Tuesday, Jan 27 2015

Upcoming Trends on the IT Horizon

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Upcoming Trends on the IT Horizon

Technology trends are moving faster than ever. In this age of digital disruption, every company is looking for the “next big thing” in IT—and the ability to capitalize on trends and adapt quickly to change represents the new competitive edge in businesses across every industry.

With the rate of change ramping up faster, what can you expect to happen in IT? Here’s a look at the near future of technology (which, sadly, doesn’t include hoverboards yet) and what your business can do to keep up.

Expanding the SMAC Stack

Relatively new in its own right, a popular trend in business IT is the use of the SMAC stack—Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud. But there’s an even more recent field that’s poised to make huge leaps forward in the near future: the Internet of Things.

Smart consumer electronics, wearable tech, and new business entries like beacon technology (the so-called “indoor GPS” that’s already making waves in the retail space) represent expanded opportunities for companies to increase their competitive edge. By capitalizing on the Internet of Things, businesses can reach potential customers in new ways and bring additional tools to their SMAC stack strategies.

Finding Real Use for Big Data

Big Data is a big idea. It’s not hard to see the potential in having endless streams of information at your fingertips—but the challenge has been mining those streams for useful, actionable data. Plenty of companies have climbed aboard with Big Data and dutifully collected vast amounts of information. However, they often don’t know what to do with it all.

But the increasing availability and accessibility of analytics, along with alternate strategies for mining Big Data that don’t rely on hiring an in-house team of data scientists, have made it possible for more companies to find real-world methods for data extraction and application.

For example, the Boston Police Department lacks the budget for a data scientist—but in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, during which they were flooded with information from social media, they’ve initiated basic data and geospatial analysis that gives them rudimentary use of data for everyday police operations.

Managing the March of the Millennials

The IT workforce is experiencing a similar disruption to the technologies it handles. There are more than 80 million millennials flooding the workforce—and managers who have followed traditional employee practices for years are finding it challenging to deal with this savvy, energetic, and motivated generation.

But for any company looking to survive and thrive, recruiting and retaining millennials is imperative. They’ll make up roughly half the workforce by 2020, and 75 percent by 2025. The good news is that it’s easier than most think to engage millennials. They’re into frequent feedback, they often value great benefits or a dynamic company vision over high salaries, and they like to be challenged.

IT is changing fast. By arming your business with information on the latest trends, and improving your capabilities to adapt quickly, you can navigate through digital disruption and come out ahead of the competition.

What You and Your Recruiter Need to Do Together This Year

Whether you’re actively seeking a job, or just want to have an established relationship with someone who can help you find new employment quickly, having a recruiter on your side can be highly beneficial. There are many advantages to working with a recruiter, including:

  • Typically faster job placement
  • Access to great jobs that aren’t advertised to the public
  • Being referred for positions by someone who has a working relationship with employers
  • Additional resources, such as help with your resume, cover letter, and interviewing skills

In order to make the most of your partnership with your recruiter, there are some things you can do to make the process smoother and ensure great job placements. Here’s what you can do this year that will help your recruiter help you.

Reply to emails and phone calls

This may seem like basic common courtesy, but it’s surprising how many candidates fail to return phone calls or reply to emails from their recruiters. If you’re unresponsive, the recruiter will assume that you’re not interested in the position — and if you habitually ignore or fail to return messages, the recruiter may decide they can’t help you at all.

Recruiters have a responsibility to find great candidates for their paying clients, which are the employers they work with. If a candidate doesn’t return messages or calls in a timely manner, it’s easy to view them as irresponsible or uninterested, which are not  qualities employers want.

Follow up — but not too often

It’s a good idea to stay in touch with your recruiter. Following up on job offers demonstrates interest and helps the recruiter keep track of where you are in the process, and it’s crucial to let your recruiter know when you have a job offer. You may also check in from time to time, such as once a week, if there hasn’t been any recent activity.

However, it’s not a good idea to send your recruiter six emails a day, and call two or three times, to check on a specific position or any opportunities in general. Keep in mind that your recruiter is working with multiple candidates and multiple employers, and will contact you whenever they have something relevant or actionable to share.

Take advantage of your recruiter’s resources

Most recruiters offer more than a job-matching service. Recruiters work closely with many employers, and they’re often able to share resources that will help you improve your resume and cover letter, sharpen your interviewing skills, or even get additional training to qualify for more positions.

In addition to general job-seeking resources, recruiters can provide you with assistance for specific positions. Don’t be afraid to pick your recruiter’s brain and find out as much as you can about the positions you’re being referred to, such as the responsibilities of the job, the company culture, and the employer’s preferences. This will help you perform better in the interview and increase your chances of being hired.

Make honesty your policy

The best relationships are built on trust and honesty, and that goes for the relationship between you and your recruiter. If you’re not honest about your capabilities, your expectations, and your interests, your recruiter can’t help you find the best job for you.

Always be upfront with your recruiter. Offer an accurate picture of your skills and experiences, and don’t lie about your salary in the hopes of earning more. If your recruiter offers you a position that’s not the right match for you, make sure to tell them — and in this case, you may also want to have a conversation about what you’re looking for specifically, so the recruiter can find opportunities that are better tailored to your needs.

Finally, remember that trust needs to extend both ways. Take your recruiter’s word if they tell you that you haven’t been selected for a position, or that a particular job isn’t right for you. Never go behind a recruiter’s back and talk directly to the employer — this will damage both your relationship with the recruiter, and your potential relationship with the employer.

Keep these tips in mind going forward, and you’ll enjoy a smooth and productive 2015 working with your recruiter!

Tuesday, Jan 20 2015

What to Do About Severance Pay

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What to Do About Severance Pay

As an employer, one of the things you may consider doing for your employees is providing severance pay. But what is it exactly, how does it benefit you, and how should you implement a severance pay program that achieves the right goals for your company?

What is severance pay?

Severance pay is money that’s provided to an employee who is leaving the company for reasons other than retirement. Typically, the circumstances surrounding severance pay are layoffs, elimination of a position, and a mutual agreement to part ways — for a variety of reasons. The purpose of offering severance pay is to help the employee stay afloat and maintain a decent standard of living while they’re looking for a new job.

How much is severance pay?

A typical severance pay package offers one or two weeks of salary for every year the employee worked at the company. In some cases, the package is higher — executives, for instance, may receive up to one month’s salary for each year worked.

Some senior positions may have an employment contract that dictates the amount of severance pay. And for some companies or certain positions within them, severance packages can include an extension of benefits and/or outplacement assistance for finding new employment.

Most severance pay packages are given as a lump sum following termination of employment, rather than as weekly payments. This is because receiving weekly payments can make an employee ineligible for state unemployment benefits, or severely reduce the amount of unemployment assistance they receive.

How much are you required to pay?

Currently, there is no law in the United States that requires employers to offer severance pay. The only requirement for paying departing employees is under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires that employers pay terminated employees any regular wages that are due, as well as any accrued, paid time off. This includes vacation time, but not sick days.

The only instance where severance pay is required is when an employment contract or official severance policy is in place. In general, offering severance pay is a goodwill gesture on the part of an employer — and in some cases the offer may be rescinded.

What if your employees try to negotiate severance pay?

Sometimes, most often with employees who have been laid off, an employee may try to negotiate a higher salary or additional benefits than what was offered in the severance package. In these cases, as an employer you would be legally allowed to rescind the offer and refuse to pay severance, since technically the employee has turned down your offer.

However, you may not want to rescind a severance package if the receipt of severance pay is contingent on the employee signing a release of claims — which protects you from any legal obligation or responsibility arising from the employee’s termination. If this is the case, you can either tell the employee that the offer is non-negotiable (usually the best choice if multiple employees are being laid off), or you can consider negotiating, provided the severance package is not guaranteed in writing.

What is a release of claims?

Commonly, departing employees sign a document that releases the employer from all claims as a condition of receiving a settlement package. This release states that you are not liable for the employee’s lack of employment, and frees you from potential future lawsuits. An important note to keep in mind here is that employees over 40 who are leaving the company must sign a separate release for age discrimination lawsuits, which aren’t covered under a standard release of claims.

Providing employee severance pay is a generous act on the part of the employer, and it’s also a means to protect yourself and your company from potentially damaging employee lawsuits. Offering a severance package is a positive and supportive gesture that can build goodwill for your company among both departing and current employees.

Are You Contributing to the IT Skills Gap

With the demand for IT talent rising faster than the supply, most IT managers are aware that there’s a serious disconnect between the skills your company needs for your tech department, and the availability of those required skills among available talent. In fact, according to a recent survey from staffing firm Manpower, 36 percent of employers report struggling to fill their available IT positions. The reasons given are that candidates lack:

  • Technical competencies / hard skills (35 percent)
  • Experience (25 percent)
  • Soft skills (19 percent)

But is there truly a shortage of talent? While it can’t be disputed that the “talent pool” is narrowing as unemployment among IT professionals continues to drop toward an all-time low, the real problem may be a skills mismatch — and as an employer, your recruiting, hiring, and retention strategies may be contributing to the issue.

Here are three common ways employers are making the IT skills gap problem worse, and what you can do to bridge the gap and find the talent you need.

Looking for the perfect match

Just as IT candidates have their dream companies, IT managers have their dream employees — the perfect talent to slot into their open positions. They know exactly the skills, experience, and personal qualities they’re looking for, and they won’t settle for anything less.

The problem is that “perfect” candidates are rare, or even impossible to find. And in your pursuit of perfection, you’re very likely to overlook excellent candidates with skills and qualities that can be molded to fit the position.

When it comes to recruitment and hiring, consider broadening your search parameters. Most often, the major stumbling block for perfect candidates is level of experience. With this factor the issue becomes a talent shortage because other companies are looking for the same qualifications, and the end result is often a bidding war where only one organization wins. Instead, consider hiring younger and less experienced candidates who can be trained to fulfill your expectations.

Not investing in training and education

In the rush to hire new talent, many employers make the mistake of overlooking their existing talent. Employer-provided training is a valuable and viable way to bridge the talent gap — but the majority of employers simply aren’t investing in training programs or opportunities for their employees.

The most recent data available, from Accenture, found that in 2011 only 21 percent of employees reported receiving training from their employers in the past five years. This leaves an astonishing figure of nearly 80 percent who received no training for at least five years, and in many cases longer.

Today it’s common for employers to expect IT staff to pick up new training on their own, or to simply hire new employees with the training and experience they’re looking for. But it can be far more cost- and time-effective to provide training and re-training opportunities for your existing employees in order to fill the worst of the skills gap in your organization. This includes both full-time staff and temporary or temp-to-hire candidates, who may even be eligible for additional training through staffing agencies.

Failing to offer competitive salaries

A high demand for talent, coupled with a low supply, has given IT candidates more bargaining power than ever at the hiring table. Employers who are unwilling to offer salary and benefits packages that are comparable with the latest market rates will lose out to the competition. In fact, the Manpower survey found that while 20 percent of employers said candidates weren’t willing to accept positions at the offered salary, only 5 percent were planning to increase their offers in response to hiring difficulties.

Simply stated, IT managers must realize that higher salaries are here to stay. In order to compete and recruit the best talent, you need to offer what other companies are willing to pay.

Why Mobile Web Purchasing Is Here to Stay

The digital world is in the midst of a decisive shift to mobile devices, and for years the app has reigned supreme. In fact, apps were supposed to effectively bury the mobile web with their superior small-screen interfaces, dedicated presence, and added entertainment value.

However, new data indicates that mobile web browsing has refused to fade into the background and let apps rise to device dominance. Instead, mobile browsing is driving the new mobile economy — and retailers who sell online aren’t doing enough to keep up with the trend. BI Intelligence reports that just nine percent of retailers are offering responsive design for mobile websites, with the majority focusing on dedicated apps instead.

Why apps appear to be winning

There’s plenty of data out there to support the idea that mobile apps rule. Recent comScore research found that 51 percent of all time spent on digital media is spent in apps, compared to nine percent in mobile browsers. Data from Nielsen finds that mobile devices users 18 and older spend more than 30 hours on mobile apps each month — an 85 percent increase in two years. Comparatively, the average time spent on the PC internet per month is 27 hours.

This app-crazy behavior has driven developers to iOS and Android, the number one and number-two most developed mobile platforms, leaving HTML5 (a combination of HTML and JavaScript for hybrid mobile app websites) in third place. And it’s led The Wall Street Journal to declare the death of the mobile web.

However, none of these staggering statistics take into account where the money is flowing from — and when it comes to mobile purchases, it’s all about browsers.

Web-driven mobile cashing in

While the isolate app approach can work as a mobile website replacement for simple sites, it’s simply not viable for larger multi-page websites that rely on search to drive traffic. Data from comScore offers a lengthy list of informational sites that are almost entirely web-driven, including Wikimedia, WebMD, Craigslist, and Answers.com. But it’s not just consumer information that relies on web searches — the list also includes commerce-heavy retail sites like Wal-Mart, Sears, and Best Buy.

Digital market research firm eMarketer reports that in 2014, 58 percent of retail m-commerce sales totaling $57 billion will have been derived from the mobile web, rather than apps. And survey data from ADI finds that 51 percent of mobile shoppers prefer mobile browsers over apps.

Taking your business mobile

Even though the majority of mobile commerce happens through the web, most retailers aren’t positioned to take advantage of this trend. An over-reliance on apps has seen widespread neglect of mobile web development — BI Intelligence reports, in addition to a very low nine percent of retailers offering responsive mobile web design, only 60 percent of the top 100 global retailers have dedicated mobile websites.

In addition to delivering what consumers want, a move toward mobile web design will make Google happy with you, too. The search engine giant is now rewarding mobile-inclined sites as it continues to test labeling websites “mobile-friendly” and using that criteria as a ranking signal.

Companies using mobile responsive design are more likely to be visible to their target audience on mobile, and more likely to increase mobile sales by providing the type of interface that keeps shoppers coming back for more.

5 Biggest Mistakes Technical Hiring Managers Make

It’s hard not to have heard about the IT talent shortage. While many industries are still slowed, or even stopped, due to the effects of the recession, the tech job market continues to grow — and IT hiring managers are struggling to hire the right people. Unemployment is low for the IT industry, and tech pros can afford to be more discerning when it comes to accepting job offers.

With all the challenges that already surround hiring IT talent, you can make your life easier as a hiring manager by avoiding these common technical hiring mistakes.

Mistake #1: Poor job descriptions

The IT recruitment process starts with the job description — and if you don’t have it right, you’re not going to attract the right talent. Accuracy is particularly important for IT job descriptions. If candidates show up expecting to interview for a certain job, only to find the position isn’t as described, they’ll take a pass on accepting any offers.

Make sure your job descriptions convey the nature of the position and the requirements accurately, and as briefly as possible. Skip the laundry lists of every hard and soft skill you can think of — instead, focus on three-to-five core technical requirements, and one or two essential soft skills. The rest of the information you need will come out in the interview.

Also, keep in mind that your job description is selling your company to candidates, so emphasize the benefits and the reasons a candidate should choose to work for you over your competitors.

Mistake #2: Bad first impressions

You know how much significance you place on your first impression of a candidate — so remember that the candidate will also have a first impression of you and your company, and it may be good or bad. When you’re in hiring mode, it’s easy to forget about keeping your best foot forward, and many hiring managers make this mistake.

Make sure you’re dressed appropriately, the overall work environment is presentable, and you have someone to greet candidates and point them in the right direction when they arrive. First impressions definitely count for candidates who have multiple employment options.

Mistake #3: Inadequate interview prep

Just as the most successful job candidates never go into an interview unprepared, the best hiring managers make sure everything is lined up prior to interviewing candidates. On your end, being prepared for an interview means having that great first impression ready, ensuring that your interview team has clearly defined roles according to which parts of the interview they’re responsible for, and letting candidates know in advance what to expect during an interview — including any testing that may be involved.

Mistake #4: Lack of enthusiasm

Just as you want to hire a candidate who really wants to work for your company, candidates want to work for a company that really wants them on board. As a hiring manager, you’re the first line of enthusiasm for candidates — who are hoping to recognize from their interaction with you that your company is a great place to work, and they’ll make a good fit with your culture.

Be conscious of the type of picture you’re painting for candidates during the interview. If you focus too much on the issues surrounding the position, you may end up turning candidates off instead of engaging them. Offer realistic expectations, but at the same time sell the benefits of the position.

Mistake #5: Waiting too long

In slower economic times, hiring managers often have the luxury of taking their time with the hiring process, and waiting to make a job offer until they have multiple possibilities to choose from. But in today’s IT job market, this is not usually the case. If your phone screenings, interview calls, and face-to-face interviews are spread out over a week or two, you’ll find that the most desirable candidates have competing offers by the time they get to you — and you’ll have to work even harder to land them.

It’s a better idea to streamline your hiring process as much as possible. When you find qualified candidates who seem like a good fit, compress the screening and interview process down to a few days. Then, make the job offer immediately when you’ve decided on a great candidate.