Filed under: Thoughts
Several of my friends and colleagues have been setting New Year resolutions and predictions, and reflecting upon the last year, as well as the last decade. I was sitting at Starbucks over the weekend with one of my AT&T coworkers and we were talking about the last 10 years and the ups and downs that have happened. For me – 10 years ago I was a senior in college ringing in the new year in Gainesville, FL, and discovering that my desired career path wasn’t, in fact, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. 2 1/2 years later, I landed my first job in an industry that has allowed me to discover a passion in social media.
Between the years 2000 – 2009, I’ve had ups and downs just like everyone else. I’ve been hired and fired, recruited and laid off, in and out of love, and I’ve welcomed new family members to the world and said sad good-bye’s to loved ones. I’ve built beautiful new friendships and cried as old ones soured, I’ve left familiar places for the complete unknown (several times!), I’ve taken risks that turned out to be bad decisions, and I’ve tried new things that ended up being the best decisions of my life. I have started businesses that were lucrative for a season, and learned that it’s OK to move on to new things without considering yourself a quitter. I’ve read books, blogs, magazines, published articles, spoken at conferences, shook hands, laughed, cried, hugged, and loved freely because that’s what life is all about. It’s about living and enjoying everything around you.
In thinking about the last 10 years, even the worst days carried valuable lessons. I learned how not to do something, how not to act, how not to conduct business from these low points. In the high points I learned how awesome real friendship is, how wonderful family can be (even when they’re irritating!) and how luck is non-existent because opportunities come by us every day – we just have to learn to recognize and embrace them. For all its ups and downs, the first decade of the new millennium I think was pretty great.
I am reminded of an old movie from the 80s called Parenthood. In the movie, the old grandmother talks about a roller coaster and a merry-go-round at a carnival. She says how the roller coaster was frightening and exhilarating all at the same time, with all the ups and downs and the incredible speed at which it runs. She then talks about the merry-go-round and how some prefer it to the roller coaster because it’s closer to the ground, and it feels safer. She then shares how she prefers the roller coaster because the merry-go-round just goes around and around, never getting anywhere. Such is life, in my personal opinion.
I think the last decade, and in particular the last year, had to happen in order for us to really appreciate all the wonderful things in life. You cannot know love without knowing loss. You cannot know true success without knowing what it feels like to fail. You cannot appreciate good friendships without knowing what bad ones look like. We must take the bad with the good to understand everything that life has to offer. And so, I feel thankful for 2009, 2008, 2007, and so forth because of all the amazing learning opportunities I’ve had and how enriched I feel my life is because of them.
I think the perfect ending to 2009 and the ideal beginning to 2010 can be described in the words of Jason Mraz‘s song, Life Is Wonderful. Because it truly is. The good moments as well as the bad moments shape each of our individual life experiences and make us into who we are. By learning from each one, we make the choice to turn the good into bad, or the bad into good. The only time we fail is when we fail to dust ourselves off and keep making progress.
Happy 2010 to you – may your year be Wonderful.
“It takes a thought to make a word
And it takes some words to make an action
And it takes some work to make it work
It takes some good to make it hurt
It takes some bad for satisfaction.” ~Jason Mraz
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.
- 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!
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!