To start a story with numbers is not a wise idea or it is never fun and is never interesting and exciting. But let’s start with numbers, anyway. We will make it interesting and exciting! How many lives does a cat have? The popular myth is that a cat has nine lives. Some say it is not always nine lives, though. Some believe cats have seven lives and some believe cats have six lives! Regardless, the cats have more than five lives- that is a lot of change! Now, let’s play another similar number game. How many times an American worker changes her job in her lifetime? It used to be seven times in one’s lifetime when an American worker changed her job. But that was a generation and half ago. The average worker today stays at each of her jobs for an average of 4.4 years, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half of that, 2.2 years, and what about the Millennials?
According to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @Work”, a survey of 1189 employees and 150 managers, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. These numbers mean that they will have 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives. WOW, 15-20 job changes in the lifetime of an American worker! How will the recruiters and the Human Resources Managers reconcile with such a high employee turnover and with such a short tenure for each employee?
It is well known that the Human Resource Managers and Recruiters screen out frequent job-hoppers and look for new talent who can offer longevity. It takes money and time to train new employees and losing them in two years or less is certainly an HR nightmare! However, there is also an upside to job-hopping according to a research paper entitled “Hiring, Promotion, and Progress: Millennials’ Expectations in the Workplace” from St. Olaf’s Sociology Department. Their research says that frequent job changing and getting a promotion in the process allows Gen Y employees to avoid the “dues paying” that can trap workers in a painfully slow ascent up the corporate ladder. Job-hopping can also lead to greater job fulfillment, which is more important to Gen Y workers than it was to previous generations. Let’s look at some more numbers!
Out of the more than 300 million people in the US, around 250 million of them are over 16 and, of these, approximately 150 million are employed at any one time and around 10 million are looking for jobs or are unemployed at any one time. About 1.8 million are graduating every year with a bachelor’s degree and another one million with Masters and PhD. Add to that around one million with Associate degrees and another one million with certificates of various kinds, there are about five million ‘new’ people entering the labor force every year. Add to that another one million high school graduates as well. Let’s do some more addition and add to that hundreds of thousands of immigrants from various countries and cultures with all kinds of degrees and certifications! The total number of ‘new’ people entering the work force can be anywhere between six and seven million every year. Then there are approximately four million people leaving the workforce every year for various reasons from retirement to health issues or for some other reason.
These are the numbers we need to focus upon to evolve the story- the number of people entering the workforce every year, the number of people looking for a job every year and the average number of years the new workforce will stay at a job. These numbers are easy numbers to remember just like the answer to the question- how many lives does a cat have? All these numbers are creating one gigantic and huge number- the number of job searchers, the number of resumes needed to be processed, job interviews, background checks, drug tests, certificate verifications and all of these on a global scale! This gigantic number is going to be a trillion or more globally and in hundreds of billions in the US alone in terms of information points touched and explored.
Wait, there is one more and a much bigger force shaping this fast evolving story. That force is being driven by commoditization of Human Skills. Commoditization of Human Skills is not a new force or a new phenomenon, it started with the Industrial Revolution in Europe and has continued, since then, unabated. Instead of steam engines taking over the physical muscle power, we now have a very high degree of automation of business processes and a tsunami called Massive Commoditization is soon to arrive at our shore when Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning systematically begin to show their capability to massively mimic Human Skills on a large scale! This is the mechanical aspect of commoditization. There is one more powerful aspect and that is the flow of labor from economically less developed countries to developed countries and the flow of work in the reverse direction. These labor and work flows help and will continue to accelerate further commoditization of the skills of the workforce in the US.
This story comes to a point where one must ask- How will a Recruiter and the Human Resource Manager will probe the professional authentication and integrity of a potential new hire on a global scale? How will they increase the probability of a new hire staying with the company for more than the average of 2.2 years? How will they add value to the institutional memory of their companies by ensuring employee longevity? On an operational level, how will they reduce hiring and recruiting cost? How will the Chief Human Capital Officers will add greater strategic value to their companies if they and their staff are always in a perpetual hiring mode? These are very important questions whose answers will define and shape the new business processes enabled by new sophisticated tools and systems for exploring and probing professional authentication and integrity of new hires much before they become new employees on the payroll.
This human workforce story has one more interesting twist- how will the workforce prevent or slow down the commoditization of their skills throughout their working lives? Let’s try to understand this in greater detail. As applied to products, commoditization is a transformation of the market to undifferentiated products through increased competition, typically resulting in decreasing prices for the product. While in economic terms, commoditization is closely related to and often follows from the stage when a market changes from one of monopolistic to one of perfect competition, a product essentially becomes a commodity when customers perceive little or no value difference between brands or versions. Artificial Intelligence(AI), Machine Learning(ML), Natural Language Processing(NLP), Labor and Work Flow in and out of an advanced economy like the US are all creating a perfect tornado-ic condition to commoditize the US workforce. How will the US workforce will create a new paradigm to elevate its ‘small differences’ to differentiate itself from the tsunami of AI/ML/NLP and increasingly global labor force?
James Surowiecki in “The Commoditization Conundrum” talks about "the narcissism of small differences." How will the workforce bring about and bring out the ‘narcissism of small differences’? In an odd way, the more similar products (and people) become, the more telling the little differences among them end up being. Branding successfully, in other words, can turn a small difference between products (and people) into a huge difference in market share and market place. He further notes, “…commoditization does its work not by becoming a reality (which would entail ever-shrinking margins and stagnant stock prices) but by remaining a perpetually present threat. It's the idea that perfect competition might be just around the corner, not the competition itself, that keeps the paranoid prosperous. And alive.” Just like product branding where billions of dollars are spent every year to differentiate competing products, ‘Personal Branding’ will be the key motive force in the new world for the workforce.
Here is where, in an ever changing world, a Blockchain-based, decentralized and a 100% tamper-proof ecosystem could be of help in a big way! Stay tuned.