Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Staffing & Recruiting: Changing Face of The Workplace

Get ready for demographic shifts that have changed -- and will continue to change -- the way people are recruited, hired and managed.There are dramatic changes afoot in the American workplace. Key among them is the massive shortage of workers beyond anyone's predictions. Companies were ready for baby boomers to retire. They knew they would rely on Generation X and Generation Y to replace those boomers. What they never could have predicted were the other factors exacerbating this shortage.

According to our findings and research from other sources, Gen Xers are downshifting to spend more time with their kids, so they are working fewer hours. And Gen Yers are flocking to entrepreneurship and self-employment. Even those interviewing at companies are finding that traveling and moving in with parents are more appealing than the jobs being offered.

In short, here's a summary of the new employees of today's workplace: Most will change jobs every two years. Most will start their adult life by moving back in with their parents. Most say that money is not their No. 1 concern in evaluating a job.

You think it's a recipe for instability, right? But what else is there to do? Work at IBM until you get a gold watch? There are no more jobs like that -- companies are under too much pressure to be lean and flexible (read: layoffs, downsizing and reorganizations) so workers have to be, too (read: constantly on the alert for new job possibilities) .

Just as the workplace is changing quickly to keep pace with new demographics and technologies, recruiters need to keep pace as well. Here are five trends recruiters should harness to stay ahead of the pack.

1. Recession-proof careers

Today, young people are in high demand, and study after study shows that the No. 1 concern of new graduates is not if they will have a job, but if they will have a job they like. This entry-level pickiness stems from the reality that there are more jobs than there are young people to fill them.

This is a demographically based trend that is largely independent of the economy. As mentioned above, Gen Xers are not working the long hours that baby boomers work, so they're not replacing retirees at the rate companies anticipated. On top of that, the entrepreneurial Gen Yers are not entering corporate America at the anticipated rate. So there are many fewer young people in the workforce to fill the gap.

The demographic shift explains why today's employment equation is employee-driven and employers will not have a chance to get power back until demographics shift, which will not happen for about 10 years.

2. Constant recruiting

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employees in their 20s are changing jobs every 18 months. Considering the time it takes to search, interview and accept, this could mean that, on average, an employee starts looking for a new job on day three of his or her current job. The job hunt has changed from being an event to being a constant state.

Employees understand that there are no longer corporate guarantees of long-term employment; layoffs, downsizing, reorganizations and de-equitization (firing or demoting law-firm partners) are all terms to describe today's unstable relationship between employer and employee. This means smart workers in today's market take responsibility for their own career stability by being constantly aware of the next place they could work.

Naturally, with their employees constantly job-hunting, companies now have to be constantly recruiting. The marketplace is so competitive today employers cannot afford to wait until they have openings. They have to recruit continually -- in anticipation of openings.

3. Branding as a recruiting tool

The best way to initiate a nonstop recruiting program is to shift away from talking about job openings and move toward talking more about what makes the company a great place to work.

Young employees care less about titles and salary and more about corporate culture, mentoring and social responsibility. This means the best way to engage young candidates is to talk about the company brand rather than specific jobs.

Additionally, branding is a more cost-effective way to recruit than posting jobs because the brand messaging is something candidates keep with them, as opposed to a job description, which candidates toss out of their heads as soon as they are done deciding if they want the job or not.

4. The demise of job boards

Job boards are designed to facilitate the job hunt as an event. They also operate on the assumption that employees are hunting for jobs. But neither is true for most young talent. In fact, jobs come so frequently to young people that many of those job ads seem more like spam than golden opportunities.

As most of the members of Generation Y become passive job candidates, the assumption that they are using job boards becomes less and less tenable. Consider also the fact that job descriptions posted on job boards often end up attracting the candidates who, for one reason or another, have a particularly difficult time finding employment, according to our findings.

5. The rise of job conversations

We've all heard the most effective way to get to passive young talent is to go to where they are, instead of waiting for them to come to you. We all know that young people are online, and that many recruiters have started going to social-networking sites such as Facebook to engage young candidates.

But Facebook is not an effective recruiting tool. For one thing, participants are not organized in a way that reveals their career goals to employers. On Facebook, people are organized by who they are friends with, so pinpointing candidates is difficult.

Also, young people do not expect to deal with career issues via Facebook. Social media is specific to tasks, and Facebook is for conveying quick, casual information about one's personal life. The idea of dealing with career issues there is not appealing to most young people -- to them, that would be misunderstanding the purpose of the medium.

A solution to the problem of not being able to find talented young recruits in today's market is to focus on bloggers. This should be what recruiters take much more seriously and where they should be looking in the next few years. Writing a blog requires a huge time commitment, so many bloggers write about career-related topics because that's what's worth the time investment. Blogs focus on ideas, and bloggers attract a community of people interested in the given career topic who want to talk about ideas before they hit mainstream media.

The blogosphere represents some of the most engaged sectors of young talent. Moreover, these people are organized by career interests, and they put their ideas out there so recruiters can judge them for the ideas they are likely to contribute on the job.

Corporate recruiters and managers do not intuitively know how to engage these bloggers in conversation. They should be looking for online sites that help them become familiar with the blogging style, find young bloggers interested in their line of work and convey their brand to that young talent. Harnessing the power of brand-based, continuous recruiting by entering into the career conversation online is fast becoming a requirement for corporate survival. Make sure you're not getting left behind.

[About the Author: Penelope Trunk is CEO of Brazen Careerist, a Madison, Wis., consulting firm, Web site and network of career-related blogs aimed at millennials and Generation Yers in the workplace. She is a columnist at the Boston Globe and her syndicated column runs in more than 200 publications worldwide.]

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