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Experts and Critics

Blog, Industry Commentary

I read several aggregator blogs on economic and industry statistics. Here is a summary of article headlines in just the last 2 weeks:

WSJ Survey: Economists See Second-Half GDP Growth of 3%
Productivity Rises at 2.5% Pace in Second Quarter

Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall as Average at Eight-Year Low
Factory orders have risen 2.5% over the past year.

Manufacturing Activity Rose More Than Expected in July

Consumer Spending in U.S. Rose in June by Most in Three Months

Consumer Sentiment Dips in July

U.S. Labor Costs Post Largest Increase in Nearly Six Years
One thing I’ve noticed is the summaries of economist predictions are frequently woefully wrong. The consensus views of dozens of economists are off by significant percentages from the actual results. Which begs the question… if your sole role in life is economics, why can’t you get forecasts closer to reality?  A lot of companies use independent economics to base their budgets and forecasts for upcoming business planning. These forecasts become engrained in the company operations as a basis for making future decisions on Capex expenditures, headcount additions, product launches or merit raises. And therein lies the real issue. Forecasts based upon historical numbers are inherently flawed since post hoc numbers can’t predict the future. But then there are the critics….

If you watch Fox News, you’ll notice only the consumer sentiment dip number above. If you’re a CSNBC watcher, you dismissed the consumer sentiment stat. But media ratings are driven by News, and it’s more newsworthy to use statistics to support your narrow position to drive home a political or otherwise newsy point. Painting a full story with balanced facts has largely gone away with the advent of 500 TV channels and internet blogs. The demise of journalism is real and its replacement is an ocean of critics and a loss of civility.

I’ve always felt that being a critic is a remarkable attribute, or career. You can freely disparage any performance or meal or career based upon your self-assessed credentials as a critic. Sometimes with as little as a singular bit of non-verified information, a critic can publicly rebuke anyone while appearing well informed. And you’re never held to a standard of quality or professionalism.

Just looking at the disparity of economic reports above, critics can adopt any political position you wish; by selectively attending to a limited list of information. Sports fans delight in criticizing split-second decisions made by professional athletes; most without ever experiencing that sport or position themselves. Politics has become so polarized that I doubt anyone is fully balanced in their assessment of any political action (or inaction).

We get occasional criticism of our profession; generally whenever we have a discussion with candidates who then share the details of that conversation with their boss and we may get a response that is unfavorable. In my opinion, the question shouldn’t be why did we reach out to your employee, but why would the employee share that with you? Our emails are easily deleted and cause no inherent interruption to a day; far less than the cute puppy picture or off-color joke emails. Accepting a phone call is a personal decision, and not generally worthy of rising to the level of sharing with your boss, in my opinion. If you’re telling your boss you’re being recruited, there’s far more going on in your life than just a preliminary phone call from a recruiter. So criticizing our profession is puzzling to me (other than for unethical practitioners of course); attracting talent is hard and getting harder. Quality talent is getting scarce, partially due to the baby boomer departure and partially due to the fact that the economy has recovered back to pre-recession days.

If finding quality talent, especially for critical functions, is imperative to achieving your budget plans for growth, then why would anyone criticize using a professional recruiter who is skilled in interviewing, assessment and recruitment of that person to your company? And our results are actually better than our clients’ internal results based upon retention rates of the placed candidates that come through our efforts.

Expert economists can’t predict within 25% accuracy the next month’s metrics, and critics can’t own up to their mistakes. We live in a world of past experiences and correlative analysis that renders the idea of accurate predictions moot. Facts change over time; in fact in the interesting book titled The Half-life of Facts, there is a predictable time line when our known facts will likely be proven false. The hope would be that we try to seek balance in every ‘fact’ and render our opinions civilly.

Ted Konnerth, PhD

Ted Konnerth, Egret Consulting Group’s founder and CEO, recruits on a retained basis, helping leaders in the electrical and lighting industry identify their next C and V-level hire. He is also the executive director for the International Retained Search Associates, allowing him to liaise with skilled recruiters around the globe. To learn more about how Ted can help your company attract talent view his biography, check him out on LinkedIn or email him at

By |August 19th, 2014|Blog, Industry Commentary, Newsletter|0 Comments