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The Big Picture...

A turning point in historical terms is a period of change not generally recognized by those going through it. We have been in such a period for the past couple of decades. In business, as in combat, the advantage goes to leaders with the best informed and most accurate view of their operating environment. Situational awareness is critical to survival. Ignore the evolving big picture at your own peril.

Brandon Ebeling, Talent Management Strategist

Observations by Celente, Ferguson and others throughout this website, along with the illustration and commentary are my contribution to instigating informed discussion about the challenges our nation faces in these very turbulent times.


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Harvard Financial Historian & "Ascent of Money" author Niall Ferguson says trends in the U.S. economy will reverse globalization trends and move talent acquisition from outsourcing to in-sourcing as supply chains disintegrate. He calls this a Great Repression, with consumers moving away from spending with plastic without the income to cover it; a situation that will make the U.S. better equipped and likely better able to survive than anywhere else in the world.

While it may be politically incorrect to challenge dogma and the wisdom of the day; leaders’ who want to improve their situational awareness of trends that impact the operating environment and business outcomes of the enterprises they lead may find the following brief discussions offer some insights.

Highlighted are the magnitude of the investments being made in various areas of the human capital management space; analysis of the demographic trends impacting talent availability; accurate data on the availability of professional or STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) talent in the U.S.; and the real impact of foreign labor in the U.S. workforce.

The table above suggests to business leaders a 360 ° view of conditions impacting the current and future talent landscape. Prominent in the table is the dogma of the day; that drivers of a looming talent shortage include: retirement patterns of an aging U.S. workforce; an American post high school education system that isn’t producing enough qualified college educated professional and technical talent; and a lack of skilled labor. But is this aspect of the talent landscape really true? Are the underlying assumptions supported by fact? Is the U.S. really facing looming talent shortages? Are the conclusions plausible or just a realistic fiction?

The old saying goes “where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit”.

Before summarily dismissing these questions, consider just one disgraced and corrupt K Street alumni Jack Abramoff, a Microsoft lobbyist, who steered $100 million dollars into the political arena influencing immigration and visa legislation; an effort that resulted in opening the floodgate of cheap skilled foreign labor to U.S. labor markets; a solution chasing a problem that didn’t exist. Isn’t it plausible that this dogma of a talent shortage driven by generational shift and skills shortages was no more than a phantom driven and reinforced by various special business interests, K Street lobbyists, inept or corrupt politicians, and a biased uninformed media succumbing to sophisticate marketing and PR initiatives?

Whether you agree with my observations or the conclusions of the informed discussions that follow, or not; the issues and challenges they raise should be on the radar screen and part of open, honest discussions by every public and private sector leader.

Annually, business enterprises invest heavily in Human Capital services.

Relationship Management is a rapidly growing business addressing both Conflict Management and Problem Resolution. Worldwide spend on Staffing exceeds $100 Billion; and $40 Billion is invested in Recruiting & Selection Services in the U.S. Investments in Training Products & Services is $60 Billion in the U.S.; a large and increasing part of that includes Behavioral Profiling Tools to impact performance. Estimated U.S. expenditures in 2008 the on Performance Management Training in areas of Team Building and Leadership Coaching, as well as for skills and competency development was $550 Million, up 35% from 2007.

Reality Check: Demographics & Workforce Interactions

According to Randstad USA’s annual 2008 World of Work survey, any future skilled worker shortage won’t result from “a lack of manpower in the wake shifting workforce demographics. It will be the limited transfer of knowledge during the generational shift of 78.5 million retiring boomers to 79.8 million Gen Ys inheriting this workplace.

In order to retain America’s institutional brain trust there is an urgent businesses need for human capital strategies that focus sound hiring doctrine that gets the right people in the right jobs, and on building collaborative professional relationships between generations, something that isn’t happening.

The current U.S. workforce, Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers, and Matures, rarely interact with one another.

Myth: There’s a shortage of Skilled Professionals and Labor in the U.S.

In a March 3, 2008, Workforce Management missive “Millennials at the Gate”; John Hollon says “Pardon me if I seem sick and tired of all the overheated talk about the worker shortage that is supposed to be threatening American business.”

He refers to the purported trend in the retirement of the baby boomers, 76 million Americans born after World War II, as the “talent-shortage myth”; observing “in general we don’t have a problem—something that is confirmed just about every day when I read about the latest company buying out or laying off workers.”

First, boomers are leaving the workforce later than believed; a trend intensified by the vast wealth-destruction of retirement nest-eggs. Further driving a steak into the “talent-shortage myth” a huge group of new workers now gearing up to take their place: the 80 million Millennials (also known as Generation Y, who were born after 1980). “They are here and ready to start working—but what if we're not ready to let them?”

Fairy Tale: U.S. higher education doesn't produce enough STEM talent.

American colleges and universities graduate four to six times the number of students needed to fill openings in technology fields that are generated by retirements and business expansion. The fact is since 1960 more than 30 million Americans, pursuing approximately 8 million "high tech" positions, have graduated with bachelor's degrees qualifying for jobs in science, engineering, computer programming, and mathematics (the STEM fields).

Fiction: There’s a shortage of U.S. STEM talent in the U.S.

As long ago as 1993 American Scholar, CalTech Vice Provost David Goodstein pointed out that American taxpayers support extremely expensive research universities whose main purpose is to train students from abroad who will stay here and take jobs that could have gone to Americans, or go home and take our knowledge and technology with them. In 2002 Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman correctly identified the 1990 H-1B visa program as a "government subsidy" because it allows employers access to imported, highly skilled labor at below-market wages; and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath called H-1B the "outsourcing visa” in the April 15, 2007 edition of the New York Times.

In other words, claims of worker shortages are popular myth. Politically backed, employer-designed H-1B visa programs hide the hypocrisy from the middle-class Americans who were not aware of the political expenditures between 1995 and 2000, enabling Microsoft and other employers to procure employer-friendly changes to H-1B visa legislation in 1996, 1998 and 2000.

From 1975 and 2005, more than 25 million foreign technical professionals, further swelling the job-seeker ranks were approved in just five highly skilled visa programs.

The myriad visa programs discriminate against Americans and depress wages. The resulting workforce glut has collapsed real wages in STEM fields since at least 2000. Government data demonstrates that a typical postdoctoral research or teaching position in a STEM field (12 years of education after high school) yields compensation comparable to earnings of a high school graduate managing a fast-food restaurant. The DOL found that foreign nationals graduate students are compensated at rates of 30% to 45% less than Americans with bachelor’s degrees. This prevents innovation since American citizens are typically discarded by employers by age 35.

Condensed from article by Gene Nelson that appeared in the August 21, 2008 edition of The Examiner and is the property of the Washington Newspaper publishing company, Copyright 2008.

Visit or for more unbiased information regarding immigration impacts on American labor and national security.

As the commentary above demonstrates Talent Management can seem stagering in its complexity and implications. The subject is often confusing, even contradictory. Where do you turn for help in sorting it out? American Incite can help you keep on top of trends, challenges, and bottom line...

- getting the right talent for your organization.

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