Friday, November 22, 2013

What Is The Talent Of Talent Acquisition?

Whenever, in the context of HR or hiring, I hear or see the phrase Talent Acquisition it creates a tiny speed bump within me. I need to slow down and navigate around it because I can't get the actor/artist meaning of the word out of my head. It must have something to do with living in Las Vegas.

So why the trip-up? Because it strikes me as a marketing phrase conjured up to promote "on-boarding" HR software. Thinking back, the term human resources hit me in a similar way when I first heard it, producing a mind picture of hoards of fenced-in humans ready to be used or put into service in some way. Okay it's just me, but why not simply say employee acquisition or employee department? Why the necessity to garnish and spin it?

Setting the forgoing aside, it's clear that talent (broadly defined) will become a very big deal in the job market going forward. I get it that out-and-out workplace superstars will be easily identified and described in terms of talent but what about Everyday Joe and Jane? As Tyler Cowen points out, everything in the workplace of tomorrow will be measured, rated, and graded (computers and digits of course, ruling the day). Therefore it follows that talent (traditionally the realm of the right brainers) will be measured, rated, and graded too (the act of which is the very essence of the left brainers).


Think about this. Quantifying talent on a mass scale - it's funny and chilling at the same time. I can only imagine where this is headed given the current trajectory. But what of the "it's more of an art than a science" argument? Will talent acquisition get to the point of stultification? (Note: a flash of the sadly performing Affordable Care website raced through my head ... huh, a little talent acquisition needed there, wouldn't you say?)

Anyhoo, imagine companies of the future, hamstrung in measurement mediocrity, chucking the whole rating and grading by digits stuff and going back to hiring the old school human-to-human way?

Nah, won't happen, but the ride will be interesting.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why Women Will Rock In Tomorrow's Workplace

Yes, well, read on please...
Okay, let's get the disclaimers out of the way right off the bat. Saying women will rock isn't to say they don't rock now - nor am I saying men will be completely left out. Rather, workplaces of the future will place high value on what seems to come built-in for women, conscientiousness.

I define a conscientious worker as one who is reliable, consistent, and intent on doing tasks correctly. This may not sufficiently describe the highly successful CEO, the high-flyer sales rep, or the brilliant IT specialist, but these characteristics will fit most mid-level workers going forward. Employers will look for them up front and measure them once someone is hired. As a practical matter this will favor women workers.

To paraphrase Tyler Cowen in Average Is Over, ...women are on average more conscientious than men...more likely to follow instructions and orders with exactness without resentment. This is especially true for middle-skills jobs, a category that will grow as the digital revolution continues it's relentless assault on our economy.

What about men? Cowen thinks of men as "higher variance" performers at work. This is to say the range (from excellent to poor) in execution of duties is greater for men than it is for women. This means males that are highly dedicated, conscientious, and capable (especially in specialized areas) will do very well. But males that are head-strong, less than completely responsible, and not accepting of authority, will do very badly. Why? Jobs of the future will rely more on smart machines and less on brute force labor. These machines will be expensive to purchase and maintain resulting in zero tolerance for irresponsible players on the work site or factory floor.

Connect the dots on this. The Marketplace of the future will reward (1) pure talent, (2) niche specialists, and (2) conscientious workers. Those lacking, especially males - and most particularly disadvantaged and poorly educated males - will be dead meat. Remember, everything will that can be measured will eventually be measured. Bad actors won't make it past the first HR step. And those showing bad actor tendencies post hire will be easy to spot (recall that measuring, grading, and rating are what digits do).They'll be placed on a very short string.

Employers will of course reach and pay for talent and niche specialists to fill key positions - but not for mid-level jobs. Worker attributes such as conformity and conscientiousness will increase in importance. In a world where brand identity rules, control and conformity (camouflaged of course) cannot be left to chance. It will be all about "the fit" with very little lenience.

I am concerned about this for the entire country and of course, right here at home. Success marginalization (to coin a phrase) begins in the home and continues at school. Our nation has essentially tossed in the towel on any societal home/family/early childhood fix in spite of mountains of evidence telling us otherwise. As for public K-12 education (the easier of the two to fix) it's not a capital "P" priority - if it were we'd fix it but we aren't. Here in Nevada the high school graduation rate is near the bottom. Lots of good people are trying to change the situation but it's not enough.

Where ever conscientiousness resides within each of us, I can imagine clear air for lots of these dropouts. Sure, many have something to offer if given an opportunity, but the Marketplace cares not. What's hard for these kids today will become absolutely impossible in the future when every little thing about them will be only a few keystrokes away.

Then what?

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Food Stamp Cuts - Digging Deeper

In response to the Great Recession, food stamp benefits were temporarily boosted in 2009. This increase has expired and as of last Friday recipients will be receiving on average 5% less. The rollback will save a reported $5B in fiscal '14 and close to $50B over ten years. Look for additional cuts and adjustments as Congress wrestles with a new farm bill.

And why is this? Because lawmakers have to do something about the debt and they will do all they can to nibble at the margins before engaging in the heavy lifting. Letting an increase like this expire is easy.

But dig below the surface on the food stamp issue and you will find major philosophical differences relating to the role and responsibility of government Vs that of the individual. These differences are nothing new but this time around there's the national debt. It's unavoidable and the tail that will increasingly wag the dog going forward. Expect government solutions to take a back seat as more and more is placed on the individual.

This food stamp rollback will be one of many, all driving home the concept of Free Agency not only for the American worker, but for all Americans. Some people are already there. They get it and are doing their best to take charge of their vocational and economic futures. But most are still working at it, perhaps better described as coping.

And then there are those that won't or can't get it. This group probably includes many who saw their food stamp payments fall on Friday. Even though the rules of the Marketplace don't favor them, this group, which is going to grow - this cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. The challenge facing our nation/government is simply this; try to help (which will become increasing difficult given the debt situation) or let everyone fend for themselves (risking the negatives associated with a very large and entrenched underclass). Surely there are creative ideas that work the middle ground, but will they find a voice?

In the meantime, take this as another example to wake up. Like it or not we are entering an age that will focus on the individual like never before. The irony of course is that organizations of all types grow and prosper when people work together. The play-out of these polarities - plus the increasing ability for everything to be measured, graded, and rated - will be one of the stories of the next 10-20 years.

What's required is a plan that not only takes into account what each job seeker / job up-grader needs, but also one that incorporates dynamics noted above.

I can help.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell