Many occurrences are shaping the business, employment and recruiting landscape for 2003. In broad brush strokes, here are the forecasts of what the new year holds for business, recruiting and careers.
The economy is still kicking us in the pants and has been since the third quarter of 2000. It's been getting worse. With so many economic driver manipulations, there's a lot of confusion about which way we're going. Few of the adjustments have been focused on actually generating business expansion. With the exit of two of our prime economic advisors, let us hope and expect to see a more unified use of the tools to unbury us.
The bases of the employment industry are business issues, economic trends and policies, and politics. With that understanding, this discussion will first dwell on the bases and then consider what those indicate as far as what is to be expected in 2003 and how to create individual employment opportunities, as well as how those bases will factor into workplace issues.
These projections are based on interpretations of business, economic and staffing news reportage throughout 2002, reports and surveys conducted by others, and weekly government metric reports throughout 2002.
How Long Until Recovery?
Recovery is going to be weak and long in coming. Coupled with that is the fact that many investors are now extremely wary of what both businesses and government are telling them. Investors, consumers and businesses are being extremely cautious about new spending. This means that salaries will be relatively low all year long; raises and bonuses will be low, if given at all.
New employment numbers will be the same -- low. Employers are making the most of existing resources and cutting costs in order to lower overhead. Those cost-cutting endeavors include terminations, use of seasonal help, outsourcing projects, and having basic, core staff do several jobs. People are generally working longer hours. The typical work week is now between 55-70 hours; some reports show as much as 80. The 35- and 40-hour work week is part of history for now. More compensation will be based on salaried positions rather than hourly in order to reduce the amount of overtime pay expended by employers.
The Internet and Internet Technology is not a short-range phenomenon. It is our jet to the new way of doing business. As such, it will affect all departments of all sizes of organizations. Tech jobs will continue to grow in order to attend to the need. However, expect changes in how the tech jobs are structured. The head of technology at a company will have a large staff but most of it will be contract workers.
Because we're going through our own Crash of '29, there's only one way for us to go -- up. But it will take a long while before we get to up. And we'll need to use a lot of strategies to get there.
Strategies to Get There
There is speculation of whether there will be a war. Historically speaking, wars in recession and depression periods brought unemployment numbers down and appear to have some direct corollation to economic upswings.
If you think about it, there is logic to these phenomena. Those who are looking for work but untrained are drafted. The unemployment numbers are reduced by that amount. Of that number, there are those who require training and skill building, reinforcement or refocusing. We develop a tax subsidized means of retraining via military employment. Those who are now part of the unemployed and removed to military employees are numbers also removed from the draw on homefront resources so that supply is refueled and prices drop to equalize at the new supply-demand level.
When the troops return, they are more seasoned, trained and ready for the public and private workforce that is ready and waiting for them. Demand for supplies increase because of dollars that have been saved during the interim and because supplies are now in demand to fuel the veterans' re-establishment.
Interestingly, the only time in our U.S. history that war was not an answer to nationwide unemployment and economic depression was circa 1820. That depression was severe but was overcome in a relatively short time. None of the research I attempted to do on this provided any information regarding what programs were implemented during that period that were part of the recovery. We would be wise to look to that period to learn the lessons and repeat the process.
We're going to have a renaissance in education. Previously, getting an education was merely a matter of rote learning and then regurgitation of memorized data on scantrons. There is now pressure for quality in learning how to find, interpret and use information in order to achieve a certain goal. Having earned a degree in a chosen field of study will be one of the markers that the candidate is superior to some of their competitors and will be part of the criteria for hiring and promotion. It will also factor into salary calculations.
With regard to education, many are pondering whether they should return to university to obtain (or complete) an advanced degree in order to be more qualified for opportunities. Others are pondering whether a degree of some sort is the answer to getting in the door.
It depends. There are real-dollar costs for pursuing a degree. There are also life costs such as sacrifices in time spent with family or pursuing recreational endeavors. So a weighing process needs to be undertaken to determine whether the present value of dollars and time spent on a degree will yield the desired future value. In the long run, this is a decision that is very personal and governed by too many individual variables to make a call for a group of people.
It is important to remember that although there may not be an immediate (or even long-range) opportunity in one's present situation, that does not preclude the entire marketplace and alternative venues.
However, the important issue here is that we need to keep learning and using that new knowledge to stretch our capacities and keep us viable candidates in the marketplace. The more knowledgeable, better trained will be the ones who advance the most and with the greatest alacrity. One will need to constantly strive to be the very best at whatever the endeavor for only the very best will be considered for any opportunity, whether a new job or a promotion. Sex, race, ethnicity, and other diversity variables will take second and third seat to sharp, executable knowledge and people skills.
A renaissance in work product and quality is also happening -- awareness of the need for attention to details will become more acute as more people rely on their products to serve multiple purposes for longer perods of time. We're going to return to holding standards high -- for work product, customer service, and choosing those who will lead, those who will do the work.