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    The Tech Job Market - Heating Up

    Yesterday the folks at Dice.com released their 'The Rising Demand for Tech Talent - Spring 2011' report, which highlights trends in the tech job market, as indicated by job postings on the Dice.com site over the last year.

    These kinds of reports from large job boards like Dice.com are instructive; while we can postulate or rely on anecdotal evidence about the condition and situation of certain labor markets, the Dice data provides more quantitative data about the tech labor market that can be used to help explain the actions we see from candidates and employees, and help inform strategies for recruiting, retention, and compensation.

    Dice tagged the Spring 2011 report 'Rising Demand', and a closer look at the data justifies that label.

    Figure 1 - Tech Job Postings by Position Type

    Overall Growth - March 1, 2011/March 1, 2010Nice, overall growth in posted positions of 30%, with stronger growth in Full-Time gigs (35%). More overall opportunities for tech professionals will tend to make filling your specific tech positions more difficult, and also provide even more impetus to your current staff that may have been reluctant (or unable) to seek other opportunities to consider making a move. 

    Taking a closer look at the overall numbers, we see increases in tech job postings across most major tech markets.

    Figure 2 - Job posting growth by area

    DC is still pretty hot. But so is Atlanta

    If you are a technical recruiter or corporate tech manager in say Washington or even Chicago and have been wondering why it seems so much harder to fill that ABAP developer spot, maybe you shouldn't be wondering anymore. Markets like Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta are all seeing significant increased in tech positions (again, as posted on Dice.com). 

    So maybe this data is just re-stating the obvious - the tech labor market is improving, it is getting more difficult to find people with the right tech skills in many markets, and those curious recent voluntary departures from your IT staff may all of a sudden make more sense.

    But aggregated job board data is not just useful in looking at macro trends in posted positions, these tech jobs are all looking for sets of specific skills, and examining the trends in the kinds of technical skills that companies are advertising for can give us some clues about the trends in enterprise IT priorities and needs in the coming months.

    Figure 3 - Trends in Desired Skills

    Need for Cloud skills on the riseThe Dice.com data show huge increases year-over-year in the desire of employers for skills in Cloud computing, Virtualization, and JavaScript. Key skill sets and technologies that underly much of the major changes in how enterprise technologies are developed, deployed, and consumed. For those IT pros still clinging to older and more traditional technologies, all is not lost, jobs posted on Dice looking for PeopleSoft skills also increased 66% year-over-year.

    Again, maybe not earth-shattering news, everyone knows the Cloud is hot. Heck, when Microsoft is running mass-market TV commercials about 'The Cloud' you know it has arrived. But having some real data helps the recruiter better understand the market, and the HR leader assess what these changing (and clearly improving) markets may mean for workforce planning and strategy. Talent markets are constantly shifting and evolving, if you buy into the whole 'War for Talent' metaphor, then arming yourself with some data is a necessary condition of engagement.

    Thanks to the folks at Dice.com for sharing this data, hopefully you don't mind that I re-used much of it here (probably should have checked first).

    I encourage you to check out the full report here.


    Aspirational Cuisine

    Last week as I was preparing to leave NYC at the end of the 2nd Annual Human Resource Executive Forum, I took a few minutes to stop at legendary city cupcake bakery Crumbs. The gourmet cupcake trend, while not exactly new, is kind of new to me - this was my first trip to one of these gourmet cupcake bakeries in any city. I bought a four-pack to go in case you were wondering, picture is on the right.

    Cupcakes to seem to be everywhere these days, from the recent proliferation of gourmet cupcake bakeries even amongst other, less enticing aspects of city life; to reality TV.  Although, based on the sheer enormity and diversity of seemingly mundane occupations getting the reality TV treatment lately, having a reality show of some sort based on your industry or job function really is not all that novel anymore.

    So what is the big deal about the cupcake shop you may be wondering? As I was looking at the piece in the Atlantic referenced above, it contained a link back to an older piece in a blog called Edible Geography, about then burgeoning rise of the gourmet cupcake industry, particularly in urban settings. In the post we learn about a study that was conducted by Rutgers University professor Kathe Newman that theorized that the development and growth of cupcake shops could "provide a more accurate and up-to-date guide to the frontiers of urban gentrification than traditional demographic and real estate data sets."

    Sort of makes sense - if in a given neighborhood two or three cupcake shops open (or pet boutiques or gastropubs), then one can probably start making some broader conclusions about demographic and economic shifts without having to wait for 'official' sources of data like census information or real estate filings. Just taking a stroll around the block and actually noticing what is going on might be all you need to realize something is changing, whether for worse or better is a matter of judgment I suppose.

    Perhaps an obvious point, but one I think often gets lost in our need, especially in our organizations, to assemble all the evidence, to compile all the data, then proceed to draw conclusions and make recommendations fully confident that all the angles were considered and all the bases were covered. We are most comfortable when data is processed through our traditional and expected filters, and packaged neatly for consumption in an easy-to-read set of PowerPoint slides.

    Just like walking though a neighborhood and seeing new cupcake shops or artsy coffee houses is an obvious sign that things might be changing;  hearing that your top salesperson has resigned to work for a competitor, or that another competitor has just announced record earnings and had their stock upgraded from 'outperform' to 'buy' are sure signals that things might not exactly be all wonderful back at headquarters.

    You could, in response to these kinds of developments, commission a committee or conduct a survey to adequately assess this changing landscape. Of course by the time your commission returns with its report and recommendations, four or five more gourmet cupcake shops may have sprung up.

    That's the thing about new gourmet cupcake shops and bad pieces of corporate news, they aren't usually isolated incidents. Once the floodgates open...



    Guess the Corporate Support Function

    Take a guess at what corporate support function, and the nature and design of an increasing number of positions in that function were recently described by a senior executive at a huge, global corporation in the following manner:
    ...new jobs are being created that recognize the importance of both technology and creativity simultaneously.  So, as these left and right brains are thankfully mashed together in a singular role, job titles such as “creative technologist,” “marketing engineer,” and “information architect” are beginning to appear on org charts. We are looking at creativity and technology in the same glance instead of sequentially and that is tempting indeed. My bet is that these early “buds” will flower in surprising work and productive, new ways of conversing with our consumers and customers
    Did you guess HR? Finance? Communications?


    Actually, you probably sorted from the 'marketing engineer' title, that the quote was indeed about Marketing, and was attributed to Dana Anderson, Kraft Foods’ Senior Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Communications.  The quote is sourced from an interview of Ms. Anderson on the Forrester Interactive Marketing Professionals Blog here.

    Why does a quote about what a big-time Marketing executive thinks is going to be one of the most significant changes in her field in the next 10 or so years matter to the (assumed) readers of this blog - HR, HR Technology, and perhaps recruiting professionals?

    Perhaps not much. But in a semi-regular effort on this site to make connections between stuff I find interesting (sports, comic books, tech gadgets) and Human Resources issues - I'm going to give it a try.

    If you buy-in to the idea that in HR, much of what you are expected to do as a leader, is quite a bit similar to what sales leaders confront every day;  and if you see the relationship between say something like recruiting and branding, or even performance management to a complex and coordinated PR campaign, then developments in the talent profiles for the next generation of marketing (and likely communications and PR), probably do matter to you in HR.

    Take another look at the Anderson quote. She talks about job titles like 'creative technologist' and describes the next generation of talent in her discipline as possessing a blend of left and right brain thinking that should ultimately produce 'surprising and productive' work, and create 'new ways of conversing with our customers.'

    Would you characterize any of the spots in your HR shop using similar language? Is there any room on your Benefits team for a creative technologist?  Anyone in the training group given the chance to develop and innovate using a mashup of their left and right brained selves?

    If you believe at all in the idea of a 'war' for talent, and that convincing the 'best' or most capable people to come and join your organization, or even for internal talent to join your in-house function will result in competitive advantage, then understanding what the next generation of marketers, sales people, and communications pros will bring to the mix is really important to you in HR.

    I'll spin it this way - if you were just starting out in your career, smart, good education and backround, lots of options to consider, which direction might you go?

    Door Number One - towards the future of marketing, mashing up creativity and technology while creating new and exciting things.


    Door Number Two - leading to the future of HR in your organization.

    Come on, be honest - which one would you choose?

    Have a fantastic weekend!




    Imagine there are no 'A' Players; it's easy if you try

    Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at the Wharton School, delivered the closing keynote, 'Managing Performance in a Post-Recession Workspace' at the end of the first day of the Human Resource Executive Forum.

    The presentation was equal parts entertaining, engaging, and challenging; in particular the preliminary results that Professor Cappelli shared around his analysis of the consistency of employee performance over time. 

    Essentially the question that Cappelli's research aimed to answer was this?


    How much does last year's performance appraisal tell you about what this year's will be?

    Here is the basic methodology - obtain the performance review scores and results over a period of years from a large, established organization, thousands of performance reviews, and examine these reviews and scores to see if there is consistency and predicability in individual's performance reviews over time.

    So back to the question - How much does last year's performance appraisal tell you about what this year's will be?

    If you are like most of the audience, I'll bet you'd say that last year's review would tell you quite a bit about this year's review, most of the attendees felt like about 75% of the time performance results would remain predictive and consistent; i.e., last year's best performers would almost certainly be this year's best performers, and middle of the road performers tend to plod along year after year.

    But according to the research, Cappelli indicated that only 25% of this year's performance review could be predicted from last year's results. The data set suggests that performance fluctuates much more widely over time that we tend to believe, and that he has found no evidence to indicate otherwise.

    Cappelli elaborated on the implications of these findings, offering a series of smart, common-sense approaches to managing performance that would, if skillfully implemented, tend to improve performance over time, particularly performance for so-called 'troubled employees'.

    But the most interesting observation was this - if performance does indeed vary widely over time, the entire idea of 'A' players and 'B' and 'C' players is overblown, if perhaps almost irrelevant.

    If the data suggest that this year's top performers, those 'A' players that we constantly talk about, turn over every rock in the recuiting process to uncover, attempt to nurture and coach up through our organizations with 'special status' and development plans, might only be 25% of next year's 'A' players, well then, the entire notion of 'A' players doesn't make any sense at all.

    If performance is highly variable, highly situational, and difficult to predict based on prior year data, then what does that mean for talent and performance management?

    Is recruiting 'A' players highly overrated?

    Are there really 'A' players and 'C' players?

    What do you think?


    Human Resource Executive Forum 2011

    Today and tomorrow I'll be attending the Human Resource Executive Forum in New York City.  

    Later this morning I have the great honor of participating in a panel discussion titled 'Leveraging New HR Technologies to Thrive in a New Reality', along with Josh Bersin, CEO of Bersin & Associates; Bettina Kelly, Senior VP at Chubb; Stephen Mirante, Senior VP at CBS Corp.; and moderated by Mercer's Patricia Milligan.

    Clearly, the HR Technology landscape remains complex, fluid, and in many ways, in transition. From consolidation at the higher ends of the market, to the emergence of a slew of interesting and dynamic solutions at the edges of the market, and finally to the emerging importance and challenge presented by social and collaborative technologies; today's HR and organizational leaders are faced with both opportunity and decision points.

    In organizations of all sizes, the need to understand workforce ability, alignment of capability to intended business strategy, assessment of current and future workforce needs, while simultaneously measuring, analyzing, and taking actions on data and information gleaned from these workforce technologies, combine to present the HR and HR technology professional with a diverse and complex set of requirements to address and technologies to evaluate and implement. 

    And oh yeah, make sure these technologies are easy and engaging to use, can be deployed rapidly and on budget, work on an increasing number of platforms and devices, and be adaptable to a set of ever changing business needs. One more thing, these tools need to be 'social' too. Most people don't really know what they mean by that, but one thing we all agree on is 'social = good.'

    Simple right?

    Of course most of us agree that sorting out the new world of enterprise and workforce technologies is anything but simple, and that realization I think, is one of the main reasons that events like the Human Resources Executive Forum dedicate time on their agendas to specifically address some of these technology issues and challenges.

    For my part, on the panel I will be talking about ways to transform data into information, and why that matters; some of the new, and non-traditional technologies that exist a bit outside the mainstream; and what the changing composition of the workforce and the demands that increased mobility will place on HR technology decisions and deployments.

    I am looking forward to the session, and to attending the rest of the event.

    Of course I will be tweeting and blogging from the event, if you are following on Twitter, look for the hashtag #HREforum11.