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

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