Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

2010 Prediction: Employees MIA
December 28, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recruiting, Thoughts

As a professional in the recruiting world, I love watching employment and hiring trends and the way the decisions we make as a collective nation affect us immediately, and the ripple effects of our decisions over time. In the past decade, with the popularization of the Internet for public use, a microwave mentality has crept into our daily lives. We want everything instantly. If something doesn’t happen immediately, then we become impatient and antsy. As a result, we have forced companies to create some efficiencies to help streamline the delivery of products and services for our consumption. This is fantastic, as I believe it creates much-needed competition and quality control in commerce. However, in many instances, our desire to have what we want, right here right now, creates an urgency that forces shoddy workmanship and thus produces cheap / ineffective products or services that, if we could have waited a little longer, might have produced a higher quality, more beneficial product or service. Our impatience as a society has forced operational efficiency in some area, however in other areas it has produced poor quality work.

What does this have to do with the disappearance of the traditional employee? Last week, Paul Hebert wrote a great post on Fistful of Talent asking the corporate world to consider employee attraction and retention practices if the anchors of employee benefits, which include healthcare, were not in place to entice them to come on board. As well, earlier in the week my colleague Dave Mendoza pointed out an article from the Wall Street Journal that talked about the implications in the workforce of the healthcare bill in its current form, should it pass through Senate. (update: as of Christmas eve the Senate gathered enough votes to pass this bill)

Whether we want to admit it or not, healthcare is a huge issue today. And it’s going to affect more parts of our lives than just how we’re able (or not able) to obtain coverage. Most believe we need healthcare reform. Some think what got rushed through Senate will take care of that. Others don’t, and would like to slow down and consider some other viable options. While this is not the time or place for discussion of your position on this, I think we can all agree that whatever comes out of this situation is seriously going to affect many parts of our lives outside of our health. Including our employment situations.

Having read both of the above linked articles, and taking into consideration what I’ve learned over the years on the inside of HR and recruiting practices, I came up with this prediction:

Over the course of 2010 we will see a decline in direct-hire employees and a rise in both contractors and entrepreneurs in the workforce.

Let me just say that I am by no means an economic or social expert. The things I’ve considered in taking my stance on this prediction are simply from observing my community, my industry, and people in general. I could be completely off-base, or I could be spot on. I am simply one person with an opinion and a thought I’d like to share, with a few personal observations to back up why I think the way I do. I appreciate you respecting my thoughts in this and taking the time to read about them, even if you disagree with them.

So, why am I predicting this? Here are a couple of observations:

  • With the astronomically rising cost of healthcare coverage for employees (mind you, this has been going on for years and I fully recognize that it did not start with the onset of the government wanting to take over healthcare, but I certainly don’t feel it will be alleviated by the proposed bill either), companies are less and less inclined to offer this benefit to employees. Thus, a reasonable alternative is to hire contractors, putting the financial and benefit burden off of themselves and onto the contractor’s shoulders.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention. With the number of people unemployed or underemployed still in double-digits, it makes for a better environment for creativity in creating income, thus encouraging individuals to start a business and be self-employed.

This could be a fantastic thing. I think for some people, self-employment is the way to go. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are not averse to taking a risk, the reward can be great.

But it’s not guaranteed… and there are things to consider that companies eliminating offering benefits could have an impact on when it comes to employment, and ultimately, retirement:

  • With companies being less and less inclined to either offer healthcare benefits (and consequently 401K and retirement), or being more inclined to hire contractors so as not to shoulder the burden, this will force people to have to be proactive in seeking out their own healthcare and investment opportunities. From personal experience, I know that purchasing healthcare independently is quite expensive, and that cost will only continue to rise. I’ve read that as much as 21% of one’s income would go to nationalized healthcare, should it be instituted. *again, I’m not an economic expert, this is just what I’ve read and heard from those who live in countries with nationalized healthcare, like my friend’s mother who was a nurse in the British NHS for 40+ years – she would know!*
  • According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, our rate of savings over the past decade is pitiful, averaging near 3%. For the average household which makes about $40,000 per year, that’s a pathetic savings of $1200 yearly. In all reality, most Americans save nothing at all when you count credit card debt, car payments, and home mortgages. So obviously our rate of savings leaves a lot to be desired already. Being forced to purchase government-mandated healthcare coverage because our employer simply can’t foot the bill any longer could essentially wipe out the ability for people to continue saving even at a meager 3% rate.

Ripple effects:

  • For both employer and the individual:
    • What is a company’s incentive to hiring direct when they have to pay such astronomical costs for benefits for their employees? I believe companies will start to hire more contractors; then they won’t have to shell out for the benefits. Could be a good thing, as it would encourage more entrepreneurialism, which ultimately leads to the creation of more jobs.
  • For the individual:
    • As a result of this, contractors will end up paying out-of-pocket for health insurance (expensive), & there will no longer be ‘auto’ savings in the form of 401Ks or retirement plans – through the company, at least. Making those decisions will be left up to the individual. Again, this could be a good or a bad thing, depending on the level of personal responsibility of that individual. But as seen in the above example of personal savings over the last 10 years, it’s not a likely scenario for many.
  • For the employer:
    • An increase in recruitment and hiring costs. Employees are more likely to be loyal to a company than contractors. While contractors don’t carry the cost of insurance and 401K matching, it’s an expensive process to constantly hire new and renew existing contractors. It gets even more expensive if you’re going through a 3rd party contract provider, because not only are you covering the contractor’s rates, but the escalated rate of the provider in order for them to cover their operating costs.

Distant future ripple effects:

  • With the decline in savings in the US, as the X and Y generations reach retirement age, there will be even more of an increased demand for someone else to foot the bill, unless we get a grip today on taking personal responsibility for our futures.
  • I’m all for entrepreneurialism – if you feel called to be self-employed I totally support that! Just make sure you prepare for your future. The great thing about being self-employed is that you rely completely on your own efforts. The downside of being self-employed is that you rely completely on your own efforts. There’s no one there to blame but yourself if retirement time comes around and you didn’t plan ahead enough.

My recommendations for this 2010 prediction:

  • Individuals: Be personally responsible. Start saving today. If you don’t believe you can, find a way. I’m sure there are things in your budget you can cut back on. Do you really need that daily Starbucks latte, or 5000+ TV channels?
  • Companies: continue to offer benefits and have a leg up on your competition for talent. As other companies drop benefits like a bad habit, a company can use this to their advantage by continuing to offer them as value-adds for new hires. You’ll attract more, and loyal, talent if you offer something that your competitors no longer can.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, or it will cease to do so. Companies aren’t perfect, but employees aren’t either. Remember that the next time you’re grumbling about the popcorn tower your company gave you for a holiday gift as you’re stealing office supplies. The fact that many companies DO currently offer benefits is a privilege, NOT A RIGHT (please do not confuse the two). Yeah there are some companies out there that do shady business or don’t treat their employees well. If you work for a company like that, you have the option to leave. No one is hand-cuffing you to that desk, regardless of what you may think. (by the way, if your response to this is “but I can’t leave; I’ll lose my benefits!” – I suggest you re-read the bolded text that started this bullet point…)

Be THANKFUL for what you do have. If you currently work – you are much better off than 17% of this country as of September this year. Be careful, and think about the things you ask for; consider all of the consequences, short- and long-term. The long-term ripple effect might overcast the short-term benefit.

Disclaimer: I anticipate many varying viewpoints on government-controlled healthcare as related to this post. I don’t feel this post, or this blog, is the correct venue for that discussion, however, you have a comment to make about the rise in contractor / entrepreneur status as compared to employee status, feel free to do so! If you’re insistent upon sharing your opinion on healthcare, you are more than welcome to email me directly and I’ll be happy to engage in a civilized conversation. Thank you for respecting my space and I look forward to an engaging exchange!


Holiday Blankets = Fruitcakes
December 17, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media


Blankets are meant to keep us warm when it’s chilly. But blankets are not made for sending emails or making statements. I’ve seen a lot of my blogging colleagues write ranty posts about how impersonal a generic, blanket LinkedIn invite:

OK – so we understand the importance of personalizing a message via email. Blanket emails / invitations suck. The same can be said about resumes – customization of a resume to suit the job to which you are applying. You should never send a generic resume, and ESPECIALLY a generic cover letter. (“Dear Hiring Manager,” or “To Whom It May Concern” should be avoided if at all possible!) Tailor it to fit the position to which you are applying. Understood. We get it.

So, why isn’t this same concept of message personalization acceptable when making in-person statements? Why is it more politically correct to make sweeping, blanket statements in order not to offend people? No warm-fuzzies from this kind of blanket!

Case in point: it’s December. Hanukkah started this past weekend, and Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all happen next week. That’s 4 holidays, each quite different from the other. Yet, political correctness, and the socially mandated idea that we have to please everyone, demand that we say ‘Happy Holidays’ now, instead of customizing our greetings and wishes of happiness to our friends and family based on what they observe. And in my personal opinion, when you try to please everyone, as is evident in the above examples with LinkedIn and resume submissions, you in fact don’t really please anyone. ‘Happy Holidays’ in my opinion is a trite statement, kind of like when you pass a co-worker in the hallway and say “How are you?” with no real intent to stop and find out, in fact, how he or she really is.

So, in the spirit of this time of year, and in the spirit of making people feel special, I propose that before wishing someone a generic ‘Happy Holidays’ this year, you pause for a moment and ask them which holiday they observe (if you don’t already know). They’ll most likely be surprised because people don’t typically ask that question, and will probably answer your question. You can then proceed to tailor your greeting based on what they celebrate. My guess is that they’ll be pleased that you took the time to find out that tidbit of information about them, and chances are they’ll return the favor to you. Not only will you have made their day by doing this, but you’ll be remembered for being thoughtful enough to care and to customize your greeting!

I have been doing this for years when I go Christmas shopping. (by the way, I celebrate Christmas!) When I step into the checkout line, and the clerk wishes me a ‘Happy Holiday’ since they’re forced to in order not to offend anyone, I smile and ask them which holiday they celebrate. The clerk is usually surprised by this, but if they respond, say, with “I celebrate Christmas”, then I’m able to say “Merry Christmas to you! I celebrate Christmas as well.” If they respond with Hanukkah, I will wish them a Happy Hanukkah, and so forth. I can honestly say I’ve NEVER had a bad reaction to doing this, and most times I get an extra smile out of the clerk, and sometimes even out of the people in line behind me.

So this year, put your online networking etiquette into practice offline! Customize your greetings to the people you encounter and make them feel special.

What!? *Don’t* put ‘looking for a job’ in your LinkedIn status?!?
December 16, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Career Advice, Networking/Social Media, Recruiting, Research

I was pointed to a new blog post today by Laurent Brouat entitled “Don’t put ‘Looking for a job’ on your linkedin status“. In the post, Brouat advises those who are in the market for new employment not to place these words in their LinkedIn status because “you position yourself as someone asking for something, asking for a job, waiting for things to happen…”

Say wha-a-a-a-t!?!?! I completely and quite loudly disagree with this!

  1. If you don’t ask, you cannot receive. There’s a Book that talks about this quite extensively, actually 🙂
  2. ANY recruiter, and sourcer especially, worth their salary, knows how to conduct in-depth LinkedIn searches and would be quite pleased to discover someone who’s left word that they’d be open to listening to new opportunities right on their LinkedIn page. Don’t believe me? Just type the phrase “looking for a job” into the LinkedIn search field and check out the resulting 8,000+ individuals seeking new employment AND LETTING YOU KNOW THEY ARE.
  3. Guess what? I have automated search agents set up through LOTS of social media sites with key phrases like “looking for work”, “I need a job”, “need a new job”… and I’ll bet a million bucks I’m not the only one!

Granted, Mr. Brouat is from London so the way things are done across the pond could be quite different from here in the States, but I believe a better piece of advice might be to tell job seekers not to simply STOP at putting this phrase in their profile.

Job seeking is essentially self-marketing, and the one thing that you should know about good marketing is that you should NEVER rely on one method to get the job done. The reason for this is that you’ll have different target audiences that will be reached via different methods. So I say in addition to putting a phrase such as “looking for a job” (or perhaps you prefer “entertaining new opportunities”, “seeking a new venture”, or “in transition”?) it’s good to combine other active outreach such as IN-PERSON networking, looking to see who is hiring and then proactively reaching out, etc. In my personal opinion, it certainly can’t hurt to leave a note on a page that I guarantee is going to be visited by actively querying recruiters and sourcers.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for something you want – just make sure you do it tactfully!

Un-Social Recruiting
December 8, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Recruiting

<insert cliché social media platitudes here>

  • Social = marked by friendly companionship and outreach with others
  • Recruiting = seek to employ

“Social recruiting” means you’re seeking to employ people through friendly companionship and outreach 🙂 Last I checked, this wasn’t accomplished solely on LinkedIn or Facebook.

So, what would un-social recruiting be? My guess would have to be the still-ever-popular post ‘n pray method. Not much social about that. Sad to see so many ‘recruiters’ out there relying heavily on this unsociable method of getting candidates.

Just sayin’.

“That’s Not My Job”
December 1, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Thoughts

…yeah, it kinda is.

Ever go to someone at your company to ask for help, only to have them respond, without even looking up at you, with “That’s not my job”? Or called customer service to get resolution on an issue, only to be told “I don’t do that” and not even be forwarded to the right person or at least provided with another number to call?

This attitude of “not my problem!” is out of control today, in my opinion. Sure, you might not have the answer, but with networking being all the rage these days, isn’t it possible that you know someone whose job it actually IS? So, instead of saying “That’s not my job”, how about responding with “I don’t know, but let me see if I know someone who does!”

Customer service isn’t a department in your company – it’s a job that belongs to all of us. And that ESPECIALLY includes internal customer service. To jump on the buzzword bandwagon here, nothing speaks louder about employment brand than how we work to help each other out on the inside. Employees of the company can be your biggest allies – or your worst nightmare – for building a positive employment brand.

I’m not saying that you should let people use you – because there will always be those individuals who will try to pawn their work off on you all the time. Make sure you establish a SLA (service level agreement) with your teammates and colleagues so there is an official procedure for getting things done. But if someone asks you for help, don’t just leave them hanging if it’s outside of your scope. See if you can find someone to help them. Even if the issue doesn’t get resolved, you’ve still painted a positive picture by putting forth the effort. Besides, it takes maybe a minute or two to redirect someone. Can you spare 1/10th of a percent of your day to make a good impression? I sure hope you’re not that busy!