Beyond Good Recruiting: Why You Need to Change Your Approach

Most (okay, some - those over 30 for sure) will know how to complete this movie cliche: "you had me at..."

I think Amazon had me at: "Amazon is building brand new recruiting tools and services from the ground up..." Which makes me kind of a geek. I'm good with that. I'm also very happy to see lines like that in job
postings. We're going to need many more major US employers to take up
that attitude if we're going to stay competitive as an economy.

Amazon gets it: what's been good enough in recruiting won't even come close to cutting it in the near future. Blind acceptance of others recruiting methodologies, behaving in a reactionary fashion to job
markets, and moving slowly won't just make your job tougher: it may well
kill you company. Right now, Amazon's in the minority. How many
companies can you name that are really preparing themselves for the the
coming shift in our work-force demographics? How many companies do you
think even truly, deeply understand this shift, let alone how radical
it might be? If you work in human capital, and you're thinking "what
the hell is he talking about?", I'd recommend getting yourself out of
the trees and taking a look at the forest. Things, they are a'changin.

Some Issues

If you haven't, dig into the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008-2018 Projections - it's sobering stuff. I'm not going to dive into a full review (Josh Bersin has a nice, quick Coming Talent War" href=" over on his blog), but there are a few key
points I want to lay out, and then go into a bit about impact.

There's been a lot* of talk about the retirement of the Boomers. That quieted down a bit with the recession (nothing like putting off thinking about bad news - one of humanities recurring foibles). It's
still happening. They're getting older, and - despite how the recession
impacted their 401k plans - they're leaving the work force. Illness,
buckling down & living with less, mortality, and economic
resurgence will push that trend in its inevitable direction. Which
means very soon, less than half the US population will be providing
food, shelter, etc for the country. That may well be unsustainable. I
think this graph shows it pretty starkly:

A few more juicy quotes from the study:

  • "Employment in management, scientific, and technical consulting services is anticipated to expand at a staggering 83 percent"**
  • "Computer and mathematical science occupations are projected to add almost 785,700 new jobs from 2008 to 2018."

Which is bad. Beyond the fact that the percent of 16 - 24 year-olds is decreasing from 14% to 12% by 2018 (so, less fresh CS & Math grads to answer the increase in bullet 2), we're also seeing a decline
in CS & Math majors among current college students: "According to
the Computer Research Association, there were 43% fewer graduates and
45% fewer CS degree enrollments in 2006/2007 than in 2003/20041."
(DARPA: and Mathematics (CS-STEM) Education Research Announcement" href="ht... - PDF)

Some Suggestions

Professionals in the human capital field need to stare at these numbers pretty hard, and begin to craft solutions - fast. Some of these will be industry/ geographic/ and-or company specific.

This loops me back to Amazon. I don't know much about what they're doing, beyond the interesting way they're positioning their recruiting positions on the job boards, but my gut is they're one of the few firms
that's being sufficiently proactive. They get that relying on their
brand alone won't cut it: these numbers I'm laying out means it's going
to get bloody out there.

What if you're a SMB, with limited budget? First: go get some. Use the BLS's data, the DARPA report, and any other credible data you need to make your case to your exec team. They're (probably) pretty smart
people. Numbers like these should get their attention.

No matter what company you work for, think hard about your short and long term talent strategies - do you have one? Does it factor in the coming disruptions? If not, get to work. Lay out a strategy for how you
think you'll need to compete, from increasing brand awareness to
getting more staff to work on the problem with you (shared resources and
likely an increase to your recruiting staff). Commit to your ongoing
education - from ERE to HCI summits. Take a relevant classes. Make sure
you have the best possible technology available to you - if you don't
know what to use, invest in a consultant who can guide you through a
dizzying array of solutions.

The way ahead isn't totally clear - will we increase outsourcing, or loosen immigration policies? What impact will the cloud have on resources and productivity? Are we going to evolve into a largely
migratory workforce - ie, is the idea of salary and employer-issued
benefits going to become a thing of the past? One thing we can know:
the numbers point to a serious drop in our available resources. And lack
of resources is rarely a good thing.


*Googling "boomer retirement" OR "boomers retiring" brings back 75,500 results

**On manufacturing: if you've been reading this and felt your blood boiling over the loss of manufacturing jobs, and you're composing a juicy comment about how "it's criminal" or "it's so-and-so's fault",
etc: save it for the OpEd pages. It's very clear that that's a sore spot
for a lot of people - right or wrong - and those sentiments seem to get
tossed into any discussion about the labor force. Instead (please) give
me your take on this: $38000 vs $35000. Those are the (rough) averages
of the median salaries of the top-20 winners versus top-20 losers in the
jobs created vs lost categories. If you look at the #1 categories in
both columns, it's $62,450 vs. $19,870 (RN's versus sewing machine
operators). If the jobs we're creating pay so much more, isn't this a
gain? Also: we're going to be short-handed as it is. Perhaps losing
low-skill roles is a good thing - frees up more hands for the areas
where we're going to need them. Just a thought...

(Originally posted on Good to Know)

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