Get Ready for a Surge!

Don’t miss Roger Herman’s keynote address at ER Expo 2003 Chicago. Visit today to learn more! Over the past few years, recruiting has occupied an interesting position. The field has become more sophisticated without question, but many of the underlying philosophies and human behaviors remain unchanged. The basic strategy is still cast the net, see who responds, pick who we want, and ignore the rest. Electronic technologies simply enable us to behave the way we already have, but more efficiently. Life is about to change. Employers have become rather arrogant. Many are focused more on layoffs, restructurings, and pushing productivity than they are on building positive relationships with current and future employees. Think about it: Does your recruiting system help develop a relationship with applicants so they feel personally acknowledged? Or does your process only contribute to the depersonalization of the recruiting process? Does your process simply send an auto-responder message? “Your resume has been received. It will be stored in our huge computer system along with thousands of others. Do not respond to this message; it was sent by an automatic function that can not receive, let alone understand, incoming communications. If, at some point in the future, we have need for your services, we’ll call you.” No wonder applicants are turned off. An astonishingly low proportion of recruitment systems even responds at all to candidates. The assumption is that candidates are simply sending resumes to every URL they can find, with no focus or expectations. While some job hunters may apply that tactic, few really want to get into that game. They’re more specific about what they want and where they might find it. When they get no response ó or an impersonal automatic response ó they’re turned off and their interest in working for that employer wanes rapidly. Coming Back To Bite You When you treat people well, they remember. When you treat people badly, they remember even better ó and they tell others. There are some real sour feelings in the employment market. Employees and candidates have been taken for granted, regarded as commodities, over the past few years. They’ve been made to feel unwanted, unloved, and unappreciated. Understandably, people don’t like to feel this way and keep in mind the source of their negative feelings. As the economy picks up, employers will experience increasing demands for their products and services. To meet customer expectations, they’ll need to hire more people. (Sure, they’ll squeeze as much productivity as they can from their current workforce until they finally have to break down and hire from the outside.) When applicants discover that there are more jobs opening up, they will gradually become more discriminating. Selectivity will increase. They’ll look for jobs with employers who appreciate them as individuals, who communicate with them, who are genuinely interested in them and care about finding the right people for the right jobs. Hundreds of thousands of workers will be in the job market. Many of them will still be on the payroll of employers who don’t have a clue how many of their people are ready to jump ship. Several recent surveys have reported that 30% to 40% of today’s workers have already checked out ó that is, they are focused more on where their next job will be than they are on their current performance. We call this condition “warm chair attrition.” How many people in your company bring their body to work but leave their heart elsewhere? These prospective employees, currently employed or unemployed, are touchy. Because of the way they’ve been treated, their emotions are close to the surface; their tolerance for belligerence and arrogance is very thin. If they apply to your company and do not get some sort of sincere, caring response, they’re moving on to the next opportunity. Do not assume that because you received a resume that the person who sent it is still even remotely interested in working for you. Ignore their inquiry, and these more sensitive workers will ignore you. Send them an automatic, one-size-fits-all response, and they’ll move on to find an employer where “one-size-fits-me.” What does your system do to reach out to prospective employees ó those people who cared enough to select you as a possible employer? The Race Is On! Most employers, particularly line executives, do not understand what is about to hit them. As we conducted our research for our latest book, Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People, we were struck by the lack of awareness ó let alone concern ó for the labor market. As we reviewed various studies and considered the research in the employment field, we realized that American employers are heading right into a swamp with alligators and quicksand. To understand emerging conditions, let’s begin with an appreciation of today’s situation. We have a serious shortage of skilled labor in this country. Oh, yes. I can hear all the complacent executives disbelieving my warnings. Layoffs, high unemployment, flat economy. Sure. Ask recruiters and you get a different answer. Many human resource specialists on the employment side of the house tell stories about how they can’t find people qualified to fill their openings. When I give speeches to audiences composed of executives from a number of companies, I ask how many employers have critical openings that they just can’t find people to fill. Consistently, 60% to 80% of the participants raise their hands. Note: This reaction comes during a period of a flat economy and high unemployment. If you can’t find the people you need now, imagine what will happen when more jobs open and the competition for top talent intensifies. The plot thickens. Today’s shortage of skilled labor will continue to grow. We’ll see increasing problems as we move through the decade. Reports of research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that we may face a shortage of 10,033,000 skilled workers by 2010. Before you dismiss this projection as being too far into the future, count the number of days between now and 2010. Preparing for the Surge In the very near future ó right now for some of readers ó the recruiting picture will be much different than it has been for the past few years. We’re shifting into a sellers’ market again, just like we saw in the late 1990s. So, here’s the question. Is your recruiting system designed ó and functioning ó for a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market? Are you prepared to handle a higher demand from your customers ó those managers who will suddenly discover that they need people and their current workforce is not stable? Prepare now for a surge in demand and in applications from people who will judge you, in part, by how you respond and interact with them. Warning: Prepare now. If you decide to wait or ignore this message, and your competitors don’t, you will be making a career-altering decision.

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Roger E. Herman ( is a strategic business futurist concentrating on workforce and workplace trends and founder of The Herman Group. His most recent book, Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People, has been on the business book bestseller list since December 2002. Roger helps corporate leaders see and understand those trends and prepare for their impacts. He accomplishes this work as a speaker, as a consultant, and as an author.


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