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Why Recruiting Good People Will Get Harder and Harder

by Feb 24, 2010, 2:51 pm ET

Picture 1Bill Wall was faced with two choices: take a job he didn’t really find interesting, although he was well-qualified to do it, or continue to try and build up his fledgling Internet design company. In the end he was able to do both by convincing the boss-to-be that he could do the majority of his work virtually and by agreeing to a lesser salary.

Negotiating the conditions of employment, hedging one job with another, being wary of accepting full-time jobs that put at risk other work or that compromise skills — those are becoming the normal patterns for accomplished professionals.

Individuals are finding new freedoms and exploring their own capacity and taste for change and entrepreneurism. Some organizations are looking for ways to adapt to all of this without endangering their own success, but it may be that these two different needs are not compatible. We will find out over the next 10 years or less. Certainly manufacturing firms and companies where hands-on work is required will not be able to flex to these changes. They will face friction between the workers whose jobs allow them to be virtual or part-time or flex-time and those whose work does not.

Here are some of the issues, paradoxes, and changes that recruiters and human resources are faced with. These have already complicated the employment market, created confusion, and made your job more difficult. There is very little we can do about many of these trends. Others will require you to become more creative and targeted in sourcing. And success in dealing with some may require you to be more persuasive than you have ever been with both your hiring manager and with candidates.

Flexible Working Times

Every one wants to work when they want to, whether that is at night, weekends, or during what we call a “normal” working day. Mothers want time with their children and would like to work when the kids are sleeping or in school. Others are more productive in the wee hours and want to sleep in the daytime. And still others want to vary their schedules depending on their mood or family needs.

Individual contributors who can work alone are most likely to be able to find work with flexible schedules. People who might enjoy such flexibility include data-input people, researchers, web developers, programmers, and others whose work spans time and is done individually.

Some organizations allow flexibility within defined parameters or with prior approval. Only a few are truly open to a varied, unpredictable schedule even if work is done in a timely way and all deadlines are met. My own website is coded and maintained by a person who has a full-time job that gives her flexibility and control over her time.

More firms are offering flexible working times and slowly are focusing on results rather than time as the measures of performance.

It will be tough to convince very good people to work for organizations that do not allow flexible work. Employment branding and messaging should be clear about the time requirements, and you should target an audience where flexibility might not be a critical consideration such younger men and single folks who do not have children or other responsibilities. You can also target baby boomers who have grown up in a business world without flexibility and are comfortable with that.

Multiple Jobs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines multiple jobholders as people who are either hourly or salary workers who hold two or more jobs, self-employed workers who also hold an hourly or salary job, or unpaid family workers who hold an hourly or salary job as well. Currently official figures indicate that about 5% of Americans fit this category.

Organizations still expect and seek loyalty, even though they have shown their employees little of that when times get tough. Young workers, especially Gen Ys, often do have more than one source of income. They rarely make that public. They know it would be frowned on or even be the reason for getting them fired. There is very little a recruiter can do about this, but if you reject those who you suspect of having multiple jobs you will significantly reduce your candidate pool and the quality of that pool.

Virtual Work

Having employees working from home or from remote work centers is common, and more employers are allowing this due to a variety of converging reasons including the desire to save energy, increased travel times, skill shortages, and a global workforce.

Over the past decade so many companies have encouraged virtual work that it almost expected. People are comfortable working with their laptops and smart phones and have access to Skype accounts and collaborative workspaces. All of these tools make working away from a physical place practical, convenient, and cheap.

There is no doubt that this form of employment will grow rapidly and may make up as much as half the U.S. workforce within a decade.

Generational Mindset

As many have written, there are large differences in attitudes about work and time between the three major generations in the workplace. Baby Boomers (those over 45) are generally traditional and are comfortable with being physically at work, in an organization, and working an 8-hour or longer day.

Gen X (those between 30-45) is also comfortable working in traditional ways, but they are more open to virtual work and demand flexibility for their family.

But Gen Y (those under 30) are the change agents. They do not really want to work for any organization but especially those with layers of hierarchy and reams of policies and procedures. They want flexible, virtual work and are more likely to have multiple jobs. They are the hardest to recruit and the hardest to retain. Yet, they are the future of most organizations as Baby Boomers age and move out.

These are just a handful if the trends that will make your job both more critical to organizational success as well as much harder than ever before. Your only advantage is to be aware and find ways to cope with these trends and the changes they require as soon as you can.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://www.magicmethod.ning.com Maureen Sharib

    “…you should target an audience where flexibility might not be a critical consideration such younger men and single folks who do not have children or other responsibilities.”

    I guess you meant to say “such [as] younger men and …folks who do not have children.”

    I’m waiting for the firestorm to erupt over this suggestion. I understand it, but I’m waiting.

  • http://livinglifetothemax.wordpress.com Marie Burns

    Good points. However, I’m curious if all of this is all subject to the current economic times, not the entire future of recruiting? I’ve spoken with a number of sources who really feel like there will be a massive turn of GREAT candidates (those who did take that job they were over qualified for for less money – and for a company they didn’t fully believe in). Isn’t it possible that there will be a surge in good candidates once the economy turns back around (& people are comfortable with that fact)? And then once the thought leaders jump, more will follow? So, I guess you can see I’m under the perception that recruiting great candidates will actually get easier in the years to come…just curious as to your thoughts on that?

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  • http://www.onrampsforum.com Meghan McCartan

    I think Maureen’s comment above is interesting…and if recruiters confine themselves to “single folks who do not have children or other responsibilities” that’s a pretty tight parameter. Most single people I know have at least some responsibility, even if only to having a life of their own! A little flexibility goes a long way…

  • Deb Gamber

    Initially this trend may be a result of the current market but moving forward it will strengthen. The issue of trust will be at the center but when it becomes a matter of performance the wheat will be separated from the chaff. Performance measurement will be important. Having been in the retained sesarch business for 20 years this has been an issue for the research/associate staff as performance measurement was most subjective. I’ll be interested to see how it develops.

    Moreover, the over 50 crowd sees this trend to their advantage. With a couple of virtual jobs one can live anywhere and explore new ground. While recruiters look at singles please don’t overlook the loyal, proven workers who are open to new ideas,ready to get the job done and believe in customer service! The recession has hit this group harder than others but as usual the Baby Boomers are flexible and ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Recruiters need to think outside of the box on this issue. The IT world has been working with this paradigm succesfully for years. It’s the way of the future!

  • Becca Larson

    I have to agree on Maureen’s comment: I think it would be highly inappropriate (and illegal) to target men for positions of employment, or to even suggest that should be a consideration. Diversity is one of the greatest assets for a company in terms of idea generation and a richer work environment.

    You have some good points in your article, but I feel they are a bit overshaddowed by this assertion.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thank you, Kevin.
    First, I would like to suggest an alternative title:
    “Why Making A Good Living Recruiting Will Get Harder and Harder”

    Let me address your topics:

    Flexible Working Times
    Very relevant. I’d like to hear what companies and individuals are doing to avoid creating the “24 By 7 Always-on-Call Job”. Don’t YOU ever want to be incommunicado, folks? I do…

    Multiple Jobs
    Also very relevant. If you want people to avoid having multiple jobs: pay more, provide *a more fulfilling job, or both.

    Virtual Work
    Super-relevant. What wasn’t discussed is that anything that can be done virtually can be done for virtually nothing. That’s an exaggeration, but the number of virtual jobs that can be done by skilled, low-cost foreign labor increases all the time. IMHO, it is a reasonable assumption that if your job can be realistically eliminated, automated, or outsourced, it will be for a lot less than they’re paying you to do it.

    Generational Mindset
    Not too relevant. Are we talking about geezer Boomers like me with our 101ks, 202ks, or 301ks and underwater mortgages who are so broke that they won’t retire until after death?

    Are you referring to the squeezed Gen Xers who should be doing pretty well right now, except things outside your house are getting really expensive and geezers aren’t getting out of the way?

    Maybe you mean the formerly pampered Millennials, who won’t be finishing college in 4 years because they keep cancelling courses/sessions and raising tuition, or the ones waiting for the 8.4 million jobs we’ve lost so far to come back except for the ~2 million jobs which aren’t expected to return?

    I think several years of relatively high unemployment will change a LOT of people’s *work expectations downward, more toward what my folks (Greatest Generation) had. Hope I’m wrong…

    Keith “Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old” Halperin

  • Kevin Wheeler

    Marie: Yes, there may be a short term excess number of highly talented people available, but they will be quickly snapped up and the supply following is small. IT is more about attitude than numbers: fewer people want to work for organizations that have consistently screwed them & others. Better to become a consultant or find some way to partner that does not involve giving up your freedom or limit your revenue streams.

    Deb: You are right on target – virtual and flexible work is highly attractive to Baby Boomers who may also be willing to work for less in exchange for the flexibility. IT has coped well and other professions need to adapt as well.

    Keith: I think you are mistaken about the Millennials. Pampered they may have been, but they are creative and smart and are making do with less without complaining. It’s Gen X that are squeezed by kids and work balance and declining opportunities. The Millennials are taking advantage of this recession to explore opportunities: to leverage the Internet, go global, and experiment (albeit at times with mom and dad’s cash)with new ways of working and living. I have a lot of hope for these folks!

  • Kevin Wheeler

    Interesting article in WSJ today relevant to the discussion above: http://tinyurl.com/y8qwxdt

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Kevin. Like you, I have hope for young people. I do not have much hope for the older people like the late-40ish Sr. Customer Support rep who worked hard, played by the rules, was very loyal to his major employer, and was laid off after 12 years when his job got offshored. There are millions of folks like him, who bought into the same idea that he did, and got shafted the same way he did, and will probably never equal their old standard of living. Some of you will say “this is a grand opportunity to be your own boss and make unlimited income determined only by your will to succeed!” Yep, and I have a nice International Orange bridge over here near me, just right for you to buy- no money down, no credit/income check… Meanwhile, “banksters” give themselves billions in bonuses and won’t loan to small businesses to help them expand.
    If I were REALLY a “gloomy Gus,” I’d wonder if we might start to seriously recover from this just at the time when the debt problems really start growing….

    Hey, the weekend’s almost here….

    Cheer’s

    Keith

  • Kevin Wheeler

    Here is one more source adding data to support the basic arguments I make above. http://tinyurl.com/ygh2mb8

  • Paul Rogers

    Great article, Kevin. One thing you don’t address (pehaps another article altogether) is the impact that flexible hours and virtual work locations have on employee engagement. I’d be curious to see a survey that fully captures the impact of such workplace options on employee commitment and willingness to go “above and beyond” for their employer. Many address “work life balance” but I’d love to hear from anyone who has good stats on this.

  • http://www.ckrinteractive.com Kristen Tom

    I think technology has also allowed many companies to let their employees work from home, enabling them to hire people that live far from their main headquarters. This lets them hire top talent without location being an issue. When I first started working for a company I was amazed at the idea that I was able to work from home as long as I was signed into AIM. This gives me more time to be productive since I won’t to waste time with the morning commute!

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  • Deb Gamber

    My bet is that Gen Y will make it work and the rest of us will ride their coat tails…even the old geezer Baby Boomers who have led the way until now. Gen Y is well wired into technology and has the confidence to blaze new paths. Moreover they work very well in flat organizations resultant from this nasty economy and outsourcing offshore.

  • http://www.youthvillages.org/careers Andrew Holtzclaw

    Since I recruit in the non profit sector, I may see a different part of this. Gen Y graduates seem to be more idealistic and socially conscious. They don’t mind traditional job factors, if they feel the work is important. I have found they do not necessarily require the things you mentioned in article, but do require the oppurtunity to be creative and to explore routes in which technology can be used. All of this allows me to recruit with a big picture mentality that appeals to them; To make a difference.

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