward. Today CBI Group owns the responsibility for the water cooler. By removing it, I know as a leader I am doing the right thing for my business. Of course, it is not about the money. It the point of managing costs, investing in the right things and sending a clear message to my team that we are on top of expenses.
Consider taking these actions to find your “water cooler”:
- Review each and every line item of expenses. Do it with someone who does not normally have this role or responsibility. Business needs change. What was important yesterday is perhaps not relevant today. Every customer that I have that has done this has cut things that were not important to the current plans of their business.
- Call your vendors for annual reviews of services. Most have created more recession friendly offerings to court new customers. You will get them if you ask.
- If you pull your water cooler or coffee service or whatever — get mileage from it. Tell the water cooler story of cost management. Recession aside, it is how you stay competitive and run an entrepreneurial business.
Send me your water cooler story!
November 21st, 2009
Open book companies see value in sharing the results of the business with everyone. The “financials” are reviewed, KPI’s discussed. Generally speaking everything about the business and its performance is shared with everyone. The first time I tried this I think I expected an explosion of energy and enthusiasm. Frankly, I found that most were intimidated and had little exposure to finance. I even had my administrative assistant close my door and ask when she was being let go. She figured that I was telling everyone about the results of the business to setup some sort of management plan of action. So much for instant success with this plan.
I had worked in the family business Placers, and helped role out this concept across the business. I feel that it was one of the more important elements of our culture. It was wonderful to see people in control of their own destiny like that. Why had my organization not embraced it? I went looking for answers. First off I found that people needed knowledge. Knowledge in numbers yes. But they also needed the knowledge to trust the correlation between what they did each day and the numbers. Staff did not believe that they could impact the business. That there jobs did not have the influence on the bottom line. That there job had less of an impact than I wanted! This had to change.
Why bother with all of this? Culturally led business’s rock- they outperform other companies! And for my business “intrapreneurship” was a key way to give my staff the knowledge, confidence and information to really serve and wow their customers and help their peers. Never heard of intrapreneurial? I have a simple goal really; I want employees to have an ownership mindset in the business without the financial risk.
I have had mixed success with the concept. Yet I always stick with it. It is something I will never stop believing in. And nothing makes me more disappointed in a leader who won’t share. The reasons? I think I have heard them all. The staff will be afraid. The staff can’t handle it. The team can’t do anything about the results. Their role has no influence! Hogwash. Only if you want it that way.
Here is what I know:
- Staff needs to know the truth. They deserve it. If you create this environment know that if you stop sharing it can reduce trust.
- Some will count paperclips rather than spend. This creates an ownership mentality. All will look to spend a dollr effectively.
- It is confusing at first. Do we focus on top line or bottom line? You need to lead through it.
- Consistency is key.
- This gives people some say. It gives them a voice. Remember to listen.
- Employees want you to make money. It is ok if your business is a success.
- Cash flow is the hardest to grasp.
- Accounts receivable is a great place to begin.
- Knowledge is empowering. The implications on customer pricing, on resolving customer disputes, on the business are powerful.
- Force to staff to collaborate. A Key customer say, “don’t drill below the water line.” In business this means a little knowledge is dangerous. We still need to know the impact of our decisions. That we are accountable for the decisions we make. Ask for help!
Thinking of rolling out open book concepts? Have your own stories to share? I have heard from so many people by email or by phone. Please feel free to post or attach your ideas!
Until the next blog, Happy Thanksgiving to all! Count your blessings. And teach others to do the same.