What’s Been, What Will Be

Last year, I worked in six countries and four continents and found similar challenges and issues in each, although with their own twist, whether a booming economy, a dearth of people, or a lack of technology. This forced me to think differently about a lot of the concerns we hear in the United States. In many ways, our problems are not as severe as we think.

For example, Australia faces significant shortages of skills and people. About 25 percent of Australian workers were born elsewhere (compared to about 12 percent in the United States) and immigration will have to remain very high to grow to sustain the booming Australian economy. At the same time, opportunities in the United States, Europe, and other countries are enticing many Australians to leave, and the educational system is struggling to entice and graduate enough new workers to make up for the number projected to retire. China is also very short of skilled workers. While there are tens of thousands of laborers, only a small fraction have the skills to work in the new factories, high-tech establishments, software firms, call centers, and service industries that are sprouting up. They are educating a record number of people, but they cannot keep up with the growth. The lack of skilled people will almost certainly constrain China’s ability to grow as fast as it wishes to. While we in the United States face the issues of fewer skilled workers and an aging workforce, we can, and will, tap into that aging workforce in many ways. Some will choose to not retire; some will work part-time or as contractors or consultants. Organizations are finding ways to entice older workers to stay and are also focusing more on keeping younger workers. China has none of these older, skilled workers to tap. It will most likely turn to the worldwide Chinese-speaking diaspora for help.

The issues we were asked to help on this past year feel into three areas: 1) market knowledge and awareness, 2) employment branding, and (3) retention. Many clients asked me to help them and their management teams understand how significant the skills shortages are and to analyze the likely number of Baby Boomers who will retire. They were also focused on looking internally and analyzing their current employees’ skills so they could be recruited for new positions. Other clients were focused on building market-oriented strategies to attract better candidates and to attract the “right” candidates. We helped do research in brand perception and awareness and helped clients improve their websites and marketing approaches. Several were concentrating on keeping their current employees, finding which ones had skills that could be used elsewhere in the organization, and on changing policies so that older workers might be inclined to stay a while longer. What will the rest of 2006 bring? We are already seeing an increased focus on selection methods and tools that make it easy to screen for the best candidates. This is being done to lower the amount of time it takes to process potential candidates and to relieve the workload of overworked recruiters. It is also being done to improve the candidate’s experience and provide her with a faster and more accurate response than today. We are seeing a continued interest and commitment to better employment branding and candidate awareness programs. These are being launched in the form of new websites, improved college recruiting strategies, better use of product advertising as a way to do employment branding, and as more publicity aimed at the segments of workers the organizations wish to attract.

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The desire to put in place screening and assessment systems is growing rapidly. Almost all of our clients have some program in place to better screen candidates and to provide recruiters with a more qualified candidate than has been the case. Along with these major trends, we also see more time spent on on-boarding new employees and in making sure they have a positive initial experience. We see some increased interest in better and more modern college recruiting, and a huge increase in global recruiting best practices. The results of our survey on global recruiting will be released in a few weeks here on ERE and on my company website.

We also see more Baby Boomers staying in the job market and helping alleviate the current and predicted talent shortages. Art Koff, the founder of RetiredBrains.com, a job board devoted to helping seniors find jobs and to helping organizations find skilled employees, reports record numbers of both seniors (and Boomers), as well as organizations accessing his site. In short, this will be a year when we evolve better approaches to things we are already doing and build more stable and useful systems.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


4 Comments on “What’s Been, What Will Be

  1. Kevin,
    it makes me think of a recent comment on another network Loosely translated –

    ‘We worry and complain about the Retiring Baby Boomers
    and say that there are no people.. Yet..
    We worry and complain about jobs going overseas via outsourcing and all the unemployed not having work
    What gives…’

    Today, more and more companies may move oversees, or are shutting doors and laying off(GM for example) – and when you read the layoff reports and see the number of massive layoffs for the Past Year Citadel, Aliant Tech, Boeing Comp, Sematech, Nova Chemicals, Washington Mutual, Tyson Foods, Sorin SpA, Del Labs., even Tulane University in LA due to Katrina
    is laying off 100-500 individuals.

    I tried to mention as many industries w/o sounding redundent. There were 58 – 50 were 100+ companies listed for the Week of Jan 19th, wow!! Many These companies are laying off from the Top-Down. There are choices of Skills, talent and abilities..

    In 2004 In 2004, employers laid off nearly 1 million workers in 5,010 private nonfarm extended mass layoff (MLS) events . (quoted from BLS http://www.bls.gov/mls/mlsreport989.pdf) In 2003 there were 1.5 Million Workers laid off in MLS Events. Folks that is a Lot of people! Are we missing the boat here?

    So I do tend to agree with the beef of the Author of the initial comment.. Where did this idealogy that there is an impeding or necessary ‘war for talent’.

    Where did all the Hype come from?

  2. I like the positive and upbeat spin woven into this article. It just goes to show that in a ‘free’ economy, resilience, adaptation and flexibility within the workforce grows with every shift of the ‘earth’ underneath its feet. And Americans do it better than anyone.

    The boomers will survive…we won’t retire just because some acutary has predicted it. And technology will create new ways of working and producing. We already are able to work from almost anywhere and perform a mind-boggleing array of services that we did not even imagine only two decades ago. And Karen, all those massive layoffs the media loves to moan about are offset by the nearly 200,000 jobs created per month in 2005 and an unemployment rate that is less than 5% as we speak.

    Yep, I love my job.

  3. Yes Deborah, I do agree with you – One good thing coming from the Layoffs as well is that the companies are providing College Education opportunities to the people being layed off as part of the outsourcing package.

    This will also give many individuals who may not have either afforded to have an education, or had not been able to afford the ‘thought’ of going back to school to finaly advance themselves.

    This will also increase the level of applicants that will be knocking on our doors. Wow!

    Hope that many take advantage of the offer of ‘free’ education.

  4. Could it be that those left behind are seen as too expensive? Certainly all those people didn’t become incompetent overnight.

    There is also a trend to demand more and more versatility from employees. I’ve seen job descriptions that would require multiple degrees or certainly multiple career paths.

    And of course, as management always says, there is always a shortage of good talent.

    Best regards,

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