By: Jon Picoult
Every year brings new challenges for staffing and workforce planning executives. In 2013, however, there are some unique environmental trends at play -- shaped by new legislation, emerging technology and a difficult employment market.
Below are four such employment trends that will likely command the attention of human resources leaders over the next year.
1. A resetting of hiring expectations.
Despite continued high unemployment, many companies in 2012 struggled to find qualified applicants for their openings.
While this is likely due, in part, to real shifts in required job skills, it’s also symptomatic of the more detailed and demanding selection criteria that has developed in the current “buyer’s” employment market. Businesses will need to confront this environment as the new normal and respond accordingly.
For 2013, that means some companies will take a step back from stringent selection criteria. They’ll opt instead to hire bright people with great attitudes, while also investing in employee training programs that will help these recruits acquire the needed skills.
As companies like Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton and Zappos have long demonstrated, hiring for attitude and training for skill can be a very powerful workforce planning strategy -- helping companies overcome conventional staffing roadblocks while also cultivating a competitively differentiated culture.
2. Increased interest in data-driven recruiting decisions.
Big Data is about to get even more influential in the recruiting process. Recruiting professionals are turning to data analytics for applicant selection -- the latest example of HR working to raise its stature by employing the very same tools that business units utilize.
Crunching a lot of historical hiring and performance data in order to automate the selection process is both impressive and scary (see #3, below). While this is still somewhat uncharted territory, we’ll likely see more companies try it out in 2013.
One important nuance to consider: big data in recruiting should be about more than just advanced resume screening -- it should also involve “reverse engineering” successful hires.
Use an analytical approach to pinpoint the most common characteristics of successful employees (e.g., nature of prior experience, level and type of education, etc.), and then turn those insights into more fine-tuned hiring profiles. That’s a smarter use of Big Data -- using it to not just sift through volumes of applicant information, but to truly refine your entire recruiting strategy.
3. Growing awareness of -- but tension around -- the candidate experience.
As businesses contend with the continued lack of qualified candidates (perceived or real), it will trigger more intense competition for select workers. As a result, companies will focus more on wooing talent, in part by delivering a distinctive and appealing candidate experience during the recruiting process.
That strategy, however, will clash with efficiency-minded initiatives, such as Big Data screening and selection. Striking the right balance between data and intuition, as well as operational efficiency and candidate engagement, will be a recurring recruitment challenge in 2013.
But, note, this is not an “either/or” proposition. A great candidate experience can actually be more efficient to deliver in the long run. Simple improvements upstream in the process -- such as a well-articulated employer value proposition, crystal clear job descriptions and frequent (even if automated) status updates -- can improve applicant quality and preempt candidate inquiries that would otherwise consume recruiter time.
4. An opportunity to put company values to the test.
While many provisions of the Affordable Care Act won’t go into effect until 2014, one of the legislation’s key components has some employers rethinking their approach to healthcare benefits.
At issue is the law’s requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers, or pay a fee. This has led some firms to explore increased use of part-time workers (30 hours/week and less) as a way to mitigate the financial impact of the healthcare overhaul.
The prospect of curtailing healthcare benefits is an awkward issue, given the potential disconnect with many companies’ stated commitment toward creating a great, engaging workplace. This is where corporate values can collide with financial realities.
Whether to offer healthcare benefits, and to whom, will be an important decision for many employers in 2013 -- and one that will have a clear impact on employee satisfaction and loyalty. Regardless of the direction that a company chooses, just as meaningful as the decision itself will be the communication and guidance shared with employees, and the degree to which the firm helps their staff navigate this new benefit landscape.
One thing is certain: 2013 won’t be boring when it comes to staffing and workforce planning. And while the best solution to these challenges may vary by company, there’s one guiding principle that won’t: Be good to your employees (current or prospective) and they’ll be good to you.
Jon Picoult is Founder of Watermark Consulting, a firm that helps businesses impress their customers, candidates and employees. Prior to establishing Watermark, Jon held senior executive roles in service, technology, sales and marketing at Fortune 100 companies. Learn more at watermarkconsult.net or follow Jon on Twitter.