January 18, 2019

Talent Wars

Talent Wars

For many of our clients, hiring is a major challenge right now. With unemployment at a 50-year low, and the number of open positions now bigger than the population of Americans with no jobs, it’s gotten harder to find great people – and hold onto them, although there may be some very good government workers looking to join the private sector in the not-too-distant future. We’ve been reporting on this trend in the Marcum Commercial Construction Index for many consecutive quarters.

It can be especially challenging for middle-market firms. They have to compete with the Googles, Amazons and Facebooks of the world for talent, often with much tighter budgets for salaries and benefits.

Although more work can be automated today than ever before, employers can’t just hire robots. There are still many, many jobs that only living, breathing humans can do. And most leaders won’t hire just anyone. They only want to add enthusiastic, high-energy, A-players to their teams.

Because of this, I predict we’re going to see more companies and organizations getting very creative in how they find top talent. Conducting part of the job interview by text messaging is now catching on, as recruiters try to speed up the hiring process. Some tech companies, like IBM, are waiving the requirement that candidates have four-year degrees, and are instead looking for hands-on experience from a vocational program or coding boot camp.

I see many companies trying another strategy: looking outside of their home markets to remote workers in other states. With videoconferencing, Wi-Fi and other low-cost technologies getting better by the day, it makes a lot of sense for companies to consider a job applicant who’s willing to work remotely from a state where there’s less competition for talent.

Hiring virtual employees isn’t always possible, of course. In manufacturing and some of the other industries we serve, employers are searching high and low for people with the training to operate sophisticated industrial machinery. This is a recurring theme we see in the quarterly Marcum CEO Survey. Talent recruitment consistently ranks as the number one priority for C-suite executives who respond. More of them are investing in worker training and, essentially, creating their own talent pools. This is great news for factory workers who want to learn more and advance in the field – and the best way for their employers to compete with technologically advanced rivals. No matter how much you invest in the best machinery, it won’t run itself.

Having a well-educated workforce comes with other advantages, too. In accounting, where continuing education is required, we make a very sizable investment in training and advanced education through Marcum University.

Marcum is also a big proponent of flexible work arrangements, as some of you know, precisely to make sure that talented people continue their careers at Marcum with the work-life balance that works best for them. We offer every conceivable option – seasonal work, part-time work, core hours, 40-hour/4-day weeks, and sabbaticals. You name it, we have it. And we’re always willing to listen to suggestions from our team on new arrangements we haven’t thought of yet.

Regardless of how challenging it may be to hire today, I always remind myself we’re better off having to raise our recruiting game as employers than we would be in a period of high unemployment. Most of us who were working during the Great Recession remember when unemployment hit 10%. I’ll take the 3.7% we have now. That means the American consumer has money to spend and invest – which is always good news for the economy.

Monday we remember Martin Luther King, who blazed a path in the 50’s and 60’s, giving many today opportunities Dr. King only dreamed about. He was taken much too soon, but certainly left his mark.

Next week also has me in Las Vegas for two meetings. One of our international associations, Leading Edge Alliance, is holding its managing partners’ meeting early in the week, followed by Winning Is Everything, one of the accounting profession’s major annual conferences, where I’ll be speaking Wednesday afternoon.