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The Business Analyst Skillset in the New World

The Business Analyst Skillset in the New World

 

The Business Analyst (BA)is a key role bridging the domains of business and technical world. In midst of Outsourcing/Offshoring, this pivotal role is still preferred to reside onsite. Having been in the staffing industry for over 20 years, I am often asked this question –  what skills should I acquire and develop to be a successful Business Analyst?  Let me try to answer this from the recruiting perspective:

 

Traditional BA skills

Traditional BA skills are very much in play – communication skills being the most important trait. One needs to be a great communicator. As Andrea Morra, Director, Prudential Retirement, who heads a team who performs business analysis puts it, “Someone who can see the big picture, and then is able to break it down into the smaller components.  Someone who can inspire people around them by painting the big picture in a relatable way”.

 

As for technical skills-Data Modeling skills and SQL are a MUST have.  A rudimentary understanding of programming helps to grasp the fundamentals.  Being able to draw up Use Cases and Wire-frames are the standard skills you must have. But as the Business Analyst role is evolving and they are playing a major role in a company’s transformation, we have seen the following hottest skills for Business Analysts.

 

Agile

As more and more organizations are going towards Agile methodology, time for Business Analyst to adapt to the change and imbibe the spirit of the agile methodology. They need to understand their strengths and play accordingly.  For example, if they are playing the role of a Project Manager BA, they need to learn “ manage” or a BA on a core development team has to be technically savvy to act as a bridge between business and developers.

 

Data related technologies

Every company on this planet is talking about data and how they seek meaningful information out of it. If you like data and can play the role in data representation, you may see some good job opportunities. But you still need to learn tools such as Microstrategy, Tableau etc. and be more technical savvy from the data perspective (Sourcing, Cleansing etc.)

 

Cloud Computing

With the deployment of cloud computing, organizations are undergoing a lot of changes which include business process re-engineering and dependence on Cloud provider. Here the Business Analyst needs to make use of their soft skills and interact with vendors from time to time. Negotiation skills, vendor management, Business Process reengineering skills are a must for these kinds of scenarios.

 

Besides these skills, one of the most important skills is “continuous improvement and innovative skills”, as Andrea Morra puts it.  “Business Analysts must build creativity and have problem-solving skills”.  These are just a few examples of skills needed for Business Analyst jobs.

 

Taking a Marketing Approach to Attracting Talent

In many organizations, the marketing and HR functions operate independently—HR focused primarily on internal communications with employees and marketing focused primarily on external communications with consumer and business audiences that include both prospects and customers.

In some organizations, though, these two groups have teamed up to combine their expertise to boost overall communication effectiveness, internally and externally. One key area where the two are helping their organizations achieve success is in employee recruitment.

Following the Lead of Marketing

Last year, Mark Miller wrote a piece for TLNT (Talent Management and HR), “It’s Time for HR to Follow Marketing’s Lead and Develop Employee Personas.” Personas are a commonly used tactic in marketing circles that help marketers “get into the heads” of their target audiences. Miller writes: “If this is the best practice for companies connecting with customers, why shouldn’t HR professionals use this same concept to truly understand their employees?” Why indeed?

In fact, that question can be broadened to ask: “Why shouldn’t HR take a marketing approach to attracting top talent to their organizations?” The answer, of course, is that they should. The same marketing principles that can be applied to attracting customers to a company can be applied to attracting employees. The process is the same.

Steps to Developing an Employee Recruitment Process Based on Marketing Principles

Following are some specific steps that HR leaders can take to boost their recruitment efforts through a marketing process:

  1. Make sure you’re effectively managing your “employer brand.” What does that mean? It means understanding how you would like your organization to be perceived compared to how it is actually perceived—and taking steps to close those gaps. How can you determine how you’re currently perceived? You can ask employees—even job candidates. You can glean information from online review channels like Glassdoor.com. Or you can conduct your own research with the employee populations you are recruiting from. A key point here—your messaging must reflect reality. As marketers say: “You need to live the brand promise.”
  2. Build an employee persona. What does your “ideal” candidate for a given position look like? As Miller stresses in his article, taking this step can help ensure that you clearly understand your potential employee audience, their interests and concerns. One way to develop a persona is by “profiling” top candidates that currently hold the position, or who have held the position. What are the traits that make them valuable to the organization? These are the traits, or attributes, you would seek in prospective employees.
  3. Understand what is important to the candidates you hope to attract. This can be done by reviewing secondary data online (e.g. research from trade organizations, comments and profiles of similar types of individuals on LinkedIn or polls/interviews/focus groups with existing employees.
  4. Analyze the competition. Just as companies have competitors for their products and services they also have competitors for staff. What companies do you compete against locally, regionally or nationally (depending on the scope of your search)? What attributes do these companies have that position them favorably against you? What attributes do you have that position your company more favorably based on what you know about what’s important to your target audience of potential applicants? These considerations will help to direct your messaging.
  5. Identify communication channels. How will you connect with potential candidates? LinkedIn is clearly a top site for recruiting today, but it may not be your only—or even you primary—source of candidates. Much will depend on the type of position you are recruiting for. For instance, if you’re looking for business professionals (e.g. accounting, HR, marketing, etc.), LinkedIn is likely to be a good communication channel. If you’re looking for tradespeople, however, (e.g. roofers, electricians, plumbers) it may not be such a good channel. On LinkedIn, its relatively easy to see what the field of candidates looks like by doing a people search within the geographic range you’re recruiting from. Other channels, depending on your target audience, might include trade publications, online directories—and even traditional classified listings.
  6. Create messaging. Your communication efforts related to recruitment should leverage the unique position you hold compared to competitors as well as emphasize the benefits of working for your company based on what you know about the target audience.
  7. Measure, monitor and modify your approach based on which communication channels and messaging yield the highest quality of applicants, the most hires, the most valued employees, etc.

Throughout the process, don’t hesitate to call on your marketing communication colleagues for assistance. They have a wealth of knowledge that can be applied to your recruitment efforts to ensure that you are using proven strategies to position your company as a great place to work.

Tapping Into the Contingent Workforce

A report from Ardent Partners found that “35% of today’s total workforce is considered non-employee: freelance, independent, external, extended, contingent, etc.” In addition, “95% of organizations today perceiving their contingent workforce as important and vital not only to day-to-day operations, but also to ultimate enterprise success and growth.” This is a new staffing model for many employers and one that may hold both rewards and risks.

Often referred to as contractors, or contingent workers, this group of workers has also become known as the “gig economy.” Gigs are projects of short, but varying, lengths of duration that are performed for a wide range of clients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are certain occupations that are more likely to lend themselves to gig work than others. These include:

  • Art and design
  • Computer and information technology
  • Construction and extraction
  • Media and communications
  • Transportation and material moving

While these have traditionally been the types of jobs most likely to lend themselves to contingent or contract work, rapid advances mean that other industries are becoming amenable to this type of employment relationship, including the healthcare industry.

Why Contingent Work, Why Now?

As a May 2017 Forbes piece points out: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the occupations with the highest projected growth in employment through 2024 include accountants, software developers, and nurses—the healthcare industry actually hired the largest portion of contingent positions in 2016.”

The rise in number of individuals who are engaged in the gig economy has been linked both to the millennial generation’s observation of the uncertainty of job security for their parents and this generation’s desire for flexibility and independence.

Services like Uber and Lyft are highly talked about examples of the burgeoning gig economy. A Pew Research study from 2016 found that 72 percent of Americans had “used at least one of 11 different shared and on-demand services.”

Benefits for Workers and Employers

Both those who are members of the contingent workforce and those who employ them can benefit from the relationship.

The workers benefit from the independence that comes from selecting the types of projects, and clients, they wish to work with; the variety involved in their work and access to employers not necessarily located in their geographic area.

Similarly, one big benefit for employers is the ability to recruit talent from a broader geographic region—even, in some cases, from around the globe. Employers also benefit from the ability to pay for talent when they need it, avoiding taking on the long-term liability of full-time employees.

Some Drawbacks

Gig work isn’t for everyone, of course, and there are disadvantages for contingent workers. These include the uncertainty of a steady flow of contingent work and lack of the traditional benefits they might receive from a traditional employer.

Employers see some negatives as well. Contingent workers, by definition, work for a variety of clients; employers are subject to their availability based on their schedules, not employer mandates. The biggest drawback for employers, though, relates to the ability to accurately define who is, and who is not, a contingent worker.

Being Sure They’re Not Employees

One major area of risk for employers working with contingent, contract or freelance employees is ensuring that they are, indeed, not considered employees and not subject to income, Social Security, Medicare and unemployment tax withholding requirements. There are stiff penalties for employers who fail to classify their employees correctly and, in recent years, the IRS has become more aggressive at finding and fining those who are not following the guidelines.

There are three broad categories that can help employers determine whether or not an employment relationship exists:

  • To what extent does the employer control how the work gets done. Is the individual truly independent or is the employer telling them when and how to do their work?
  • This includes such considerations as who sets the rate of pay, whether expenses are reimbursed and who provides tools and supplies.
  • Type of relationship. What written contracts exist? Does the individual receive benefits such as pension, insurance or vacation pay.

Additional information can be found on the IRS.gov site. While these criteria may seem fairly straightforward, the distinctions can be complex. Employers are advised to seek legal counsel to ensure that employees are being classified correctly.

Where to Find Them

Where can employers most reliably and conveniently find contingent workers? Staffing agencies are, of course, one reliable source of qualified individuals across a range of fields and professions. Contingent workers are also often online looking for their next great project. The traditional social media channels like LinkedIn, in particular, can be a great way to connect with these individuals. In addition, there are a wide range of websites that focus on bringing together contingent workers and clients—sites like Upwork (formerly Elance), Fiverr, Toptal and TaskRabbit are just a few examples of companies that are part of a rapidly growing way to connect companies and talent.

The Future

As technology continues to develop and change the way that work gets done, as well as where it gets done, and competition heats up globally, it is likely that the prevalence of contingent workers will increase. For many employers, the opportunity to find and leverage top talent that may otherwise be hard to find, and the flexibility of the gig economy, outweigh the potential downfalls.

The Balance Between Hiring for Fit and Inclusion

Talent managers these days talk a lot about “hiring for fit” and the concept is sound. After all, to create and maintain a strong corporate culture, companies are well served to ensure that those they hire will fit into that culture.

But, there’s a flip side to this commonly held wisdom. Building a culture based on “fit” can serve to keep those who are “different” in some ways out of the organization. That can create risks both from an EEOC standpoint and, perhaps more importantly, from an innovation standpoint. If your organization is built of people who look, act and think the same what innovative ideas and opportunities might you be overlooking?

The Argument for Fit

Culture could be thought of the morals and mores that hold an organization together. That shared beliefs that define “how work gets done here.” Fit, we’re told, is an important factor that goes into determining whether, or not, an employee will be successful at an organization and organizations are uniquely known for their individual cultures.

Amazon, for instance, is reputed to be cut-throat and competitive. REI, on the other hand, is known for a culture where employees can give “life to their purpose.” It’s a team-based environment where employees collaborate rather than compete.

What makes a culture “good,” of course, will be highly dependent on each individual employee’s preferences. Competitive employees, for instance, may find Amazon to be a much better culture than REI. Those who prefer a collaborative environment, on the other hand, would be wise to steer clear of organizations like Amazon.

That dichotomy underlies the argument for hiring for fit, as many top companies—like Google, Southwest Airlines, Zappos and more are widely known to do.

But, in the process of hiring employees who “fit” are companies also at risk of minimizing the value that can come from diversity of thought—and background? Is a focus on a more inclusive, rather than homogeneous culture more beneficial?

The Argument for Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are two closely tied concepts that a growing number of organizations are focused on today. Diversity generally refers to the differences among people. In a workplace, those differences might be related to sex, age, race, religion—and a wide range of other factors. Inclusion, in a work environment, refers to the ability to include—or allow—a wide range of thoughts and opinions to flourish. It’s not just about having a diverse workforce; it’s about ensuring that the diverse ideas of that diverse workforce can be leveraged.

Differences of opinions, and diversity of thought can lead to breakthrough thinking that can fuel innovation and lead to new discoveries—new products, new markets, new processes. If everybody thinks the same, common wisdom would suggest, breakthroughs are less likely to occur.

Bringing the Two Together

Can cultural fit and diversity coexist in an organization? Of course. The answer lies in ensuring that we are considering these constructs appropriately.

When we’re talking about cultural fit we’re talking about shared values or philosophies about how we will interact and work with each other. Fit shouldn’t be, as it sometimes is, used to consider how well you might “get along with” or “agree with” individuals. Fit, for instance, isn’t about ensuring that a high-tech company is staffed with Gen Y and Gen Z employees because Baby Boomers “aren’t like us.”

When we’re talking about diversity we’re not just talking about differences in the way we look. Importantly, we’re talking about—or should be talking about—differences in the ways we think, the unique background and perspectives we can bring to bear to ensure that conversations that take place can drive innovation. And, yes, our different ages, sex, ethnic backgrounds and religions all serve to provide us with important differing perspectives that can open new ways of approaching the work we do.

Southwest Airlines, for instance, has a strong cultural focus on customer service and fun. That means that hiring managers will look for employees who value serving others and value having fun. That doesn’t mean that they will avoid certain segments of employees based on perceptions that they “aren’t fun.”

Yes, it is okay to hire for fit when you’re looking for employees who will uphold your organization’s values based on objective criteria that indicate whether, or not, they will do so. No, it’s not okay to hire for fit and base decisions on biases or misperceptions. “Older people aren’t flexible.” “Women can’t be tough.” “White males are too conservative.”

For organizations to succeed in an increasingly competitive and increasingly faced-paced business environment they need to draw upon the input and wide range of backgrounds and opinions of employees they select to join their organizations. Cultural fit does not mean the employees you hire all look or think alike. It means that they have the likelihood of thinking differently, together, with a shared focus of supporting the organization’s mission, vision and values.

Communicating When You Don’t Have All The Answers

HR professionals are finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place these days as they attempt to communicate with employees about impending legislative and policy changes that may affect their healthcare coverage, their benefit options, and more. Employees want answers, but HR and company leaders often don’t have those answers. How can you successfully respond to employee questions and address concerns in an era of uncertainty?

Work to Build a Climate of Openness and Trust Always

The best time to work at building a strong climate of openness and trust—one where employees feel comfortable asking even the toughest questions and where they trust the answers they receive—is before the need for sensitive communication exists. When employees know they can trust their leaders and HR representatives to be straightforward and honest with them, they’re more likely to accept “no-response responses” like “we don’t know right now, but we’ll let you know when we do.”

Develop Multiple Channels for Two-Way Communication

While HR and organizational leaders will often have messages that they will be sending to employees via various channels, it’s important that employees also have the opportunity to share information, to ask questions and to seek information. Two-way communication channels like suggestion boxes (even the “old-fashioned kind,” online chat rooms and open door policies help to ensure that employees have the information they need—and that leaders and HR professionals have a finger on the pulse of employees interests and concerns.

Be Transparent

While not all information can be shared, it’s important to be transparent about why. For instance, for publicly held organizations some information of a material nature must be carefully guarded to avoid running afoul of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidelines. In regulated industries—like banking, healthcare or the energy industry—other rules and regulations may govern when certain information may not be released.

It’s important for employees to understand, though, the restrictions that the company may face and why those restrictions exist. And, of course, to trust that when the time is right, they’ll receive the information they need.

Keep Track

It’s important to stay on top of the types of questions and issues that concern employees regardless of how they emerge. Devise ways of easily capturing their information—through technology or through management feedback channels. This can provide you with insights about issues that are of concern—and help you avoid overly focusing on issues that really aren’t of that great concern to employees.

Tracking these inputs can also help you arm managers and leaders with FAQs and responses that can help them respond to questions that employees may be asking.

Let Your Employees Be “The First to Know” Whenever Possible

Employees are an important audience for any organization. When they feel respected and important they’ll serve the company well. Whenever possible, make sure that your employee audience is one of, if not the, first to hear any important message. Employees don’t like to be blindsided by friends, neighbors or relatives who ask them questions about information they’ve heard on the news that employees weren’t aware of. Arming them with that information can help them spread the company message accurately.

Recognize That Employees Are All Part of a Larger Communication Ecosystem

Employees “get it” so give them credit for being aware of the bigger picture related to many of the issues that impact them. Employees know, for instance, that the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) is up in the air right now. Consequently, they understand that you don’t have answers. They know when the economy is declining, when competitors enter the market—and when business is booming.

Give them credit for that awareness and take advantage of the opportunity to build your messaging based on the broader messages that employees have already been exposed to.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say, “We Don’t Know”

Finally, don’t be afraid to say, “we don’t know.” Sometimes you simply don’t. Being open about these situations, and ensuring that employees trust that when you do know, you’ll provide them with the information they need, build trust.

Follow Up!

While it’s okay to not always have all the answers, it’s also important that when you do learn the answer you share that information with employees as soon as possible.

Ask for Feedback

On a regular basis, perhaps annually, ask employees for feedback on how you’re doing at providing them with the information they need. Do they feel that the organization communicates with them effectively? Do they believe that management and the HR department is open and transparent with them? Do they trust the messages they receive from the organization? What issues do they feel most/least educated/aware of?

The answers to these questions can help you identify areas of opportunity for improvement to ensure that the communication climate in your organization remains positive—even when you don’t have all the answers.

Recognizing and Overcoming Personal Biases

A bias is a predisposition for or against something. We can be either favorably, or unfavorably, biased, although the word tends to carry more negative than positive connotations. The important point, though, is that we all naturally have biases—they’re an unavoidable fact of life. Whether related to issues, individuals or preferences in music, art, or food, we carry biases with us wherever we go. Unfortunately, these biases are so ingrained that we generally don’t give a lot of thought to them.

In workplace settings, that can lead to a wide range of problems, most notably during the hiring process. We all are naturally drawn to people who are “like us.” Unfortunately, staffing a department or organization with a lot of like-minded people doesn’t generally lead to the kind of innovative thinking that most of today’s organizations are looking for. Favoring people who are “like us” can also lead us down a path of sameness that can negatively impact the diversity of our organizations.

Examples abound. Recently Uber was one of the latest companies to come under scrutiny for a hostile environment. Following claims of sexual harassment, the company is attempting to bolster its diversity team. (http://www.hrdive.com/news/uber-to-expand-diversity-team-after-sexual-harassment-claims-surface/438103/) The Marines are also reeling after news reports of salacious photos of female service members being posted to social media hit the press. The Corps is vowing to institute not only sexual harassment reforms, but a criminal probe as well. (http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/military/veterans/sd-me-military-gender-20170306-story.html)

Not all bias-related workplace incidents are so egregious, of course. On a daily basis we are all prone to making decisions or forming decisions based on the biases we all carry. So, what can we do to minimize the negative impacts of these biases?

  • Accept that you have them. We all do.
  • Assess the likely impacts of such biases. From a hiring standpoint, for instance, you could take a look at your employee statistics to determine how diverse your employee workforce is. Are a wide range of ages, races and ethnicities present in your workforce, reflective of the population you hire from or serve? Are there variations that can be spotted within specific departments or divisions that might suggest bias?
  • Bring bias to light. As we’ve said, the word “bias” tends to be associated with negative connotations. By raising the issue openly and having discussions around bias and the power it has to potentially negatively influence decisions, awareness is also raised.
  • Test your own biases. Project Implicit is a non-profit organization dedicated to conducting research on unconscious bias and educating the public about its impacts. (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/research/) They offer a series of online assessments that can be taken to reveal individual biases.
  • Monitor your responses to others, to issues and to events. At the moment when you first feel yourself forming an opinion—particularly a negative opinion—stop to consider whether that opinion may be based on unconscious bias. This can be particularly productive when engaged in debates or heated discussions with others. Reasonable minds can differ.

Failing to recognize and address your unconscious biases can result in missed opportunities for you—and for others. Take steps today to begin seeking ways to become more self-aware, and to start conversations in your organization that can help open minds to new possibilities and potential.

Leveraging Diversity Through Dissension and Discord

The political environment has certainly ramped up the level of potential dissension and discord within workplaces around the country. And, while that dissension and discord can be disruptive and divisive, there are times when it’s just what’s required to leverage the value of diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experiences. It’s a lesson NASA’s widely known “group think” issue related to the space shuttle Challenger disaster should have taught us all. But we may not have needed that lesson.

The Origins of GroupThink

In 1972, psychologist Irving Janis coined the term Groupthink, to refer to the tendency of cohesive groups to agree with each other—to seek consensus and avoid disagreement. That may seem to be a good thing on the surface. However, in business settings, agreement for the sake of agreement can lead to missed opportunities, and even mistakes.

That’s what famously occurred during the Challenger disaster when scientists, concerned about the functioning of an O-ring seal on one of the rocket boosters failed to voice their concerns. As a New York Times piece reported in 2003, “Worries about the O-rings circulated within the agency for months begore the accident, but ‘NASA appeared to be requiring a contractor to prove that it was not safe to launch, rather than proving it was safe’.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/09/weekinreview/the-nation-nasa-s-curse-groupthink-is-30-years-old-and-still-going-strong.html) While not the only incidence of Groupthink in American history, it’s one of the most widely known and a cautionary tale for companies that seek too quickly to reach consensus.

The Value of Diverse Thought

In a 2016 article for Harvard Business Review, “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter,” authors David Rock and Heidi Grant make a persuasive argument in favor of diverse teams, noting that they:

  • Focus more on facts
  • Process facts more carefully
  • Are more innovative

“Diverse teams are smarter,” says Shirley Engelmeier, founder and CEO of InclusionINC, a global consulting and learning organization that specializes in inclusion and diversity solutions. “When people are different they’re more willing to actually look at the facts more carefully, rather than just immediately going along with what others are thinking.”

That’s important, Engelmeier says, because in business “getting to quick agreement isn’t the point—when people have differing opinions is when innovation occurs.”

Beyond Discord and Dissension

While seeking discord and dissension may be taking the issue too far, Engelmeier says what companies should really seek is “disagreement and different perspectives.” And, importantly, they should really take the time to listen to those differing opinions. Many leaders fail to do that in their focus on outcomes and the constant pressures of business life. Quick decisions sometimes seem like the best decisions, but they rarely are.

Seeking, even encouraging different perspective and different ways at looking at issues is what can lead to the kind of breakthrough thinking that characterizes organizations like Amazon, Google and others are known for. It’s not about “getting everyone on board” – it’s about hearing what everyone has to say, especially those who are closest to the customer, says Engelmeier. “Ask me what I think because I’m closest to the job and then actually be willing to listen to what I say.” Even, and especially, if what they say differs from your point-of-view. That point in time when you’re presented with a diverging opinion or different perspective from your own, is a point in time when you may be poised on the precipice of an important new insight.

Encouraging New Perspectives

For leaders and managers seeking to build a culture that embraces divergent ideas, there are some relatively simple steps they can take:

  • Actively build diverse teams both within organizational functions and within ad hoc teams or committees. If you look around a meeting room table and everyone looks like you, that’s a bad sign.
  • But don’t just build diverse teams. Diversity without inclusion is meaningless, asserts Engelmeier. The work of her company is focused on helping organizations do something productive with the diversity they build. That starts with seeking, and listening, to diverse viewpoints.
  • Set the example. If leaders are known to immediately shoot down any new idea, or opinion, the flow of those new ideas and opinions will quickly stop. Conveying a willingness to both seek, and listen to diverse inputs will set the stage for others to do the same.
  • When agreement is too quickly achieved, ask explicitly for divergent views. This is often referred to as seeking a “devil’s advocate”—someone who will take an opposite, or different, perspective to help spur thoughtful conversation.
  • Celebrate the outcomes of divergent thinking—and, yes, even discord and dissension. Respectful disagreement can be positive and shouldn’t be avoided.

By thoughtfully building diverse teams, nurturing a culture that supports different perspectives and viewpoints, and setting an example by being a leader known to accept—even embrace—different views, you can go a long way toward driving innovation and breakthrough thinking in a competitive business environment that demands it.

Making Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Consider the average job search process from a typical candidate’s perspective.

They’re interested, for whatever reason, in attaining a new job. It could be because they’re fresh out of school and eager to enter the workforce, because they’re unhappy in their current role, because they’re returning to the workforce after an absence of some kind, or because they’re simply interested in advancing their career prospects.

They start looking for job opportunities and, as they find some that seem to align with their needs and interests, they send off letters of application and resumes, or apply through online portals.

Then they wait.

At some point, hopefully, they begin to get opportunities to interview—maybe, initially, via phone or video, or maybe in person. They meet with the company for one, two or more cycles of interviews and then they wait some more.

Sometimes the potential employer will let them know if they’re no longer in consideration (although these employers are in the minority). Those that are most qualified will rise to the top of the list and eventually receive a job offer. Too often, these offers are rejected.

As John Zappe, contributing editor for ERE.net, points out in an article for ERE, there are two big reasons that job offers are rejected. They’re either too low, or too slow.

Research from CareerBuilder backs him up. Their research indicates that:

  • 29 percent reject an offer because the compensation/benefit package didn’t meet expectations (too low)
  • 39 percent of candidates reject an offer because they’ve already accepted another offer (too slow)

The first issue can be addressed by ensuring that each position has been evaluated and compared both internally and externally to ensure equity and competitiveness. With a proliferation of salary surveys and data available today, there’s no excuse for not knowing—precisely—how your salary and benefits packages stack up against other organizations. Beyond that, it’s a matter of deciding how your organization wants to be positioned in the jobs marketplace—on the low end, middle of the road, or best in class. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these positions. It’s important, though, to recognize the implications of your chosen position on the likelihood of job offers being accepted by job candidates, particularly top candidates.

The second issue can be more challenging. The larger the company, the slower the hiring process can be. With more people involved, and more decision points to be managed, time just seems to move inexorably forward. Lulled by their own standard processes, HR pros and hiring managers can become complacent, thinking: “This is just how long it takes.”

Okay, but if your hiring process takes longer than the processes used by other employers competing for the same talent pool—even just slightly longer—you’re at a disadvantage. Considering the cost of recruiting and hiring in terms (out-of-pocket costs, staff time, lost opportunity costs, productivity declines, etc.), and the value of landing the best candidates available, there’s good reason to try to shave as much time off the process as possible.

What to do? The following steps can help shorten the process significantly:

  • Have a process! If each open position requires the development of a process and approach that may vary from the last time someone was hired, the process is not likely to be as efficient as possible. Outline the steps in the process and commit them to writing. Communicate these steps to those involved in the process.
  • As part of this process, be sure to include a cut-off date for accepting applications. One factor that can add significant time to the hiring process is when there is no cut-off date and applications continue to trickle in and bog down the decision-making process.
  • Evaluate the process regularly with an eye toward continuous process improvement. Over time processes of any kind tend to become bloated as new steps and checkoff points are added. Some of these may be unnecessary. Review your processes with an eye toward eliminating any steps that don’t add value to the process but, instead, serve to add time.
  • Instill a sense of urgency into the process for all involved. Communicate to hiring managers (and HR staff) why it’s important to move as efficiently as possible through the hiring process to help ensure an accepted offer. Hold all accountable for moving the process forward efficiently.
  • Track your metrics! If you don’t know how long it currently takes from application to offer, you won’t know whether, or to what extent, you’re able to improve your outcomes.
  • Debrief. After every offer—whether accepted or rejected—conduct a debriefing of the process seeking feedback from HR, the hiring manager—and the employee/potential employee. That feedback can be invaluable as you work to continually improve, and shorten, the time to offer.

If you’re interested in boosting the odds that your job offers will be accepted, focus on the two primary drivers of rejected offers: too low and too slow. Chances are you’ll quickly see an improvement in your efforts.

Monthly Job Trends – January 2017

The economy has finally awakened from its long slumber, largely signified by the recent interest rate hikes the Fed has started to introduce after years of untouched, low rates. Naturally, a boosted economy means things are looking better on the jobs front. Interestingly enough, recent months have seen some fluctuations in unemployment numbers. According to the January US Jobs Report from the BLS, temporary help employment was up nearly 1% from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016; however, in the last season of 2016, the Bureau reports a slight increase in unemployment.

Here’s how last month’s numbers shake out from an industry-level perspective:

Temporary Help

Temporary help services took a bit of a hit in December 2016, losing 15,500 jobs.    Although the loss of jobs may seem significant, temporary employment penetration last month fell only slightly below the all-time high of 2.06%, measuring in at 2.04% as 2016 came to a close.


Financial

The financial services sector finished 2016 strong, weighing in at 8,349,000 total jobs as of December 2016, according to the BLS. This industry has seen very steady, incremental growth for the past few years. If progress continues on this trend, the financial industry should be set up for a successful 2017.

Naturally, a number of elements will be attributable to the ultimate success of the financial services sector, but at this time, the BLS estimates continued growth of 12% from 2014 to 2024, which is measured faster than average.


Health
The healthcare industry added 63,300 in December, attributable to the industry’s third-largest month-over-month growth since June of 2014. This industry also led the pack in terms of job growth across non-farm employment. Although the health industry does ebb and flow in terms of the number of jobs it creates each month, the number of jobs has steadily risen each month for the past several years. The BLS reported 17,988,300 health-related jobs as of June 2014. As of December 2016, this number had risen to 19,390,100.

Professional Services

On a percentage basis, employment in the professional services industry increased by 0.2%, falling right in line with the financial activities industry. Numerically, this boost equated to the addition of 30,500 jobs in December 2016. Professional services contributed to the second-highest overall growth across calendar year 2016, closing out the year with a total of 498,900 new jobs, according to the BLS. This number was only surpassed by the healthcare industry, which is said to have added 514,100 jobs in 2016 by the time December came to an end.

Retail Trade

Although the growth in retail trade wasn’t quite as substantial as some of the other industries in December 2016, this sector still reported positive numbers. In the last month of 2016, the BLS indicates a total of 6,300 jobs were added.


The information sector has been one of the more volatile fields as of late. The industry finished December 2016 with a decrease in jobs by about 6,000 positions from November 2016. The final count measured in at 2,761,000 jobs, which is actually almost exactly where December 2015 came in.
Information

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Overall, December 2016 finished strong, with marked growth in a number of industries. The BLS reports aggregate neutrality in terms of change over the last quarter of 2016 after a year of strong growth. We look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for the jobs market.

 

Source:  Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA)

 

Managed Services Providers (MSPs) have enjoyed rapid growth over the past few years, and expectation for future growth are high. But cost is no longer the top reason for choosing an MSP. Companies are looking for efficiency and reliability of IT operations, enhanced security and compliance, and freeing up IT staff for strategic work.[1] They have concerns about continuity during transition and skepticism regarding cost savings.[2]

CompTIA, in a press release for their 2016 MSP survey, said MSPs expect high revenue grown over the next two years, but they have concerns about declining margins as services become commoditized. CompTIA says the difficulties are self-inflicted, caused by competition based solely on price.[3]

The MSP Manager as Strategic Partner

The focus on price underscores the need for managers in MSP operations to become master collaborators. Customer service in managed services is much more than providing baseline services at an attractive price. The emphasis is shifting more toward a strategic partnership. The conversation should be about value, not cost.

Build Relationships

A managed services partner will spend as much time as needed to understand the business model of the customer organization and how technology resources support it. He/she will learn the current and desired future state of the client’s technology mix and will understand the digital maturity of the organization, its strengths, and its weaknesses. A good MSP manager will establish strong working relationships and learn the work, personal dynamics, and decision-making preference of the client team.

A solid partnership will include a healthy relationship with the customer’s IT group. IT organizations can be concerned about losing control, and in smaller firms, the concern could be about losing their jobs.[4] The emphasis should be on leveraging the strengths of the IT group and helping them define their role. The most significant benefit for IT is to get off the “treadmill” so they can focus on value-added projects and services.

Define Unique Solutions

No two organizations are exactly alike. Each one requires a specific plan for its unique needs. Trying to cram a client group into a canned solution will only sow doubt the service provider is flexible and knowledgeable enough to execute the plan. The time spent in crafting the right solution will pay dividends of trust.

A surprise expense can ruin a relationship. A good services partner will spell out in detail what will and will not be provided in the SLA. The agreement will minimize the possibility of surprises by offering a price schedule for any potential additional services.

Stay Ahead of Innovation

There is no substitute for knowledge. The quality of the relationship will depend on how well the team can answer questions and concerns—not only about the service being discussed but the entire range of managed IT services. Deep expertise is not negotiable.

Prepare for the Cloud

Some organizations are reducing their need for managed services because they acquire self-implemented software platforms. Almost every business is moving to the cloud or considering it, and a proactive partner will understand the implications.

One of the primary risks is complacency. Having sensitive data managed by a cloud platform provider does not remove the client organization from the responsibility for security and oversight. Although the risk is usually slight, a cloud vendor’s services could be lost at any time. A DRP is essential. Even if the cloud provider has a plan, the client organization must exercise due diligence.

The right approach to the cloud is for an MSP to become a cloud enabler, helping clients to manage the and coordinate their cloud services.

Be Proactive

A strategic partner will seek to anticipate customer needs. It’s impossible to anticipate everything, and no one has an answer for every contingency, but having a plan and knowing where to get the information is essential.

One of the most important ways to be proactive is to report and review on the services the MSP provides. When you are doing a great job, your services are often invisible. Frequent reviews of what work you perform and how well you are meeting SLA terms will keep the value you add in the forefront of customers’ minds.[5] It also creates a forum for creating new opportunities.

 

The Complete Service Provider

Providing excellent service in today’s volatile technology world requires agility and a relentless focus on both partner relationships and service execution. Providing tactical solutions will lead to diminishing returns for both MSPs and customer organizations. Every member of the team should focus on being both strategic partner and tactician.

 

[1] Olavsrud, Thor. “Why businesses are turning to managed IT services.” CIO. June 03, 2015. http://www.cio.com/article/2930498/it-strategy/why-businesses-are-turning-to-managed-it-services.html.

[2] Korolov, Maria. “Top five reasons companies are avoiding managed services.” CSO Online. June 11, 2015. http://www.csoonline.com/article/2934493/infosec-staffing/top-five-reasons-companies-are-avoiding-managed-services.html.

[3] “New CompTIA study of managed it services market reveals contradictions.” CompTIA. June 29, 2016. https://www.comptia.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/2016/06/29/new-comptia-study-of-managed-it-services-market-reveals-contradictions.

[4] Korolov.

[5] “5th Annual Trends in Managed Services” CompTIA Research Report.June 2016.

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