This Workplace Merry-Go-Round Never Slows

“Midway hawkers calling
‘Try your luck with me’
Merry-go-round wheezing
The same old melody…”

—Neil Peart (Lakeside Park)

We became carnies for a day – midway hawkers calling out from our very own front yard. The main reason was to make some quick cash since my sister and I had already blown through our weekly allowance. It was summertime, decades ago, when I was 12 and she was 10.

School was out so we had to promote our little Saturday carnival via the neighborhood kids and the viral word of mouth. At 10 the morning of, after our mom had left to run errands, we taped the big poster to the garage door that read:

Carnival Today – 10:30-12:30. All games 25 cents. Everybody Wins!

We hung colorful balloons from the mailbox and set up chairs, TV trays and a folding table in the front yard. We used an old cigar box for our cash register. We then pulled out beaten up boxes we had dragged out from the garage full of old games and toys and set them up on the table as prizes. A few of the toys were in good shape, but most had broken or missing parts, especially the games.

My sister was the mastermind of the operation. She created a series of actual carnival games from everyday items around the house, some of which included a ring toss with our mom’s wooden and metal bracelets and Pepsi bottles; a lawn dart toss with real metal darts; and a baseball throw using my old little league baseballs and some of our expendable stuffed animals to knock down. To keep the littler kids occupied during carnival, we turned on our Slip-N-Slide at the other end of the front yard.

At first I felt a little guilty that we gave away our old toys and games to the kids as prizes. That lasted until noon after we had raked in the dough, about $10 in total. We couldn’t have been happier with our entrepreneurial endeavor and were already planning how we’d spend the loot at the mall that afternoon.

Never mind the part about some of the parents coming to our house that night asking for refunds and returning our broken toys and games. That’s not the point.

No, the point is that my sister’s been hawking herself and her skills her entire life. I’ve been a exuberant hawker myself; adapt or perish, as I found out quite readily during the past five years alone. Most of us have learned to do the same.

For as long as we’re trying to earn a buck and turn it into two, we have to shape and hawk our wares. On a merry-go-round wheezing the same old melody. That’s the perpetual carnie candidate experience – from individual contributor to captain of industry.

“Try your luck with me!”

Where lady luck is nothing but a game of chance weighted in your favor with sought-after skills and circumstance. And a better marketplace as well. Hey, hiring plans across the board are favorable:

  • According to the recent Vistage CEO confidence index survey, 62 percent of respondents plan to expand their workforce in the year ahead, up from 56 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and the highest since the first quarter of 2006.
  • CareerBuilder’s annual job survey found that 36 percent of employers expect to add permanent, full-time staff this year. That’s a 50 percent increase over what employers said at the beginning of 2014.
  • Released in early December, Manpower’s Employment Outlook Survey of 18,000+ employers found a seasonally adjusted 19 percent of them plan to add staff in the first quarter alone.

Lady luck indeed. Every startup founder to CEO to CHRO to board member knows (or better know) the right people can mean the difference between boom or bust (including themselves), which is why organizations are moving away from how they source and categorize their people and toward a unified workforce that’s managed for results regardless of employment status. We’re talking full-time folks and freelancers.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), temporary workers currently make up 15 percent of the workforce and are predicted to climb to 20 percent by 2016. In fact, contingent workers can make up more than 50% of the workforce, especially at tech companies, where contractors or freelancers are hired for their expertise. It’s called the “blended workforce,” although more accurately should be called the “fluid workforce” since 40% of contingent workers convert eventually to permanent roles.

Plus, a recent study by the Freelancers Union suggests that one in three members of the American workforce do some freelance work, which does include a higher proportion of younger people. The on-demand economy is crazy hot!

But even with all this exciting and disruptive workplace economic change not seen since the early part of the 20th century, the new how and why of work, the “sourcing the right” skills race continues to heighten dramatically. In fact, according to a soon-to-be-released PeopleFluent talent strategy survey, over 50% of respondent companies said recruiting hard-to-find skills in both leaders and employees is one of main issues keeping them up at night.

That mantra continues with the same Vistage CEO confidence index survey referenced above revealing that the high demand for skilled labor, specifically finding, hiring and training staff, was mentioned about three times as frequently as financial issues or economic uncertainty.

“Try your luck with me – if you can find me!”

The 2014 Candidate Experience Awards report will be released soon (also known as the CandEs), and part of the latest data from nearly 150 companies and 95,000 candidates includes the fact that 30 percent of candidates actively researched and applied for jobs for more than 16 weeks before landing one (or giving up).

Plus, the vast majority of these candidates, the ones that either weren’t selected or simply gave up trying, were never asked for further feedback on the recruiting process, whether they were notified by the company the process was ending or they withdrew on their own. This continues to be a big missed opportunity to better understand what may have been “missed” on both sides during any part of the recruiting process, including the “why” of skills disparity and what both sides should do about it.

The complexity of this situation is compounded by the fact that more and more of the work that “knowledge professionals” deliver will be automated by magic algorithms and software, and skill flexibility and fluidity will be the new currency – constantly being assessed by magic algorithms and software.

“Try your luck with me – please?!?”

So let me wrap it all up now with this idea, one shared with us in full by Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, co-authors of The Cowbell Principle. Yes, a metaphor based on the SNL skit of the cowbell namesake. For individuals, a cowbell is a talent or gift. For businesses, it’s a durable competitive advantage.

The key to happiness and success is knowing who you are and how to succeed with hawking your best stuff. Your cowbell gives your value to people and they (hopefully) love you (and invest in you) for it. But do make sure you target those “investors” that align with your best stuff.

Today more companies are asking candidates to show more of their skills and talents up front in the form of virtual job tryouts, and 25 percent of candidates who responded to the CandEs solved a puzzle, problem or case situation relevant for the job they applied to.

We’re all in this never-ending game of workplace chance and we’ve got to practice, practice, practice our ring tossing to get a ringer. It’s not impossible to win once in a while either – if we continuously develop the skills that are deemed relevant, in demand and economically valuable, and learn how to continuously hawk the hell out of them to maximize our unique differentiating strengths.

Because this workplace merry-go-round ain’t ever slowing down for us carnies.

“Try your luck with us – a winner every time!”

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: mbtrama via photopin cc

The Year Of Living Inspirationally

I checked my latest Instagram/Facebook picture post and one of the comments read: “You really should have your own reality show, Kevin.”

I smiled. KevTV, I thought. Nice ring to it. But no – the movies The Truman Show (1998) and Edtv (1999) and the onslaught of “real” reality TV shows since have turned me off to that prospect. Overexposure and exploitation now, as well before the “Twitters” really took off way back when, continue to raise the bar on offensive banality.

However, I’ll bet some folks who know me well, or not so, raised their eyebrows at my own brand of overly shared social banality (which is thankfully far from being offensive). That’s fine because each of us has the choice to change the channels, right?

Indeed. My latest socially shared channel of late was my own family “Disney” channel when we took our girls to Disneyland right after the New Year. And I shared picture after family picture after funny artsy picture after family picture. Hence the comment, “You really should have your own reality show, Kevin.”Disney Sisters

But that’s not why I do it. At least, not the primary reason. It’s not why I’ve had a fairly regular blog about personal leadership, responsible parenting, and domestic violence awareness called Get Off The Ground since 2007. It’s not why I’ve had my own “world of work” blog called Reach-West since 2010 (and it’s not why I had been blogging years before that with, since 2004 actually). And it’s not why I’m so excited to raise the bar on the recruiting experience in 2015 with PeopleFluent.

All these self-proclaimed accomplishments and accolades don’t mean I’m “Mister Fancy Pants early-adopter and thought leader” (my LinkedIn number from when I joined is over 1 million). Considering my first tweet was on May 11, 2008 – “I’m setting up my Twitter account and have no idea what to do next” – I’ve only wanted to connect, to share and more importantly, to learn before that and ever since.

Which is what led me to TalentCulture and #TChat way back when in 2010. Again, to connect, to share and to learn. Which is also why reminiscing this moment on the TalentCulture #TChat Show with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt, co-authors of A World Gone Social, was so poignant.

Two particular points they made in their Harvard Business Review article titled The 7 Attributes of CEOs Who Get Social Media resonated with me and inspired this piece. Not only for CEOs – for anyone in any leadership position – including leading the social “self,” what I feel is the most important position of all:

They Are Relentless Givers. They give back, they mentor, and they care about real social issues that have nothing to do with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They constantly share what they know, connect others and — often for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do — they do good.

They Lead with an OPEN Mindset. “OPEN” – short for Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network – means that no one person, even the highest-level leader, can have all the answers. Instead, we deliberately build personal relationships with those willing to help us discover the answers, together.

Combine that with what Jeanne Meister, author of The 20/20 Workplace, wrote recently, the fact that we’re all “digital citizens” today; it ain’t just the Millennials digging the social scene. And as a recent MIT Sloan research report showed, 57% of workers now consider “social business sophistication” to be an important factor when choosing an employer.

Each of us can and should be social leaders today in work and in life, relentless givers with an OPEN mindset, commiserating and celebrating with one another in collaboratively creative ways we’d never imagined, even way back in 1999. We should even demand it. That raises the bar on the beneficial.

Okay, but Disneyland? Hey, I like to be liked and I like to have fun with my immediate family and extended family and friends (online and off). That I will not deny. I’d argue that most of us do to some extent, but for me, it’s not contingent on how I choose to connect, to share and to learn. 2015 will be the year that the rest of the world finally starts to catch up with their own social mojo – we’ve already seen time and again how the world chooses and uses social to elevate, not denigrate. The TalentCulture #TChat community never fails to inspire.

And the reality is, I do think that this inspiration will make for a very good year.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: hang_in_there via photopin cc

The 2015 Painful And Pleasurable Prediction

“We can go from boom to bust,

From dreams to a bowl of dust…”

– Neil Peart 

On December 31, 2014, I jokingly predicted on Facebook that the next day would become a new year, maybe even a happy one for many of us.

And lo and behold, my prediction came true, at least the part about being a new year the next day. A happy one remains to be seen…

No, I am no soothsayer or Jedi or outlandish wizard – I am but a mere mortal who occasionally gets visions.

Wait! I feel another coming on. Yes, there it is … oh my, this is a doozy…

How we define and live job and career is evolving rapidly, more than anytime since the 20th century.

Some of you will wake up tomorrow in the “world of work” gainfully employed full time. Others of you will wake up part time.

Both in corporate offices, co-working offices and virtually from almost anywhere in the world.

Still others will wake up temporary workers or freelancers, entrepreneurs or investors, or even stay-at-home moms or dads.

While too many others will (still) awaken unemployed and struggling to stay afloat.

And we will continuously cycle through one or more of these throughout 2015 and beyond…

All kidding aside, change will be constant, painful and pleasurable, simultaneous and relentless.

The signs are all here:

And so it is written, my friends. And so it shall be.

Happy New Year.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: Tim J Keegan via photopin cc

A Wave-Making Christmas Miracle

I still couldn’t believe our car wasn’t back yet. The local auto shop owner shrugged and shook his head.

“Sorry Kevin, but I’m going to have to lock up. I don’t want you to have to wait in the rain either, so I’m happy to give you a ride home. You don’t live far, right?”

I stood right in the front of the garage watching the rain come down and the street beyond for our car to magically appear.

“Can’t you call him? I mean, he is driving my car around to test the heater, right? Doesn’t he have a cell phone?”

I turned back to look at the owner; his tired old face betrayed both annoyance and helplessness.

“No, he doesn’t. One of the last people in the county who doesn’t have one actually.”

Wait, what? He’s driving around in our car without a frickin’ cell phone?

“Wow. I’ve got to have our car back tomorrow. We’re going over to San Jose and that’s the car we want to drive.”

“I promise you’ll get it tomorrow. He always over-diagnoses, but I’ll leave him a note and he’ll call you tomorrow. I promise. I’m really sorry.”

I went back to watching the rain and the street, every pair of headlights passing like an unfulfilled Christmas wish.

“All right. You can give me a ride home. I hope he finds what’s wrong with the heater. But you still didn’t find any leaks where the rainwater might be getting in the car, right?”

“No, I didn’t find any leaks. Again, sorry.”

As the owner dropped me off, I couldn’t get the over-diagnosing out of my head.

The next morning I discovered that the other mechanic, the one who over-diagnoses and who was checking our heater by driving our car around, had called and left me a message about actually fixing our heater, and that we could get our car back if we were available for the next hour – the previous night, of course.

Which we weren’t. But there was no indication that he’d read the note that the owner had left him either. That frustrated me further. After I checked my voice mail, I left the shop my own message insisting that we’d come get the car no matter what and deal with the repair later.

Which we did. And then the mechanic called me late that morning and I finally got to talk with him live. He had gone to the shop after all to wait for us. What he told me changed everything I had assumed from the moment of dropping off our car the day before, and even what I thought I believed before and after the TalentCulture #TChat Show with Patti Johnson discussing making waves for positive organizational change that drive stellar customer service and better business outcomes, however incremental or monumental.

Yes, he took our car out to test the heater and didn’t bring it back until hours after they closed, but he decided to take it to his house to hook up his own laptop, log in to the manufacturer’s site and run his own diagnostic tests. Why he couldn’t do that at the shop, I didn’t ask, but it doesn’t matter now anyway. Not only did he fix the heater without needing any new parts or tearing our dash apart, he also discovered where the leak was and how to fix it, something the owner said couldn’t be done.

It was a wave-making Christmas miracle, this over-diagnosing, to make a difference for one customer, one that will end up saving us hundreds if not thousands of dollars fixing two problems instead of just one, one that will keep us bringing our cars back to our little local auto mechanic shop down the street, rain or shine.

Not the big-business dramatics that we’ve come to expect and read about, but it’s still wave-making that I’m sure keeps their customers coming back year round.

Happy Holidays, TalentCulture #TChat Show Land!

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: tsbl2000 via photopin cc

The Hot Potatoes Of Social Screening

“The vacant laugh
Of true insanity
Dressed up in the mask of tragedy
Programmed for the guts and glands
Of idle minds and idle hands…”

—Neil Peart (musician and writer)

That’s when I saw the photo — a full view of a man’s naked back severely cut open from multiple slashes of some kind of large knife. Before even knowing the context (and not really caring at first), I cringed and rolled my eyes. I’ve seen a lot of inappropriate images online since I’ve been playing and working in online networks, usually the more social of the bunch like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, even Instagram (of course, since that’s where you share photos, and my appropriate share is plentiful).

This one, though, was really offensive, although I didn’t point that out to my friend who shared it, nor did I comment on it at all. I had just been scanning my news feed like I usually do and – smack – there be the gore. The context, which I did take 30 seconds to digest, was a story about a police officer that had been cut up by an assailant (not sure if it was true or not and didn’t take the time to fact check). The slant of the piece was why officers should be allowed to make a split-second decision to shoot an assailant if it’s a life-and-death situation.

My father was an officer and police detective for over 30 years, and he always told me that he’d rather face a “bad guy or gal” holding a gun than wielding a knife, because at least with the gun you knew where it was pointing. One night when I was in high school, my father and mother were leaving one of my football games when he confronted a “high” kid threatening a school official with a knife. My father was off duty and carrying his gun (like he always did), but chose instead to hit the knife-wielder with his camera bag over and over again once the kid attacked. My father was stabbed multiple times and the kid was arrested. Years later the kid-now-adult died in prison from multiple stab wounds.

But that’s not the point of my story.

No, where I’m going with all this is the offensive photo I found in my news feed. And, because of the industry I’m in and the perspective I usually take, I imagined if I were an employer looking at public candidate profiles across social and professional networks as part of my pre-employment screening process, finding these horrible hot potatoes along the way.

The reality is that I don’t have to imagine, since I have sourced, screened and hired multiple positions and team members over the years in my various incarnations, and that includes going online to see what I can find. I mean, where’s usually the first place most sourcers, recruiters, HR folks and hiring managers go today when screening a candidate? We Google them and more, right? And we search for them via social media to see what’s up in the virtual world — even if we don’t admit it (or admit they based hiring decisions on what they find).

The fact is, we can easily find professional or personal information on a job candidate with just a few clicks, and something we talked about in depth on the TalentCulture #TChat Show. However, alongside the ease come real and rising legal risks that employers must be aware of when researching candidates on a social network or through a search engine.

There are certainly both the risks and rewards of screening job candidates online, but understanding the legal considerations facing companies that turn to the Internet to check out job candidates due to privacy, discrimination and accuracy is critical. According to my friends from EmployeeScreenIQ and their The Unvarnished Truth: 2014 Top Trends in Employment Background Checks report (surveyed over 600 individuals representing a wide range of companies):

A substantial portion of respondents (38 percent) search online media for information about their candidates as part of the hiring process. It’s not an insignificant portion, but the vast majority of employers forego this activity. Eighty percent of those who check online sites turn to LinkedIn for information.

Plus, whether or not employers consider Google and other online social and professional network searches “background checks,” the FTC has ruled that some social media data aggregators are, in fact, subject to the same laws as traditional background checks.

Heck, if my friend was a prospective candidate of mine, I would’ve dropped him/her like a hot potato, without question or context. Of course I wouldn’t have documented that decision, since I’m not going to go on the record that I made a potential hiring decision based on what I found online, but nearly 50 percent of those above who said they screen socially drop because of inappropriate photos, and nearly 50 percent are screening via Facebook.

That all said, whether becoming or handling social hot potatoes:

  1. Employees should be much more self-aware of what they share online and why. They should always be vigilant, since they’re always perpetual candidates regardless of role or classification, and no matter how happily employed. Human beings are horrible decision-makers on the average, so making bad judgments of posting graphic photos online because you’re trying to make a point when a future or current employer (maybe one of the nearly 40 percent that won’t like it), or even potential investors if you’re launching your own business, doesn’t matter when they care about or for your point, then you’re forgotten as fast as you posted your point. No longer in consideration. Good luck to you.
  2. Employers should be much more self-aware of their screening processes and who’s screening whom, what, when and where. They should also always be vigilant, since they’re perpetual suitors regardless of the roles or classifications they’re “hiring” for. People are their greatest asset, and their greatest liability. Transparency I believe in, but there’s a reason for privacy and discrimination laws. There are just too many hot potatoes of social screening, so do yourself a favor and underscore your screening process with legitimate pre-employment screening practices that are EEOC, OFCCP and FCRA compliant.

Those acronym hot potatoes will get your company burned otherwise, most likely audited and fined. Then neither of us is in consideration any longer (employee or employer).

Good luck to you. Maybe start using an oven mitt.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

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