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    Entries in data (47)

    Wednesday
    Aug202014

    CHART OF THE DAY: The Shrinking American Vacation

    Today's chart is perfectly timed for me, as starting from tomorrow I am heading out for a few days off. But my (too short) vacation I have lined up also aligns with an overall downward trend in the duration of American worker's vacations, as seen in the chart below, (courtesy of Vox). As always, some FREE commentary after the chart.

     

     

    From the data, which was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 9 million Americans took a full week of vacation in July 1976. Contrast that to July 2014, when just about 7 million Americans scored a full week of sun or sand or just sleeping in on the sofa. If that does not seem like a big drop over about 40 years, consider that there are about 60 million more people employed in 2014 than there were in 1976. Bottom line, this data suggests that American workers, on the whole, are not taking long (used loosely) vacations like we used to.

    What might that mean for us today? Here are three quick takes, and I would love to hear what you think as well.

    1. The paradox of constant connectivity - Smartphones, tablets, Wifi in every coffee shop, bar, restaurant, etc. should (theoretically) make it easier for workers to go on longer vacations, but for some reason that is not happening. There are pretty few places in the country/world one can run off to on vacation and not be at least somewhat reachable. So in theory the ability to be reached, to monitor work and chech emails for any dire emergencies, and actually even do some work while on vacation has never been easier. But that still isn't allowing American workers to disconnect from work as much as we used to. Why not? 

    2. FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - This phenomenon, described as a form of social anxiety, fed by smartphones and social networking, is one where we become compulsively concerned that we might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, or other satisfying event. If you are not constantly checking your friends' Facebook and Foursquare updates, you might miss something really cool happening across town, for example. FOMO is a prety-well documented psychological dependence in social interactions, but since we use the same tools and tech more and more for work, then it makes sense that a kind of FOMO about work might be kicking in too. But in the work context, the perceived consequences of missing out might be greater. Instead of just missing a party or a Happy Hour, maybe you are missing out on some great work project or a rare chance to schmooze with the CEO. 

    3. It's a candidate's market, but the candidate's don't believe that yet - This is sort of the obvious one, where FOMO morphs into FOLOJ (Fear of Losing One's Job). Even though just about every labor market indicator is seemingly trending in a manner that suggest more power and leverage are shifting towards workers/candidates, (unemployment rate, job opening rates, time to fill, etc.), most workers are still not buying in to that story as yet. The brutal recession is not yet a distant enough memory for most of us to feel like we have either reasonable job security or a reasonable likelihood that we will find another suitable job should we lose the one we have. So we put in the extra hours, we check and respond to email at all times, and we don't go away on vacation for too long - lest anyone back at the office think, 'Hey, Steve has been out for a week, and things went just fine without him...'

    Anyway, that's it for today - I have to get back on the grind before I leave on my (short) vacation.

    No new content for a few days, but I am sure you will do just fine without me...

    Monday
    Aug112014

    CHART OF THE DAY: Hoping it doesn't rain

    Today's Chart Of The Day comes courtesy of the Federal Reserve Board's recent and definitely interesting Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013.

    The report, an in-depth look at the state of the American consumer/citizen in 2013 across a wide range of topics (debt, savings, job readiness, confidence in the economy, etc.), has a plethora of great insights and data sets about the economy and I probably could have picked about 15 different charts/tables to call out here.

    But the one I was most interested in is below, having to do with American's readiness or ability to withstand economic hardship like a job loss or a major (and costly) health crisis. Turns out, many of us are not at all prepared for those situations. Here is the data, then some comments as per usual from me:

    Wow, well over half of the survey respondents, (survey group and methodology here), report that they have not saved or set aside a 3-month emergency fund as a hedge against a sudden or unexpected loss of income. That is pretty bad, and even worse still when you think that many financial planner/advisor types will push their clients to have a 6-month rainy day fund at all times.

    While many of the macro-economic indicators have begun to show an improving economy, (unemployment rate, ratio of unemployed to job openings, even most of the major stock market indices), this kind of a statistic on the relative lack of preparedness for unexpected financial distress reminds us that the effects of the recession are much longer lasting than we perhaps like to think.

    If your employees are at all closely aligned with these results, then that means that perhaps half of them are much closer to personal financial crisis than they should be. And that is kind of a drag, and kind of a heavy burden to be carrying around. It also can make people 'play it safe' a little too much, over-compensating against any perceived risk in their decision making, as they get consumed with fear of losing their income if they were to get sacked for making the 'wrong' decision.

    I think people probably perform better when they are excited at their jobs, not when they are afraid to lose them.

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Jul242014

    CHART OF THE DAY: Whose Labor Market is it Anyway?

    There is a simple answer to that question, really. 

    The candidates run the current labor market, at least for large, (and growing) swath of managerial, professional, and technical roles. 

    Check out this week's Chart of the Day, a look at how recruiters see the labor market - candidate driven or employer driven,  courtesy of the MRI Network's latest recruiter sentiment study, (as always, some pithy commentary from me after the chart)

    Wow - pretty simple and clear to see how at least this group of surveyed MRI Network recruiters have seen the labor market shift pretty dramatically in just two and a half years.

    From late 2011, when the sentiment was that that the power and leverage in recruiting was about an even split between candidate and employer, to one where now these recruiters see about a 4x advantage for the candidates, this shift will have some pretty profound implications for many HR/talent pros.

    Quite simply, offers to candidates with desirable, in-demand skill sets are going to have to get sweeter, and they are going to have to happen faster. Digging in to the MRI data you see that the primary reason candidates can't be closed is that they have accepted a different job offer. Sure, there are plenty of factors at play here, but the lesson is that just like in the market for desirable real estate in New York or San Francisco, the market for top candidates is likely to be super-competitive, with candidates holding signifcant leverage and multiple offers.

    One more nugget from the data - candidates accepting counter-offers to remain with their current employer are rising. Whether or not it makes sense to even make counter-offers is definitely subject to debate, but the fact that if you don't at least consider the practice for your in-demand talent, you are likely going to find yourself having to replace at least some of that talent sooner than you might have liked. 

    Looking back over this data, and the last few Charts of the Day I have posted and it continues to become more clear - job openings are up, employees are more willing to jump for a better opportunity, the competition for candidates is getting more fierce, and the strategy and tactics you were using as recently as 2011 probably are not going to work in labor markets where the best candidates have all the power.

    Have fun and be careful out there.

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    CHART OF THE DAY: Unemployed workers per job opening

    The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) was released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and it showed that US job openings as of May 2014 stood at about 4.6 million, up from 4.5 million in April.

    Taking the JOLTS openings data and combining it with gross unemployment data (also from the BLS), and you get the chart below that shows the trend over time in the ratio of unemployed workers per job opening. Take a look at the chart, (from Business Insider) and then some comments from me below.

    1. The latest ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is 2.11, the lowest level since early 2008, and extremely lower than the post financial crisis high water mark of almost 7 in mid-2009. 

    2. The trend seems to suggest a continued lowering of this ratio, as increased hiring will likely be only partially offset by more entrants into the labor marker, (students leaving school, folks getting coaxed back into the labor market due to improving prospects).

    3. As an HR/talent pro, you might start finding for more jobs a relative reduction in the number of applicants for your open positions. Unless you are offering so-called 'good' jobs, have a compelling employer value proposition, or have a proven pipeline of candidates, there will be, at least in aggregate, fewer available people for your jobs. 

    4. As a consequence of this labor market tightening, your Econ 101 book will tell you that wages are going to have to begin rising more steeply. Again, this is what the economists predict, but for you, all Economics is local. If indeed you are finding it difficult to attract adequate numbers of qualified candidates, then you are going to have to take a long, hard look at the compensation you are offering for these roles. More and more categories of workers are going to at least perceive they have more leverage, (same goes for existing employees too).

    5. With fewer unemployed people per job in the labor pool, it is going to be paramount, even for many entry-level jobs, that you get better at identifying talent from competitors and companies in adjacent industries in order to maximize your candidate flow. It could be the days of simply posting a job online, or placing a Help Wanted sign in the window simply to get the candidates you need are disappearing.

    OK, that is it on this from me. What do you think, are you seeing the markets for your open jobs getting tighter?

    Tuesday
    Jul012014

    Three quick takes on the Facebook mood manipulation study

    By now you have certainly heard or read about Facebook's 2012 study in which researchers altered the messages and posts presented in about 700,000 users' newsfeeds in order to determine if seeing relatively more negatively or positively connotative posts would in fact make the user him or herself tend to post more negative or positive posts than they might otherwise.

    Turns out, that yes, seeing more positive or happy kinds of posts led users to post (to a small degree), more positive and happy updates themselves, while the inverse, with more negative posts in the feeds led to more negative updates than would have been expected.

    Here is a quote from the research paper that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

    “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

    This study became news not so much for the findings themselves, (which seem kind of obvious), but for the expected and now kind of tired internet rage that accompanies every questionable move Facebook makes around privacy or related matters. How dare they manipulate the emotions and possibly the mental well-being of so many of its users in the name of a (kind of dopey) experiment? That kind of thing.

    So since I  A: Don't really use or care that much about Facebook to be emotionally invested in this, and B:  Need something other than the NBA or HR Tech to blog about occasionally, here are my (FREE) three quick takes on what this entire 'Facebook is using us for lab mice' kerfluffle should mean to you:

    1. You have been a lab mouse for years, you just like to forget this (or don't care). The instant Facebook began to tailor or select on your behalf the updates and posts it decided to display for you, (as opposed to a simple reverse chronological feed of all the updates from your friends and the pages you follow), you became a part of their little devious laboratory. In fact, you likely have no idea why Facebook shows you what it does, you just kind of accept it and move on. You miss probably hundreds of updates every week because Facebook has decided not to show them to you. You are already a mouse in their maze. 

    2. The business of Facebook is selling ads. The 'emotion' study, the hiding or promoting of items in your feed, the insane amount of times Facebook asks you for more information about you and your life are all for one (ultimate) purpose only - to better target you with 'relevant' ads. The more that FB can do to understand you, the longer it can keep you engaged and using the site, the more it can learn about you. And the more it knows about you the more about you it can package and sell to GM and Clorox and Microsoft. You get angry at FB for this little experiment because you have not yet made the leap to seeing them for what they are - a giant, publicly traded corporation that has to make its numbers every quarter. 

    3. You (probably) care too much about Facebook for this to matter to you. If this emotion study and the dozen other times FB has played fast and loose with privacy in the last few years really bothered you that much, you would simply opt out. But I bet 99% of the people that are reading this post have an active FB account. I do too. It doesn't mean that I agree with what they like to do with our data, but it also means that for whatever reason we keep giving them the benefit of the doubt, while silently acceding to their experiments and whims. We have allowed FB to become so important to our family lives or our businesses that we simply keep taking (and giving) whatever new change/experiment they care to dish out. I read 10 articles today expressing various levels of outrage over these 2012 experiments. I have not yet heard of anyone I know deleting their FB account.

    If you don't like the rules, then you have to start your own game, in your own sandbox. Until then... 

    Ok, I'm out. Be sure to 'like' this on Facebook. Maybe Marky Z. will make sure other happy people see that you did.