9.1% Unemployment & Open Positions?

On Friday the Labor Department reported that America’s unemployment rate held steady at 9.1%, resulting in 0% job growth for the month of August. Yet for the same month, employers also reported a sharp increase in difficulty recruiting for open positions (SHRM Leading Indicators of National Employment).

How is it that companies can’t find the talent they need when so many people are looking for work? The answer lies in what economists refer to as “structural discord in the labor market." Plainly put, the competencies of our current workforce do not match what organizations need to stay competitive in the new economy.

When the economy actually improves, companies will have an even harder time attracting and retaining key employees, especially those from younger generations who view their employers with a consumer mindset. As a result, many organizations are starting to define and strategically position themselves specifically for the talent they want to hire and keep. Often referred to as Employee Value Proposition, the perceived rewards and benefits employees get in exchange for performance is becoming a selling point and key business strategy for companies wanting to stay ahead of looming talent shortages.

Don’t let the unemployment statistics fool you. It will continue to be difficult to find good talent. Are you prepared? Do you know how to define and market your Employee Value Proposition?

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group

Mixing It Up! Amy Hirsh Robinson Featured in HR Magazine

I’d like to share a fascinating examination of generational issues in the workplace. “Mixing it Up,” is the cover story in the May 2011 issue of HR Magazine, in which I am quoted extensively. As an expert on the impact of generational differences in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds, my consulting has evolved over the years to enable organizations to create agile workforces adaptive to change. Through my work, my clients gain a cost effective and competitive advantage in attracting, retaining and managing multigenerational talent. In addition, my strategic expertise refines their business models and practices to address generational trends in the market.

I invite you to read the article and share your thoughts with me on these compelling issues. It’s also not too late to register for my May 19 webinar, “Recruiting The Class Of 2011: Managing the Expectation of Millennials --- And Yours!” If you can't make the webinar, but would like to discuss the intergenerational issues of your company, feel free to contact me at ahr@interchange-group.com.

- Amy Hirsh Robinson, Principal, Interchange Group (www.interchange-group.com)

Would You Hire Your Own Kid?

Written by Sarah Sladek, founder of XYZ University and author of Rock Stars Incorporated: Hiring the High Performance High Maintenance Hotshots Half Your Age.


I'm fascinated by the topic of workforce and leadership development, partly because I'm a parent and partly because I work with organizations grappling with generational issues. I know all too well that everyone has an opinion on "today's" generation and "tomorrow's" generation and how these differences challenge organizations. But one topic that remains to be explored is workforce readiness.


The Conference Board recently released a report which argues: "High school and college graduates are showing deficiencies in both basic and applied skills, and a real lack of preparedness for today's world of work." Unemployment among teens and young adults has been at an unprecedented rate for several years. Even before the economy took a nosedive, employers preferred to hire senior citizens or immigrant workers over Generation Y.


So, would you hire your own kid? Let's be honest. Probably not.


The Conference Board report explains there are seven survival skills that our new graduates must have but are not getting in our current educational environment. I'm going to take this a step further. I think parents are partially to blame. Not public or private education. Not government. We, the parents, made this mess.


Parenting has changed substantially in the past 20 years. I'm not proclaiming to be an exceptional parent by any means, but as a generational expert I have observed how the changes in parenting have created a generation that's lacking critical skills. Here are the seven skills new graduates lack and examples of where I believe parents are falling short:

  1. Problem solving: "Mommy! Timmy hit me!" "Oh no, let me go right over to Mrs. Smith's house and she and I will have a conversation about this." Parents have become overly involved in their children's lives. As a result, children aren't learning to solve problems or resolve conflict on their own.
  2. Collaboration: When I was a child, I played all day long without a parent ever being involved. Today's children are constantly shuttled between playdates and practices. They rarely play together without it being organized and/or supervised by adults.
  3. Agility/Adaptability: Studies show children under the age of six influence more of the household purchasing decisions than the parents. (Yikes!) When the world revolves around them, children can't adapt to change or take the needs of others into consideration.
  4. Entrepreneurialism: Children need the opportunity to take initiative and responsibility. Parents shouldn't be selling their children's Girl Scout cookies or setting up their lemonade stands for them.
  5. Oral and Written Communication: Personal communication is a must. Great texting skills won't land anyone a job, yet children as young as eight are given smart phones and Facebook accounts.
  6. Accessing and Analyzing information: Parents need to stop giving their children the answers. I personally know parents who do the majority of their kids homework just so they will get all "A's." The future of our workforce must be able to think for themselves.
  7. Curiosity and Imagination: As a society, we are consumed with 'fitting in' and we squelch the arts and creativity in school. Let your children be unique. Encourage them to be unique. Employers need unique!

I predict that in the coming years we're going to see a growing demand for workforce development programs in the school system and leadership development programs in the workplace simply because the next generations aren't equipped to meet the needs and expectations of the workplace. As parents, be aware that we need to do a better job of preparing this generation for increase responsibility. As employers and executives, be prepared to introduce programs that will help young adults obtain the skills they need to work for your company.

By 2015, Baby Boomers will cede the majority of the workforce to Generation Y. Ready or not -- here they come.

To find out more about Sarah's great work and her views on the generations, visit her blog at http://xyzuniversity.com/blog/

To learn how to better recruit and manage the young people in your organization, join the Interchange Group for our May 19 webinar, "Recruiting The Class of 2011: Managing The Expectation Of Millennials -- And Yours!"

A College-Educated Workforce

In the U.S., only 1/3 of high school students graduate on time and prepared for college-level work. 1/3 don’t even graduate at all. If current postsecondary graduation rates do not improve, our labor market will be short 3 million college-educated workers by 2018.

America’s education system is not preparing students for the demands of a knowledge-based economy and workplace. That’s why the Interchange Group supports Aspire Public Schools, a non-profit organization that operates public charter schools in urban areas across California. Aspire’s motto is “College for Certain,” and its growing school system boasts both record State performance and a 97% college acceptance rate. As our holiday gift to our clients and community, we have chosen to donate funds to Aspire. We encourage you to find ways to support educational improvements in your own communities!

Happy Holidays from the Interchange Group Team!

Predictions For The Next Generation

What’s the youngest generation in America called and what will they be like? As the holidays approach and the focus inevitably shifts to children, we thought we’d take the opportunity to offer some predictions and pose this question to the greater community.

Though their beginning birth years have yet to be conclusively decided, children of America’s youngest generation are roughly 0-10 years old. They are currently the offspring of Generation X (born ca. 1963-1981) but many will have parents from the Millennial generation (born ca. 1982-2000) as time goes on. While demographers use a variety of names to refer to this generation -- Generation Net, Generation Z, the Homeland Generation -- none of them has yet to stick. And while it’s clear that the members of this generation will be the most technologically savvy in history, most of their other values and characteristics have yet to crystallize. Here are some of our predictions:
  • Self-Directed - In reaction to the “helicopter” parenting style of the Baby Boomers, “slow” or “free range” parenting styles of Gen Xers and Millennials will emphasize unstructured time over overachievement and result in the ability to self-direct.
  • Adaptive & Resilient - Not having experienced or remembered the years of prosperity prior to the “Great Recession,” this generation will come of age accustomed to living with less and working with what they have.
  • Conforming – Growing up in the wake of 9/11, Columbine and mobile surveillance technology will produce a generation of children highly tolerant of protective environments and imposed rules and boundaries.
  • Inclusive - This generation’s child- and young adulthood will be marked by political polarity, global instability and deepening divides between the rich and poor. As a result they will adopt values of fairness and due process in an effort to right the inequities they see around them.
Because a generation is shaped by the first 16 years of life, we’ll need more time to monitor all the influences (e.g. family upbringing, school systems, world events, etc.) of today’s youth. What do you think this next generation will be like in society? How will their values and behaviors shape the workplace of the future? We welcome your comments!

For more information and tips on recruiting, engaging and managing the different generations in your workplace, contact us at www.interchange-group.com.

Eldercare Issues in the Workplace

As more and more Baby Boomers struggle to balance full-time employment and the emotional and financial demands of caring for aging parents, the cost to employers is rising. According to MetLife, the average employee caregiver costs his or her employer $2100 per year in absenteeism, lost productivity and increased healthcare costs. That’s a total loss of $33 billion per year to U.S. businesses.

Unfortunately, the situation is predicted to get worse in the coming years. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services report that the segment of the population most likely to need care (those over 85) is increasing rapidly, from 35 million today to 70 million in 2030. How will employers cope with the disruptions and costs of a growing workforce of employee caregivers? Here are some of the many innovative “eldercare friendly” policies and practices that companies are adopting to address the issue:
  • Flexible work arrangements including telecommuting, compressed work weeks and job sharing
  • Leave-sharing that allows employees to donate a portion of their leave time to others who have eldercare responsibilities
  • Caregiver Employee Resource Groups that enable employees to share resources and emotional support
  • Dependent Care Spending Accounts permitting employees to pay for adult daycare expenses with pre-tax dollars
  • Consultation on eldercare services and counseling on hospice and palliative care
Addressing issues of eldercare is a business imperative. Organizations that respond to employee needs will be rewarded with loyalty, engagement and productivity. Those that force employees to choose between caring for a loved one and devoting themselves to work will sacrifice both their bottom line and their ability to attract top talent in the future.

For more information and tips on recruiting, engaging and managing the different generations in your workplace, contact us at www.interchange-group.com.

September 16 Webinar: New Hire Onboarding

For employers, making a good first impression through the recruitment process is essential. But managers are often so driven to find talent that they forget to reinforce that positive impression during the new hire’s first year on the job. In other words, they neglect to think about what will happen once the employee shows up ready for work.

Employee onboarding (the process of integrating new hires into an organization) is taking on a new priority as demographic shifts gather steam and the economy begins to recover. Research shows that companies that invest in a structured onboarding process for new employees experience dramatic increases in revenue, customer satisfaction and employee retention, productivity and engagement. Yet most employers devote less time and money to their onboarding process than they do to their holiday party. A mistake that costs organizations greatly both in bottom line and reputation.

Join us for another popular Interchange Group webinar as we explore strategic insights and practical guidelines for designing simple onboarding programs that accelerate performance and boost retention. Learning outcomes include:

  • The generational imperative for new hire onboarding
  • The importance of cultural adaptation in increasing performance and retention
  • The 6 critical steps of onboarding and how to implement them
  • Key phases and activities to consider when designing your onboarding process
  • Common mistakes made with orientation programs and how to avoid them

Every employer has a new hire onboarding process, whether they manage it or not. What impact do your practices have on your employees' productivity and retention? Isn’t it time you found out?

Click here to register.

Helping Millennials Build Professional Equity

Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of interest in our Professional Equity in the Workplace program. In response to the wave of confusion and criticism toward the Millennial generation and their professional attitudes and behaviors, companies and universities alike are looking for ways to better prepare emerging leaders for success at work.

Professional Equity is the amount of standing and influence you have in the workplace. Every day we have an opportunity to build positive long-term relationships in our professional community. The investment we make in our professional reputation, skills and experiences has long-term rewards -- and consequences, if not managed effectively! To combat negative stereotypes and operational resistance from older co-workers and managers, Millennials need to focus on building their professional equity. Organizations can help them by:

  • Orienting incoming employees to the organization’s culture and business imperatives
  • Providing mentors or buddies to new hires to help them navigate workplace relationships, protocol and norms
  • Training Millennials on professional communication and presentation skills
  • Outlining performance expectations, job scope and future career paths at the start of employment
  • Educating new hires on the performance management process and parameters for advancement

Soon, Millennials will make up over 40% of the workforce in America. As hiring freezes thaw and the economy gathers steam, employers will need to do more to onboard incoming employees for productivity and retention. What have you done to build the professional skills and cultural acumen of your Millennial workers? Do they know what it takes to be successful in your organization?

To learn more about our Professional Equity in the Workplace program and how to create a successful onboarding process for your new employees, join us for our September 16 webinar, New Hire Onboarding: Strategic Insights and Practical Guidelines for Boosting Employee Performance and Retention.