Category Archives: hiring

Time to ‘Fix’ the Labor Market?

When it comes to evaluating job candidates, a college degree is often an over-used and overrated criterion that screens out otherwise-qualified people from good jobs and contributes to a worsening talent shortage.

So suggests the Rework America Task Force, a new organization that’s got some heavy hitters on its roster, including Siemens USA, Microsoft, IBM and Princeton University and is chaired by former Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Rework America’s stated goal is to “fix America’s broken labor market” by transforming it to a “21st century, skills-driven model.”

“The current labor market fails job seekers, workers and businesses,” says McDonough in a press release announcing the new organization. “Many workers have the skills employers are looking for to fill open positions, but don’t know it because too many job listings are written in a way that excludes qualified job seekers rather than attracting them.”

This includes requiring credentials such as a four-year degree as a proxy, McDonough says, instead of listing the actual skills needed for the job. That’s a problem, he adds, given that nearly seven out of 10 Americans don’t have a four-year degree, although they may possess skills that are actually relevant to the job.

Rework America is based on the Skillful Initiative, a partnership established last year between the state of Colorado and companies such as LinkedIn that helps companies use tools and data to create a skills-based hiring process that lets job candidates demonstrate the skills they can bring to an organization. Microsoft recently donated $25 million to Rework America’s parent organization, The Markle Foundation, to enlarge and expand the Skillful Initiative to another state.

A recent study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte finds that six out of 10 production jobs remain open because of the talent shortage. Given this sad state of affairs, it will be interesting to see whether Rework America’s program can help fill this gap and ensure people with skills can find meaningful work.

Hiring for the Holidays

It’s the time of year when we start to see retailers bracing for the holiday shopping season. For the heavy hitters in the industry, this usually means hiring seasonal workers. Lots of them.

In the past week, for example, we’ve seen reports that J.C. Penney plans to bring on 40,000 new workers to handle the holiday load this year, while Target Corp. figures to add around 100,000 seasonal employees. Even Toys ’R’ Us, fresh off of filing for bankruptcy, is looking to hire roughly 12,000 part-timers for the holidays. (The toy product retailer also says it will pay weekend rates during peak holiday times and offer additional employee discounts over the 2017 holiday season.)

The biggest retailer of them all, however, is going a different route this year.

As noted by the Washington Post, Walmart’s answer for handling the 2017 holiday crush is to “dole out extra holiday work to its existing employees.”

These extra hours “will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, and newly created positions such as personnel shoppers and pickup associates,” said Judith McKenna, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., in a statement. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our associates have the passion to do even more this year.”

This holiday staffing strategy isn’t altogether new for Walmart. The Bentonville, Ark.-based corporation took a similar approach last year, which was “well-received by employees and customers,” according to the Post.

The new policy will allow employees to work up to 40 hours a week during the holiday season—Walmart considers 34 hours a week to be full-time—and will help address what the Post calls “long-standing complaints” among workers who feel they’re underemployed.

“The struggle to get enough hours has been the No. 1 issue angering associates,” according to Dan Schlademan, a spokesman for OUR Walmart, an employee group founded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which has attempted to unionize Walmart locations in the past. “We’ve never been able to understand why Walmart continues hiring seasonal workers when there are so many people begging them for more hours.”

That said, questions remain around the new policy, as the Post points out. For example, will employees be forced to take on extra hours? And will they be penalized if they take time off during the holidays?

These kinds of questions aside, labor experts contend this approach makes sense for Walmart, according to the Post.

For example, even if the company ends up having to pay overtime to some of its employees, “it probably will save thousands of dollars” by not having to recruit, hire and train a fleet of temporary workers.

Richard Feinberg, a professor of consumer sciences at Purdue University, tells the Post that Walmart should see the decision to rely on its own veteran workers to get through the holidays pay off in additional ways.

“Experienced employees are … more knowledgeable and effective than new hires,” says Feinberg, “which means [Walmart is] getting greater productivity while also cutting costs.”

Such benefits are no small matter, especially at a time when, as the Post notes, the national unemployment rate is nearing a 16-year low and economists say attracting temporary workers for low-paying jobs is becoming “increasingly difficult.” Given such realities, it will be interesting to see if other leading retailers adopt a similar staffing model in holiday seasons to come.

How to Address the Labor Crunch

It’s the best of times for U.S. workers, it’s the worst of times for U.S. employers. Unemployment is at record lows while wage growth is at record highs, and many companies are hitting a wall trying to find qualified new hires to fill their ranks.

Jobs — particularly in industries such as construction — are going begging. And unless something changes fairly soon, this is going to have a big impact on economic trends. As Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, tells NY Times business columnist Eduardo Porter for a recent column, “Over the next 20 to 25 years, a labor shortage is going to put a binding constraint on growth.”

One of the biggest factors in the current talent scarcity is the withdrawal from the labor force by working-age (25 to 54) American men. The nation’s labor-force participation rate of this demographic is nearly the lowest in the industrialized world, Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger tells Porter. Many of these men lack the skills that today’s new jobs require, while others have been lost due to disability or opioid addiction.

What to do? Porter cites a new study from researchers at the University of Maryland that recommends a number of policy solutions that may appeal to conservatives and liberals alike. The researchers, Melissa Kearney and Katharine Abraham, say improving access to high-quality education and providing more child-care resources will help people upgrade their skills while making it easier for working moms to re-enter the workforce. Expanding the earned-income tax credit may also entice nonparticipants to get back in the job-hunting game.

And, although support seems to be growing for raising the minimum wage ( to as high as $15 per hour in some quarters, in order to equalize it with the inflation-adjusted minimum wage from decades ago), Kearney and Abraham express caution about doing so, noting that it will price some job seekers out of the market. They also recommend reforming disability insurance to encourage recipients to seek jobs. And, they say, limiting immigration will only exacerbate the labor shortage, notwithstanding the stated conviction of many Americans that immigrants take jobs from deserving citizens.

These are all common-sense proposals, but they require political unity and some expenditure of public funds. That’s a tall order, of course. So maybe it’s time the nation’s employers take it upon themselves to be activists on this front, for the sake of the labor market and the economy.

Take My Employees, Please

Jolt CEO and co-founder Roei Deutsch doesn’t necessarily want his talented young employees to stay.

Deutsch, who heads the San Francisco-based career development start-up, started experimenting with “charterships” about a year ago; an arrangement in which workers would leave the job they were hired for after two years. At that time, they would either find a new internal role that would get them closer to their ultimate career destination or they would leave to pursue that dream elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Business Insider’s Matt Weinberger explained the key tenets of the chartership concept:

“After two years, your job is done, no matter what,” Weinberger wrote. “At that point, you can either leave the company with no hard feelings or find a new two-year ‘mission’ at the company.”

An employee’s exit “doesn’t mean I’m firing you,” Deutsch told Business Insider at the time. “It means, ‘Let’s find something new for you to do.’ ”

Jolt also goes against the start-up grain by not offering an overabundance of perks, and Deutsch “cops to the fact that he’s paying employees below market rate,” according to Weinberger.

The idea, he wrote, is to instead reinvest that money into what Deutsch calls “employee success,” meaning that new hires “come in with a list of things that [they] want to learn,” and Jolt devotes resources to helping them reach their professional goals, and assigns them a manager to co-pilot the journey, wherever it takes them.

Business Insider recently followed up with Deutsch to see how this experiment is playing out.

So far, things haven’t gone exactly according to plan.

Part of the problem, he says, is that some millennial workers aren’t sure where they want their professional path to lead them.

“People have no idea what they want to do next,” says Deutsch. “Therefore, it’s hard for them to prepare for it.”

He’s staying the course, however, and Jolt’s embrace of charterships hasn’t seemed to affect its ability to attract talent. In fact, the company has added five new employees since February of this year.

Instead of abandoning the chartership philosophy, Deutsch and the organization are making some tweaks to it.

“Originally, Jolt’s managers were responsible for making sure that the workers who reported to them were sticking to their career development plans,” according to Business Insider. “But the company came to believe that arrangement was unsustainable. The company was essentially asking managers to prepare employees to leave the company for their next jobs at the same time it was requiring them to get the employees to do their current work.”

That approach included a “built-in conflict of interest,” Deutsch told the news website, “that makes helping your employees prepare for their next chapter harder.”

So, in addition to giving employees more time to create their personal development plans—they now have a year, as opposed to the three weeks they were allotted when the experiment started—Jolt has also begun bringing in career coaches to meet with workers in confidential sessions every two weeks.

I don’t know if Business Insider plans to check in on Deutsch and his chartership program again, but it would be interesting to see where this first group of Gen Y workers find themselves when their two years are up, and how much this experience helped them get there.

“Basically, a huge part of helping millennial employees,” he says, “is actually helping them figure out what they want to be.”

Jolt and Deutsch might be focusing on younger talent, but that seems like it would be true enough for companies looking to help develop employees of all ages.

Opioid Epidemic Hinders Hiring

Economists in recent days have taken note of a trend that’s been painfully obvious to many in HR: The opioid epidemic is preventing some employers in parts of the country from hiring and keeping workers.

Most notable among the new voices was Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, who addressed a question that has puzzled labor economists —what is driving the decades-long decline in the labor-force participation rate for prime working-age men? (Translated from econo-speak: Why are fewer men ages 25 to 54 either employed or looking for work?)

Speaking to the Senate banking committee on July13, Yellen tied that decline to another troubling trend: the rising death toll from overdoses of prescription opioid painkillers. “I do think it is related to declining labor-force participation among prime-age workers,” Yellen said. Other economists have elaborated on this theme in recent weeks. For example: the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, in its August 2017 “beige book” economic report, notes: “Manufacturing contacts in Louisville and Memphis reported difficulties finding experienced or qualified employees,

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with some citing candidates’ inability to pass drug tests or to consistently report to work,”

The link between opioids and employment isn’t just guesswork. Yellen and other economists cite the work of Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger. His latest research, published in the Fall 2017 edition of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, “makes a strong case for looking at the opioid epidemic as one driver of declining labor force participation rates,” write Brookings Institution editors in a summary of the research.

Building on his own earlier finding that Krueger’s latest findings are built on his own earlier research looking at labor and medical datafor U.S. counties. Krueger found that over the last 15 years,  after controlling for other variables ,“labor force participation fell more in counties where more opioids were prescribed.”

Where’s the Best Place to Interview?

Glassdoor’s released its annual Candidates’ Choice Awards for the 100 Best Places to Interview, and topping the list are three companies that are hardly household names: #1 is Dignity Health, followed by Horizon Media at No. 2 and Cadence Design Systems coming in at third place. Rounding out the top five were Salesforce and J. Crew.

What makes for a good place to interview? Glassdoor relies on input from job candidates and employees, who rate and review their interview experience with a company, and ranks organizations based on the percentage of positive reviews they get. Dignity Health, a San Francisco-based healthcare system with 400 care centers (including hospitals) in 22 states, received a 93 percent “positive interview experience” score, while second-place winner Horizon Media got 91 percent and Cadence Design Systems got 86 percent.

Dignity Health interviewees frequently cited a “relaxed and friendly environment” during panel interviews, with one candidate who interviewed for a nursing position describing the entire experience as “wonderful and educational.” The typical interview lasted for about 30 minutes, according to the reviews. Candidates who interviewed at Horizon Media, a New York-based media-services agency, frequently cited transparency as a positive experience there, with HR generally doing a good job of keeping them in the loop regarding their status. Those who interviewed at Cadence Design Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based IT firm that’s also on Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, the tone of the reviews was a bit more critical, with many describing a complicated process consisting of multiple technical interviews (many of the positions were for software engineer, which may explain that) and in a few cases hiring managers who were late to the interview or recruiters who failed to follow up at all. In general, however, they described the process as smooth and efficient.

Glassdoor’s Best Places to Interview includes a few well-known names as well, including Walt Disney Co. (at No. 25 on the list), United Airlines (28), Nike (34) and Starbucks (39). The length of the hiring process and interview difficulty also play a part in determining winners, says Glassdoor.

Face it, it’s tough to attract and hold on to talented employees these days, and a positive candidate experience matters more than ever. Just ask the organizers of the Candidate Experience Awards, who will hold their own awards ceremony for North American winners this October in Nashville. (And you’ll be able to hear directly from some of those winners at this year’s Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech Conference).

The Telltale Text

Erika Nardini says she learns a lot about job candidates by how quickly they respond to text messages. And if you want to work for her, you better not leave her hanging when she sends you one.

Last week, I started seeing article after article focusing on Nardini—CEO of Barstool Sports—and a unique exercise she uses to get a sense of how devoted an applicant would be if hired by the New York-based sports and men’s lifestyle blog.

Earlier this month, Nardini told the New York Times about the random text messages she sends to prospective hires at odd times—9 p.m. on a weeknight or 11 a.m. Sunday morning, for example—just to see how long it takes them to get back to her.

The idea, of course, is that those who respond promptly would be more apt to show around-the-clock commitment once on the job, according to Nardini, who told the Times that she typically likes to see a reply within three hours.

(A quick sidebar … Considering the time that passed between me first reading about this unconventional hiring test and sitting down to write about it, it’s dawning on me that I should probably never apply at Barstool Sports. I’m guessing that I would screen out of the hiring process in pretty short order.)

Now, you can question whether Nardini—who admits to thinking about her job “all the time”—gives a rip about her employees ever achieving anything resembling work/life balance. But the former AOL chief marketing officer with a self-described “punishing” leadership style claims she’s just looking for others who share a similar preoccupation with their work.

“It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you to be responsive,” Nardini says in the Times interview. “Other people don’t have to be working all the time. But I want people who are always thinking.”

I’d be interested to hear how applicants who have been on the receiving end of a text from Nardini feel about being assessed in this way. I’m sure many are more than willing to go above and beyond to land a job. And you could argue that one quick text from a would-be boss isn’t that much of an imposition anyway. Still, could some qualified and talented candidates be scared off by the possibility of sacrificing even a little bit of their precious personal time should they get the position?

In fact, countless surveys have in recent years found that many employees would like to think less about work when they’re away from the office, but feel increasingly obligated—pressured, even—to stay connected in some way.

All that said, how many potentially valuable performers wind up leaving a job in the early-going because they feel they weren’t given a true picture of what life would be like at the company?

Ultimately, employers have to find ways to provide interviewees with an honest, accurate preview of the organization’s employee experience before they come on board. And, however you feel about the approach she’s taking, you have to at least give Nardini points for doing just that.

Improving the Candidate Experience

A new CareerBuilder study outlines the complex perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of both candidates and hiring managers to better help employers identify and address where they fall short in their current candidate process.

CareerBuilder’s 2017 Candidate Experience study included 4,512 workers ages 18 and over, and 1,500 hiring decision makers. (You can view full results and the executive summary here.) The study’s results show what peers and competitors have identified as shortcomings in their process, illustrate the role for technology to help improve the process and provide tips to make things easier for employers and prospective employees.

According to CareerBuilder, here are some aspects employers are struggling with:

  1. Not having a quick apply process for every device: The application process itself can contribute to a negative experience for modern candidates as “applications taking too long” (28 percent), “having to customize documents for every job” (34 percent) and “uploading a resume into a system but still having to manually fill out fields” (29 percent) are reiterated as frustrating aspects of the process by a considerable amount of candidates.
  2. Not preparing hiring managers: On average, only 2 out of 5 hiring managers are prepped by recruiters or talent acquisition specialists. Of those who do, only 2 out of 5 prep hiring managers specifically on the topic of candidate experience. This means only 16 percent of hiring managers overall are prepped by specialists to help manage the candidate’s experience.
  3. Not having an effective career site: An employer’s career site is important for getting key information, according to 89 percent of job seekers. But a quarter of employers (24 percent) say their company career site doesn’t accurately portray what it’s like to work for their organization, and only 45 percent of candidates say they can typically tell what it would be like to work for a company based on their career site.
  4. Not tailoring communications methods to specific segments: The ever-emerging multigenerational workforce demands a shift in the way we communicate. Millennials significantly prefer email communications (57 percent) over phone calls (31 percent), whereas boomers significantly prefer phone calls (58 percent) over emails (37 percent). Gen Xers have equal preferences towards email and phone calls (47 percent for both). Further, millennials are 2-3 times more likely to prefer alternative communication methods (text messaging, social media messaging and video calling) compared to Gen X and baby boomer generations.
  5. Not recognizing when the employee experience really begins: The lines between the candidate and employee experience are blending – at least in the eyes of candidates, as 3 in 4 say their candidate and onboarding experience with a company is the first part of their broader employee experience with that company.
  6. Not building relationships with candidates for future opportunities: The most valuable resource an employer has is their talent pool. While it is important to attract the top candidates, it is equally as important to frequently and effectively communicate with your talent pool, but more than a third of employers (35 percent) say they don’t put time into doing this.
  7. Not having an efficient background check process: Employers that want to keep top talent from talking to other companies while they want to receive employment screening results should improve their screening process. Sixty percent of candidates continue communicating and interviewing with other companies while waiting on background results.
  8. Not having the right ATS or an ATS at all: Organizations currently utilizing an ATS (applicant tracking system) reported placing more emphasis on the candidate, employee and hiring manager experiences. For example, those who currently use an ATS are 25 percent more likely to have a standardized process to help deliver a consistent candidate experience.
  9. Not informing the candidate where they stand: More than half of job seekers say employers don’t do a good job of setting expectations in terms of communication at the beginning of a potential hiring interaction. Eighty-one percent of job seekers said continuously communicating status updates to candidates would greatly improve the overall experience.
  10. Not staying connected with candidates once they have accepted the position: Once the hiring process is in the post-acceptance and onboarding stage, the expectation is for the process to be seamless and frustration-free for new hires – yet a noticeable number of candidates say this stage has not been ideal. Two in 5 candidates (40 percent) say they’ve experienced a lack of communication in the past between when they accepted the job and their first day of work. This is not surprising, since less than half of employers (47 percent) have a formal process in place for communicating and interacting candidates between the time the day they accepted the job and the day they start work.
  11. Not paying attention to how their employer presence/brand is portrayed on social media: Employers are trying to reach an audience, and they can’t afford to let their brand’s social media pages fall by the wayside. Yet, 60 percent of employers don’t monitor their employer presence/brand on social media. Of those who do, 68 percent take steps to encourage positive reviews while 16 percent just react to negative information.
  12. Not treating candidates with the same respect as employees: While the majority of employers (51 percent) say the line is blurring between the company experience and employee experience, less than half of job seekers (49 percent) say employers treat candidates with the same level of respect and accountability as current employees. This is an issue since the vast majority of job seekers (nearly 4 in 5) say the overall candidate experience is an indicator of how a company values its people.

“A positive candidate experience is a competitive advantage in a job market where candidates have flexibility in their job selection,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “To remain competitive and create a candidate experience that attracts, secures and retains today’s top talent, you need to determine how your current hiring methods measure up to what candidates are looking for.”

 

Hurting for Talent in HR?

In the never-ending quest to boost HR’s profile in the C-suite, CHROs must first surround themselves with top-notch talent in their own departments, according to new research from Korn Ferry.

The problem, the same survey finds, is that serious talent gaps exist within the HR suite.

The Los Angeles-based advisory firm recently polled 189 chief human resource officers, finding that “as the HR function becomes more strategic and high-profile, HR professionals need to step up their game when it comes to business insights and achieving results,” according to a Korn Ferry statement.

More specifically, CHROs were asked to name the skills they find are most lacking as they search for human resources talent.

A mere 4 percent reported having no difficulty finding the necessary skills to round out their HR teams. Otherwise, respondents said:

  • Business acumen (41 percent)
  • Ability to turn strategy into action (28 percent)
  • Intellectual horsepower (10 percent)
  • Analytical skills (7 percent)
  • Diversified experience (6 percent)
  • Relational skills (3 percent)
  • Technical skills (1 percent)

Of course, the role of the HR function, and the CHRO, is much more complex than it was even five short years ago, says Joseph McCabe, vice chairman of Korn Ferry’s Global Human Resources Center of Expertise.

“Disruptors such as digitization and globalization are creating an environment of constant organizational change,” says McCabe. “HR leaders must understand the business challenges that occur as a result of these disruptions, including the impact on the business strategy, and be able to quickly adapt and act.”

The Korn Ferry poll allowed respondents the chance to do a bit of self-examination as well, asking CHROs what competencies were most important to helping them handle the ever-changing environment in which they operate.

By far, the most common response was “tolerance for ambiguity,” cited by 52 percent of the CHROs surveyed. Twenty percent pointed to the confidence to make bold, yet informed decisions as most critical, followed by the ability to sustain analytical thinking and motivate others (11 percent) and the ability to listen to and accommodate others’ methods (6 percent).

The study finds that a failure to cultivate both “hard” and “soft” skills could be costly for a CHRO; a reality that respondents seem to recognize. Indeed, when asked to name the top reason that a CHRO would get fired from an organization, the largest percentage (37) said “personality issues/inability to work well with or lead others,” with 34 percent reporting that an “inability to direct connect HR efforts to tangible business outcomes” would be the most likely cause for being let go.

“Today’s CHROs are judged both on what they do and how they get things done,” says McCabe. “While it’s critical that HR must act quickly to adapt to changing business strategy, it’s also important to align their team and other key leaders to foster engagement and a shared vision.”

A Costly Skills Gap

How much does it cost the average company when open job positions remain unfilled for 12 weeks or longer? Almost $1 million a year, according to a pair of CareerBuilder surveys released today. The surveys, which were conducted for CareerBuilder by Harris Poll late last year and from Feb. 16 to March 9 of this year, found that the average cost HR managers say they incur for having extended job vacancies is more than $800,000 annually. Nearly 60 percent of the employers surveyed report that they have job openings that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer.

We’re not just talking those hard-to-fill computer science jobs, either. “The gap between the number of jobs posted each month and the number of people hired is growing larger as employers struggle to find candidates to fill positions at all levels within their organizations,” says CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson. “There’s a significant supply and demand imbalance in the marketplace, and it’s becoming nearly a million-dollar problem for companies.”

Indeed, a supply imbalance appears to exist for a variety of occupations, including truck drivers, marketing managers, web developers, industrial engineers, sales managers, HR managers and information security analysts, CareerBuilder finds.

Two in three employers (67 percent) say they’re concerned about the skills gap, and more than half (55 percent) say these extended job vacancies are hurting their organizations. Forty-five percent say they lead to productivity loss, while 40 percent say they cause higher employee turnover, 39 percent cite lower morale, 37 percent mention lower quality work and 29 percent say the vacancies leave them unable to grow their business.

Not everyone agrees the “skills shortage” is real; some economists (and our HREOnline Talent Management columnist and Wharton School professor Peter Cappelli) argue that the real culprit is a reluctance by many employers to pay for the sort of workplace training programs that were commonly offered in the past. Nevertheless, plenty of other surveys also show that employers in a range of industries are contending with hard-to-fill positions, including the manufacturing industry. In fact, given President Trump’s stated desire to “make America great again” by, in part, bringing manufacturing jobs back to this country from overseas by imposing tariffs on foreign-made goods, some manufacturers are trying innovative ways to “grow” their own talent by reaching out to high schools and community colleges to ensure they’ll have talent on hand and won’t be caught short.