BrainWave Consulting Company, LLC is a minority-owned, veteran-owned business that specializes in providing cybersecurity and other technology services to small and medium enterprises (SMB/SME).

Based on a number of surveys taken since the recent economic downturn began, it would appear that there is a fairly substantial disconnect between how employers and employees view the job market and the joys of employment. Within the past two years, many business owners and leaders have made decisions to control their organizations costs in ways that favor themselves over their employees.  The reasoning appears to be that those employees which have not been downsized are only too happy to have *some* employment, and thus will tolerate almost any treatment in the workplace.

However, as a USA Today article from August 2009 points out, this perception is not nearly as true as employers believe that it is.

More than 8 in 10 employers feel that their workers are “just happy to have a job,” while just 53% of employees feel this way, according to a new survey from online job-listing company and the research group Human Capital Institute.

As the economy begins its slow recovery, employers who expected to have a field day finding well-qualified candidates at rock bottom prices, are admitting that they are finding it surprisingly difficult to get the right match of skills at the price they want.  The following articles are just three of the many that I have read in the past month regarding this very issue:

(I especially liked the HR Executive Online article, because it focuses on some of the corporate misconceptions about the job market that fuel the perception of insufficient qualified candidates.)

Why The Difficulty?

Some of the major reasons why organizations are having problems obtaining the “right” workers for their open positions are:

  1. They (organizations) have unreasonable expectations of what constitutes good working conditions and work/life balance.  (You need to be available from them round the clock, but heaven forbid that you need a couple hours to take care of personal business.)

  2. Rather than hire the 2 people they actually need in order to obtain the 4 or 5 specialized skills they need, they insist on trying to find a single person with all 4 or 5 of those skills, and attempt to pay them no more than 120% of a single professional.  (They want to hire Superman, at a Batman price)
  3. Corporate HR is posting job requirements that fail to address the actual needs of the role or the organization, and then screening candidates based on those poorly written requirements.  (You want someone who is good with .NET and Java development, Network infrastructure *and* Active Directory?  Really?  And has a PhD?)

  4. Their job postings lack sufficient detail, including compensation and contact information, to induce interest from the right candidates, but just enough info to generate a flood of interest from every candidate that is not a good fit. (“I’m not sure if I’m a fit or not, but it can’t hurt to apply!”)
  5. They want to control costs by cutting recruiters out of the picture, but their existing staff is too busy to pay enough attention to reviewing the massive pool of candidates that is steadily coming in from the job boards. (Considering all the outsourcing companies are doing these days, it’s sad that they won’t do the right one for the right reason.)
  6. They assume that with so many people on the market, there should be plenty of desperate superstars who are just waiting in line for their perfect opportunity.  (Only a small percentage of people laid off at *any* time are superstars.  And many of them have other options, like consulting or self-employment.)

  7. Employers exhibit little of the courtesy, etiquette or professionalism that they expect from candidates in terms of follow-up calls, scheduling of interviews, and updates on the process.  (“You have to understand, we can’t call you back because we’ve received 1000 resumes.”)

  8. The hiring process at many organizations is dominated by people who lack the time and/or skill to conduct interviews properly.  Additionally, the hiring process is dragged out over a period of weeks or months, resulting in lost opportunities to secure great candidates because they have moved on to more reasonable organizations.  (“Um, can you come back the 1st Tuesday of next month?  It’s the first time we can get together all 18 of the people that we need to interview you in the second round.”)
  9. Organizations seek “experts” that they have no intention of listening to, resulting in a revolving door of candidates who become employees who become candidates again in just a few weeks or months.  (“Yes, we did hire you for your expertise, but we’d really like to continue doing things the way we’ve done them before. We just need you to sign off on our approach.”)

There’s another good reason why organizations are having problems getting the right players on board, but it deserves it’s very own post.   Let’s just call this issue shortsightedness for now, and tackle it separately.

If Corporate America is really serious about getting the right people employed in their organizations, then they’re going to have to make a few changes.


Fix the Hiring Process

Write good specs that actually matter for the job in question.

Get people who can actually screen for the role.

Post the job clearly, so that the right candidates know what they will be expected to do/know, who they will report to, and what the compensation is.

No one needs to have their time wasted.  Not the employer, not the candidates, and not the recruiters (if they are lucky enough to be involved.)   If you have an open position, then fund it properly.  Don’t spend two months trying to find a good candidate for 80% of the compensation that you *know* will be needed to secure the candidate you really want.

And if you don’t have the budget, stop wasting the time of the candidates and the recruiter by having them look for roles that you can’t do anything about until the next quarter – if that.

Finally, would it really hurt you to complete the interview process for a single candidate in 15-20 business days for non-officer positions?  What impression do you suppose the candidates gets of your vaunted proficiency and corporate professionalism when you can’t even manage to schedule a couple interviews and make a decision before a lunar cycle has completed?  You should be able to articulate the process to the candidate in the first meeting so that all parties know what to expect.


Be Reasonable

While a candidate who has been out of work for 6-9 months (or more) might be desperate enough to accept a position that pays 75% of what he or she actually needs to maintain a decent standard of living, why would you want to start the employee’s existence at your organization in disgruntled mode?  How long do you think it will take before the euphoria of having a job dissipates, and the ugly reality of not being able to support the needs of the family sets in?

Everyone has had to compromise because of the downturn, but trying to get people to do more for you and your organization, while giving them less in the way of flexibility or compensation, will only engender animosity and contempt – to the detriment of your organization’s productivity. 

Also, make sure that you don’t try to build a job spec that consolidates the work of two people into one insufficiently compensated person.  (Even if the compensation is appropriate, a single person can only do the work of two for so long before burn-out becomes a factor.)

It is no secret that people who are happy and content are vastly more productive than those who are disgruntled or unhappy.  More than that, happy employees are far more likely to go the extra mile to accomplish their tasks in a timely manner than unhappy employees are.

Plus, the economy is not necessarily going to remain bad forever.  What do you suppose will happen when things pick up again?  (And in this internet age, how hard will it be for you to hire people when word has gotten around about how you treat employees?)


Treat Employees with Respect

Most people understand that life has problems, and they are willing to help an employer that they feel has their best interests at heart whenever difficulties arise.  (More precisely, they will be very accommodating towards a manager who has their best interests at heart, even if they don’t like the overall organization, so make sure you hire great managers.)

But, they also want to be treated with respect as human beings.  Being treated like commodities tends to cause people to behave as commodities which is not so good for the organization if they really aren’t easily obtained commodities.  If you hire skilled professional for the expertise they have, then be sure to give some consideration to the expert advice they give you during the course of their employment.  After all, wasn’t that the point of hiring them?

Owners and managers who want respect must remember to give respect, as it is not simply something that is owed in one direction.  Respect and trust are earned, and can be lost.  Yes, rank does confer an initial level of respect, but it can be increased or decreased based on behavior.

Organizations have only themselves to blame for the employment situation they find themselves in, because the seeds were not sown this year or even in this past decade, but much earlier than that.  

We’ll cover those details in an upcoming article…