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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


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Changing Contract

(May 23, 2003) -- We're lucky. The years have built a sturdy network of friends and alliances that seem to weather the ups and downs of the economy. Our recent attempt at trade show attendance reminded us that the players change companies but the industry infrastructure is pretty solid. The faces are the same but the T-shirts have changed. The winners survive, the wannabes whine and fade away.

Recently, we got an insightful note from Jeff Hunter (we mentioned his company, Employment Engineering the other day). He was talking about Warren Buffet's op-ed piece in the Washington Post:

Don't know whether you saw this or not. The coupling of the push to expense stock options with the tax changes may portend the next upheaval in the "employment contract" and a radical redistribution of wealth through that contract. As less stock gets distributed to the rank and file and more stock gets distributed to execs through deferred comp and other sweeteners where the profit impact can be levelled out, the people who get stock get more of the company's profits, and then, as an unintended consequence of this obviously hair-brained scheme, more money will flow away from the employee and into the executives and large stock holders as shareholders push to reduce expenses (read "labor costs") so that they can increase their dividend. Which of course means lower pay for the rank and file. Or, as we might call it "Trickle-up Economics." Good-bye middle class....

We're certain that things are changing under our feet. Wartime footing and two plus years of forced frugality have shed all sorts of light on the relationship between employers and employees. The swelling pressure to change jobs is only going to be aggravated by perceived imbalances in wealth distribution.

Meanwhile, the age at which young people join the workforce has been steadily rising, from 21 to 23 in the 1990s alone. Combined with a generational distaste for large organizational life (these kids all watched their fathers cry after the layoff), we wonder just how long the Recruiting is going to seem easy.

In an interesting and related trend, job hunters are starting to look at other websites before they approach the corporate offering. They do their research on sites ranging from Hoovers, Vault and Wet Feet to f****d Company. The stock message boards are perused on Yahoo and other investment sites to glean a sense of "what it's like in there".

Our sense is that Recruiting is starting to get hard again. The equations we solve in this next round will be very different than the last time. We'll be deeply involved in proving that this is a good place to work (in spite of what you've read on the Internet).

Getting the message right and understanding what other people are saying is more critical than ever. Candidates have increasingly good reasons, environmental and local, for distrusting what they hear. With the Internet available to validate Recruiting claims, the game is getting tougher.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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