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    Entries in data (54)


    REVISITED: For American workers, the quits keep coming

    Back in February I posted CHART OF THE DAY: The Return of the Quit, a look at the increasing rate of 'quits', (HR nerds can call them 'voluntary separations' if that makes you feel better), across the American labor market.

    Back in February, the news was that quits were rising from the financial recession low point of 2009-2010, reflecting growing individual confidence in the labor market and consequently placing pressure on organizations to develop retention, replacement, succession planning strategies.

    Fast forward about nine months to the latest data on quits, (Note: this data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report), and the story about quits continues to play out along the same lines as I talked about in February. 

    I'm going to hit you with the updated data below, then revisit my (FREE) commentary after the jump. I actually think all the points I made about th February data still apply in November, the question really being if we as organizational talent pros are paying enough attention to this data.

    Here is the latest data, showing the Quit rate climbing to about 2%:

    Some thoughts:

    1. 'Quits' are a function of several factors, (personal circumstances, the magnitude of the jerkitude of your managers, people self-selecting out as not being in the right job, etc.), but most observers of the Quit rate on a macro level ascribe movements in the rate to worker's confidence in their ability to find another, and what they think will be a likely 'better', job.  The rate moving up, to a level that is approaching the pre-recession level, is a signal that overall job market confidence is rising.

    2. So while you and many other HR/Talent pros are lamenting about 'hard-to-fill' jobs, simultaneously more of the workforce are thinking of themselves as 'easy-to-place'. I'm not sure how that apparent paradox will work out, (probably very differently depending on location, skills, etc.), but it is kind of interesting and amusing at the same time.

    3. How you are thinking about and reacting to news of a good employee quitting is probably changing too. In 2008 or 2009, you might have reacted by thinking, 'What is she crazy? Where is she going to find another job with as good pay/benefits/cupcake Friday like we have here?'. Now? Probably you'd think more along the lines of 'Hmm... She's going to XYZ Corp? I wonder if she could bring me over there too.'

    4. Last, while the Quit rate increasing kind of feels like it is a good thing, there is certainly some warning signs as well. For one, those recent quitters might find that their skills and experience are not in as high a demand as they figured, and thus end up spiking the unemployment rate in the short term, (as well as having to take a boatload of grief from people questioning their sanity for quitting a perfectly good job). They might find, even today, that keeping a job is much easier than finding a job. And increasing worker confidence might put pressure on companies to increase wages, which can also have a detrimental effect on growth and profits.

    So take a look at the JOLTS report if you are interested in this kind of data, I think it gives a little more color and depth to the more widely reported headline of the total rate of unemployment.

    Are you seeing an increase in 'quits' in your shop?

    Ready to quit yourself?

    Have a great week!


    CHART OF THE DAY: Unemployed vs. Job Openings by Industry

    Today's Chart of the Day comes to us courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute from a short post titled The Number of Unemployed Exceeds the Number of Available Jobs Across All Sectors.

    First the eponymous chart, then as you have come to expect (and demand), some comments from me after the data.

    The EPI piece's author uses this data to make an argument that persistently elevated levels of unemployment, that often are, (at least to some extent), attributed to something called 'skills mismatches', where unemployed workers simply do not possess the requisite skills and abilities that employers demand, are in fact not caused by mismatches, and are in fact driven by depressed overall demand for labor.

    The logic behind this argument is pretty straightforward. If there were indeed large levels of skills mismatches driving unemployment, then we should see, at least somewhere in the economy, particular industry sectors where demand (available jobs), surpasses supply, (available workers in that industry). But as the data above show, every industry sector currently has more supply (unemployed workers), than demand/jobs.

    It is a decent argument, if a little simplistic. It does fail to take into account the many thousands of sub-industries and specific types of jobs that fall into broad categories like manufacturing, construction, or services. It also does not adequately account for the very high likelihood that in certain sectors that workers who have identified themselves as being in that sector, truly have not been willing or able, (possibly because they have been out of work), do keep their skills current and adapted to new demands.

    But taken in aggregate there is a decent argument to be made that if current labor market challenges were the result of skills shortages or mismatches, that there would be at least some specific sectors where there are more unemployed workers than job openings, and others where there are more job openings than unemployed workers. But that is, as yet, not the case and still unemployed workers exceed jobs openings across the board.

    Whether or not there exists widespread skills shortages or mismatches is usually more of a concern for governments or the largest employers. And the nationwide conditions don't really mean much to the small or mid-sized firm that just wants to get its positions filled. But while all HR/Recruiting is local, (to some extent), no firm no matter how small operates in a vacuum. 

    So while these macro-labor market conditions might not move the needle on today's open reqs, they can and likely will impact tomorrow's and next year's and the one after that.

    And that is why I find this data interesting and why it rates for this installment of Chart of the Day.


    CHART OF THE DAY: Everything you want to know about Labor Force Participation

    I know that I definitely have hit Labor Force Participation a few times in the past in the often imitated but never exceeded CHART OF THE DAY series here on the blog, but now thanks to some really excellent work out of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta I think we have the best source yet for digging into Labor Force Participation.

    From the Fed Atlanta's Labor Force Participation Dynamics micro-site, check out just a couple of examples of what the data shows with respect to Labor Force Participation, that encompasses some important measures of who is actually working, looking for work, or unable to find work from the labor force.

    Chart 1 - The Big Picture - By mid-2014 Labor Force Participation was at its lowest rate since 1978

    Chart 2 - What accounts for this steep decline since the start of the financial crisis and ensuing recession in about 2007? Well, lot's of things, but mostly it is just the population getting older.

    Chart 3 - But what about people in their 'prime' working years? Are they still in the Labor Force in the same proportions history would suggest? Turns out not really.

    Chart 4 - But most of the decline in Participation for 'prime' workers has to be the bad economy, right? Most of the folks in the 25-54 group that are not in the labor force are missing not by choice I bet. They are probably just frustrated but still want to work. Actually, no.

    Turns out that the decrease in labor force participation among prime-age individuals has been driven mostly by the share who say they currently don’t want a job. 

    I know that it can be really hard to see the link from this kind of macro labor force data and the trends in participation to your day-to-day or even year-to-year workforce planning and talent management initiatives. But I am convinced it is important for any business leader to be at least cognizant of the macro trends and dynamics that your organization and your current and future labor force operate in. Plus, charts are fun!

    But ok, enough charts for now, you can check out the Fed Atlanta's Labor Force Participation Dynamics site for even more data and analysis on this topic. 

    Have a great Thursday!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 192 - DataNow

    HR Happy Hour 192 - DataNow

    Recorded Tuesday October 21, 2014

    Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

    Guests: Mollie LombardiRachel Cooke

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish were joined by two of Trish's colleagues from Brandon Hall Group - Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst of Workforce Management Practice; and Rachel Cooke, COO. On the show Mollie and Rachel shared details about DataNow, a new research-based and data-driven product that can enable HR leaders to have better and deeper insights into research data, organizational benchmarks, and relevant insights.

    Additionally, the upcoming Brandon Hall Excellence Conference, set for January 2015 was previewed. This event is shaping up to be a great opportunity for HR leaders to learn from, network with, and engage with their peers as well as the experts at Brandon Hall.

    Also, Steve shared his indifference towards household pets ('They are sort of houseguests that don't really help with anything and just get into trouble'), and his need to escape the dreary Western New York weather.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'.

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    This was a fun and informative show about a innovative new approach to share HR and HCM research findings and insights and we want to thank Mollie and Rachel for joining us this week.


    HBS Grads on Competitiveness, Jobs, and American Workers

    Is there a better cohort might to survey about the state of American business, workforces, and competitiveness than Harvard Business School grads? 

    Chances are a whole bit fat bunch of us are taking direction today from a grad of the famous business school. It does stand to reason that if you survey enough HBS grads you will get a pretty decent understanding of what business leaders are thinking, saying, and doing, (or importantly, not doing).

    This is a long read, so you might want to save it for the weekend, but I definitely encourage you to check out An Economy Doing Half Its Job: Findings of Harvard Business School's 2013-2014 Survey on US Competitiveness. The Harvard researchers, led by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin, surveyed about 1250 HBS Alumni on questions of US firm's competitiveness, the quality of the workforce from a skills perspective, and their assessment of how the US K-12 Education system is performing in terms of producing capable and qualified workers.

    Long, long story short, while US firms remain highly competitive across a wide range of sectors, the HBS grads' responses about many important workforce-related questions do not bode well for workers today, and in the longer term as well. 

    There are lots of great money quotes from the study, (and again you really should take the time to read it all), but here is one that stuck out for me:

    Workers will not invest in developing their skills if it does not lead to employment and higher living standards. Employers will continue to turn to technology, vendors, or other alternatives to address their needs. The associated loss of productivity growth will further undermine both America’s economic growth and its long-term competitiveness

    Makes sense, people will not be incented to try and get better or improve their skills if they can't see a connection, even a potential connection, between this kind of investment and improved career prospects.

    But even if individuals don't see the link between skills development and a better living standard, then certainly organizations will still continue to invest in skills development anyway, right? After all, the organizations need and lament the lack of skills in large swaths of the workforce. Well, maybe not. Here is a another quote from the HBS study:

    Our survey reveals that business leaders in America are reluctant to hire full-time workers. When possible, they prefer to invest in technology to perform work, outsource activities to third-parties, or hire part-time workers. For instance, 46% of survey respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that their firms' US operations prefer to invest in technology to perform work rather than hire or train employees, while only 25% disagreed.

    So it seems like what we have been mostly thinking is likely mostly true - organizations would rather automate, outsource, find alternative (and cheaper) ways to get work done rather than take on more full-time staff (or train and 'upskill' the staff they have).

    It is a tough problem, with no easy solutions. The HBS authors do make several recommendations to try to better align workforce capability with opportunity and to encourage organizations to make investments in talent much like they have been making investments in technology. And while the answers to these problems are not simple, it does seem that unless we (all of us), begin to take them more seriously that large numbers of American workers are going to be left behind.