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With a Project-Oriented Workforce, All the Rules Change

August 30, 2000
Related Topics: Benefit Design and Communication, Featured Article
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Remember the days when an HR Manager or recruiter wouldn't think of presenting a resume to a hiringmanager that had less than a four-year track record at any one company listedon said resume?

Well, with the currenttight labor market combined with "time to market" deadlines, that oldrule of thumb has gone bye-bye.

Speaking for the SiliconValley area of California, I can say with a lot faith that we have entered intoan era that I will title "A Project-Oriented Workforce."

It's tough toturn down any technically qualified applicant today.

Take the case of arecruiter approaching a hiring manager and saying something along the lines of,"I'm a little embarrassed to show you this resume, Fran, but they have allthe technical skills you're looking for."

"Then what's theproblem?" asks Fran, the VP of Engineering.

"Well," saysthe recruiter, somewhat hesitantly, "The applicant has spent an average ofonly one year at his last four jobs." Fran grabs the resume, quickly scansit, and says, "Bring him in for an interview, I won't be needing him formore than a year anyway."

What just happened here?

What happened is the VPis on a tight deadline, has interviewed five unqualified applicants in five days,and really doesn't care if this person sticks around after the project is complete. TheVP maybe is a realist and knows that even if the applicant answersloyalty-based questions the correct way, they have also learned to play thegame.

With the "pre-IPO,everyone wants to get rich quick, I want mine now," syndrome working both in ourfavor and disfavor, it's tough to turn down any technically qualified applicant today.

Also, the idea that "pastbehavior is indicative of future performance" when it comes to the lengthof time someone will spend on a job no longer holds true.

Then you have what Icall the "Diversified Portfolio" syndrome. A design engineer can spend four yearswith one company and hopes he hits that "IPO home run" or he can stayat four different companies for one year at a time, vest 25% in each company,and "diversify" his "portfolio."  In case the one company doesn't make it, one of the four is boundto hit the "home run."

All this makes it reallychallenging for the HR folks to put together meaningful programs geared towardlong-term development, not to mention a review process that has the samemeaning it did only a few years ago.

The bottom line is theHR community must educate its senior management team to this reality and makeadjustments. They must either learn to live with this or put a plan in placethat will address not only the "Project-Oriented Workforce," butdecide how it's going to spend its meritmonies, before or after the project is complete.

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