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Workforce Forecast – 2012

Happy New Year!  I thought I would start the New Year out with a futurist’s forecast and my thoughts peppered in for fun.

The forecast is by the Herman Group and is their Trend Alert: 2012 Workforce/Workplace Forecast  December 2011.  While their forecast is global in scopen I’ve tried to add my ideas relative to the local workforce.

Overall, due to prolonged economic challenges, employers are facing very similar conditions to last year.

1. Recruiting will intensify among smaller employers. While large companies are bracing for the rippling impact of the European debt crisis, we will see the small and medium-size companies adding staff. Many companies will continue their reluctance to add staff, until they have a sense for the outcome of the elections. Locally I would tend to agree. There is still a large feeling of uncertainly amongst the owners of small businesses.

2. In the US, unemployment will continue to remain relatively high. Domestically, we expect unemployment to remain over 7.5 percent for the coming year for most of the country. China’s unemployment will grow, too, as employers turn away from inconsistent quality and/or find lower-cost source markets for low-skilled labor. The continuing challenge for employers worldwide is that many of the unemployed do not have the skills they are looking for. Locally, we expect the unemployment rate to remain high, and begin to fall slowly during the year.  I see this to be mainly a function of the long term unemployed exhausting their benefits.  As I have reported for years – while the candidate pool has grown – the pool of candidates QUALIFIED for available jobs has not.

3. More communities will wake up to the critical need for workforce development. More communities will become aware that they will simply not grow economically without having an available skilled workforce—with the skill sets their prospects seek. I agree to some extent – however – I see one of the largest workforce problems to be in what I call “soft skills” such as showing up for work every day –  and on time, clean backgrounds, actually behaving on the job, etc.  We see more technically skilled candidates lose jobs due to these factors more than due to skills gap.

4. Metrics, metrics, metrics. Looking for efficiencies everywhere, more employers will embrace technology to manage processes and keep track of talent. Companies providing software to employers will see their businesses grow. Employers will face the challenges of training their people in these new systems.  Not a lot to add here.

5. Companies will take greater advantage of social networks. They will not only use it in recruiting, marketing, and public relations, but also training and development, and even in succession planning. Large companies will capitalize on their own internal social networking sites to “keep it in the family”.  I expect our fascination with social media to continue this year, however I do believe that this time next year we’ll all be writing about mobile.  Everything is moving from the desktop to our hands.

6. Growth levels will again vary by region. The US will have continued slow growth, as will some most areas of Europe. Others will show modest increases. The big winners in job growth and profits will be Brazil, India, and China. The lingering repercussions of the European debt crisis and the Great Recession in the US (including high levels of unemployment and depressed housing prices) will hamper expansion. Here in South Central PA – I expect very slow steady growth.  We have a diverse economy – diversity by definition smooths the curve.

7. A growing number of unemployed people will become consultants and personal coaches. The personal and professional services industries are burgeoning. More companies will “rent” the talent they need for the time they need it. Individuals will increasingly seek the services of life-and executive coaches to help them realize their full potential.  Agreed!!!!  Please just be careful – the qualificiations for many (certainly not all – I know a few very good ones) coaches is simply the fact they are unemployed.  Do your homework, and choose carefully – or call me for a recommendation.

8. Re-engineering will continue. As we forecasted in our book “Lean & Meaningful: A New Culture for Corporate America”, companies, particularly the larger ones will continue to reduce staff and hire others in an ongoing attempt to optimize productivity and profit. The drop in employee engagement will not affect this drive for efficiency, until that decrease begins to affect the bottom line. Wise employers will engage their employees in finding these efficiencies. Simply put – today the job market stinks – so employees are hesitant to make changes.  As the job market improves – and it will – companies that have not engaged their workforces will lose them to greener pastures.  There are many employers today that are taking the job market for granted, they will be the losers in 2014 and 2015.

9. Far too many employers worldwide will ignore the roles of engagement and retention in their bottom line profitability. Though employers will have higher employee turnover and greater difficulty in recruiting, too few will take action to meet this challenge. By necessity once again, employers will be forced to look at the real drivers of employee retention, which may not be what is reflected in their surveys. I think this is where smart companies will use social media and technology to win the next war for talent.

10. In the US, the escalating regulatory environment will cause employers to need employment lawyers more than ever. With the continuing increase in regulations affecting Human Resources, smart employers will have no choice but to collaborate with their employment lawyers early on to avoid problems after the fact. The largest employers have been working with their trusted partners for years.  So, to close this out – if I’m reading this correctly the increased regulatory environment created by our illustrious and fearless leaders benefits…….  the lawyers…..

Happy New Year!

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