Technology looms so large in today's employment environment that you can't help but wonder whether we lead technology or it leads us.
Actually, it works both ways. We invent something and then it often takes on a life of its own. Thomas Edison, for example, developed his phonograph to keep oral records of wills. He saw nothing of the musical explosion he started. Henry Ford developed the automobile as a farmer's tool. In addition to hauling loads to and from town, the Model-T doubled as a tractor. Radio was first developed to improve communications at sea. Television was just radio with pictures.
Manufacturing dominated the industrial economy. New technologies applied to manufacturing improved assembly lines and materials, and introduced computers and robots. With the advent of computers, five percent of the workforce matched the production levels accomplished by 40% of the pre-industrial workforce.
The impact of computers. Computers were first developed during the Industrial Age to automate existing practices. However, by the mid-1960s they forged the backbone of the Data Processing Age. For example, in May 1966 computers enabled JPL to soft land a spacecraft on the lunar surface and transmit more than 10,000 pictures. At that time, JPL had the largest IBM computer installation in the world. Four strings of computers processed the data. Each string could only process one program at a time. A 100,000-sq-ft facility housed the computers and related operations.
A decade or so later, we considered the computer and its user as one single entity, leading us into the Age of the Microcomputer. Hardware became a commodity, and software application programs provided the leverage. Firms, such as Federal Express, began to use the newer technology for strategic advantage.
As we enter the 21st Century, hardware and software are becoming commodities leveraged by networking. They provide a strategic advantage, enabling companies to communicate with customers and other stakeholders 24 2 7 (24 hours a day and 7 days a week). These systems link companies with their clients in real time, which helps companies sense customer needs and resolve their problems.
Today, the value of technology depends upon information that can be presented, rather than stored and processed transaction data. Shifting from vertical to horizontal structures, companies now focus more on knowledge management/sharing/respect rather than a need-to-know structure.
One chip per person. No grand plan transformed the agrarian economy of the 1800s into the industrial economy of the 1900s, and then into the information economy of the 2000s. Although the steps that moved one economy into the next were haphazard, they were always driven by the application of a new technology. We now have 1.8 transistors for every ant on earth, and 1 chip for every person on earth!
Career planning was much easier when the life expectancy of education and training endured. Some firms today prefer to hire new graduates, rather than hire or maintain employees with outdated education.
Q How do firms go about attracting the best candidates?
A Most use some combination of two strategies.
Companies sell the tangibles. Competitive compensation is one. They learn and pay whatever the market requires. This can create internal problems when this year's incoming compensation is greater than what last year's hires now earn.
Training and career development opportunities are other tangibles. The norm for such compensation seems to run about 40 hours of training per year.
Companies sell intangibles, such as the firm's reputation, especially in the local area; the quality of work-life; a performance-based culture where performance is noted and rewarded; and a state-of-the-art technology.
Most firms, depending upon their overall human resource management strategy and their situation, use some combination of the tangible and intangible factors.
Attracting good candidates really boils down to a few factors. What are the inducements and/or relationships offered by the firm and its competition vs. the inducements sought by prospective employees? What are the relationships offered by the firm and its competitors vs. those sought by prospective employees? Finally, what is the response to the supply and demand of labor, and what is the concern for the individual, in relation to concern for performance?
Firms have a variety of recruiting sources to choose from. They can work on relationship-building with colleges, which can pay off in the long run. They can offer referral bonuses to existing employees, seemingly the most effective. Firms can develop relationships with recruiting firms or make formal contracts to hire with contractor firms. However, they can also network at professional events, which can have some long-run benefits as well.