Previous month:
March 2006
Next month:
May 2006

Retaining Your Talent, Are Doing Something About It?

I had been working on this post last week and decided to finish it up after seeing this on ERE today, There are Recruit-ers, Do We Need Retain-ers? Mike Goldman takes a look at the role of managers and management training programs in the retention of employees.

In the last month I have started working with three new clients. I have many questions I ask of a new client and I have been shocked at the responses from all three on one in particular. Not only were they identical but with the same tone and facial expression.

Here it is, the big question. “What are you doing to retain your staff?” The response “What do you mean?” came with a curious tone, a tilt of the head, and some wrinkled expressions.

Here’s the deal, the IT market here in Minneapolis and St. Paul has really tightened up the last 18+ months. My job is to find the best talent for the client. In the process of that I ask from what industries have your best employees come from and if they know what specific companies.

After asking the “big question” I was asked each time why I ask. Simply, if you have a list of companies you would like to see candidates from, are you on one of your competitor’s lists?

In three out of three cases I know with a certainty that my three new clients are on such a list with from their competitors.

I also found it interesting that of the three none had put much thought into it. They are doing the same things in terms of retention since the dot-com burst and recession which really was the bare minimum. Many companies had the attitude of "you should be happy to be employed here." Call it a pendulum swing from the late 90's.

Which was fine in during those times but in a tighter market it is time, passed time frankly, to think a little more about how to keep your best employees.

I am not talking about the foosball tables and cappuccino machines of the last century but I am talking at a minimum of an increase in monitoring of job/career satisfaction if not a more aggressive look at current programs.

Because I promise you this, you may covet talent from a certain other company but I promise you if you have the talent you think you do, others are doing the same to yours.

Happy Anniversary To Me

Eight years ago this week I went on my own crazy odyssey of starting a search firm. I still think one day I will write a book. More like one of those short pamphlets, and sell it for $9.95 on the Internet.

It would be a story that could be universal to most small businesses in any industry.

This week I was speaking to a student group at the University of Minnesota and I was asked if knowing what I know now, would I do it again.

That was a great question and I had not reflected on it in some time. My answer lasted more than five minutes. If asked to say yes or no, without qualifying, the answer is yes.

Saying that, there are easily 20, 30, 50 things I would do different that run the gamut of personal and professional.

And yes I am already doing it again as I am in the process of opening a “new” search firm in November of ’06.

But as I sat there giving my response I could hear a lot of regret in my tone. Most if it revolves around time missed with family and friends. It’s the old saying; the grass is greener on the other side.

Lately when I have been speaking with friends many are telling me they wished they could do it now but they have too many responsibilities to think about.

So yes, I would do it again. But a lot different. I should get busy with the book…

March '06 Job Scene, National

Today the March employment numbers were released showing a stronger than expected increase of 211,000 and a .1% drop of the unemployment rate to 4.7%.


Education/Health care +33,000

Retailers +29,000

Government +24,000

Finance +16,000

Construction +7,000


Manufacturers -5,000

Transportation/Warehouse -7,600

I have started to keep track of recent monthly reports.

National job gains:

December ’05, 145,000

January ’06, 154,000 (revised) 170,000 (first reported)

February ’06, 225,000 (revised) 243,000 (first reported) 210,000 (consensus number)

March ’06, 211,000 (first reported) 190,000 (consensus number)

National unemployment rates:

December ’05, 4.9%

January  ’06, 4.7%

February ’06, 4.8%

March ’06, 4.7%

Nanotechnology Salaries Rising

In a press release on March 14, 2006 Small Times magazine, a business publication covering the fast-emerging nanotechnology, MEMS, and microsystems markets, announced findings from their recent compensation survey to include:

-On a global basis, the average salary in micro and nanotechnology is $84,605. In the United States, the average salary is $97,978.

-Expect those numbers to rise: 64 percent of U.S. employees received a raise in 2005, and 75 percent said they expected to receive a raise in 2006.

-Employees in micro and nano are highly educated. Globally, 36.7 percent reported a degree at the level of Ph.D., M.D., or J.D., while 29.1 percent reported a master’s level degree.

The compensation survey is online.

Blogging Metrics Are A Waste Of Time For Me

Jason Stamper has a posting today, The ROI of blogging, and whether Jonathan Schwartz's blog pays for itself, in which he attempts to quantify the worth of a corporate blog.

This whole conversation has me bored. At least Jason tries to give us something to hold on to and a try at showing some numbers and results.

Much better than what happened on last month.

Here is what I know about my metrics:

-The more I blog, the more visitors I get. The inverse is true.

-The more I concentrate on things relating to Minnesota, as in MN Headhunter, the more visitors I get from Minnesota. This is my target audience.

-My traffic is about 70% from Minnesota.

-My referrals from search engines is 40%.

-Adding the newsletter is a tool to remind previous visitors about the site and to fill them in if they have not visited in a while. This drives traffic back to the blog.

-My MN Headhunter Jobs Page gets a lot of traffic and I am an idiot for not keeping up to date on the jobs I am recruiting for.

-The MN Headhunter Volunteer Page is starting to get results for the non-profits.

I have made two placements because of the blog. One from a response to the jobs page and one was a resume sent blindly wondering if I could give some advice. If I were to use Jason’s ROI formula my blog should be the only thing I do.

I believe that I have become more known in the Minneapolis and St. Paul IT community and this is because of the blog. I do not know this for sure but I have not done any advertising or been in the paper lately.

The results with the non-profit work can be probably be measured in hours volunteered and dollars saved but that’s not why I am doing this. It’s about doing the right thing.

I do not know how to quantify the knowledge gained from reading others and sharing information.

So I understand I am the little kid in the corner of the sandbox. I am not a worldly CIO or work for a multi-national corporation.

But from where I sit this conversation should be left up to the individual to figure out for him/her. If I listen to one set of “experts” I should never have started. If I listen to another set the blog is the only thing I should be doing.

So I will what I normally do and take the advice of my gut and close friends and what I do best, be me.

IT Certifications, Are They Worth The Money And Time?

I get this question from IT folk at all the time, should I get certified in (fill in the blank). My answer is usually pretty vague and starts with “yes but…”.

Employers tend to use it as a part of their hiring requirements. They also tend to pay more to those who are certified, particularly those from the likes of Microsoft and Cisco.

But I also know a lot of IT folk who get certified but still do not know what they are doing but it looks good on their resume. They also take lesser known tests and do it online with some fudging going on. I think that’s why I am lukewarm on the certificiations.

So maybe I need to caution employers and not the candidates.

Here is an article from Computerworld on networking certifications that backs up my thinking, Networking certification: Are those initials worth it?

Where to get certifications from:

Beyond that, there are vendor certifications, such as from Cisco, Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp,, and vendor-neutral certifications, such as those offered by CompTIA or the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) in Des Plaines, Ill. Anderson said that vendor-neutral ones are useful mostly for those starting out, with financial benefit mostly arising from the vendor certifications.

Impact on pay:

His latest figures show that the possession of a networking certification results in an average pay premium of 9.2%. The average for all certifications is 8.2%. Noncertified networking skills result in a 7.1% premium, barely above the 7% average for all noncertified skills. (The best premium he found was 14%, for project management certification. The worst was 5% for a general certification, which was lower than the premium for any of the non-certified skills he tracks.)

The article points out benefits to employers for offering paid training including a 25% drop in turnover and on the computer network side of things reduced failures and outages.

They also give the caution I mentioned above:

"Having that piece of paper is proof that you have the baseline knowledge," agreed Cody. "But it would be foolish to hire just based on certification, since you also have to make sure they know what they are doing. It's possible to have a good career without certifications, but certifications make it easier to get in the door."

19 Minnesota Companies On The Fortune 500

Minnesota now has 19 companies listed on the Fortune 500. The new addition to the list is Mosaic, Corp.

By rank:

#29 Target

#37 UnitedHealth Group

#76 Best Buy

#85 St. Paul Travelers

#101 3M

#113 Supervalu

#131 U.S. Bancorp

#182 Northwest Airlines

#188 CHS

#206 General Mills

#235 Medtronic

#247 Xcel Energy

#301 Land O'Lakes

#352 Thrivent Financial for Lutherans

#379 C.H. Robinson

#401 Hormel Foods

#457 Nash-Finch

#459 Ecolab

#470 Mosaic