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3 Posts tagged with the workforce tag

Three trends are gathering momentum in the workforce. Neither you nor your business can afford to ignore them this year.


1. Diversity Is Destiny


Workforce diversity has obvious business benefits, including in-house access to a varied and broad range of skills and a market presence that says you are committed to acquiring, developing and retaining top talent from every possible source. For companies that strive to become more consistently innovative, diversity is essential to bringing new ideas to bear. And for companies designing apps for a global marketplace or delivering e-commerce services to global customers, having staff that represents the many languages, cultural backgrounds, races, genders and ages your business is trying to serve just makes sense.

But two dimensions of diversity are particularly important to address this year.


First, you must create a workplace that is geared to attract and retain women. For companies seeking a workforce with higher education, women will be essential. In the U.S., the Department of Education estimated that

women earned 62 percent of all associate degrees in the graduating class of 2013, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of all master’s degrees, and 52 percent of all doctorates.

Today, women are educated in higher numbers in most major countries throughout the world, and the gap is expected to grow, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


Second, for more than a decade, Hispanics have been the nation’s largest minority and, by 2050, will represent more than half of the nation’s workforce. In sharp contrast to Gen Y’ers as a whole, our research indicates that Hispanics are particularly likely to be drawn to larger, well-established firms with recognized brands. This cohort will be an important — perhaps even the single most important — source of talent for major corporations over the years ahead. Developing an environment that is attractive to Hispanics should be an immediate priority for every large organization. This will require a mix of traditional values — including well-thought-out career development options and status-related recognition — and forward-thinking practices, such as a wide variety of flexible work arrangements and options for exercising personal choice.



2. Contingent by Choice


More and more people are choosing a contingent work style — that is, temporary work that may be project-based or time-based — over full- or part-time work. The numbers will continue to grow. Yes, some will be involuntary; not everyone can find full-time employment. But, intriguingly, many people are choosing a contingent work style, seeking a better work/life balance, the ability to design their own careers or choose projects of particular interest.


New technologies and services for contingent workers make it easier and less painful to make the choice to go independent. Companies can reach out flexibly to individuals, while new types of talent brokers — such as YourEncore, an online network of retired engineers, or InnoCentive, which offers crowdsourcing services to companies with innovation challenges — connect free agents with project-based work in virtual marketplaces. 


Although the IT industry has used offshoring and outsourcing for years, the benefits for corporations of the growing pool of individuals available on an ad hoc basis are adding up: cost flexibility from adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements; greater speed and agility as talent needs can change on a dime, and a boost to innovation as contingent talent brings in new knowledge and fresh ideas based on experiences outside of the company or even the industry.


To take full advantage of this important emerging cadre of workers,

get rid of any perception of contingent workers as somehow less important, less skilled or less committed

than “permanent” employees. Going forward, employers must incorporate contingent workers in meaningful ways.


3. Meaning Is the New Money


IT work today involves the successful execution of activities that managers cannot prescribe or even monitor. This work asks individuals to deal with rich content that flows through infinite links. Individuals must make intelligent, well-informed decisions about what to share with whom — and what to ignore — with little guidance from the hierarchy to simplify the patterns of interaction.


Perhaps most significantly,

IT work requires high levels of discretionary effort. People have to choose to do the work and have to want to do it well.

They must dig deep within themselves to form innovative ideas and put their best thinking forward.


My research has clearly shown that discretionary effort ties directly to the individual’s level of engagement. Engagement, in turn, occurs when our work experiences reflect a clear set of values that we share. It can’t be mandated or monitored through physical oversight, nor does it respond to monetary incentives. For most workers today, meaning is the new money — it’s what motivates people at work to go the extra mile. Clear company values, translated into the day-to-day work experience, are the strongest drivers of an engaged workforce. By strengthening meaning and increasing engagement, firms can inspire employees whenever and wherever they work.



Tamara J. Erickson is a McKinsey Award-winning author, a leading expert on generations in the workplace, and a widely-respected expert on the changing workforce, collaboration and innovation, and the nature of work in intelligent organizations. She has three times been named one of the 50 most-influential living management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50; has written a trilogy of books on how individuals in specific generations can excel in today’s workplace: Retire Retirement, What’s Next, Gen X? and Plugged In; and is working on a fourth book for the generation under 18 today. Tammy has also authored or co-authored numerous Harvard Business Review articles and the book Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent.


She is the Executive Fellow, Organizational Behavior, at London Business School, where she has designed and co-directs the school’s leadership program for senior executives, Leading Businesses into the Future. She is the founder and CEO of Tammy Erickson Associates, a research-based firm dedicated to helping clients build intelligent organizations. Erickson has also served on the board of directors of two Fortune 500 corporations. She holds  a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.



One question we are frequently asked by the media is: What is happening to data center jobs? As the reasoning goes, cloud computing, automation, outsourcing, data center consolidation and virtualization are conspiring to render data center occupations extinct. The actual data, however, tells a more complex story.


When viewed as a percentage of total IT staff, data center staffing levels appear to have leveled out, following a decade-long decline, and may even be on the rise again. The reason for this is not entirely clear. It may be that we are at the beginning of a very different trend: the build-out of data centers to accommodate even greater computing workloads. Or, it may be that recession-driven cost-cutting has caused a temporary disruption in the longer-term trends.


At Computer Economics, our annual “IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks”  study shows that data center functions survived the global recession just fine. And during the past few years, “just fine” is about as positive as it gets. System administrators, programmers and engineers, as a group, were at the front of the line when it came to job protection. Staffing levels among this group rose from 8.5 percent of the typical IT staff in 2008, to a healthy 10.2 percent this year. Some of this rise is attributable to a decline in overall IT staffing levels. A reduction in the programmers or network personnel in an organization, for instance, would cause data center personnel to look bigger as a percentage of total staff. But that is not the total explanation.


It may be too early to see the full impact of current data center technology shifts on IT employment. During the global business recession, the outsourcing of data center work seemed to suffer a setback as organizations hunkered down, took fewer risks and focused on eliminating all but the most necessary functions, including the very managers needed to reengineer IT processes. Now that IT spending is recovering, organizations may begin in earnest to shed data centers in favor of cloud-based resources. Today’s IT organizations are certainly investing in virtualization of all kinds, and use of Software as a Service (SaaS) is rising briskly.


Change is slow, however, and many of these same trends contribute to improved data center productivity — fewer data center workers are managing more servers, terabytes of storage, and applications. That only enables enterprises to absorb more computing resources. It’s called the law of supply and demand. As the cost of operating data centers declines, organizations can afford to invest in more data center capacity. It is little wonder, then, that system support personnel make up a rising portion of the IT staff today. IT organizations need people who know how to build and support the flexible infrastructure that can embrace the cloud while maintaining critical resources in-house.


We could, in fact, be entering a new golden age of data center employment where productivity gains will be present endless new opportunities for those with the right skills to manage and build virtual, flexible infrastructure and cloud-based resources.


For the time being, the future remains cloudy, but promising for data center employment.



John Longwell is VP of Research at Computer Economics , an Irvine, Calif.-based IT research firm, founded in 1979, that provides metrics for IT management. He is a member  of Smart Enterprise Exchange and can be reached on the site.




For additional Smart Enterprise Exchange content on workforce and employment trends see the Professional Development  track and the following:


Global Workforce Update



Creative IT Hiring Strategies for Net Gen Workers

Women in IT: 12 Tips for Advancement


While U.S. government agencies struggle to compete with private industry for new IT talent, the recruitment situation and its remedies vary greatly around the world. Here is a roundup of a few recent reports tracking global employment trends:


  • Traditional forms of compensation are not the only way to attract and retain employees, according to the Kelly Global Workforce Index released in August. Private employers are also looking for other means to motivate workers. For instance, Gen Y (aged 18-29), as well as Gen X (aged 30-47) are much more likely to be on some form of performance-based pay than those in the Baby Boomer generation (aged 48-65), according to the report. Among those not already on performance-based pay, Gen Y workers —also known by some as the Net Generation or Millennials-- are the most attracted to it.


Additionally, greater ownership in private business can motivate employees to perform at a higher level, with 60 percent of the Kelly survey respondents saying profit-sharing would be a big incentive. Kelly surveyed approximately 134,000 people in 29 countries across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.


The idea of giving employees a “slice of the pie” is gaining in appeal. Almost 40 percent of respondents say that some of their compensation is tied to individual, group or company performance targets. Of those who do not have such an arrangement, more than a third would like to see this practice adopted by their employers.
Geographically, 65 percent of those in the Asia-Pacific region say that profit sharing would motivate them to “perform more productively” — that’s higher than in North America and Europe. Aside from salary, the benefit that rates as most important to Asian employees is training, followed by flexible hours, health benefits, time off and retirement benefits.


In Europe, 78 percent say employers should take some responsibility for employee health and well-being, compared to 82 percent in Asia-Pacific.


  • At the high end of the market, hiring seems to be picking up slightly. Another recent survey, conducted by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) shows that executive-level recruitment this year is rising more than it has in the past 15 months. North America seems to be emerging from the recession “first and strongest,” according to the report, followed by Asia-Pacific and other emerging markets. Europe is lagging, with flat results from quarter one to quarter two this year.


  • Yet when viewed through another lens, the global labor market is worsening. In describing its newest report, the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO), says that the world economic crisis has spurred a record increase in youth unemployment.

    “Global youth unemployment has reached its highest level on record, and is expected to increase through 2010,” the ILO said in the report, ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010. The study was issued to coincide with the launch of the U.N. International Youth Year August 12.

    ILO says that “of some 620 million economically active youth aged 15 to 24 years, 81 million were unemployed at the end of 2009 — the highest number ever. This is 7.8 million more than the global number in 2007. The youth unemployment rate increased from 11.9 percent in 2007 to 13.0 percent in 2009.”


In most regions, young women continued to be the hardest hit by unemployment. Only in what the ILO calls “developed economies” and the European Union were young males harder hit. In particular, unemployed youths in the U.K. and Spain seem to be giving up their employment search in the greatest numbers.

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