Corporate Eye

Here Comes the Future: Changes Loom on Employment Horizon

Labor shortage ahead! Well, maybe . . .

A recent report from the MetLife Foundation and San Francisco-based Civic Ventures (a boomer-issues think tank) projects that as employment ramps up again, spot labor shortages will begin to appear.  And in ten years or so, there won’t be enough new workers to replace the large number of retiring boomers.

Of course there may be off-setting factors.  More and more boomers are delaying retirement, either because they can’t afford to quit working or because they’d rather work than loll around.  In addition, productivity increases and automation continue to reduce the number of workers actually needed to make the wheels go round–at least in some parts of the world, and some areas of the economy.

On the other hand again, an aging population will require an enlarging pool of health care workers and other service providers.  The MetLife report expects “social sector” jobs (which includes education, non-profits, the arts, and other activities in addition to health care) to provide nearly half of all non-farm job growth in future.

Takeaway? Organizations need to start thinking today about talent management strategies that will work for tomorrow.  For example—some companies will benefit in the long term by encouraging their older employees to stay around, while others need to bring in larger numbers of young workers.

“A Seismic Shift Toward Contingent Labor”

Another warning shot comes from Jeb Evans (AVP of Resource Management at the TriZetto Group) in a presentation at the 2010 Human Capital Summit.   Evans sees contingent workers comprising 20-30% of the labor market over the next few years—and that may well be an underestimation.   This “new norm” has both advantages (contingent labor can be a cost variable when times are lean) and challenges (such as protecting intellectual property).

Takeaway? Many companies consider contingent labor as a necessary evil, and fail to integrate this area into their talent management strategy.  Get a detailed view and some excellent ideas of this topic from Dr. John Sullivan at

The Virtues of Virtual Work

In recent remarks at a forum on Workplace Flexibility, the U.S. president praised trends and technology that support  telecommuting—certainly an important factor in the morphing of the labor picture.  Telecommuting, which lets workers in conventional companies do some or all of their work without physically coming to an office, has been limited in the past to only a few types of workers, but the practice is rapidly expanding to a wider variety of jobs.  And there is a continuing increase in the number of purely virtual  companies that have no centralized office at all.

Takeaway? Recruiting virtual workers presents some new challenges, as well as new opportunities.  Conventional job applications and evaluations are designed for onsite workers and may miss some of the important considerations in hiring people that will make good offsite workers.  So far, the only specialized tool I’ve found for hiring remote workers is LIMBRA’s Virtual Worker System, but I’ll keep looking.


(Thanks to Michael Patterson for the photograph, taken near Heath, Derbyshire, Great Britain.)

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.