Category Archives: Economy

Retraining the Right Way

“Retraining” is a buzzword in today’s economy, but why?

Personal computers, automation, and the internet were game changers. Advancements in information technology created new industries, eliminated or downsized others, and changed the way we do business forever.

Because of this, many of us naturally assumed that the future of skills training (and retraining) meant more computers and more STEM.  However, new findings cast doubt on what has been conventional wisdom for two decades, causing some HR professionals to ask: Is more tech and more STEM the answer? And, what skills are the right skills?  As an example, let’s look at two industries profoundly affected by advancements in IT: Manufacturing and software development.

A recent survey of manufacturers found that the most sought-after skill for customer service and help desk agents was higher level writing. For technicians on the floor is was higher level reading.

Similarly, for software help desk technicians (the second largest IT position in the country), only 15% of jobs required a deep understanding of actual programming. Again, higher level writing skills were the most sought-after.

In both industries, only one-third of workers required any higher level math skills such as algebra or statistics, demonstrating that skills requirements are not distributed equally across the workforce. That means it is up to employers to design roles that fit the proficiencies of their employees, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to training and retraining initiatives.

So when we talk about training, we have to be sure that we are talking about the right training without making assumptions about what we think our employees need. It turns out that not all training means more computers and STEM.

Weaver, Andrew. “The Myth of the Skills Gap.” MIT Technology Review, August 27, 2017.


Stop Blaming The “Skills Gap.” Finding Talent Has Always Been Hard.

Unemployment in America has dipped below 4% for the first time in almost 20 years through a combination of modest, but consistent job growth and a declining yet recently stabilized labor force participation rate. For employers, this means your pool of potential applicants is being squeezed at both ends, making it that much harder to find the talent you need.

To explain the challenges faced by employers, some have pointed to the existence of a “Skills Gap,” a mismatch between the skills employers need and the actual skills in workers’ possession. But is any of it right?

The short is: No. The long answer is: It’s complicated.

A recent survey of employers in high-demand industries such as technical manufacturing, IT and healthcare (places where the demand for specialized technical skills would, in theory, be the highest) we see that most employers can fill positions within three months of their opening. Additionally, many of the more long-term openings reported to the study were during overnight shifts or reflected other more demanding working conditions, indicating that compensation or work-life balance was more at issue than skills.

Besides, it is tough to argue the existence of a persistent skills gap in an economy at or close to full employment with little to no real wage growth. If highly skilled or specialized talent were in such high demand, then one could expect to see companies willing to pay more to attract that talent, and at the moment only professions within the healthcare industry show any meaningful wage growth.

Simply put, the idea that positions are persistently being left open due to “mismatched” candidates is more complicated than many industry groups or employers would have you believe. Despite their protestations, companies need to rethink how they compensate and incentivize new hires while at the same time ensuring that their current staffs not only obtain new skills but the right skills.

What You Can Learn From Giraffes to be More Effective at Work

Giraffes are one of nature’s most compelling creatures. Every day, both zoologists and ethologists (scientists who study animal behavior) learn more and more about how they live in both captivity and the wild. Here are some interesting facts about giraffes, and what lessons we can learn from them about being more effective at work:

  • Be a team player…

Giraffes are believed to be one of nature’s least territorial large animals. Multiple groups (called “towers”) will frequently inhabit the same space in order to share resources and look after calves and pregnant females. These towers often come together to form herds, which can number into the hundreds.

  • Work well individually AND as part of a team…

Despite their easy-going nature and team-focused social structure, giraffes know when it’s time to go it alone. Smaller towers of giraffes will often split off from the main herd if an area becomes overcrowded or resources begin to become depleted.

  • Embrace change…

Giraffes adapt easily to new challenges to survive in the wild. Herds of giraffes often split, merge and reform, only to do the same with new giraffes shortly thereafter. Giraffes also appear to be less sentimental about their herd-mates than other large herbivores, making it easier for them to form new alliances with new giraffes as needed.

Check out more about giraffe conservation and other animal behaviors at and

Reduce Your Time-to-Hire

When talent is in short supply, time is your enemy. Today’s job seekers have more tools and opportunities at their disposal than ever before. Put simply, finding talent is more challenging than ever.

Here are three ways you can reduce your time-to-hire.

Have clear requirements AND expectations: Having clear job requirements allows jobseekers to quickly identify if their education and experience are sufficient for the position, as well as what will be expected of a new hire. On the employer-side, clear communication regarding what your organization looks for both pre and post-hire will allow hiring managers to assess potential new hires in a way that is both constructive and specific, since the indicators for success are known to all.

Be transparent: Job seekers have more access to information about your firm than you can imagine. Employee reviews, blog posts, social media, google searches and more, all work to create an image of your company that is powerful in today’s internet-driven job search culture.  For this reason, err on the side of disclosure. Own your company’s faults (we all have them!) and demonstrate to job seekers (and customers) how you are trying to improve. Give out information on your salary and bonus / incentive structure(s). Talk about your office culture positively, but honestly. These factors will increase the number of quality job seekers you attract, and increase the chances of your offer being accepted.

Be prepared to deal with a counter-offer: As the labor market tightens, the competition for talent will only intensify. Do not assume that your offer will be the best offer received. Have a procedure in place to approach and resolve competing offers or counter-offers from current employers. Keeping in close contact with a candidate during the offer and acceptance period not only demonstrates your interest in them, it shows that you are serious about assembling a strong team.

In summary, the 2017 talent timer is ticking loudly…so don’t drag your feet!  Meet with candidates quickly, eliminate rounds and rounds of redundant interviewing, keep the lines of communication wide open and make your highest and best offer now before it’s too late!

Lesser-Known (But Still Important!) Economic Indicators: Quits Rate

by Ben Horwitz, Communications Director, JobGiraffe

Ben Horwitz, JobGiraffe, World Giraffe Day
Ben Horwitz, JobGiraffe

On the first Friday of every month we are all reminded of the most well known economic measurements: job creation, unemployment, wage growth, etc. These reports give us a glimpse into the well-being of the US Economy. Buried in these numbers is a wealth of information relevant to everyone, but especially valuable to individuals in the recruiting and staffing community. Today I’d like to introduce you to one of these figures: the “quits rate.” (The quits rate is measured in the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS Report)

The quits rate is defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the “number of quits during the entire month as a percent of total employment.” In short, the quits rate measures how many workers voluntarily leave their job in a given time period. Typically, people leave their current position when they are fairly confident that they can find a new or better one. Therefore, a growing quits rate is often an indicator of a strengthening labor market with more choices for workers.

How has the quits rate changed in recent years? Well, it’s growing, which is consistent with a labor market that is slowly but surely gaining strength. At the end of 2015 the national quits rate stood at 2.1%. In 2013 and 2011 it was 1.7% and 1.5% respectively. In 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, that number stood at a dismal 1.3%. In order to find a quits rate as robust as today’s one would have to back over a decade to 2004, well before the recession.

So why is this important to recruiting and staffing professionals? In short, if the quits rate is high, there are likely to be more highly placeable/employable job seekers on the market, because applicants with recent work experience are often the easiest to place. However, it also means that we must work harder to find candidates the right position, one that goes beyond meeting their most basic requirements, and offers them a chance to feel fulfilled, have opportunities for growth and love what they do. Because if we don’t, the data show that they will be less afraid to walk away from that position and find a new opportunity. Therefore, the high quits rate is something that every recruiting and staffing professional should be aware of, and take into account in their work.

*As a percentage of total separations – including “involuntary” separations (i.e. layoffs and firings) – the numbers are 60% for 2015, 59% for 2013, 49% for 2011 and 41% for 2009, which is consistent with the overall trend towards higher voluntary separation or “quits.”