Recruiting can often be a leading indicator of general market conditions and at the beginning of this year the recruiting industry is seeing strong demand. In fact, our business in 2008 is starting with a bang, including a back-log of searches desired by former and new clients. The consulting industry can also be a predictor of technology or discretionary spending by businesses and our consulting clients are starting the year with hiring needs. Even Financial Services businesses, whether consulting firms targeting the sector or financial institutions, are experiencing growth outside the mortgage markets. Pundits may still approach the year more cautiously with broader implications of the mortgage industry meltdown’s impact on the economy though I tend to remain optimistic about the future for the year. The remainder of this article shares my 8 thoughts and predictions for 2008.
1. Strong Hiring
A recent study completed by The Association of Executive Search Consultants states that 75 percent of headhunters in the US share my optimism about a positive outlook on hiring for the year. It is a tighter job market with fewer candidates looking for jobs and quality candidates receiving multiple offers. Therefore, it is important for companies to have efficient recruiting processes. One client lost a candidate over the holidays because it took two weeks to get an offer out. Another company was able to interview and make an offer to the candidate in that two week period.
2. Domain Expertise
Part of the increased demand for headhunters may be the need for specific expertise in executives, whether a specific domain, industry, function, technology, or combination of all. In speaking with a leader at a top 50 technology company, he described that the technology stack was becoming commoditized and that the future was in the applications, getting the right information to people when needed and in ways to address the business issues. Therefore, executives need to deeply understand the customer and their problems. Perhaps that is why we are called in to find specific expertise, whether VP Product Management in Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) or a specific industry background, Consultants with deep knowledge in the payments industry, or VP of Marketing with global consumer brand experience.
3. Software-as-a-Service grows up
With the success of Salesforce.com and NetSuite, the industry has learned to value software providers with pay-as-you-go SaaS delivery models. We will continue to see more applications driven by this payment model. I think that if you follow the evolution of enterprise applications from the early ERP, CRM and SFA applications to other applications that increased specific efficiency or functionality within companies or vertical industries, you may be able to plot out the next hot companies, especially those that can take advantage of the Internet’s information delivery capability.
4. Social Networking with a purpose
I admit that I am not the MySpace/Facebook generation and find that I am no longer the target market for many products and services. I tend to be more the business networking user on LinkedIn or Plaxo. LinkedIn has changed how companies look for talent and business relationships can be formed through the Internet. After joining Facebook, I am still trying to understand the value of connecting with 'friends' I do not know or sharing my personal interests and latest social plans with business colleagues; the two do not mix. Where there is the overlap of personal and business, and therefore value, is the changing landscape for marketing through social networking for reaching this audience. In interviewing consumer branding experts, I am learning the creative ways companies are using new media that reach target demographics to drive awareness, whether setting up characters on Facebook or creatively using gaming for marketing. It is a careful balance of creative entertainment that drives people to openly participate rather than being forced to watch advertisements. We will continue to see new business purpose and applications that drive value from reaching people through social networking.
5. Global Economy
With the Olympics in China this year, growth in China will continue to be in the headlines. I knew that college course learning Mandarin would pay off! Clients have asked me about off-shore including moving development beyond India, navigating manufacturing in China to avoid layers of agents taking their cut, and international marketing. Candidates who have developed a functional expertise across country borders will be in increasing demand.
6. Mobile workforce
Last year I wrote a newsletter on a Case for Flexibility and continue to see employees interested in a more flexible work schedule. Jobs are demanding but Moms, Dads and single individuals want to see a schedule that accommodates life while working. With technology for taking your office to your home or on the road, not just cellular phones and Blackberry, but also web applications like Google Apps, Microsoft Office Live Workspace, or Skype video conferencing, employers should focus less on face-time and more on embracing tools to drive employee efficiency and results.
7. Hot technologies
I see a lot of searches and candidates in Virtualization, especially with competition heating up for VMWare, SOA, Mobile Applications, Media Convergence and Web 2.0. The new generation is a wired generation, just watch any teenager and the speed at which they text or IM. Companies are smart to understand the behaviors of these users to develop mobile applications where the cellular phone and not the computer becomes the dominant platform, or applications that take functionality beyond the home television of today.
Whether baby boomers or the Facebook generation, people have a heightened interest in a company’s role in protecting the environment. Companies who embrace this, whether in their product offerings (think the boom in alternative energy companies or environmentally friendly packaging) or how they protect and conserve natural resources (think solar power or carbon offset credits), will have a distinct advantage in hiring over companies without a stated green policy. Companies must, however, be authentic in this approach or people will see the duplicity and the strategy could backfire.
We will see how these trends play out in 2008. We can all hope that my optimism with the economy rings true!