Mid Year Report Card- 2014

Mid Year Report Card- 2014

It’s well into summer which means it’s time for my mid-year report card, reviewing the predictions from the beginning of the year and comparing it to how things seem to be developing so far.

Job Growth will continue slowly in 2014, but more quickly than 2013
Mid Year Grade- A

Yesterday’s jobs report was very strong, even compared to expectations (288K vs. 215K), and while there is a chance it may be revised downward, it will still continue the trend of moderate job growth and is now bordering on the 300K additional jobs we need in order to see real progress in the market.  People may debate the quality of the jobs, but in any case, it is better than the alternative.  Unemployment also fell to 6.1% which is on track to end the year in the 5.3%-5.8% range.

A handful of leading companies will take “Big Data” and start turning it into predictive analytics

Mid Year Grade- B

More and more companies continue to move to attempt to use “Big Data” and we are regularly seeing reports (albeit of varying quality) about what use of “Big Data” is uncovering in Talent Acquisition.

The Talent Acquisition Market will start to move

Mid Year Grade- A

I know I have seen more movement within Talent Acquisition teams, including changes in leadership in the first half of this year alone than since the recession began.  I believe that as things continue to improve in the labor market, we will only see this accelerate into the coming year.

SEO will emerge as the new battleground

Mid Year Grade- A

This continues to be a regular conversation among those that both have SEO tools/teams/etc and those that don’t.  Price is still a barrier to entry, but there are some lower cost vendors that have started to emerge and as they gain traction this will only grow.


Do you have any trends that you are seeing?  What do things look like where you are?  Send me your thoughts!

© 2014 Michael K. Peterson, All Rights Reserved

The Great Recession as the labor markets bad guy?

The Great Recession as the labor markets bad guy?

We have certainly made a lot of progress in our economic recovery, but it still isn’t robust enough to generate the job growth we need to make the gains at the pace that is typically seen during a recovery.
We continue to blame the Great Recession as the culprit, but what if that is only part of the cause? What if it only accelerated what was already starting to happen?

Every generation has some sort of curse or burden, often more than one. For the Greatest Generation it was the Great Depression and World War II, for Baby Boomers it was the Vietnam War and the sheer size of their generation, for Generation X, it is being in the wake of the Baby Boomers and multiple wars (although the most recent two are shared with Millennials), for the Millennials it is also multiple wars, their sheer size and the Great Recession and that is just so far.

It is the Millennials that I want to focus on for this post, as they may have been dealt a huge blow by the dynamics between the Baby Boomers and Generation X which may be just now be coming into view.

Inter-generational demographics and the employment market
This is about the possibility that the high long term unemployment and the poor college new graduate job market we have attributed to the Great Recession may be driven more by the labor markets reaction to shifting demographics that work against Millennials.

Let’s start with an assumption and by looking at the numbers.

The assumption we need to start with is that the labor market has to react to changing demographics in each generation, whether it be gender diversity, racial/ethnic diversity, or for this post, generational size:

  • The Baby Boomers- 72 million people (roughly) who were also the first to have both spouses working in great numbers. This multiplied their effect on the labor market
  • Generation X- 41 million people (only 56.9% of the size of Baby Boomers) is just starting to really become the dominant generation

The labor market impacts:

      • Greater use of technology
      • Greater use of immigration
      • Greater use of outsourcing/off shoring
      • Near full employment
      • Less desirable employment being shifted to other generations and/or outsourced/off shored or automated
  • Millennials- 72 million people (roughly the same size as the Baby Boomers) are coming to market in the wake of what Generation X has done to the workplace

The labor market impacts:

      • May encounter a very dynamic workplace (different employee/employer relationships through contract, temporary work, etc.)
      • May need to create their own roles through entrepreneurship or by piecing together multiple part time roles
      • Higher unemployment
      • Having to work jobs that are less desirable for a longer time than Generation X

This isn’t the fault of one generation or another; rather it is just the set of cards Millennials may have been dealt. But with challenge comes opportunity and I argue this is where this generation thrives because of these challenges.
I believe that each generation rises to the challenge that is before them because they have the benefit of seeing what is coming and they accordingly prepare.

We have all heard these traits about Millennials:

  • More entrepreneurial
  • More flexible
  • More innovative
  • More altruistic and interested in serving the community
  • More comfortable with diversity

What I think is interesting is that many of these traits lend themselves very well to the situation that they may be facing. They are not likely to be a generation where they can count on working in traditional work settings; they may have to create them.

While I think the Millennial Generation will do well, the work place they leave behind them will probably be the most dramatically changed that any other before.

My only concern is that we, in the other generations, are typically much slower at recognizing fundamental changes like this. As a result, we sometimes take old yard sticks and use those to make decisions about what to do that may no longer make any sense.

If the true reasons for the characteristics of this labor market are caused by something we are overlooking, would be meet those challenges differently? Would we invest more in emerging industries because by their sheer size, Millennials need a larger market in which to work within? Would we make it easier for trade to encourage more commerce and make our products more competitive? Would we change labor laws to be more supportive of the new labor market? It’s hard to say, but these new challenges may not be solved using the same old solutions.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them my way!

© 2014 Michael K. Peterson, All Rights Reserved

The Coming Fall of Facebook?

The Coming Fall of Facebook?

Many of us have made decisions about how (and if) social media fits within our recruiting strategy, but if the past repeats itself, many of us are going to find that things have shifted and that we have fallen behind.

Why? Because social media is changing more rapidly than we can and we are almost always slow to adapt and adopt.

Let’s be realistic, some of us are still struggling to figure out how to use Facebook and Twitter effectively in recruiting and they are 10 and 8 years old respectively!

The only reason we know how to use LinkedIn is because its use is immediately obvious and not too different than products we have used in the past at its most basic level.

Consider the following:

According to a blog post by the New York Times, the number of teens using Facebook has declined by 25% over the last 3 years, while use by those 55 and older has gone up by 80%.
Many say that teen usage declines on Facebook are because of the rise of those 55 and over and it definitely has some merit.

Does Facebook eventually go the way of MySpace? Probably not for a long time, but patterns of use have still not been established.

We do not know, for example, whether or not those teens that have not started using Facebook will eventually join later in life… and if they do, will it be when they are 55? I would argue that they probably won’t, because my feeling is that social media will become like music, something that each generation or group of generations carry with it throughout life.

As such, each new generation will bring in with it a new set of social media platforms that meet their needs.

Although Twitters challenge is less certain and perhaps simpler, the sites biggest issue is that it may have already peaked, with just 3.8% growth according to some over the last quarter of 2013, slow by social media standards.

Along with growth are issues with usability and engagement. The platform remains somewhat limited in its use by the nature of its design. Additionally, the sale of “followers” or fake people to follow real people for a price (how sad is it that people pay for that?) is not helping.

Twitter has great use, but for many that use is fairly narrow.

New and more specialized media
We have seen the rise of new and more specialized social media that is designed to meet the needs of various groups. Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest,Tumblr,Tagged etc. are just the begging.

For example, the same article that spoke about Facebook’s declining teen reach highlighted a new social media platform targeting college students called Blend… I can’t say I ever heard of it, but if you’re responsible for college outreach, this may be something to keep an eye on.

A search for a list of the top social media sites presented me with a list that on which I only recognized 9 of 15 sites.

A search for social media sites turns up more than 200 different properties and the list was far from complete. Some were very niche, many very irrelevant, but depending on what talent you are looking for, some of those very niche sites are targeting exactly who you need.

This specialization brings more difficulty for us, and more complicated media plans and strategies.

We’ve seen this before… remember when our hardest decision was whether or not to run an ad in the Sunday paper? That was replaced by whether or not to post the job online and which of the 3 or 4 major boards to use, if not all of them.

Now we manage plans with SEO, SEM, job search aggregators, organic listings and sponsored listings, talent communities, employee referral platforms, talent assessments and the list goes on and on.

We’ve handled transitions before and we will handle this one, but some of us will be well ahead of the curve.

What do we need to do? We need to do what we have always done. We need to understand our media, who it reaches and use it accordingly.

Of course, we have to watch for those properties that have a lot of promise, but little substance, and we need to be ready for changes. We need to take intelligent risks and have measurements in place so we know when something works and when it doesn’t.

In short, to paraphrase Darwin, we need to adapt or be left behind in an ever more complex environment and a returning war for talent.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them my way!

© 2014 Michael K. Peterson, All Rights Reserved

Mike’s Predictions for 2014

So I am running a little late with my annual predictions this year, but I wanted to share them with you before too much time went on.

With that said, here are my predictions for 2014!

Job Growth will continue slowly in 2014, but more quickly than 2013
Currently the national unemployment rate is 6.6% and I predict that this will fall into the 5.3% to 5.8% range by the end of the year.  I also think we will see more consistent good news coming from the labor market, with many parts of the county enjoying fair to strong growth by December.  The nation will still be having conversations about changes in the types of work that we have, and “under-employment”, etc., but we always do when the market starts to really turn a corner.
A handful of leading companies will take “Big Data” and start turning it into predictive analytics
“Big Data” hasn’t realized it’s potential in many recruiting organizations, partially because our systems are not integrated and robust enough yet.
However, some organizations will shift from knowing what happened very well to being able to predict what may happen fairly well, like success rates and likely sources of strong employees among many other things.
The Talent Acquisition Market will start to move
We will, and in fact I think we already have, started to see the years of Talent Acquisition movement that has been “pent up” start to move, resulting in opportunities for people that have been waiting for that next Recruiter or Talent Acquisition leader role to finally have some options.  This will come in greater numbers at the staff level and will be more predominant in some markets vs. others.
Smart companies will take a hard look at their Talent Acquisition Teams and really consider whether or not the team that have will really be able to meet the challenges that are developing and will come in the market.
SEO will emerge as the new battleground
I have started to see the battle of the SEO tools,with big ones, comprehensive ones and cheap ones… the best one is yet to emerge despite what sales people from the variety of SEO products that are on the market say.
My thoughts?  The entire point to SEO is to get your jobs to a job seeker where they are looking with a few clicks as possible .  The justification for that has also been in part, to reduce your spend on SEM, job search aggregators and job boards (if you’re still there).  SEO tools can be very expensive and may essentially eclipse the savings part of any ROI, so you are left with ROI being based purely on performance (i.e. I can get more and better candidates).  I think it is unclear if that is where every organization can be using an expensive SEO tool and the modest ones may not yield the results you need…  my word of advice with this trend is to procedure with caution, it makes sense for many, but not for all!
This year promises to be a better one than last and may be a pivotal one!  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

2013 End of Year Report Card: Mike’s Predictions for 2013

2013 End of Year Report Card: Mike’s Predictions for 2013

I am a little late in getting this out and have been neglecting my blog lately, but it’s a new year and I would like to be better about writing and sharing what I see in the recruitment space.  With that said, here is my end of year report card for 2013!

2013 continued to be an interesting year, with a lot of progress being made across many fronts of the labor market, but much more progress to be made in getting us to where we really need to be.  We have yet to hit the “magical” 300K mark, even for a single month for new jobs added to the economy, which many say is what is needed, on a sustained basis, to really bring the market back to full health.  This is complicated by a decreasing labor force participation rate (which I will write about in a later blog) and governments inability to find a way to work for anyone but themselves.

Continued Moderate Job Growth through most of 2013
Final Grade- A
As mentioned, the job market continues to slowly improve and we see some areas performing fairly robustly, namely technology in the Bay Area and other tech hubs and energy in, of all places, North Dakota (no offense North Dakota, but I never thought I would see the kind of growth you are seeing- congrats!) as well as other energy industry regions.   While the unemployment rate is actually below what I predicted (low end was 6.8% and it is at 6.7% as of December), it is a weak 6.7% with some of the rate being driven by people dropping out of the workforce.

“Big Data” will make more inroads into recruiting
Final Grade- D
“Big data” is still out there and lurking in the shadows, but it definitely has not become anywhere near the initiative that I believed it would at this point.

The government, especially the US Congress will negatively impact business and the labor market
 Grade- A+
While the government has become marginally better about working for us, they still have a long way to go and still have plenty of opportunities to shoot themselves and our economy in the foot.  The unfortunate thing is that we are so happy that they managed to make it over such a low bar (as is doing a poor job vs. simply not doing their job at all) that they may mistake it for actual approval by us.

More growth of freelancers/contractors
 Grade- A
This trend continues and I think we will see more and more people choosing to this type of work, especially if healthcare reform remains in place and diminishes the need to work for a company for health insurance.  This will be further accelerated by the fact that each generation is more and more comfortable with freelance work.

This year has seen much of the progress that we desperately needed.  I wish that the employment market would have had similar gains as the stock market and housing markets, but hopefully, 2014 will be the year that the recover finally takes a strong hold of the jobs situation.

© 2014 Michael K. Peterson, All Rights Reserved

2013 Mid Year Report Card

2013 Mid Year Report Card

So we are a little past the middle of the year and it’s time to look back at my predictions in January and see how things are turning out…

Continued Moderate Job Growth through most of 2013
Mid Year Grade- A
So far the prediction seems to be holding up pretty with continued moderate gains in employment and declines in unemployment claims. We are flirting somewhat with a threshold that would indicate the beginnings of significant job growth, which is very encouraging. The current rate of 7.4% is on trend with the end of year prediction of 7.3% to 6.8%.

“Big Data” will make more inroads into recruiting

Mid Year Grade- B
While “Big Data” in recruiting is starting to make some inroads, it’s not as prevalent as I would have thought. There is plenty of time left, but I admit, I think this may take another year or two to come to fruition.

The government, especially the US Congress will negatively impact business and the labor market
Mid Year Grade- A+
We all know some posturing is coming from our esteemed politicians in the coming months whether it be over the budget, debt ceiling, healthcare reform or another new artificial, self serving crises they will find a way to put their interests before those of the American people.

More growth of freelancers/contractors
Mid Year Grade- A
This continues to grow more and more and I think we will just continue to see this trend become more and more prevalent, especially with those early in their career that are willing to take the risk or simply need to.

So this has developed to be an interesting year so far and I know many of you will join me in hoping for more positive news in the labor market and many will also agree that we are genuinely seeing things moving, albeit slowly in a better direction.

© 2013 Michael K. Peterson, All Rights Reserved

No More MacGyvers?

April 29, 2013 1 comment

No More MacGyvers?

Segment(s) of the TSC Impacted:
All Segments

Remember the TV show MacGyver from the mid 1980’s? Part Indiana Jones, part A-Team and part Bill Nye the Science Guy, in some ways it was a great show as it made science cool and was an example of how to creatively solve problems to a generation of kids… a generation that may have been one of the last to spend childhood solving problems outside of class which has become a critical problem in today’s workforce.

For those of you not familiar with the show, MacGyver became a noun and a verb for a while and meant that someone could solve what seemed to be insurmountable problems by taking duct tape, baking soda, a push pin and bubble gum and say make a car run again and/or rescue someone that was in danger.

The appeal of the show to the latch-key generation is not the shows great writing (because it wasn’t) it was that it took what a generation had been doing every day in a small, mundane way and went a step or several steps further. It allowed us to imagine where we could go and what we could do.

Department of Education Focus Group
I was recently invited to a meeting at the state Department of Education to participate in a focus group that was trying to help an organization that worked with students to get them excited about various careers.
This focus group consisted of a wide variety of people, from professors at leading research institutions to Dentists to workforce development professionals to talent acquisition leaders like me.

The organizer asked a simple question, what are students missing? You can imagine the discussion that ensued. Communication skills were thrown out, problem solving, work skills, etc., but the conversation moved to critical thinking skills, which is what I felt, was the driver of many of the problems.

I shared that I didn’t remember taking a “critical thinking skills” class in school. So this is not something that was taught at some point and was cut, rather I believe schools ever had this role to begin with. Critical thinking skills were taught through real-world life experiences and by actually doing something in non-structured environments.
I used to think this perception was simply inter-generational elitism… my generation is better than another generation, or perhaps inter-generational misunderstandings. Certainly, I think many perceived issues are based in one or both of these issues… but this specific one may be a genuine difference and I wanted to share my theory about why and find out what you thought.

The Last of the Self Made Problem Solvers?
Before some of you email me pointing out that they are problem solvers and/or know some great problem solvers and critical thinkers within their generation, let me clarify my statement. I am not saying that there are no great critical thinkers or problems solvers in younger generations.
What I am saying is that critical thinking skills used to be taken for granted because it seemed more common. Now it seems less common and/or does not come as naturally.

To be clear this skill is still developed over time, but in more and more cases, even the more basic critical thinking skills come noticeably later than they used to.
This problem is one that we have brought upon ourselves there isn’t anyone to blame; we simply live in a different world. Whether in reality or just in perception, I would never allow my two kids to do the things that me and my peers were expected to.

Let’s compare and contrast and let me know if this sounds familiar:

Getting to school
• Starting in 1st or 2nd grade, I would walk ¾ of a mile to school by myself in a very busy, not so great neighborhood and in the afternoon, walk back by myself
• My kids live 3 blocks from school in an incredibly safe suburb and I wouldn’t even think of letting them walk by themselves to school and they are older.

Coming home from school
• I would let myself into the house and I was responsible for locking up, doing my homework, doing my chores and if I was hungry, make something to eat. If I ran into a problem, I needed to solve it.
• My kids are picked up and ferried to a professionally run after school program where they do their homework and socialize while they wait for me or my wife to pick them up

• I would be miles from home and was responsible for being back before dinner, with no cell phone
• Now kids are at someone’s home or at a friend’s home, controlled and supervised environment, multiple means to communicate

Needing to eat
• If we got hungry when we were out, we pooled resources to buy food or went to someone’s house
• Generally since they are in a controlled environment, food is typically easily accessible

Things breaking
• If my bike broke down, I needed to fix it with few if any tools and little to no help other than my friends
• Again, generally they are in a controlled environment, so this is not an issue

Getting Hurt
• If me or one of my friends got hurt, we needed to figure out how bad it was, what to do and where to go
• Again, controlled environments, so this is not as much of an issue

Cars and Independence
• When we got close to turning 16 the majority of us that could realistically get or borrow a car would be in line on our 16th birthday to get our licenses.
• Compare that to now, where only roughly 24% of those under 18 that could get licenses do so. I have colleagues that have to force their kids to get licenses as they are going off to college…

Why Have Things Changed?
The reason why things changed is simple and it is our fault. The world is a different place and we feel that our children are under constant threat and that we need to protect them. There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect our kids, and I am certainly not advocating that they should do what we used to. Rather this is just a consequence of that greater protection and we have not found a means to mitigate it.

I am not an expert on education by any means, but I hear and agree with many others talking about the problems with the demands placed on teachers to teach to a test. I don’t think that this is the sole problem, but I worry that having structured work with more work that consists of multiple choice answers is going to exacerbate this issue.

I believe that this may be a real opportunity to balance the need to measure achievement and effectiveness through tests by changing and enriching the educational delivery. This would be done by allowing students to work together in teams to work on challenging problems with less directive guidance and where the answers may not be so clear. A model in which groups of kids can test their solutions to problems that they developed against the merits of other kids solutions to the same problem. This would not be in a competition to win, but rather in a competition to gain understanding, much like that in some alternative educational delivery methods that have emerged recently. Many times in these new schools, teachers, administrators, students and parents are all much more satisfied and confident in their kid’s progress and development.

I think all of us can agree that the state of education is not ideal for anyone involved, and I strongly believe that we have asked the education system to make up for things that it should never have to… however in this case, I see a great opportunity to drive positive change for all involved and potentially solve a critical problem by listening and working together… because if this problem is not solved, generations will struggle to compete in a global market more than ever.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them my way!

© 2013 Michael K. Peterson, All Rights Reserved


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