Why Recruiting Good People Will Get Harder and Harder

Feb 24, 2010

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.

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