Category Archives: recruiting

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.

B-School Applications Are Up

Applications for graduate business degree programs are up this year, suggesting a bumper crop of potential recruits down the road, reports the Graduate Admissions Council. The nonprofit association of B-schools administers the GMAT admissions exam.

Among larger programs, 73 percent reported an uptick in applications in the council’s latest annual survey . Smaller programs saw increases of 39 percent to 51 percent. The survey polled 965 degree programs at  351 business schools in 45 countries.

The survey also showed growth of a trend we first noted early this year: amid uncertainty about the nation’s immigration policies, foreign students are steering away from U.S.business schools. About 75 percent of full-time two-year MBA programs in the United States saw a decline in foreign-student applications. By contrast, 22 percent saw increases in U.S. applications.

 

The report quotes one unnamed admission official at a U.S. school  offering an explanation: “Anecdotally, we have had prospective and admitted students express concern about applying for and enrolling in [graduate management programs  in the United States because of the current political situation and fears of finding employment/H1Bs after graduation.”

 

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.

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).

Candidates Want the Personal Touch

Does your candidate experience resemble this?

A new study from Randstad US bolsters this point, with 82 percent of survey respondents agreeing that they are often frustrated with “an overly automated job search experience.” Ninety five percent of the 1,200 respondents to the survey agree tech should supplement, not replace, the recruitment experience and 87 percent agree that it’s made the search process more impersonal.

The top two aspects cited by respondents as contributing the most to a positive impression of an employer (aside from an actual job offer) were “the degree of personal, human interaction during the process” and “the recruiter/hiring manager I worked with.” Factors contributing to a negative impression of an employer included the length of the hiring process and “the communication level throughout the selection process.” One-third of the respondents who said they’d had a negative experience reported that they’d never apply to the organization again and would not refer a friend or family member there.

We’ve certainly touched before on how lengthy hiring processes and lack of communication can alienate candidates and undermine employers in their search for talented candidates. But now more than ever, jobseekers want a candidate experience that’s similar to or even surpasses the one that consumer-focused companies provide to their customers.

As Randstad North America CEO Linda Galipeau says, “Employers today, and in the future, will be judged by the experience they create for prospective hires. In a technology-driven world of talent, it’s not only about how a company markets itself, but what others say about the company that has a positive impact on employer branding.”

Will Foreign Students Shun the U.S?

The Trump administration’s increased scrutiny of H-1B visas affects not only experienced foreign workersit also could pinch the flow of talented international students who, after earning U.S. graduate degrees, traditionally start their careers in the lower rungs of major American companies.

A May 2017 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the exam that students usually must take to enter an MBA or other business-focused graduate program, found that two-thirds of 700 foreign students seeking admission to a U.S. graduate business program would consider shifting their destination to another country if they couldn’t get a work visa after graduation.

The U.S. remains the top choice for graduate business education, with 62 percent of respondents listing it as their first choice. India, at 9 percent, was the overall second choice. Canada, at 6 percent, was third, with China, the United Kingdom and France also mentioned.

But already there is evidence that U.S. visa policies are discouraging graduate business students. About two-thirds of MBA programs are reporting a decline in foreign-student applications, the council reported. And 56 percent of students who plan to study outside the U.S. cited American immigration policies as the reason, the GMAC survey found.

Solve a Puzzle, Get a Tech Job

British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover announced yesterday that it would be recruiting 5,000 people this year, including 1,000 electronics and software engineers.

While that announcement alone may not seem worthy of inclusion in the esteemed pages of the New York Times, how the upscale carmaker is conducting this recruitment process certainly is: The paper reports the carmaker “wants potential employees to download an app with a series of puzzles that it says will test for the engineering skills it hopes to bring in.”

While traditional applicants will still be considered, people who successfully complete the app’s puzzles will “fast-track their way into employment,” said Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Tata Motors of India. Applicants are invited to explore a garage belonging to the band Gorillaz and assemble a Jaguar sports car. Once they complete that stage, they are confronted with a series of code-breaking puzzles.

The Times notes that the carmaker’s recruitment effort is “unusual but far from unique,” adding that increasing numbers of employers are using alternative methods to hire workers. The story goes on to cite Marriott hotel and a British communications agency as other examples of organizations changing their recruitment techniques to keep up with the pace of change in today’s marketplace.

“The nature of jobs is changing, and what we should be looking for is changing,” Barbara Marder, senior partner at Mercer, a consultancy that specializes in human resources and has a stake in Pymetrics, a company that makes games for recruitment purposes, told the Times. She added that such games had not been in use long enough to provide ample data on their effectiveness. Still, she said, they could be more useful than traditional tests and interviews.

Games offer additional benefits, she said, explaining: “They’re very attractive in attracting candidates and keeping the short attention span of millennials. That’s not an insignificant challenge.”

 

Of Job Interviews and Stress

Do you remember your last job interview? Was the experience a pleasant one? If you’re like most people, the answers are A: yes, and B: No. After all, regardless of how nicely you’re treated during the interview — a receptionist who greets you warmly by name, interviewers who appear to have fully read your resume, etc. — the fact is that this is a process that may determine not only your livelihood but also who you’ll be spending the majority of your waking hours with (and yes that sounds sad, but it is what it is). So considering all that, it may not be surprising if even the memory of the experience makes your heart beat a little faster and your palms get a bit sweaty.

All of this can be a good thing, said psychologist Kelly McGonigal during her keynote presentation earlier this week at Indeed Interactive in Austin, Tex. The conventional wisdom about stress is that too much of it leads to overeating, high blood pressure and a host of other maladies and behaviors that will ultimately result in a shortened lifespan, said McGonigal, a Stanford University researcher whose 2014 TED Talk titled “How to Make Stress Your Friend” garnered nearly 5 million views. However, stress is and always has been a part of life, she said — it’s how we choose to respond to it that determines its effect on our health.

“The advice we typically give to each other during a really stressed-out moment, like before a job interview, is ‘Take a deep breath,’ ” she said to attendees packing the ballroom at the Austin J.W. Marriott. “Yes, most people say that — and they’re wrong. A better piece of advice is, what if instead of trying to suppress the stress, we view it as energy that we can harness?”

McGonigal cited research conducted at the University of Wisconsin that tracked 30,000 Americans over the course of eight years. The researchers found that subjects with a lot of stress had a 43-percent increased risk of dying — but only if they believed stress was harmful.

“The people who perform best under pressure aren’t actually calm, but they view that stress as energy that can actually help them,” she said. “Your body and brain have a whole repertoire of stress responses, many of which are helpful and healthy. If you choose to embrace that anxiety, it actually transforms the biology of fear into the biology of courage.”

People tend to perform better when they’re told prior to a major event that feeling anxious is natural and that it can actually help them — not just in job interviews, said McGonigal, but in a wide range of activities such as athletic competitions, during tests and even in karaoke contests (something to keep in mind for your next happy hour).

“Not everyone does this naturally, although everyone has the capability to do this,” she said. “You can access the biology of resilience in stressful situations.”

Researchers at Columbia Business School conducted an experiment in which participants were put through a mock job interview by interviewers who’d been coached to be very cold, give no positive feedback whatsoever to the interviewees  and interrupt them regularly, said McGonigal. One group of interviewees was shown a video prior to the interview that explained the damaging effects that stress can have on health. The other group was shown  a video about how stress can be performance-enhancing and can help people emerge from a difficult situation stronger and better-equipped to handle adversity. The participants who saw the positive video experienced higher levels of hormones (oxytocin, in particular) that help us react positively to stressful experiences, she said.

In another experiment focused on job applicants, this one at the University of Michigan, researchers counseled one group of participants to think about how — if they got the job — it would allow them to help others or express their values in a way that would contribute to the greater good. Members of this group were much more likely to be rated by people who watched the interviews as  confident and competent and as someone they would like to work with than those who hadn’t received the pre-interview counseling.

So, what’s the lesson here for recruiters and talent-acquisition leaders?

“Every step of the hiring process can be viewed as contributing to the community, values and mission of the organization,” said McGonigal. “One could view your own role as part of that, of helping to connect people with the organization and the community that it’s part of. And every moment that you choose to view as the next step in bringing this about also helps create a psychologically healthy state for you.”

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.”