The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret
While the delay in posting our January jobs forecast is causing a bit of anxiety, the elevated stress levels have been greatly assuaged by the fact that cause of the delay lies the unprecedented demand we’ve seen for our core recruitment advertising services. Not only are we coming off the most successful year in our company’s history, but January also marked the most successful month ever for LinkUp, with paid search revenue jumping 20% from December and 60% from January of last year. And while I’d love to say that our growth can be entirely attributed to market share gains resulting from our highly unique and wildly compelling value proposition, at least a minuscule portion of the phenomenal growth has resulted from an improving job market and rising labor demand among U.S. employers.
Quite appropriately given the horrendous carnage of the Great Recession and the anemic economic recovery we’ve suffered through over the past few years, the nearly 3 million jobs added to the U.S. economy in 2014 have certainly captured the headlines of late. It’s certainly been a long time coming, so it is with great joy that we again post a few charts to further elucidate (and celebrate) the job growth we’ve seen over the past 12 months.
In 2014, the U.S. economy added an average of 242,000 jobs each month, a 25% increase over the 194,000 monthly average in 2013.
Job gains averaged 726,000 per quarter in 2014, and following a bit of a slow start in Q1, job gains steadily rose through the year. Employers added 819,000 jobs in Q4, although with revisions for November and December possible tomorrow and again for December in March, the Q4 numbers won’t be finalized for another month.
Unfortunately, however, we saw a decline in the number of job openings on LinkUp’s job search engine in November (-12.7%) and December (-2.4%). As a result of those declines, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a downward revision for November and December in tomorrow’s jobs report. And regardless of whether or not that occurs, because of the decline in job openings that we saw in December, we are forecasting a net gain of only 212,000 jobs in January, a weaker number than consensus.
The positive news, however, is that job listings in our job search engine (which currently lists about 2.8 million jobs indexed exclusively from 50,000 corporate websites throughout the country and internationally) rose sharply in January. New job openings rose 18.7% and total job openings rose 8.3%. Based on those gains, our preliminary forecast for February calls for a net gain of 362,000 jobs (our February forecast could be revised when we get additional data for January and February at the end of the month).
Drilling down into our data on a state by state basis, it’s clear that gains were spread throughout the country. Also of note, the precipitous drop in oil prices clearly is having an impact on labor demand in North and South Dakota, the only two states to show a decline in total job openings.
The gains in new and total job openings look similarly robust when looking at the 31 job categories that we track in our search engine.
So despite what may be a slightly disappointing Non-Farm Payroll (NFP) number for January in tomorrow’s Employment Situation Report, we remain confident that sustained strength in the labor market will result in very strong net job gains for the first quarter.
The open-office design made popular by tech companies like Google and Facebook recently has been met with some backlash. What was believed to create an innovative and collaborative work space is now being criticized for being too distracting and ultimately inefficient.
Is it no longer a positive thing to have an open office? With an estimated 70 percent of offices in America adhering to an open-office design, this is the million-dollar question. However, the answer is not so black and white.
LinkUp moved to an open-office environment about a year and a half ago, and in that time we’ve learned a few things. The benefits are huge, for one. Collaboration is up, team members know each other well, creativity flows freely, and there is noticeably more energy each day. But with the open office come many distractions, and those can be a big drawback.
No system is perfect, but we ultimately think the benefits far outweigh the distractions. We’ve found that by working with employees to find solutions and help them remain productive throughout the day, we’ve curtailed the majority of issues. Here are the top six things employees and businesses can do to keep focused and productive in an open-office setting:
1. Wear headphones
Some people thrive off the hustle-and-bustle noise of fellow workers, others not so much. For those who do enjoy more active surroundings, there are times when it’s necessary to cut down on the buzz. That’s when noise-cancelling headphones are your best friend. Wearing headphones is also a subtle way to tell co-workers you’re on task and would prefer not to be disturbed.
2. Encourage employee tunes
Let employees stream the music of their choice to their headphones. Some might prefer all-instrumental and jazz, others rock or hip-hop. Just like many doctors play their favorite music to help them focus during surgery, letting employees listen to their preferred tunes can increase productivity.
3. Set up IM and lean on email
Of course if something is urgent, we can all agree that walking to someone’s desk to have an in-person discussion is a priority. This isn’t, however, necessary for all communication. Set a policy stating that non-urgent communication should be sent via email or instant message instead of interrupting the workflow.
4. Designate spaces for privacy
There will inevitably be times when coworkers will want to have privacy when conversing. Have public spaces with closed doors that can be accessed by all. At LinkUp, we have several rooms where employees can engage in private or important conversations without worrying about someone eavesdropping.
5. Make time for no interruptions
No-interruption times should be a part of everyone’s daily calendar. Employees must have the freedom (and confidence) to tell co-workers politely that they can’t talk and will respond later. Some employees even use “do not disturb” signs at their desks, which can be effective as long as they are not abused.
6. Telecommute when necessary
When there’s a really big project or tight deadline looming, it can be beneficial to work from home to eliminate all in-office distractions. Supervisors should be open to telecommuting when the situation calls for it and set a policy that everyone can follow.
How healthy is your office? If you’re reading this hunched over your computer, munching on a sugar-laden vending-machine snack and unsure of when you last took a break, you’re probably thinking not very.
While we all have our days when working through lunch and extra cups of coffee become necessary to hit deadlines, it definitely shouldn’t become a habit. When managers do this often, it can set an unreasonable precedent for employees who think they must do the same. Not only can this create a toxic work environment where employees put their physical health at risk, but it can also mean greater disengagement and dissatisfaction.
Creating a healthy office culture starts with the leaders of the organization. From simply being a good role model to proposing company-wide initiatives that encourage employees to be more healthy, there’s plenty of ways to transform a sedentary culture into one that embraces wellness while working.
Getting push-back from upper management members who think health initiatives could be a distraction from work? Here are three can’t-be-ignored reasons why healthfulness and work go hand-in-hand:
1.Company health: Healthy workers are more productive workers! If that’s not enough, consider how reduced doctor visits and hospitalizations will affect the cost of the company insurance policy next year.
2. Personal health: Employees want to feel like their employer truly cares about them. Health and wellness initiatives make a bold statement that personal well-being is a priority for the business. Loyalty will follow.
3. Teamwork: New programs can boost camaraderie and help co-workers get to know each other better. Health initiatives offer a creative, fun way to encourage teamwork and a healthier lifestyle.
Convinced? Now take action. Consider these five super-simple hacks for creating a healthier office culture:
Create an office challenge
At LinkUp we just started a new activity challenge that’s really got everyone motivated. We’ve split into two teams and whichever team gets the most cumulative steps by the end of the week has to buy the other team lunch. This would be an easy initiative for any office to do; simply get pedometers and start keeping track! We are only half way done and nearly half-a-million steps have been logged. Go team LinkUp!
Transform the break room
Vending machines are an office staple, but it’s important to offer a variety of healthy options so people have the opportunity to snack wisely. Contact the vending-machine provider if your selection needs a refresh. Better yet, provide healthy snacks at no cost to employees. Foods like nuts, whole-grain crackers or dried fruit make great options. Consider offering decaf coffee and caffeine-free tea, too.
Encourage biking to work
In Minneapolis, we love to bike; yes, even in the cold weather. In fact, the city is rated as the #1 biking city by Bicycling.com, thanks to 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street bikeways. But no matter where your company is located, you can encourage biking by adding bike storage racks and designating closet space for biking gear. You might even start a biking club for group rides after work!
Promote healthy activities on breaks
Breaks are important because they allow you to decompress, plus they give the body a break from being behind a screen. Get a group together to go shoot hoops once a week. Or, start a 10 a.m. walking club where people gather to walk outside for 15 minutes. Is an employee a certified yoga teacher? See if he or she will lead an intro class, and if there is enough interest, consider making it a regular occurrence.
Look closely at the environment
It’s not just physical activities that benefit employee health, of course. The work environment itself can be a positive influence. First, make sure employees use an ergonomically correct office space. Add some fresh plants, touches of color and as much natural light as possible. Finally, ask employees what they need to feel healthy at work. Their answers will likely include simple things, like a new chair or keyboard, but these just may have a dramatic impact on their long-term well-being.
In many industries, it’s common knowledge that if you want a big pay raise, you’re probably going to have to look for a new job with a new company. Even after years of loyalty, companies tend to underestimate the potential of internal staff and instead hire external candidates whose skills, they hope, will bring new energy and productivity to the team.
But is this strategy paying off for companies, or is it better to promote from within? Furthermore, how do these actions affect existing staff who get passed by?
A fascinating study, titled “Paying More to Get Less” and published by Administrative Science Quarterly, found that although external hires are paid about 18 percent more, they scored worse on performance reviews and were 61 percent more likely to be fired from their new jobs than their internally promoted counterparts.
Every situation is unique, of course, and there will be times when no internal candidates are qualified for a particular role. If there are hardworking employees that could be a potential match, however, it appears that any hiring manager who overlooks them would be making a big mistake. Even if fresh candidates are highly qualified in regards to the skills they bring to the table, it can still take one to two years to get up to speed with important components of success, such as trust, relationship building and aligning with the corporate culture.
While the allure of bringing in new blood in hopes of revitalizing a team can be difficult to resist, it’s important to look at all your options in order to make the right decision. Here are four ways that internal candidates trump external talent:
Productivity: Internal employees already know the company and its procedures. Even if some training is required for the new positions, they will be more productive more quickly than a fresh face.
Reputation: You already know this person’s work ethic and how he or she collaborates with other employees. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of an employee ahead of time is a huge asset.
Cost: In addition to often paying more for salary, there is also added training and lost productivity to consider. This means it often costs a company much more to hire externally.
Loyalty: You know internal staff are more loyal because they have a history with the company. Hiring from within boosts morale for the whole team; hiring externally can cause worry.
These compelling reasons aren’t just valuable for companies, they can be great points for employees who want to make the argument that they are the best candidate for a promotion. If you want to be considered for a job opening, have a candid talk with your supervisor and/or head of HR. Bring hard numbers about your productivity, know why you want the position and mention your tenure. These things alone can make a compelling case.
What about getting paid less than an external candidate to do the same job? It’s a topic that should be addressed head-on. Existing employees should have the confidence to negotiate salary if they are applying for a new internal position. You might already know the pay scale based on the job posting, so make sure you get an offer within that range. If that information is not advertised, research what people in that position are getting paid in the local market, and share those numbers to back up why you feel you’re worth more. Remember, you are your biggest advocate for a promotion and adequate pay, so make sure to share your thoughts in a professional manner.
It’s no secret that searching for a new job takes a lot of time and energy. Beyond dedication and determination, finding a new position often requires a financial investment as well. So how much cold hard cash do you need to land the job of your dreams?
While the numbers vary from one person to the next, here’s some insight into the expenses that many people incur as they seek out a new job:
Resume writing services
A resume is a critical marketing tool when finding a job, so some people decide to hire a professional to create their resume to ensure it’s in tip-top shape. Costs vary depending on factors such as the writer’s experience and the time required to complete the project.
Travel and lodging
Likely the most common expense of job searching, the cost of travel and lodging can vary greatly. Whether you’re paying for gas to drive across town for multiple interviews or footing the bill to fly across the country to meet an executive team, it can add up very quickly.
With so many workplaces moving to a more casual dress code, you might find yourself short on options when it comes time to dress up for an interview. You want to make a good impression so you pick up a new suit or other type of professional attire.
Feeling stuck? Career coaches can give you third-party insight that can revamp your career. Their services can be particularly helpful for some during the job-hunting process, but good ones come with a cost similar to hiring a lawyer.
Cost: $1,500 – $10,000 (for senior executives)
Outplacement services help laid-off employee find new positions. Services can include career counseling and job-hunting assistance. While some people decide to pay for these services themselves, a previous employer may foot the bill as part of a severance package.
Cutting costs and giving yourself an edge
As you an see, it can be costly to try to find a new job while attempting to stand out from the competition. And these numbers don’t incorporate the cost of lost wages if you’re unemployed. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can manage these expenses.
1. See what you can get for free
If you’re fresh out of college, the school’s career center will likely offer many of these services for free. For others, some community organizations make services like these free or highly discounted to those actively searching for employment. Your local library is a great resource as well, plus you’ll find free WiFi. A small bit of research can save you a big amount of cash.
2. Shop around
If you’re looking to hire services for things like resume writing or career coaching, take time to shop around. Everyone’s rates are different. You want to hire someone you can trust with experience and a reasonable rate. Some people might offer discounts for special circumstances, such as if you are a veteran. If you’re not finding what you need, leverage your personal and professional networks instead of hiring out.
3. Know your tax deductions
There are a variety of tax deductions that you might be able to claim to reduce job costs. Things like travel, outplacement agency fees, and even the cost of mailing resumes may be deductible if you are looking for a job in your current field. To determine your deduction, use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The amount of your miscellaneous deduction that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income is deductible, according to the IRS. Learn more at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Job-Search-Expenses-Can-be-Tax-Deductible.
Earlier this week when we published our forecast for Friday’s December jobs report and I sent out a few Tweets with the always-entertaining hash-tag #NFPGuesses, Joe Weisenthal of Bloomberg asked what our track-record was in forecasting the monthly jobs numbers.
I provided him with a brief response that we were off 1.9% from the YTD BLS numbers, but indicated as well that I would write a blog post that provided a bit more detail regarding our 2014 track record in forecasting the monthly jobs numbers. As such, I will provide no additional commentary, but rather simply publish below the charts and graphs that we maintain to track the accuracy of our forecasting model.
YTD, we are off 1.9% from the BLS Data as compared to the Bloomberg consensus estimate which is off 13.4%.
The monthly data provides additional detail about our variance from BLS.
We also give ourselves a monthly grade based on not only the quantitative measure but also the narrative around each of our forecasts each month (which can be found in our monthly forecast blog posts). This is obviously hugely subjective and completely self-graded, but it does provide some insight into how we assess our own track record each month.
And as far as tomorrow’s Employment Situation Report, our forecast is quite a bit below consensus. Although our 170k call is not the lowest, we are definitely an outlier on the downside. With the ADP and jobless claims data this week, it’s anyone’s call what kind of number we’ll see tomorrow.
If it’s time for your annual review, it probably goes something like this: you meet with your supervisor in a private room, he or she rates your performance using a variety of scales, you talk about where you need to improve in the future, and at the end you learn if you get a pay increase.
It’s no wonder most workers dread this process!
Beyond being ineffective, annual reviews can actually have many negative consequences. These one-sided conversations can diminish the employee-manager relationship and reinforce hierarchy within an organization. Traditional reviews often don’t give employees any helpful information about about how to do their jobs better, nor do they motivate them to strive for more. They can hurt a team’s dynamic and its ability to work cohesively, cause unneeded stress and often leave employees feeling unappreciated.
Annual reviews are like an ancient tradition. We keep doing them, but we really aren’t sure why except that it’s what we’ve always done in business. But more and more people are arguing it’s time for a change, and there are many alternatives for innovative companies willing to think outside the box.
Alternative methods for reviewing employee performance
Start a conversation between HR, management and any other important parties about the effectiveness of the current system. Then brainstorm how it can be improved. This might entail an overhaul that completely abandons annual reviews. It also could mean a fresh approach to the current process to make it more effective and more likely to produce a positive outcome. Here are three ideas to get “the talk” started:
1. Why annually?
Employees work all year long – why are they reviewed just once a year? Build a better relationship between employees and managers by having one-on-one meetings more regularly. For some companies this means once a month and others once a quarter. Additionally, always maintain an open-door policy so things can be discussed even when a meeting isn’t scheduled. Additionally, kill annual performance raises and instead adopt merit raises that can be earned at any time, not just once a year.
2. Key in on collaboration
Skip whatever rating system your company has and make reviews more conversational than judgmental. Be honest with employees, and let them voice both their joys and concerns at work. You both should talk about the job and where improvements can be made; two people working together in a trusted manner can uncover some truly remarkable things. Be a coach and work on how you can strengthen your team and build up morale and engagement!
3. Make reviews a team effort
Traditional reviews can seem pointless to employees because they come from supervisors who are not really in touch with what they do on a day-to-day basis. While meetings should still be led by managers, why not ask for feedback from the team beforehand? Peer review can be powerful, plus it’s a meaningful way for others to show their positive feelings about the employee in addition to any areas for improvement. Best practices are to keep peer feedback anonymous so it’s most useful.
Do you work at a company that has a modern take on the annual review? How do you feel these approaches benefit employees and the company as a whole?
Will you be making New Year’s resolutions for 2015? While 50 percent of us make resolutions each year, just 8 percent are actually successful at achieving those goals. This year, it’s time to do something different.
When it comes to your career, there’s no better time to take stock and set goals than the start of the year, but that doesn’t mean setting the bar so high that the outcome is virtually impossible to achieve. These 10 resolutions will supercharge your career and position you for success in the new year, and the best part is they are so simple, they are practically fail-safe.
1. Update your professional online profile
Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Get one. Have one but never sign on? Resolve to do so regularly and become an active member. Update your information, load a fresh head shot and strive to make connections or post at least once a week in the new year.
2. Join an industry association
Become a member of a local industry association and start networking. Make it your goal to attend events at least quarterly. Perhaps you’ll learn new things and meet new people who can help you advance your career and grow your reputation.
3. Define career goals
In college, you had a map for completing your degree and you assessed it regularly to ensure you were on track. Now that you have a career, when is the last time you defined goals and paths for achieving them? Ask yourself where you want to be professionally in one year and five years, and brainstorm ideas for getting there. Write it down and reference it throughout the year!
4. Be proactive and ask for new responsibilities
It’s easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut at work, but that often doesn’t grow your skills or put your name at the top of the promotion list. Resolve to be proactive and ask for new responsibilities rather than waiting to be told. Your initiative will get noticed, plus you can propose projects of interest to you so you are more engaged with your work. Lead meetings, publish an internal newsletter or start a company book club; the sky’s the limit.
5. Brush up on skills
You don’t necessarily need to head back to a university to further your education, just look at non-credit career courses through local colleges, industry associations and even community education sources. A few affordable classes can boost your career development and give you an edge in the workforce. Bring it up to your boss and your employer might even pay for it!
6. Embrace criticism
Some of the most successful people are those who embrace criticism rather than getting defensive about it. When someone tells you about a mistake your made or how you can do something more efficiently, keep an open mind, be thankful for the critique and learn. Criticism is not the enemy, and when used correctly, it can be an big ally in growing your career.
7. Use your PTO
Think this will be an easy resolution to keep? Studies show that more than 40 percent of American workers do not plan to use all of their PTO. Time off provides important mental and physical breaks from your job, so use it when needed; it’s part of your compensation package, after all.
8. Be more visible
Aim to be more visible to your boss and within the organization as a whole. Resolve to get more face time with your supervisor and be more active at company events. Contribute input at meetings, attend social gatherings and offer to organize company functions. Consider again employee programs you previously dismissed, such as group luncheons, mentoring opportunities and company-sponsored clubs.
9. Complete tasks before deadlines
Meeting deadlines is a critical part of doing your job well, but what if in the new year you try to complete tasks early? This initiative is sure to get noticed among colleagues and supervisors. While not always possible, plan ahead and meet goals early in the new year for a big career boost.
10. Praise others
From the over-achieving intern to the sales lead who just closed a killer deal, make it your goal to praise others more often while at work. This will help bring you closer to your colleagues, increase collaboration and get you more respect. Plus, a positive attitude is contagious, so you may just find your work atmosphere a bit happier in the new year; you’ll be the one leading the way.