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(September 1, 2006) Colin W. Kingsbury, HRMDirect COO, wrote this spot on piece about yesterday's article. Colin writes a blog on the latest in recruiting and technology.

Dear John,

Interesting post today but there is a layer below it that does not get as much attention as it ought to: that this is all less true for the US than for any other first-world power (maybe Canada?).

By 2050 the US could have >400m population, putting us behind only China and India. Immigration is a big part of that but fertility rates are still above replacement levels overall. In this same time span, the median age will move from 36 to 38—big deal.

Big questions certainly loom in the details, as there are major regional, religious, and socioeconomic differences, but as a basic matter of numbers the US is going to keep getting bigger in absolute terms, let alone relative ones.

Moreover, if we get wise to skilled immigration, we may be in for a bonanza from Europe as emigration levels there are surging and show all signs of increasing. When the Lightning-Rod-In-Chief leaves in 2008, we'll return to traditional patterns as being the obvious desired place for people to come to.

As for the general talent-war thesis going on here, I'm becoming distinctly less impressed as time goes by. For one, we have a large cohort coming up starting in the early twenties. Likewise, improved healthcare and worsening finances are combining to keep people in the workforce, so aside from airline pilots, we're not going to automatically lose every worker the minute they hit 65. (Again, not so true in Europe, at least at the moment) Put gen-Y/echo boom/millenials together with the graying workforce and you have plenty of people.

Yes, this will require putting some round pegs in square holes, but maybe now businesses will finally start learning how to manage talent rather than just hiring-and-firing as they have always done. Does it really take 15 years of experience to make a middle manager? Until the 20th century people in their 20s were middle-aged. Navy midshipmen often commanded men before they hit puberty and even today, 24-year-olds in the military run "departments" with responsibility levels well in excess of that experienced by most Boomer executives. Of course, if you give young people no mentoring and have ordering lunch as their biggest responsibility for the first two years out of college, you are going to end up with workers who are dissatisfied, immature, and inexperienced. Figure out a way around this and the talent shortage will start to look a lot less severe.

OK, back to work…



- john at johnsumser.com
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