“Digital solutions ninja” may sound like a more exciting job than “tech support,” but do quirky job titles like these attract or repel candidates? Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman highlights some research that suggests the latter:
According to jobs platform Indeed, the top five are genius, guru, rockstar, wizard, and ninja. The winning titles were identified as the most common “weird job titles” as calculated by the share of postings containing them over the last two years. Rockstar, in particular, has grown in frequency by 19%, followed closely by guru, although the latter has lost some steam as it’s declined by 21%. Ninja itself is experiencing a slow assassination, declining by 35% since its peak in March 2017. But does the quirkiness really result in surfacing qualified candidates?
Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of HR at Indeed, thinks they just serve to confuse people. “When you do your [job] search,” he contends, “you’re not going to put ninja” in the search box. “Companies use these to express what their culture is like,” Wolfe concedes, “but there are other ways to get that point out.” Career pages on a website that contain videos, photos, and other descriptions of what it’s like to work at the company are a better vehicle than a cutesy title.
A 2016 survey by Spherion came to a similar conclusion about these too-clever-by-half job titles, finding that many employees consider them unprofessional and not descriptive of what they actually do. Even more ordinary titles like “specialist” or “project manager” are often seen as too generic.
In 2014, when CEB, now Gartner, last took a deep look at employer branding, we concluded that companies needed to shift their strategies from branding that attracts candidates to branding that influences their career decisions, encouraging the right candidates to apply as opposed to the most candidates, and directing others elsewhere. At the time, most companies were receiving a high volume of applications and needed to to use their branding strategy to separate the best from the rest.
Today, the circumstances have changed: Applicant volume has declined, but the candidates companies need are becoming harder to find. In 2016, 39 percent of all job postings by S&P 100 companies were for just 29 critical roles, including technical occupations like software developers and information security analysts. Competition for critical talent is only projected to get tougher in the coming years, as the growth of aggregate demand continues to outpace supply.
At the same time, we’ve seen an explosion of investment in recruiting technologies and an expanding number of candidate-focused platforms. These include employer rating platforms like Glassdoor and Comparably, as well as skill-based communities like Github and Stack Overflow. With the proliferation of these resources, candidates are exposed to a much larger amount of information about their prospective employers, most of which is out of those organizations’ hands. Today, 80 percent of the information that influences a candidate’s decision to apply comes from external sources such as these platforms and social media, and only 20 percent comes from employers themselves.
At our ReimagineHR conference in Washington, DC, on Thursday, CEB advisor Dion Love led a panel discussion with Michael Cox, SVP of Talent Solutions at Comcast, Susan LaMotte, founder and CEO of the employer brand and talent consultancy Exaqueo, and Jim McGrath, talent acquisition executive at Danaher, on how organizations need to re-strategize their employer branding for this new recruiting environment.
The latest “Getting Paid In America” survey from the American Payroll Association finds that 63 percent of US employees consider higher wages more important than better health benefits—more than the number who said so last year:
“A wage increase is easy for workers to understand. The value is clear and immediately apparent,” said Mike Trabold, director of compliance risk for Paychex. “In 2017, considering today’s unpredictable regulatory environment, the same can’t be said for better benefits.”
The annual APA survey asked, “What’s more important to you, better health benefits or higher wages?” Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated higher wages are more important than health benefits. The number of survey participants with this preference rose 12.5% from the 2016 results for the same question, which indicated only 56% of employees shared this sentiment.
Even if health benefits are less important than wages to American workers, our research at CEB, now Gartner, shows that they are still a priority. In fact, according to our Global Talent Monitor data, health benefits are the second most important attribute for US employees considering a potential employer. The first is compensation, which is consistently the leading driver of attraction worldwide.
On Thursday, the Wisconsin State Assembly was poised to approve a $3 billion tax break to incentivize the Taiwanese multinational Foxconn Technology Group to build a display panel factory in the state. The deal, which still must pass the state Senate, would see the electronics giant invest as much as $10 billion in Wisconsin and hire as many as 13,000 people, but it has proven controversial, with opponents saying it isn’t worth the cost.
Another objection opponents raise is that with an unemployment rate of just 3.1 percent, Wisconsin doesn’t have enough workers to fill thousands of jobs. “Which is why,” Bloomberg View columnist Conor Sen infers, “the Foxconn strategy is really a bet that Wisconsin can recruit workers from other states”:
Illinois’s unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. Ohio’s is 5 percent. So the bet Wisconsin wants to make is that it can recruit a high-profile factory, which will draw in factory workers from other states, and that movement will have a multiplier effect creating even more jobs, leading to even more recruitment of workers from other states.
US states have long used tax and regulatory policies to differentiate themselves and attract business investment and talent—or to attract talent in order to attract businesses. With the US labor market the tightest it has been in a decade, states now face the same challenge as employers, of courting scarce talent by offering the right set of incentives. Sen points to Maine, where local employers and Governor Paul LePage are looking at ways to bring back natives of the state who have moved away:
Discussing a recent report from Guardian Life Insurance Company, SHRM’s Stephen Miller examines the case for using voluntary benefits to compete for and retain part-time employees and independent contractors. Noting that most part-time workers lack employer-sponsored health care plans, retirement plans, or other core benefits, Guardian suggests that voluntary benefits can be a good way to help address these employees’ needs:
Under a voluntary benefit program, the employer offers workers a menu of benefits; employees pay for the ones they want through payroll deductions. The employee pays the cost, and the benefits provider handles all administration and provides all needed education materials, [Peggy Maher, senior vice president and head of Guardian’s direct-to-consumer business in New York City,] explained. Usually employees are responsible for paying 100 percent of the premiums. However, voluntary benefits sometimes are niche offerings, such as pet insurance, that might appeal to a subset of workers, and employers may pay part of the cost.
Providing access to voluntary benefits can ease part-time workers’ financial stress, reduce turnover and differentiate employers from competitors in the talent market, Maher noted.
Sure, organizations could offer benefits to part-time employees to increase retention, but why would they? Two of the main benefits of having a part-time employee is that they cost less than full-time employees, in terms of both money and time, and they require less long-term commitment, as most are hired to complete a shorter-term project or task.
Wages at small businesses in the US are beginning to grow at a pace more common to larger companies, the Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Simon reported last week, driven by increasing demand for talent as well as the impact of pay transparency websites like Glassdoor and PayScale. An analysis of ADP data by Moody’s Analytics found that average raises at companies with fewer than 50 employees stood at 1.07 percent over the past three years, significantly more than the 0.69 percent average increase the analysis found for firms of all sizes.
Small businesses have found it necessary to offer more competitive pay packages both to attract new talent and to keep their current employees from getting poached by larger and wealthier firms. Employees, particularly younger workers, also have a better sense of what kind of compensation they can expect to earn with their skills and experience, and are not shy about demanding the pay they think they deserve.
The problem, Simon adds, is that these smaller companies tend to have fewer resources to work with overall, so increases in employee compensation tend to be balanced by cuts in other investments, such as equipment purchases or upgrades. This likely exacerbates the inequality between smaller and larger firms, as companies with larger war chests are better able to pay top dollar for in-demand talent while also investing in other aspects of the business.
Digital technologies have become ever more crucial in nearly every sector, and it’s not just “tech companies” that need digital talent in today’s economy. Organizations whose businesses are centered on digital technology may have an edge over others in attracting this kind of talent, but everyone from manufacturers to universities faces the challenge of competing with Silicon Valley for highly in-demand candidates. Publishers, too, have taken steps to attract tech talent by opening offices in tech hubs and offering tech employees autonomy and flexibility, Digiday’s Ross Benes reports:
Since pubs can’t match tech firms dollar for dollar, they attract tech employees by giving them flexible schedules and letting them work remotely. Publishers emphasize that they give their engineers a lot of freedom, but pubs must keep their tech work challenging and rewarding to retain talent. One way to attract tech talent is to open up where people can work. This is part of the reason why Condé Nast, Vox Media and BuzzFeed set up offices in tech hot spot Austin, Texas. Publishers large and small adhere to this strategy.
About 10 percent of The Washington Post’s 200 developers and engineers work remotely in cities like Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; and Charleston, South Carolina. Axios, which is based in Washington, D.C., has just a handful of tech people, but a few of them work outside of its headquarters in places like Chicago and San Francisco. Mashable said that at least half of its 20 tech employees work remotely from cities like Portland, Oregon; Denver; and Phoenix.
As our Global Talent Monitor has shown over the past few years, compensation is consistently the top driver of talent attraction worldwide, though work-life balance, location, and job stability are also important factors.