Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top Technology Predictions (that affect us all) for 2013

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Here they are: My predictions for 2013
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you know I am not opposed to expressing my opinion. My opinion is usually based on early signs that something is going right or wrong for the subject, but I do not take these things lightly. I truly believe what I am about to predict is going to happen. Feel free to express your own thoughts as they relate to these recruitment and technology predictions for 2013:

1.      Apple will begin its decline.
It’s been a good run at the top. But since the innovator and product marketing genius has left us in the form of one Steve Jobs, I see troubled waters ahead for this giant of the computing/device world. As Jobs’ pipeline starts to be reduced, the iPhone is no longer the revolutionary product it once was and Windows Phone 8, while no one is buying it, gets great overall reviews and Microsoft will stay with it. It is only a matter of time, I am afraid, that the Apple is reduced to but a core of its former self.

2.      ‘Bye. Bye.’ BestBuy
As with other big box stores that failed to remain relevant, I feel that BestBuy will shutter most of its large stores. The proof is in the pudding. When an electronic giant attempts to remain relevant by offering home goods such as mattresses and loveseats in its own stores rather than expanding into the home goods stores, I am pretty sure things are not going according to plan. I think the chain will keep the kiosks going and Geek Squad will become more independent of the stores.  Unfortunately and ultimately, in the end, they will go the route of Circuit City.

3.      Microsoft Resurgence
I know this is related to number one, but it is worthy to address again. Microsoft Surface and Phone will gain market share. Bing will not. (Google is doing it’s magic to make SEO challenging, yet even more intuitive for users and purveyors of goods and services online.) While the best product doesn’t always win, especially when the best product is from a smaller company; in search, smart phones, and tablets; it’s a battle of the titans, and I believe the best product will win.  There is simply nothing better than Google for search. However, Windows Phone and tablets with their tight integration into social networks and Microsoft office, along with PC integration, will do well.  After all, it took Xbox a while but, it attained heights that no one ever thought possible; leaving PlayStation and Nintendo to catch up.

4.      Requiem for RIM
This is a ‘gimme.’ Blackberry and RIM will die. They will likely be acquired for patents and the talent within. You just can’t come up with innovations like this and it be all for nothing. It’s a sad story of just how harsh business can be: A great idea thought up by some forward thinking entrepreneurs; only to be reverse engineered and squashed, without the time or resources to fight the battle.

5.      Job Boards Head ‘South’
Job boards will begin their decline; only they will hide it well. I’ve talked about how Monster was going to die. It is a former shell of itself. Even the great CareerBuilder, with incredibly valuable data may have seen its final curtain call.  They will use their partnerships with Facebook and the like to inflate numbers of browsers, but companies will be using less job boards as employee referrals, social media, and old fashioned relationships take hold as the primary way to hire. The market is turning from employer driven to candidate driven (more passive candidates) and with it so to will go the relevance of job boards.

6.      Contingent Workforce Growth
As has been the trend in the IT industry and IT staffing, overall, I feel 1099 usage will decline and contingent labor through agencies will increase.  With crackdowns on 1099 contractors, it’s not worth the risk for many small businesses anymore.  Also with the unemployment rates being on the decline, people are becoming are harder commodity to find; skilled people; and they will want flexibility and security.  For the most part that is not synonymous with 1099’s. (Although, with healthcare being a major issue, it could be that more companies go with contract labor but, if they do, the price will rise as fast as the premiums.)

So there you have it: My predictions for 2013. I’ve been wrong before; but keep an eye out for news regarding all of these topics, and those we’ve touched upon in 2012, in the coming year. I wish the best to you and yours this season.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Myth About Contingent Employee Engagement

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

A new survey says contingent workers are engaged with
hiring companies. Despite a small sample, it may have merit.
Last week we talked about worker loyalty and engagement when it comes to employers. Hours later, I received my daily email from a staffing feed with a report that says contingent worker attitudes toward hiring companies are quite favorable. It seems reasonable given the fact that contingent workers need to prove themselves because their livelihood as an independent relies upon performance and results. What benefit would they get from not going 'above and beyond' and being truly engaged in the efforts of the company for which they are working?

While not the same as loyalty; the numbers were quite surprising given the fact that a much larger global workforce study (1,000 times as large) suggested that two-thirds of employees are unhappy and disengaged with their current employer.

So I asked myself, 'Was I mistaken? Should I possibly scale back my way of thinking regarding this matter?' The fact that contingent workers are happy with the organization for which they work, own employer problems as their own, and over 41-percent of them would like to finish out their career with their current company certainly makes a strong case for using my contingent IT staffing offering and goes a long way to break the myth that they are just there for a big payday.

Then I looked at the numbers: 346 employees surveyed, all of whom were from Australia, responded to the favorable survey. With that, I had to ask myself if the favorable data was remotely credible. Given the sample size and country (I have yet to meet an Aussie who wasn't positive and persevering) my first thought was that last week's idea was on point: employee engagement is a problem and social media and the Internet have something to do with it.

However, I do think the positive survey does have some credence and reinforces another of last week's points. There are loyal workers around the world and forward thinking organizations that put employee happiness and engagement at the forefront of their efforts to improve results.

Both studies also support another point from last week:  What is the norm for one type of worker may not be the norm for another. Personally, I don’t see the difference that conventional 'wisdom' holds true about the differences in FTE and Contractors (barring 1099 situations).  I’ve worked with contractors who are no different than their internal FTE counterparts. They have a job to do, and engagement and happiness often depends on their current situation. Whether either type of worker decides to be loyal depends on something more.

I think it all comes down to two factors. The first of which is what the hiring company breeds as far as culture. What the level of trust is like, the management structure, and the role teamwork plays within the organization all factor in to the equation. If employees feel like a part of the team, contingent or otherwise; if they feel like their opinion and expertise is valued; if they have the ability to make decisions on the way the business or a project is structured; they will perform and feel engaged.

The second factor comes down to who the company is hiring, contingent or otherwise. It’s not a question of whether or not they are a contractor, but the type of people for which they are looking. A problem arises when employers are looking to hire the best of the best only in terms of a skill sets at the potential expense of enthusiasm, engagement and loyalty.

A candidate's personality and engagement can be hard to gauge during the interview process; that is…unless you ask. It's important to find out a candidates real motivation for wanting to work for you.

There's a big difference between a worker who was attracted by what you do as well as how you do it and one what is looking at how much you pay and what they'll be doing for you. A good interviewer can usually get an inclination of intent by asking questions about former employers and what the candidate liked or didn't like about working for them.

I am not a professional economic prognosticator, but being in the staffing industry and, due to the hints the recession seems to be slowly subsiding, I can firmly say the days of A+ employees for less are over. Companies will no longer get the best of the best in both terms of culture fit and skill sets for a song. However, that's not to say they aren't available. It all depends on what companies offer in terms of value and engagement potential to candidates.

Companies that have had the luxury of retaining top talent, contingent or otherwise, should do whatever they can to hang on to it: offer a stable environment and keep workers engaged and happy. If you don't, someone else will.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Has Social Media Changed Our Sense of Loyalty to Employers?

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Over two-thirds of workers feel unhappy or disengaged at work.
I have a theory that the Internet and social media age have, in part, changed the employment landscape dramatically since about 1995. I've touched on the idea briefly in an earlier blog about old professional vs. new professional behavior and several other articles. Let me explain.

In the IT community especially, there is a mindset that all IT professionals are job hoppers and that employers are happy to have workers without all of the hassle surrounding on-boarding someone for full time employment. To a certain extent it's true as the nature of the work dictates this perception; meaning, project ramp ups cause a need for temporary help to control fluctuations in workloads.

There are still tenured employees in IT and many workers that are happy to stay with a company long term. There are also companies who really desire to keep top talent and loathe the 'free agent' market. I deal with both types of companies and candidates in IT staffing. This is not an IT only phenomenon. You can see it happening in virtually every industry around the globe.

I've come across several articles about employee happiness, productivity, and what companies need to do to keep employees happy, engaged, and thereby more productive. Elaine Pofeldt wrote an interesting article about the importance of keeping employees happy last week for Forbes. She says many successful business owners and CEOs are concerned about how happy their employees are, going as far as giving free yoga classes at work, bringing in consultants to help them learn to battle stress with the mind or how to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

One might say that the recession is to blame for the current employment market. Pofeldt says this isn't necessary the case and that CEOs don't have time to think about people when they're under constant pressure to make their numbers every quarter. In fact, about two-thirds of the global workforce is unhappy or disengaged at work, regardless of whether or not they're in a growth economy or one battered by recession.  

I’m curious, and haven’t done all of the research, but 20 years ago were employees, as a whole, less engaged and productive because companies didn’t have all the current perks?  Or did people just accept things as they were and did little to change it? Are employees more disengaged now because they know that there are companies out there that do care about happiness and value their employees?
I imagine that the average tenure decrease has a lot more to do with employee disengagement and unhappiness than the perks. 

People don’t like change. Even people who say they thrive on change don’t like change; they just like the consistency of having new things.  I know it sounds funny but, it's human nature to settle in. Settling in might mean staying at one place with the same familiar faces and similar but progressively increasing responsibilities. Settling in might also mean enjoying constant new challenges and being exposed to new industries.  To those of us who prefer the 'traditional' type of settling in, it’s hard to imagine the latter being considered as such. For those of the latter type, they don’t find comfort settling into a routine; they consider it settling for something.  There’s a difference.

Have newer generations found that constant change is their way of settling into a routine?  Are we, as a whole, no longer willing to settle for things as they are?

The Internet and social media age have changed the way we relate to one another. I am of the belief that it has also changed the way we think about the world. It used to be that our view of the world was molded by schooling, newspapers, and network news anchors. Now we have access to information in an instant from around the globe and even casual online relationships can have more influence on us than we think.

Paul Herr discusses the important role of emotion in our decision making and how human's possess 'a sophisticated form of social bonding that some psychiatrists refer to as 'cathexis' in his popular book, Primal Management. Although Herr's goal is to explain how company leaders can transform their organization into a highly proficient super-organism; I think our overall happiness is influenced by what we see in our social media clans as well.   

I think technology and social media and the Internet itself are a big part of this workforce transformation. Everyone knows what median benefits and pay others are getting because it's all available online. (Just look at It's human nature to want what you don't have and to emulate others. It's hard for businesses to remain opaque to the world these days because they're always one Tweet, blog, or Facebook post away from having the game change instantly. Workers want transparency from their company. They want the latest news and want to feel like a valued member of the team.

It used to be that one only found out about job or a company by reading the paper, through a close friend, a phone call, or from a help wanted sign. Now we're on LinkedIn and Facebook. We can actively mine our friend lists for opportunities. You can post or privately mail connections that you’re looking and what you're looking for. And recruiters are looking for you online too. Their job was all about referrals, newspaper ads, and cold calls 20 years ago. Today, you can reach so many more people. Now there's less work, instant gratification, and instant results: on both sides.

I believe broader interconnectivity and access to more data, when combined our basic emotional needs as humans, have all contributed to creating less loyal workforces. They jury is still out but, with two thirds of workers reporting they are unhappy and disengaged, I'm tempted to lean in the direction that employers need to take employee happiness into consideration if they are to be successful.

What do you think?

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Real relationships, not online connections, build true professional networks

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Some of the top recruiters start 10-20
quality relationships per week.
I am in the IT and Healthcare IT recruiting and staffing business. I am also a self-admitted technology maven and admirer. So when I ran across a blog regarding LinkedIn's affect on the recruiting industry, I felt compelled to expand on the subject further. While Navid Sabetian says that LinkedIn's bubble will burst and briefly, in closing, that one needs to cultivate relationships with top line candidates and build them over the years; with all respect to Mr. Sabetian, I think both points are obvious.

Here is the bigger picture:

Yes, Facebook will have a billion users soon enough, which equates to a ridiculous amount of influence.  LinkedIn is probably the largest network of potential candidates and recruiters on the planet right now.  There are the 'old' job board standards (Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, etc…), Google+, and 'who knows what else' emerging that I haven’t yet fully experienced.
There is no silver bullet: Meaning, there is no next or current 'big thing' that is the source to go to find the best candidates for all the open jobs out there.  This new market for talent is not about finding a single, or even two or three sources to find people.  It is about creating a network of real people, across all the relevant channels available to you.  It’s not about how many connections you have on LinkedIn or Facebook, but about how many people in your specialty areas with whom you are able to create some form of human interaction.

In fact, some of the best sourcing around is still done the old fashioned way; through direct, in-person communication. The internet has a host of tools for finding qualified candidates on paper (or on your monitor if you've gone paperless); however, it doesn't replace the legwork of striking up a conversation and getting to know them.

Sabetian claims to have a professional network with 16,000 direct connections with another 12,000 waiting in the wings, with whom he cannot interact due to a glitch on LinkedIn. It raises the question of how one would interact with the first 16,000. In one work year, assuming no vacation or holidays, you would have to interact with 61 people per day. Is it doable? Yes. Is it realistic each contact will be a good connection and suitable for an ongoing relationship? No. Some of the best recruiters make 50 to 100 contacts and start building 10-20 solid relationships a week with candidates.    

To me, as a few of the blog comments also eluded to, it seems that LinkedIn will likely become less effective as recruiters start to use connections as a database. The relevance you can have to one another on a human level in a sea of 28,000 connections seems to be very low for both sides; rendering the service less valuable to both parties. It brought to mind Malcom Gladwell's idea in The Tipping Point that we, as humans, cannot maintain more than 150 real social relationships with others at one time.

In fact, I think it is why I am of the opinion that LinkedInitself is having trouble remaining relevant to users today.

Is the idea of having a professional network with thousands of connections compelling? Certainly it is. But only if you maintain contact with your network, remain relevant its members, and interact with them on a regular basis. Otherwise it's just an overinflated database; not a true network.

Even with all the technologies and social 'networks' available, the basics of recruiting haven’t changed; or maybe they did for a while and now they have come full circle. The only difference is that now, we have more sophisticated tools to make the job of finding real people to develop real relationships with easier. 

I haven’t been in the industry long enough to know how things were done pre-Internet circa 1995, but I do know there couldn’t have been any option other than building a real contact network.  It must be much easier now to find the people to build that same network today; but people are still people and they want good jobs, with good companies where they feel valued; and they want the same when being wooed for a position.

All of the perks that many companies are starting to offer (benefits, higher than average pay, flex-time, daycare, healthcare, free lunches, etc.) to make happy workers cannot replace investment in relationships with those employees. We'll explore this idea further next week.

Good recruitment firms and recruiters become an extension of their clients' business and are often the first point of contact a candidate has with an employer; making relationship building with both even more critical.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Internet is Forever: The importance up front planning when building your brand

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Google on 2 Dec 1998 courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine.
We've all heard the stories about wild spring break pictures coming back to haunt people years later or Facebook statuses from long ago taking down someone's political career. It's likely going to be a bigger problem for Millennials and their children. Although cliché; the internet really is forever and someone, somewhere has that picture or rant, even if you've deleted it.

Gizmodo's Attila Nagy recently posted a different take on the 'internet is forever' theme that is far more amusing and teaches those of us in the IT field a bit of a lesson about up front planning. Nagy dug up '23 Ancient Websites That Are Still Alive' that range from still functional search engines from the mid-90's to some classic gems.

After reviewing the list of sites, and admittedly checking some of them out along with the source code, I realized that, at that time, the web was relatively 'new' in terms of mainstream usage and some of the innovations brought forth were state of the art. Even though the first domain name was registered in 1985, fewer than 15,000 were registered in 1992. (Today, there are over 233 million.)

No solely internet-based company has existed for more than about 18 years, yet we all depend on the web, at least in part and certainly in IT staffing, for our livelihood. I looked back at a few sites that I was happy to see still exist for nostalgic reasons. I also realized that just because you can make something blink, create an animated gif, or know some groovy flash tricks; sometimes it's better to sit back, think on it, and just say 'No!' (Google's cached pages and the Internet Archive Wayback Machine can offer some other prime examples.)

This run down memory lane brings to mind the fact that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a novel series developed from a BBC radio program) has always been one of my favorite books. Recently, though it dawned on me that if I were to try and explain it to my six-year-old daughter, that this guy has a guide which can tell him anything he needs to know about anything in the universe instantly, she would probably say, 'You mean like Google on your iPhone?' (Note: Altavista came up nowhere in this fictional conversation.)

The internet made Douglas Adams' masterpiece largely non-amazing.  (Or perhaps it shows how genius he was in predicting what technology might exist in the future. If you take his explanation as to the origins for his idea, this was likely not the case, or was it?)

Sensibility and taste mattered then and it still does today, whether you're engaging in social media or building your business. When you're branding your domain, blog, or yourself to the outside world, some up front planning and design work can go a long way in the success of your efforts. A halfhearted effort, or the latest and greatest widgets don't mean a thing if they're not relevant to your users/followers.

Some of the most visually engaging sites in the world became irrelevant overnight when Apple decided that Flash was not safe for its mobile platform (Hitchhiker's iPhone anyone?). Some of the earliest Flash art itself was subject to user bandwidth limitations and, when you have only a few seconds to engage with a potential site user, a long load time could make or break your brand or cause a recruiter to bypass you on the way to the next candidate.

The point is; maintenance, generating new content that is relevant to your audience, and keeping up with technology changes can make all the difference in the success or failure of your web-facing initiatives. What seems relevant today can quickly become forgotten or, for better or worse; a lasting reminder of what used to be.
What do you think? Does one need to be a vigilant planner when preparing an online branding initiative, carefully considering all facets of your site on the front-end, or, are you of the school of thought that the web is always evolving and adapting your online persona professionally or personally is an inevitable part of technology advancement? Do you think outdated, sometimes iconic websites and messaging are perfectly acceptable if they remain relevant or have a large following?

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.