Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lowering the Bar

The unemployment rate just reached a low (3.7%) not seen since the late 1960’s. If you’re an employer, let that soak in. If you’re looking to hire “experienced” workers let these numbers soak in:
Unemployment rates for workers age 25 and over:
_With college degree 2.0%
_Some college 3.1%
_High School 3.5%
_Less than High School 4.9%

And that unemployment rate for those with less than a high school degree is down from a peak 17.9% during the last recession. Some employers are now hiring felons who were convicted for non-violent crimes. Some employers have stopped drug-testing. And, some employers are still hiring undocumented immigrants (yes they are…).

Here at High Road Partners we are recruiting experienced management and executive talent for the transportation and logistics industry. And guess what, there isn’t enough experienced management and executive talent to go around. I’ve written about this in the past, warning that we will soon reach the point where certain key positions will go unfilled or be filled by people lacking the requisite qualifications and experience. Well, we have arrived.

We’ve seen companies making adjustments, essentially playing dodge ball with this issue for the last five years. But employers are playing the game at a slow walk while the candidate market is on a dead run and moving farther away. It’s been interesting to watch the de-evolution in hiring practices in this industry. (And it probably holds true for other industries, this just happens to be the one I know.) Take most any hiring criteria and it’s been tweaked:

_Degree required? Not now. Preferred, but not required.
_Specific experience in a market segment? Not necessarily. Transportation or transportation-related will suffice. (Can you spell Logistics? Any clue what it is?)
_Stable work history? Well, who’s really stable these days. As long as the candidate has got good reasons for job changes, we’ll consider them.
_Do not send us any unemployed candidates. I haven’t heard that one in three years.
_Salary range is fixed, period. Today, we’re more likely to hear “we’re open for the right candidate”.
_Benefits, time off, work schedule, relocation..It's company policy. Today, those are negotiable.

These are just a few of the key hiring criteria that are changing. And it’s a matter of degree. Some employers are “adjusting” more than others. Those who aren’t adjusting are falling farther and farther behind. We still have some clients who are trying to use the same standards (and at about the same level of pay) they were using 15 years ago. And, oh by the way, wanting to have half dozen or more candidates to pick from. Ain’t gonna happen. These companies are on the way out of business and they don’t even realize it.

How bad has it gotten? Based on what I’m seeing, pretty bad. Employers are now hiring not just a little “off spec”, but way off spec. Especially if they are unwilling or, for various reasons, unable to meet the compensation levels required to hire more qualified candidates. And these are not candidates we’ve submitted. Usually they are referrals or people from their network who just need a job. Sometimes they decide to do the noble, heroic thing and promote from within. But, there’s nothing noble or heroic about promoting someone to fail. And, increasingly, these same employers are coming back to us within a year admitting that it didn’t work out and need to reopen the search.

We are where we are and it took decades to get here. The driver, mechanic and warehouse labor shortages are getting the headlines, as they should. If you can’t move the freight or keep the trucks on the road, you don’t have a business, period. But, you also need people to manage the business. The right people. At the end of the day, organizations and institutions ultimately die due to a lack of leadership and direction. The survivors are those who can adjust, adapt and overcome without lowering the bar too much. Look around your company and ask yourself, will it be dead or alive in ten years?

Father tell me, we get what we deserve
Oh we get what we deserve
And way down we go
Way down we go.
(from the song by Kaleo)

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