People Report Summer Camp analysts discuss workforce forecast

June 7, 2011 | by Kim Williams
People Report Summer Camp analysts discuss workforce forecast

Joni Thomas Doolin, CEO and founder of People Report, welcomed the People Report Summer Camp "campers" during her conference opening speech June 8. The Workforce Symposium is happening June 7-10 at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre hotel.

The Symposium was created for service sector human resources (HR) leaders and operators and also incorporates marketing and digital branding professionals to facilitate brand positioning in the social media and technology-charged post-recession marketplace.

"I've been thinking a lot about why our time here together matters," Doolin said. "It starts with change. The reality is that the pace of change is accelerating. And one of the reasons we're here is to keep up. We want to know what we should be doing."

Doolin said that as a result of the rapidly changing marketplace and the ever-expanding ability to connect and engage via technology and social media, service industry HR professionals have to learn to respond to the shifts.

To illustrate her meaning, Doolin presented a slide of eight companies that have gone bankrupt or are currently in bankruptcy since last year's event. The list included Barnes & Noble, Hollywood Video, Blockbuster and the National Enquirer.

"Ok, the folks at Blockbuster, they knew it was coming. But, do you think Barnes & Noble knew it was coming?" Doolin said. "Do you think they admitted, even a year ago, how they thought the Kindle was going to impact their business? We are in a fragile economy."

While Doolin noted that the economy is in recovery, she stressed that economists are predicting why we won't see a full recovery by or even going into the year 2014. In regard to job losses, the underlying factors she outlined were an aging workforce, in which a generation that should be retiring is unable to, and other global economic issues.

"Why, all of the sudden, do we have to care about the economy in Greece?" Doolin said. "But, you will find it is supported almost entirely by a service sector economy, they have years of unsustainable labor practices, they have an aging workforce and a crumbling healthcare system. Sound familiar?"

Citing a recent inbox message from LinkedIn, Doolin discussed the job shifts she noticed among her connections. Out of 1,000 people on her LinkedIn account, about 20 percent changed jobs in the past year. Reasons varied, but most often the reasons involved dissatisfaction with engagement and employment pressures.

"There's still so many people out of work, and turnover is low, so we don't think we need to care about these workplace issues. We just think we need to get more people into our restaurants. Well, we do need to care," Doolin said.

HR professionals needed to stop relying on historical figures and statistics and move to the predictive forecast. Based on the changes that have taken place in the economy, the typical metric models are broken, Doolin said.

"This is the biggest reason why HR and marketing are here together in the same room. You don't change the culture until you change the stories," she said.

People Report 2011 Workforce Forecast

Michael Harms, senior business analyst, and Victor Fernandez, executive business analyst for People Report and Black Box Intelligence, discussed predictions for the rest of the year in the restaurant service sector.

"Consumer confidence remains relatively low, and will continue to be low throughout 2011. We're still facing a weak economy, and there are still problems in a lot of markets out there. Consumers aren't going to step up and spend in a way that we haven't already seen in the last year or so," Fernandez said.

Harms said that while comparable store prices are expected to be positive, gas prices and commodities will eat into profit margins. Compensation for executives is trending upward in terms of base salaries and bonuses, and staffing levels at the unit level will begin to stabilize. Turnover is expected to slowly increase as a result.

"The employer market is over, especially at the management level. Employees have a lot more options, so keep your eye on them because they are voting with their feet," Harms said. "Voluntary turnover has been increasing and will continue to do so."

Harms added that recruiting difficulties, immigration issues and healthcare reform will continue to provide challenges for HR. He also warned the audience that if they ignore technology, especially social and mobile in the workplace, it will be at their own peril.

"If there's one word that I think describes technology, it is 'disruptive.'" Harms said. "It's constantly changing the way we communicate. It's blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives, but if you can ride the wave and harness its power, I think you'll see some real benefits."

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Human Resources, Staffing & Training

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