Skills Gap

A recent survey from the American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor, conducted online by Harris Poll, indicated that fifty percent of Americans have not heard of the “skills gap”.  However, once the term was defined, twenty-eight percent of the respondents stated they knew someone who had been affected by the skills gap.  Fourteen percent said they had personally been affected.

The ASA president stated that “The gap between workers’ skills and those needed by employers is a key reason millions of individuals are unemployed despite millions of open jobs.”

Three out of four Americans surveyed stated that technology outpacing workers’ knowledge is a factor at least moderately responsible for causing the skills gap.

The workplace environment has changed rapidly and survey participants stated:

  • Few job openings exist for the skills they possess (44%)
  • They don’t have the right skills for a desired job (34%)
  • They had to get additional training to keep or get a job (25%)

What can employers do?

  • Provide training and tutoring opportunities to improve or learn needed skills for both current employees and new hires.
  • Examine job descriptions to see if all skill requirements are truly required…or would some just be a nice added skill. Adjust requirements accordingly.
  • Hire candidates with potential even if experience and skills are lacking. Provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills, new trades or new technologies.

What can prospective and/or current employees do?

  • Embrace opportunities to grow new skills, to improve current skills and to stay current with new technologies.
  • Emphasize during job interviews or performance reviews your interests and potential to learn the needed skills. Sometimes, hobbies and general interest have provided you with a basis from which to grow into a new profession!
  • Remember that soft skills are important; emphasize your soft skills and how they have prepared you for a new career or new skill opportunity.

Accept the fact that it may be time for an industry or career change.  Prepare through appropriate training, schooling or internships.  Be willing to accept a lower starting point in order to learn a new industry or a new job!

Julie Aguilar


Fragrance Free Workplace

Many workplaces, including ours, have Fragrance Free policies. The primary reason for fragrance-free policies is to prevent discomfort or other reactions to employees who may be sensitive to strong odors, whether the odors are pleasant or unpleasant. Perfumes and shaving lotions bring on sneezes and headaches to those who are sensitive. Body odor is offensive to everyone!

When going on job interviews, it is a best practice for both men and women to refrain from wearing perfumes, colognes, lotions and other fragrances. You likely would not be aware of a company’s policy on fragrances in the workplace or whether or not the people who interview you are sensitive to fragrances. No one will be offended by you not wearing a fragrance; some won’t like it if you do and others may actually get sick from the smell. A recent article in “The Good Life” provided explanations on the physical impact of smells. A strong floral scent on an elevator or in an office can bring on a pounding headache for those who are sensitive to odors. This is brought on when the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for bringing sensations from the nose to the brain, is sensitive to a certain odor. It will actually constrict blood vessels in the brain bringing on that dreaded pounding headache.

Bad smells, including body odors brought on by not bathing or not wearing deodorant can make people cranky, stressed or depressed. This is particularly true in small quarters such as a bus, an elevator or an office. The article said this is like any other “annoying sensory stimulus” such as loud noises or extra bright lights as you have no control over the odor.

We recommend Fragrance-Free Policies for all workplaces. We definitely recommend not wearing fragrance when going on job interviews. Both fall under the “Better safe than sorry” category!

Julia Aguilar


More Employees Considering Changing Jobs

Our current almost full-employment job market is bringing on an additional challenge for employers. A recent survey from Robert Half, a global staffing firm, indicated that four in ten workers stated they were likely to look for a new job within the next year. For those in the survey aged eighteen to thirty-four, the number who stated they were likely to seek new employment in the next twelve months was sixty-eight percent.

An increase in turnover is to be expected in today’s employment climate of numerous available employment opportunities at all levels. However, high turnover, can certainly be a challenge for companies of any size.

Employees choose to seek a new position for various reasons. The survey found that workers give inadequate salary and benefits as the top reason to quit. Other reasons included: limited opportunities for career growth or advancement, unhappiness with management, boredom with the job, overworked and lack of recognition.

To increase retention, employers may want to consider:

  • Take time to know your employees. Talk to your staff about their jobs and their career goals. Talk to employees about longer term opportunities within your company and within your industry.
  • Increase compensation. Review your compensation structure to make sure it meets current market ranges. Wages have increased significantly within the past two or three years and, if possible, compensation plans need to be adjusted to the current market levels.
  • Performance bonuses are a viable, less risky way to increase compensation opportunities. Bonuses may be used for special projects, annual performance or any extraordinary success.
  • Freedom to make decisions, to work remotely at times, to work a flexible schedule, to increase time off whether by additional PTO (Paid Time Off), additional paid holidays or shorter work days are all possibilities sought by employees.
  • Be sure your employees know they are valued by celebrating successes, birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
  • Implement ideas for change suggested by your employees. Consider a bonus payment for ideas that save the company money or meet other company goals.

Solutions will differ by companies. If implemented, the above suggestions may pay dividends for employees and employers by reducing turnover and the high cost of replacing good employees.

Julia Aguilar


Employees’ Market

San Luis Obispo’s unemployment rate of 3.3% for April 2017 was the lowest since May 2001.  This rate makes SLO very close to full employment.  In our staffing business, we have observed a significant shortage of qualified job seekers for more than a year.  Job boards that brought in multiple candidates in the past now attract only a trickle.  In past years, June brought a major increase in applicants as Cal Poly graduates chose to remain in San Luis Obispo.  Fewer college grads now remain in our area as higher paying positions with greater career opportunities are offered in the Bay Area, Southern California and the Central Valley.

What are the answers?  There is no “one size fits all”.  However, there are some steps to consider:

  1. Hire those who are “under qualified” and/or “lacking job experience”.  Invest in training to improve or teach required skills, accept that more time than in the past may be needed to train some new employees; make sure those providing the training are aware and accepting of that fact.
  2. Be patient with those recruiting for you – whether in-house employees or a staffing company. It is a very difficult time to recruit qualified applicants in this job market.  Reduce expectations for seeing a high number of qualified candidates, particularly for entry level jobs.
  3. Make decisions quickly. With so many job openings and so few viable candidates, companies who make quick decisions, including on-the-spot offers, are the ones most likely to quickly fill their open jobs.

In an earlier blog, I shared the story of two under qualified employees who have both now been with their same employer for more than 20 years.   It is definitely a time to consider “taking a chance” on someone who may not be the ideal candidate.  You may also find that “under qualified” 20 year employee!

Julia Aguilar


Mother’s Handshake Lesson

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am again reminded of how far ahead of the times my mother was when she taught me how to properly shake hands so many years ago.  Through the years, I have met females of all ages who are unsure how to shake hands.  Some don’t offer a hand, some have a half handshake, some have a weak handshake.  The ones who stand out are the ones who have a strong, firm handshake!  For me, it can make the difference in whether or not I hire someone for our staff.

I have demonstrated handshakes to many women through the years.  This has included aspiring politicians, job seekers, employees, relatives and daughters of friends.

I recently met the college-aged daughter of my son’s landlord.  I immediately said, “Great handshake!”  The smile on her face and her mother’s face told the story:  Her mother had indeed taught her how to shake hands.  Of course, I shared the story with them of my mother teaching me to shake hands before I left for college so many years ago.

As Mother’s Day approaches, take time to shake hands with your daughters and their friends.  Take time to teach them the important skill of a firm handshake.  It will pay dividends both personally and professionally for many years.  It will also give your daughters a story to tell about their mother, particularly on Mother’s Day!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Julia Aguilar

 


Phubbing — Mobile Device Etiquette

Though unfamiliar with the term “phubbing” until a recent column in The Tribune by Linda Lewis Griffith, I am certainly both familiar with and guilty of the action. According to Dictionary.com, “phubbing  is the act of ignoring a person or one’s surroundings when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device. “  Dictionary.com dates the origin of “phub” as between 2010 and 2014.

Observe families while dining in restaurants. It is not unusual to see each person looking at their phone with minimal attention to those they are dining with.   While enforcing my new “no unnecessary phubbing” rule at dinner last night, I noticed a mother and two teenaged daughters at the next table.  Both daughters were on the phone while the mother sat silently waiting for dinner to be served.

I have also noticed “phubbing” in various meetings and seminars. This can be rude to the speaker as well as those seated near you.  People do notice that you are texting or scrolling through emails.  Some of us are better at multi-tasking than others, but it will be deemed by many that you consider the current setting or speaker unimportant.

Our Staffing Managers have commented that job applicants sometimes glance at their phones during job interviews.   Others have apologized as they silenced their ringing phone during the job interview.   It is definitely not a Best Practice to have your phone visible or to have to silence your phone while responding to an interview question.  I’d recommend that you leave it in your car or in your purse or in your pocket and, by all means, set it on silent!

Many employees now keep their personal phones on their desk or close by. This may be necessary for some jobs, but for most it is either a convenience or a bad habit which studies show is significantly reducing productivity.  Verify your company’s policy with your supervisor.  The Best Practice for most jobs, particularly office positions, is to silence your phone and place it in a desk drawer or in your purse.

There are occasional times when it is appropriate to “watch” your mobile device. If you are waiting for serious news from or about a family member or news from work that you have to handle, it’s okay to “watch” your phone.  It’s best to advise those with you of the reason you are “phubbing”.

Julia Aguilar

 

 


Key Reasons Clients Choose to Work With Staffing Companies

Some companies, particularly smaller companies, work with staffing firms on the majority of their job openings. Others contact staffing firms only after not finding the right candidate through their own recruitment efforts.  And, of course, many use staffing firms for temporary replacements and special projects.

A report shared by the American Staffing Association provided the following reasons for working with staffing firms. Some respondents selected several reasons thus the well above 100% number.

47%        Opportunity to gauge the fit before making a regular or long-term hire

41%        Gain access to more candidates

38%       Ability to fill positions quickly

32%       Flexibility to easily change size of workforce based on project load

26%       Access to talent with specialized skills

The flexibility provided by working with a staffing firm can save time and money for businesses whether for regular long-term employees, temporary needs for special projects or particularly heavy workloads, or for short-term replacements to cover vacations or various leaves.

Julie Aguilar


Glossophobia — Fear of Public Speaking

Glossophobia is the fancy word for fear of public speaking. Research indicates that approximately 75% of the population has a certain amount of fear of public speaking.   One survey indicated that men are less fearful than women with 37% of men and 44% of women stating they are fearful in front of an audience.  Other surveys indicate that men and women are equally fearful.  Extroverts often share the same fear of public speaking as introverts.

Way too many professionals that I have worked with through the years have let this fear damage their careers or certainly limit their opportunities. Early in my career, I realized that I had to overcome my fear of speaking before a group if I wanted to reach my career potential.  Following graduate school, I took a position training social workers.  When you teach classes, there is certainly no way to avoid public speaking.  It was one of my smartest career decisions.  As you successfully “face your fears” and present information to groups of co-workers, you become more confident in your speaking abilities.

People often say, “I’m fine talking to small groups, but not large groups.” Talking in small groups is a good way to build up to speaking to larger groups.  Start by asking or answering questions in small office meetings and in social settings.  Whether talking to a small group or a large group, keep your tone and message conversational.  Don’t be afraid to tell the group, “I don’t know the answer, but I will research your question and respond back to you.”  Email sure makes this easier than it was 20 years ago!

Know what you are talking about. I once had to present a method for budgeting services that I knew “didn’t make sense”.  I truthfully got laryngitis and couldn’t speak!  That’s not a recommended solution.  Rather, be sure you understand and agree with the material you are presenting.

Share your own relevant experiences with the group you are speaking to. Personal stories help you relax and help the audience to be more accepting of your messages.  Don’t forget to laugh at yourself as you share your stories.

Visualization does not work for me, but I do find it helpful to identify a few friendly faces that you can concentrate on making eye contact with.

Practice, practice, practice prior to speaking. Stand in front of a large mirror and look into it as you practice.  Time your speech, including allowing time for questions if appropriate.  Practice answers to questions that may be asked including the uncomfortable ones.  It’s a good idea to have notes with a few key points written down just in case your fear becomes overwhelming.  Having written notes makes it far less likely that you will actually need to use them!  It’s  fine to have a shorter than scheduled speech.  It’s not okay to run over a scheduled speech time.

My decision to force myself to overcome my fear of public speaking paid great dividends throughout my career as it has provided me a “go to job” as a trainer several times when I wanted to change positions and it has made me an “almost fearless” speaker!

Julia Aguilar


Fragrance Sensitivities in the Workplace

Though not legally required to provide a smell-free workplace, an increasing number of companies are providing fragrance-free workplaces. For those of us who have sensitivities to smells, including fragrances from perfumes and shaving lotions, a fragrance-free workplace can make the difference in whether or not you feel fine or struggle through the day with a headache, coughs and sneezes.  It can be extremely difficult to be productive when a co-worker is wearing a fragrance (whether perfume, shaving lotion, hair spray or hand cream) to which you are either sensitive or allergic.  Some employees have such severe reactions to smells that they may qualify as having a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In these cases, employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation, if available.

Employers are not required to provide a smell-free workplace. It may sometimes be impossible (or certainly not reasonable) to provide accommodation for an employee who is allergic to many different smells in the workplace.  How about the employee working in the shoe department next to the cosmetic counter in a department store?  How about the employee working as a receptionist in a nail salon?  Under the ADA, an employer may not be required to totally ban fragrances from the workplace because of the difficulty of enforcement. The exception is when the fragrance is unique to the work environment, minimal and/or the employer has more control over it.

The Best Practice may well be to provide a smell/fragrance-free workplace. If that is not considered practical by the employer, the next Best Practice would be to always take requests for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act related to a fragrance sensitivity/allergy seriously and try to make a reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis.  Actions to consider include:  moving the employee to another area, providing an air purification system designed for the irritant, providing a closed-door workspace, designating certain areas as fragrance-free, using unscented cleaning products or allowing the employee to work remotely.

For those who enjoy wearing fragrances, this can be quite annoying. Some cannot believe that their expensive, favorite perfume actually makes some co-workers ill.  Legal guidance indicates that employees who are requested to not wear fragrances and who continue to do so can be disciplined for insubordination.

Our recommended Best Practice is a fragrance-free workplace!

 

Julia Aguilar

 

 


Time to Consider Reentry, Moving Up and Training

 

A survey recently conducted by the American Staffing Association showed that 40% of unemployed U.S. adults (excluding retirees) are currently seeking work and 72% of those are confident that they will find a job within the next year. With the current low unemployment rate in our area, the opportunities of unemployed individuals with good skills finding positions are indeed excellent.  The improved job market is also a good time for those under employed to explore job opportunities both in their current field and in other fields.
The ASA survey showed that 73% of the unemployed not currently seeking employment would be willing to work in a new field if training were provided.  Those considering reentering employment should consider training opportunities available online, at local colleges, at local providers such as America’s Job Center and at local businesses.  Employers are increasingly willing to provide on-the-job training for entry level positions.  Entry level positions frequently have the potential for promotions once skills are learned and demonstrated through work performance.  It is a wise idea for those new to the job market as well as those considering reentering the workforce (whether unemployed or retired) to consider new fields.  Second and third careers can be extremely rewarding!  With the current low unemployment rate and numerous employers seeking to hire, this is an excellent time to consider your options.

Julia S. Aguilar