A Thank You and Some Predictions for 1999

Thanks for so many of you responding to my recent survey about this column. Virtually everyone seems to think that the topics covered this year have been provocative and interesting. The one voted the best was the series on world class staffing. The top two desires for future columns are to focus on sourcing and retention. Other interests are on new technologies, metrics, attracting the passive candidate, general recruiting trends, how to recruit specific types of candidates (e.g. seniors, military, minorities), and on the regional aspects of recruitment. All are great topics and I will strive to tackle most of them during 1999. For all of us who are involved with employment – whether it is looking for good people or developing the tools and processes to make finding good people easier, faster and cheaper – both 1999 and 2000 will be seminal years. These two years, I think, will be the ones in which the technologies and process that dominate the next decade will be born and grow. We have seen some early starts, as I indicate below, but the next 24 months will be explosive. Companies will emerge that are focused on finding automated, Internet-based ways of doing everything from screening candidates to doing background checking and new employee orientation. The shortage of skilled people will not change for at least a decade, which means that the recruiting profession will have to change. It will have to focus on customer service, on public relations and advertising and on building long-term relationships. Here are a few more specific predictions for the next 12 months:

  1. Even small companies will find themselves looking at applicant tracking systems of some type to help them more efficiently and quickly process candidates. Likely winners for 1999 will be Personic Software and Icarian.
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  3. Focus will begin to emerge on systemic approaches to staffing that involve workforce planning, the development of a longer term attitude toward sourcing by developing relationships with potential employees early in their lives, perhaps as early as elementary school, the use of sophisticated technologies for locating, screening and tracking candidates, and more use of developmental tools and techniques to fill specific positions and to retain key people.
  4. The use of resume builders and other screening tools will become more standard on corporate web sites as organizations try to pre-qualify candidates for specific positions. Likely winners include World.Hire of Austin.
  5. Progressive organizations will revamp their recruiting web sites to be more attractive and informative. Focus will be on describing specific positions, on giving prospective candidates job previews and on linking candidates with current employees who can help build a relationship and sell the company. This is well done at both Cisco Systems and at Microsoft.
  6. The link between attracting and developing people will become stronger as the year progresses. There is NO SHORTAGE of people in general, but there IS A SHORTAGE of qualified, skilled people. This problem will not go away by itself. We can continue to rob Peter to pay Paul, as the expression goes, but in the end more organizations will have to shoulder the burden of educating and training their own employees to fill gaps of skills and knowledge. This will mean more focus on Internet-based technical training such as that provided by DigitalThink and on developing specific in-house programs to develop people with narrowly-defined skills. Lines are already blurring as to what constitutes the difference between a corporate university and an academic university. Look for the distinctions to become even more blurred as we move into the last year of this century and this millennium. Forbes recently published an article called The Tyranny of the Diploma where the argument is that perhaps a diploma is unnecessary and does not lead to economic success.
  7. Many community colleges and universities will begin to offer certificate programs and vocationally-oriented training to working adults. Many degrees will become widely available on-line as well as in classroom formats. Some examples include the Western Governor’s University, the University of Phoenix, Scholars.com, California’s Virtual University, and a host of others. Look at education as a REAL GROWTH area for the next five years!
  8. Retention of key employees will continue to be a concern of top management, and rightly so. Loosing people costs much more than attracting them because the organization also looses the accumulated knowledge and know-how that comes to any employee after working in a company for awhile. This intellectual capital is virtually irreplaceable and can also become a liability if the employee is able to transfer some of that knowledge to the new company. Retention will require a coordinated effort between the compensation, benefits, education and staffing people within an organization to develop systemic and comprehensive strategies. Look to become more involved in this critical area over the next year.
  9. Organizations will begin to demand some sort of certification for recruiters in an effort to ensure that they are getting what they are paying more and more for. No longer can the casual HR person decide to become a Recruiter and start calling friends. Today’s recruiter needs great computer and Internet skills, good abilities to sell and promote specific positions which means she or he will have to know more about the profession and job than they do today, a thorough understanding of what a manger really needs, and skill at developing a powerful set of relationships to enable her to fill a position within a very short (72 hour) period of time. These abilities will define the recruiters of the next decade.

I wish each and every one of you a very happy holiday. I hope you take time to rest and recharge for a 1999 that will be unlike any year we have seen. We end a 1,000 years of history and enter an age where the computer, technology, processes and systems will begin to integrate in ways we can only dream about. So I sign off for 1998. See you next year!

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.