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.