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Welcome!

We work in a contemporary world. A world where things are changing — whether it's when and where employees are working, how employers are handling their human resources or the constantly changing trends — the world of work is moving and shifting. And as wacky as that world can be sometimes, it's also fascinating if you have the right guide.

This blog is designed to be just that — a companion on your journey through the changing world of work. Here you'll find tips, tools and information on topics as diverse as the workforce itself: the aging workforce, working women, professional etiquette, generational diversity, the talent crunch, and more. So whether you're an employer or an employee, and whether you're beginning or close to finishing your career, I hope you find the information here useful for navigating the contemporary world of work.

Thanks for reading and have fun!

Melanie

Appreciation

This week at ManpowerGroup we’re celebrating the workforce. 

In these uncertain economic times, those of us who are working have reason to celebrate ourselves, but employers who have the talent they need to get their work done should be celebrating as well.

So if you’re an employee, make sure you are conscientious, work hard and add value to your job.  And if you’re an employer, say ‘thanks’ to your associates — without them you would not be serving your customers or filling orders.

Jobs picture

I had a lot of fun last Friday being interviewed during a call-in talk show on KPCC — an NPR station in Southern California.  The subject was Another Side of the Jobs Picture…   The purpose was to discuss whether or not there truly is a skills mismatch or shortage.

Based on ManpowerGroup’s recent research, we see that there is.  52% of the employers we interviewed are having trouble filling key position.  The counterpoint to my point was a woman from the UCLA Institute for Research on Jobs and Employment.  She tried to argue that there was no evicence of a talent mismatch — but I didn’t feel her arguments were very strong.

And those who called into the radio program — and most of those who have commented on the story — agree with me.  Employers are having trouble finding people with the skills they need.  And employees who have been well trained and who have the education required for today’s jobs are finding they have their pick of positions.

So what do you think?  Is there a skills mismatch?

Common core standards

Last week I spent a few days in Orlando at a very interesting meeting.  The GE Foundation convened a relatively small group of business leaders, not-for-profits, and state and federal Department of Education folks to talk about Common Core Standards for College and Career Readiness.

First, about the K-12 Standards.  Here is the mission:  The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

The Standards developed so far include math and literacy.  Forty-six states have pledged to adopt the Standards by 2014 and the New York school district has been in pilot stage.

Second, this is big!  It will dramatically change K-12 education for the better (in my humble opinion).  One thing that I particularly like about the initiative is that it focuses on mastery of skills — not just knowledge and memorization.  It goes deep into smaller bits of information before moving on to the next, more complex concepts.  That’s the good news.

But the bad news is, curricula will change.  Teachers will have to be trained.  Assessments will be more meaningful, but the scores — particularly early on — may be lower.  Parents will have to get on board.  School Administrators will lose some autonomy.  The list of challenges goes on and on.

My interest in the initiative echoes that of the GE Foundation as well as all the business leaders  present at the meeting.  We are facing a talent shortage right now and we know it will get way worse before it gets better.  Every business and every community needs a career-ready workforce, so we need to do everything we can to help young people prepare for either a sustainable job or post-secondary education.

So finally, do me a big favor, please.  Watch for news of this initiative in your local community.  Learn everything you can about it.  Then support it!

What reason?

Lately I’ve been hearing myself say “things happen for a reason” a whole lot.  Perhaps it’s my health issues that make that phrase come up.  Or maybe it’s aging — maturity might make us more accepting of bad things that happen.

But as I’ve thought about the phrase and how often I say it, I’ve pondered its meaning for me.  It’s not that I’ve given up responsiblity for things that happen.  Rather, the bad things that challenge us can, indeed, make us stronger.  I’m in charge of how I handle those bad things — I can choose to react negatively and make myself even more miserable, OR I can figure out how to find something positive in the challenge.

So next time something bad happens to you, ask yourself, “what’s the reason?”  Then, work hard to make it positive.

Summer reading

First, I am totally addicted to my iPad (for inside) and my Kindle (for outside).  I’m over the ‘I need to hold a book’ issue.  And, I suffer from book anxiety.  If I don’t have several books waiting in the wings, I get really nervous.  So the ability to buy a new book anywhere and at any time is comforting to me.

Second, I’m not much of a non-fiction reader.  Having said that, I’m reading a lot of Bill Bryson this summer.  I’ve never read more compelling non-fiction — Bryson could make the phone book interesting (and I’m not kidding!).  So far I’ve read At Home: A Short History of Private Life and A Walk in the Woods.  Waiting in my elibrary are Shakespeare: The World as Stage and I’m a Stranger Here Myself.  I highly recommend anything Bryson has written.

Third, I’m a fiction junkie.  I’ve read a ton of books so far this summer — I go through at least one per week.  My favorite was The Art of Racing in the Rain.  I’m a dog person, so the dog’s perspective made the book very special to me.  But it is the well-written, compelling story with a message that puts this book on my list of top ten favorites of all time.

I’d be interested on others’ top ten favorites.  Mine change all the time, but currently they include A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay), The Passion (Jeanette Winterson), East of Eden (John Steinbeck), Time and Again (Jack Finney), Life of Pi (Yann Martel) and anything by M.F.K. Fisher — to name a few.

Finally, I’m currently reading Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.  It’s part of her Outlander series — a series of seven historical novels with an interesting time-travel twist.  (I’ll also mention that they include several ‘bodice ripper’ scenes that all will enjoy.)  Drums… is the fourth in the series and I’m comforted by the fact there are three more to go.

Somehow I find the time to get in most of the reading I’d like to do (and sometimes stay up way too late to do it).  I actually don’t know what I’d do without reading — perhaps I’d have to watch more Real Housewives on TV!

Bubbles

I just read an interesting and very entertaining post on Forbes.com called How to Fail at a Job Interview.  The author has three bits of advice for job seekers:

  1. Don’t miss the point.  Skills and abilities are the ante that gets you the interview.  According to this author, once you’re in the door people hire you because they like you.  I agree to a point.  What scares me about what she wrote is the last part of that advice about why people like each other and get hired… ”Why?  Because she reminded me of me.”  If all we hire are people who remind us of ourselves, we’re missing the whole point of diversity — we should consciously look for people who have different ideas, thoughts and perspectives.  Those people may not remind us of ourselves, but they will make for a better team.
  2. Don’t sell yourself wrong.  This advice was framed around an interview with a stripper (yes, a stripper) and the point is a good one.  Read your interviewers and give them what they want.
  3. Don’t be a sucker.  And the final advice is one I can relate to.  I can be a sucker because I really, really want people to like me.  Her point is — particularly aimed at women, but for all readers — don’t sell yourself short.

Interesting, entertaining post that is worth reading and will make you think.

3rd Quarter results

Today the ManpowerGroup released the Employment Outlook Survey results for the third quarter…

  • 20% of the 18,000 employers we interviewed in the U.S. plan to add to staff between July and September.  You could call this good news for those who are looking for work.
  • 8% plan to reduce their workforce.
  • 69% expect their workforce to remain the same.  This is good news for those of us who are currently employed.
  • All 50 states show a positive employment Outlook.
  • Nine of the 13 industry sectors are looking to hire.

The good news — this is the largest percentage of employers planning to add staff since the fourth quarter of 2008, the positive trends are widespread AND we’ve seen seven straight quarters of employment growth.

The not-so-good news — while this is a good trend, the increases aren’t quite as robust as we’d like them to be.  So while I’m tired of being cautiously optimistic, that’s where I remain. 

Cautious!

Get that degree

I had the honor and the privilege to attend the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s (MATC) GED graduation ceremony last week.  Fourteen hundred high school equilivancies were conferred.  A few observations and comments:

  • Fourteen hundred!  That’s both good news and bad news.  The bad news is that so very many folks didn’t graduate from high school in the traditional way and 1400 is just a fraction of those who are in the same boat.  In fact, every four seconds of the school day, someone drops out of high school!  The good news is 1400 people saw the value of education and found the discipline and courage to do something about it.
  • The age range of those at the ceremony were from early twenties to very late middle age.  As I sat on the platform watching the graduates walk across the stage, I couldn’t help but wonder about each individual’s motivation.  I was particularly curious about the older grads — was this something they’d always regretted and finally decided to do something about it?
  • I also attend MATC’s regular graduation ceremonies twice a year.  The graduates are always filled with pride and excitement about their accomplishment.  But the grads last week were particularly proud and they weren’t ashamed to show it.  There was dancing, prancing, raised arms and huge smiles as each was handed his or her diploma.

It was an inspirational evening.  I am proud to be associated with MATC and most particularly proud that these 1400 grads now have a fighting chance — to get a family-sustaining job and/or to go ahead into a post-secondary field.

Congratulations grads!!

Very interesting

Recall I was interviewed for a Scrippsnews story on the upcoming spelling bee — and the importance of correct spelling.  The article is very interesting — take a read:  Spelling not always on the mark throughout history.

Better?

A recent Staffing Industry Analyst Daily News article Yes, I could do my boss’ job better, talked about a recent Monster survey.  In the survey, 67% of respondents say ‘yes.’  And a resounding 33% go as far as saying their boss is totally incompetent.

This makes me sad and a bit scared.  I actually don’t think I could do my boss’ job better than she can.  We all have different skills and strengths — hers fit her role and mine fit mine.

So lets quit whining and figure out ways to work together, to capitalize on either others’ strengths and to help our organizations succeed.