Multiple Trends Affecting Career Trends In Digital Era

As the digital age takes ever deeper root in our lives, the interconnectedness that it brings is having a profound effect on careers. The digital age is closing the window on some opportunities while opening unexpected windows of opportunities elsewhere for those perceptive enough to recognize them. Anyone interested in starting their working life, continuing a career, or repurposing himself or herself to start a new job, will want to keep up on the current activity in the workplace. Here is a summary of many of these key trends.

Freelancing Becoming Normalized

Until fairly recently, you would only rarely encounter someone who worked at home as a freelancer, contractor or consultant. That is changing in a hurry. There are already 17 million freelancers in America, and it is now estimated that this number will grow over the next six years to the point where they will outnumber full-time employees. In the future, people will raise their eyebrows upon encountering someone who works in an office, rather than in what will then be the more traditional home-based setting.

Employers are warming up to the use of freelancers because of the financial savings they secure by avoiding any need to pay benefits, including the famous Affordable Care Act penalties. Companies also like having the option of hiring experts for a limited time and for a specified project. The result is driving professionals as well as workers in more traditional contract positions back to their homes to make money.

Multiple Trends Affecting Career Trends In Digital Era

Healthcare-Driven Changes

As touched on above, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is having a measurable effect on employment patterns and practices. Employers who have over 50 employees are subject to the provisions of the law, and they are delaying hiring decisions as a result. The law is also expected to accelerate a shift to contingent workers and workers employed for less than thirty hours per week.

Slow Economy Slowing Careers

The multi-year lagging economy has by now also had a harmful effect on career prospects across the board. While corporate stock prices are up, some of the related gains in productivity have been the result of tech-driven efficiencies that have reduced payrolls. The hardest hit are Millennials, who sport the highest unemployment rate of any age demographic. And for those Millennials who do find work, it is taking them four years longer, on average, to achieve the same income, inflation-adjusted, as it took their parents back in 1980.

While a college education used to ensure employment and the ability to move up in one’s career, today’s bachelors degree is serving only the purpose of yesterday’s high school diploma, assuring employers that a candidate is literate and reliable, but often not offering proof of expertise in a particular field.

Gender Gap Closing

On the bright side, the current trends are successfully closing the famed gender gap in employment income. After controlling for other relevant factors, including the differential arising from the decision of many women to interrupt their careers in order to start a family, there is now only a 2 to 3% difference between men and women when it comes to pay across all age demographics.

Moreover, the gap is expected to shrink as Millennials continue to increase as a percentage of the workforce. This is because many of the trends operating within that generation strongly favor gender equity. Among these are the increase in the number of women receiving higher education (women now outnumber men in undergraduate enrollment), and the fact that an increasing number of Millennial men are deciding not to participate in the workforce.

Out With The Old, In With The New

The baby boomer generation has passed through American life like a large meal through a python, and this demographic is now beginning to retire. Nearly a fifth of these workers will exit the workforce within five years, and of course it is the Millennials who will be replacing them.

This will bring major changes to the national workplace, as companies scramble to adjust their workplace needs to the available talent pool, which will need to scramble as well to acquire the skills that are needed. The opportunity, and the need, for inter-generational mentorship will be great as the baton is passed to a new generation of workers.

Filters Are Not Just For Coffee Anymore

With the supply of labor outpacing demand, hiring managers are facing a blizzard or resumes in answer to their job listings. Their response has been to develop software screens and filters that analyze the resumes before they do, and of course the filters screen out many of them. A human resources filter can, for example, remove all resumes that contain no college graduation information. This process can become quite granular, with the result than many applicants must struggle just to get their resumes in front of a pair of human eyes.

Social networks are also being used by employers to recruit employees. Hiring managers now routinely examine candidates’ LinkedIn profiles, and a Google search of the applicant’s name is not out of the question either. While this may seem like an added obstacle, applicants are able to turn this to their advantage by consciously cultivating an online presence that employers will find attractive.

Bad Habits Make for Expensive Employees

Employers have done the numbers on employee health, and have come to recognize that their employees who pursue unhealthy habits are costing them a bundle. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act allows employers to use financial rewards and penalties to encourage healthier behaviors among their employees. The trend that will emerge from this is already clear. Like it or not, employers will increasingly use both carrots and sticks to secure better personal behaviors from their workers.

The Only Constant Is Change

The trends outlined above offer some insight into the extraordinary period of change that the world of work in undergoing. For those who are sufficiently nimble, and sufficiently informed, these trends will offer more opportunity than peril. As in other eras that saw their own share of unexpected alterations in the employment landscape, the only constant is change.

Human Resources Not Immune To Tech-Driven Changes In Corporate World

In the slower-moving corporate environment of the pre-Internet world, as dramatized by the show Mad Men, the Human Resources department was little more than an administrative unit, responsible for calculating and cutting paychecks, and keeping track of vacation time. All of that is changing in the new landscape that is being shaped by the interconnectedness of the digital age. The result is that HR departments now have the power to greatly help, or greatly hinder, corporate performance. For those who want to keep up with this emerging paradigm, the situation is worth examining.

Personnel Is Policy

The environment in the global marketplace is growing ever more competitive, and the need to adapt to changing market conditions caused by the digital era is growing ever more critical. As a result, firms are increasingly reliant on key personnel within their organizations to drive innovation and profitability. That is where the HR departments that find and hire these workers enter the picture.

Observers of the corporate world are calling for companies to recognize, and to elevate, the strategic talent management and organizational design functions of HR departments. In some cases, the advice extends to separating those critical functions from the traditional administrative functions performed by HR, which include managing employee benefits and insurance coverage, compensation, training, and development.

Blast From The Past

In the corporate model of the past, the HR department would be responsible for reviewing resumes and for arranging interviews. Executives in other departments, however, had ultimate hiring authority, and Human Resources did not have that much of an ability to affect corporate performance. As a result, it simply wasn’t necessary for HR personnel to understand the core workings of the company and its competitive position.

Trapped In A Silo

It was also true that, until recently, a career path in Human Resources generally led to a “siloed” career. HR was like the Hotel California, as described in the famous song by the Eagles – once you enter, you can never leave. Workers who joined that department remained in it for their entire careers. While talented workers might rise within HR, they were not likely to be brought to other departments. As a result, there was little interaction between HR and the rest of a company on strategic issues.

Survey Data Confirms New Trends

Workforce.com collected survey data by holding a consortium at which representatives of eleven large corporations participated. The survey asked the participants to rate HR’s role in positively affecting their firms’ performance in relation to nine major business trends. The trends included globalization, generational diversity, sustainability, social media, big data, and gamification, among others.

The survey results indicated that there was a broad consensus that HR departments needed to devote more resources to understanding these emerging trends and developing talent recruitment strategies that included them. The survey participants also saw value in HR departments reaching out beyond their traditional roles, and in communicating with government, regulators, and investors in order to better perform the critical role of talent acquisition, development, and retention.

Employee Feedback Function

HR departments also had a useful function as sounding boards for employee complaints and/or suggestions, the survey results suggested. Because the HR department’s staff routinely interacts with employees face-to-face, and on a continual basis, Human Resources personnel know more corporate gripes and gossip than do the members of any other department. By skillfully and diplomatically bringing this information to the attention of management, unpopular, unproductive, and counter-productive company practices and policies can be examined and addressed. The survey participants agreed that no other department was truly in a position to perform this task.

Big Data Able To Unearth Big Talent

One survey participant, representing a financial firm, stated that the firm traditionally hired only top-tier university graduates with top grades as its sales people. A big data analysis conducted by the firm, however, revealed that grades and school quality were not particularly predictive of success in a sales role. Six other factors were found to be more predictive of success in sales, and the firm as a result shifted its hiring practices to favor those factors over grades and school quality.

Should human resources departments be performing such big data analyses in conjunction with their hiring practices? This is a question corporations are increasingly asking themselves, and more and more of them are answering in the affirmative. Other corporate departments, they are concluding, are simply not as good a fit for this function.

Traditionally, the HR profession involved application of psychology and anthropology. Big data analysis of human performance in different roles represents an updating of those older fields of study. It seems ever clearer as times goes on that HR departments will need to incorporate these academic disciplines, together with big data analysis, in order to develop the ability to tell valuable stories using information, in a way that will drive their companies toward increasing success.

You Need Talent To Recognize Talent

Today, the digitally driven trends that are reordering the corporate world are making recruitment a critical corporate function. CEOs in survey responses are acknowledging that talent is a key factor in facilitating, and in some cases limiting, growth and profitability. And it is the HR department that must identify, recruit, and retain that talent.

In order to revamp HR departments to support more effective and competitive organizations, HR staff members need to possess the same degree of business competence as employees in other departments routinely have. HR workers need to have marketing and finance expertise, for example, along with expertise in the firm’s core business.

This will permit the HR department of the future to participate in corporate strategy, and will empower the department to recognize, identify, and recruit the key talent that their business requires to succeed. Students of this corporate field are also calling for the HR department, or at least its non-administrative portion, to be headed by a chief organizational effectiveness officer, who should report directly to the CEO. It’s time, these observers, say, for HR to have a seat at the table.

Becoming An Employable Job Candidate In The Digital Age

In the old days, which were only a few years ago, you would go to college if you could, and when it came time to look for a job you would type up a resume and mail it off to a few companies. Eventually, someone in your field would call you in for an interview, and if you showed up on time and dressed in a suit, the job, or a similar one a few weeks later, would be yours. How times have changed.

Becoming An Employable Job Candidate In The Digital Age

Today, the resume is just one part, even if it is still a critical one, of an overall profile that employment candidates need to create for themselves. Employers are looking well beyond the resume and into candidates’ online presence, and candidates need to be aware of this trend as they prepare themselves for the job market. Let’s look at what’s been going on.

“Reputation, Reputation, Reputation”

Cassius’s lament, in Shakespeare’s Othello, over the loss of his reputation is one that job hunters would do well to heed. One new trend in employee recruiting involves hiring practices that are based on outcomes. In other words, they are looking for candidates who already have a strong track record of performance in their field. This of course raises the question for newcomers of how they are supposed to acquire experience when no one will hire them without it.

Becoming An Employable Job Candidate In The Digital Age

One answer involves internships. New candidates should be open to the idea of paid internships as a means of developing experience and a record of achievement. As to unpaid internships, it depends on your field. The argument that such internships are exploitative may be compelling, but when you have an equally compelling need to build a work record, it might be worth it to accept such a position.

The Great College Shake-Out

While approaching many employers for entry-level office work without a college degree will be a futile exercise, the world of higher education is itself set to undergo some of the same large-scale changes that the rest of society has been undergoing in the digital age. In fact, it’s a wonder that universities have been able to avoid these changes for so long.

Some colleges, for example, have begun using online technology to “flip” their classes, arranging for students to receive class lectures online, and using class time to discuss the material that the students should already have absorbed. This is part of a process that is already beginning to affect job searchers. As the digital era renders college more efficient and affordable, students who previously could not aspire to a college education will be able to obtain one.

Eventually, the college shake-out may result in a much more a la carte college experience, with students able to combine coursework, much of it online, at the university in which they are enrolled, with cheaper credits from community college and perhaps even from MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) that are often offered free.

Even more importantly, employers are beginning to shift to an acceptance of skills-based certifications as a substitute for coursework. These certifications, after all, offer proof of an acquired skill, rather than mere evidence of an acquired grade. It is never too early to begin to take note of these changes, and to plan accordingly.

Human Resources Departments Need Their Own Human Resources

Careers in human resources are sought-after by many new entrants in the job market. The field enjoys above-average salary levels, and is among the more stable corporate careers that can be pursued. Moreover, the sector is set for growth in the coming years, assuring the availability of numerous openings for those who will later wish to seek mid-career advancement either within a company, or through a lateral move. Here’s some advice for readers who are interested in pursuing such a career.

Human Resources Departments Need Their Own Human Resources

Learn HR And Also Learn About An Industry

Human Resources workers generally pursue an established course of study in college that is geared toward the requirements of that field, and that includes study of employment law, employee benefits calculations, and employee recruitment, retention, and management. What today’s human resources professionals also need to bring to the table, however, is an in-depth understanding of their employer’s business.

Human Resources Departments Need Their Own Human Resources

HR specialists need this additional training in order to assist their employers in talent recruitment and management functions that are increasingly industry-specific. The staffing of key personnel is becoming a critical factor that is impacting corporate competitiveness in the new interconnected age, and HR departments are being called upon to respond with appropriate and innovative solutions.

Each Challenge Is An Opportunity

For job applicants, this offers both a challenge and an opportunity. As a result, if you are still in college, and your major is in HR, you may want to consider pursuing a minor in a specific field in order to distinguish yourself from other HR applicants to that industry, and to offer additional value to your future employer.

Job Searching Now A Perennial Occupation For Millennials

In every challenge lies opportunity, and this holds true in the employment context as much as in any other. Job searchers who have not been able to land that first good job can always benefit from advice that helps them understand the task before them. Here’s is perennial advice for Millennials.

Think Outside The Box

New graduates are often focused like laser beams on the field that they have studied. This may cause them to rule out peripheral job opportunities for which they are perfectly well qualified, and that may offer more opportunities for career growth as our new, digital economy unfolds. Often applicants in preparing themselves for one type of work find that they have inadvertently prepared themselves for another field, and that second field may be the one marked for growth in tomorrow’s economy.

Be Even More Proactive

Employers want to hire people who will solve a problem they are having. Candidates who cast themselves in the role of problem-solver will get the most favorable attention. One route to success here involves studying the target company, so that in a cover letter or interview, you can explain how your skills fit their needs. Remember, with employers, it’s all about them. And it should be.

Keep Up With Current Trends

While Millennials may be attuned to the latest in tech gadgetry, and valued by employers for those skills, keeping up with business trends is equally important. New fields of endeavor are opening up just as quickly as older ones are falling into disuse, and only the informed will be able to capitalize on these changes.

Job Searching Now A Perennial Occupation For Millennials

Nearly half of employed Millennials confess to occasionally conducting job search activities while that are at work. This shows that the problem of getting and keeping a job is not restricted to the currently unemployed. For those of you who are still looking, be flexible and open-minded, don’t lose heart, and don’t give up.