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Harris Interactive Poll on 2011 HR Related Business Trends

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Last week Harris Interactive released a survey for CareerBuilder North America with more than 2,400 employers and 3,900 employees around the country. They were looking for new business trends as we begin 2011 related to hiring, job hunting and organizational culture.

You should look at the full survey to get all the juicy details, but the president of CareerBuilder summed up the results as follows in a press release. “Businesses are becoming more agile and changing direction. They’re operating leaner and recruiting for opportunities in emerging areas. Workers are transitioning to new fields, are more open to relocation and are more apt to consider opportunities outside of their current employers.”

Here are some highlights from the press release:

  1. Shifting Business Direction – Forty-two percent of employers said their company changed its business direction as a result of the recession.
  2. Working Leaner – Thirty-five percent of employers reported that their current staffs are smaller than pre-recession levels. Of those employers, most anticipate no adjustments to staff levels in 2011, with 57 percent reporting that they have become accustomed to handling the workload with less headcount.
  3. Changing Jobs – Workers are becoming more optimistic about their job prospects in the New Year. Seventy-six percent reported that, although they are not actively looking, they would change jobs in 2011 for the right opportunity. Workers aren’t necessarily focused on a bigger paycheck. Sixty-eight percent reported that affordable benefits are more important to them than salary.
  4. Creating New Functions – Jobs centered around social media, green energy and health care reform are being added in the New Year.
  5. Video Interviewing –. Six percent reported they have conducted video interviews with potential job candidates while 11 percent plan to do so in the New Year.
  6. Less Moonlighting – Twelve percent plan to take on second jobs in 2011, compared to 19 percent last year.
  7. Taking a Global Perspective – Nearly one-in-five U.S. employers (18 percent) reported they will be hiring for their operations in other countries in 2011.
  8. Relocating Talent – Of workers who were laid off in the last 12 months and found new jobs, 23 percent relocated to a new city or state.
  9. Promoting Without Pay – Forty-one percent of employers are concerned about losing their top talent as the economy improves., but only 39 percent will be providing raises. Thirteen percent are offering higher titles, but without pay increases.
  10. Going Casual – Employers are becoming more relaxed about set schedules and dress codes as they take measures to enhance the overall work experience. Fifteen percent reported they will provide a more casual dress code.

Now to get some expert reaction to the survey I turned to my friend and Canada-based colleague Jan G. van der Hoop, President of the smartest on-boarding consultancy in North America, Hiring Smart.  Jan looked over the trends and responded with the following perspective…

I agree that the trends identified are reflective of the ‘word on the street’, on both sides of the border – at least if our own informal client polls are taken into account.

On the one hand, employers have reconfigured and are making do with less; earnings reports and buckets of cash on hand are signals that many companies are performing better (at least on the balance sheet and in the short term) with fewer people. How many of the millions of workers displaced in the crash are still unemployed or underutilized?

On the other hand, those who are working may be glad to have the work… but their loyalty to their current employer has eroded and is thinner than ever. The 76% who indicated they would be willing to move for the right opportunity should be a wake-up call to employers.

What strikes me the most about this list is that, at a macro level; these really are simply more of the same old, same old. There is really nothing new here – these “trends” have been talked about for the last five years at least; if anything, the recent economic challenges have accelerated and magnified them. Employers have had no choice but to make deep cuts and change direction; in many ways the collapse has given them the excuse to do what might have been unthinkable or just too painful otherwise.

Problem is, nothing we’ve come up with has been able to change the list all that much from year to year, primarily because many of these trends are symptomatic of a deeper underlying problem that isn’t referred to – and that is that the levels of trust and engagement are at their lowest levels ever.

Business – and HR – are missing the boat here. This is exactly the time when organizations must focus on internal productivity and flawless execution… and the mechanics of that are deceptively simple: Get the right person in the right job, focused on the right things (we’ve generally been doing an abysmal job of that); engage them with a strong management team focused on boosting their employees’ focus, capability and will… business performance, productivity, retention naturally improve.

When an organization does those things well, they insulate themselves from:

  • The impact of Trend 2 – because working leaner won’t happen at the expense of those ‘left behind’ at the organization; higher productivity and collaboration means higher output comes more easily;
  • Trend 5 – video interviewing – I predict the trend will fizzle. Certainly, Skype and other technologies make it possible to ‘see’ candidates without the expense or time commitment of a face-to-face interview, but there are other improvements to the process that are far more important and that tilt the table more in favor of the recruiter or hiring manager, both in terms of time commitment and gathering reliable information that will be much more predictive of retention and performance. ‘Seeing’ the candidate, in person or otherwise, will be less important until the very end.
  • Trends 9 and 10 – pay, paper promotions, and work arrangements are gimmicks relied upon by weak managers who have nothing more concrete to offer. Employees want meaning and connection to something that matters to them; where that’s absent, the gimmicks are accepted but don’t help retain them.

Thank you Jan!  I look forward to more guest posts from Jan in 2011.

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