Magazine article Workforce Management

Ignoring the Jobless

Magazine article Workforce Management

Ignoring the Jobless

Article excerpt


SOMETIMES, you get unvarnished truths from unexpected places.

That's how I felt last month when I heard former General Electric CEO Jack Welch speak at the Society for Human Resource Management annual conference in New Orleans. Now, I have heard Welch speak many times before, but never, ever have I heard this man, who is the epitome of the Fortune 500 corporate executive, admit surprise at the fact that "people [today] just don't trust corporate America."

You know things are really bad when someone like Welch, wrapped as he is in a cocoon of wealth and privilege, sees clearly that America's workforce is fed up with how they are being treated by our business community.

Yes, we are in the worst eco- nomic downturn since the Great Depression. And yes, businesses need to do whatever they can to hang on and survive. I get all that. What I don't get is this: Why is corporate America so cavalier when it comes to dealing with today's workers? Why are so many organizations so stupid and shortsighted in their people practices?

Here's what I am talking about, courtesy of a story last month in The Wall Street Journal: "With unemployment at 9.4 percent and rising, it's a buyer's market for employers that are hiring. But many employers are bypassing the jobless to target those still working, reasoning that these survivors are the top performers."

It's true: Many organizations have decided to ignore the gigantic pool of unemployed looking for a job and, instead, continue to try to fill positions by luring those who are still working away from their current employers.

The thinking is that you always want the best talent to fill a position, and those who are still working are probably pretty good if they have managed to hold on to their job. OK, I get that notion. But it also brings with it an undercurrent that there can't possibly be anyone who is any good who is currently unemployed.

Not only is this notion shortsighted, but it is just flat-out wrong. Now, with the national jobless rate at 9.5 percent, nearly 6.9 million collecting unemployment benefits and nearly a half-million more people put out of work in June alone, who in their right mind can think that there aren't people worth hiring in those numbers?

"The bias [against hiring the unemployed] extends from front-line workers to senior managers," the Journal story noted. …

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