Insights into the forces shaping our industry.

Fear of Hiring

Blog, Industry Commentary

We’re recruiters, so everybody assumes they know what we do… until we actually recruit for our clients. It’s easier to summarize what we don’t do:

  1. We don’t post jobs and wait for resumes
  2. We don’t send resumes out of our database
  3. We don’t discriminate against the myriad peccadillos of our clients (smoking, race, age, weight, ethnicity, sex, income, credit-worthiness, education, etc. etc.)
  4. We don’t believe ‘The industry has no talent’. To the contrary, we prove every day the depth of talent that the industry has.

The US has turned the corner, we’re growing, the economy is solid, the future for our industry is in the best shape in decades; technology is changing our products, markets and opportunities every day. So then why do we see a rise in cynicism in the talent pool? Let’s start with a few fresh examples:

Ageism is rampant. We get clients telling us they want ‘young’ nearly every day. I can empathize with a business that hasn’t added any bench strength to their organization and whose leadership is nearing retirement, but I continue to battle against the mindset that ‘young’ is a better ROI than experienced and capable. The average tenure of new employees is less than 3 years; why do you care if the new employee is old, as long as he returns the investment in less than 3 years?

Barriers to hiring; aka Fear of Hiring. The rate of insignificant exceptions to talent is growing; too young, too old, smoker, not the right degree, too many jobs and the most egregious trend: non-competes.

Recessionary offers. We had over a dozen offers in 2015 that were equal to or LESS than the candidates’ current earnings (none of them accepted and all went to another company). We saw weak offers in ’09, 10, 11… I get it, people were desperate to ensure they had a future with a good company and the good company had concerns about meeting payroll. It’s almost 2016, the economy is growing, profits are up and the technical requirements for new talent are higher than ever before… that means the price of availability is higher, not less. If the ROI isn’t there, don’t hire them, but if you need talent… the price is ‘higher’. No one quits their job to go across the street to do the same job for the same money.

The electrical industry has changed so fast with the breadth and depth of technology that your 5 year old job description is obsolete. The industry has changed forever:

  • channels are broader and newer than ever before
  • products are more sophisticated and ‘smarter’ than ever before
  • customer preferences (i.e. buying influences) are far more prevalent and sophisticated than ever before
  • new market opportunities arise daily that require different products and solutions than ever before
  • the age of Intellectual Property is upon us
  • the diversity of talent is far broader than ever before; from age to education to ethnicity to sex. We are the most diverse workforce in the history of the electrical industry
  • the world has truly become flat; we’ve worked in Spain, Italy, Brazil, China, Canada just in the last 4 years alone.

And yet, many leaders of today have largely resisted change. Let’s take non-competes as a perfect example.

Non-competes have exploded; especially in distribution where the national chains have largely declared that they never want to lose or attract an employee to/from their competitors. Non-competes have become a barrier to hiring. I’ve heard every justification for deploying them and at the end of the day… it’s a fear-based reductive logic. Non-competes don’t retain your best talent… your company retains your best talent, your incentive plans, your growth and opportunity plans, your management skills and your culture. Non-competes don’t retain your customers, your customers are retained by your company policies and customer friendly approach to business. If the only relationship with your customers is the salesperson; you don’t have a customer first approach to business, so whether your salesperson leaves or dies… you’re not going to retain that customer.

Non-competes retain your mediocre and worst talent.  Your best talent is smart enough and connected enough to avoid any non-compete. Non-competes become a liability to every company that deploys them.. you either spend the time and money to enforce them, or they become legally useless… so forcing them on your employees just adds a future liability of enforcement. Non-competes limit the very best talent from joining your company, because they don’t want to hold their successful careers hostage to your legal department.

And frankly, it’s a strong signal that you don’t trust your own employees. And you don’t if you have to legally entwine them to keep them. California and 3 other states have outlawed them, and 6 other states have limited constraint on enforceability. So your California employee isn’t constrained, but your Texas employee is… it’s reductive discrimination. It’s a waste of time to try to legally tether an employee beyond their will to go and grow elsewhere. Employees are no longer chattel; ever since we gave up indentured servitude as an employment strategy.

And finally… the unemployment level for college educated citizens is under 3% right now and the next generation of employees in the electrical industry has to be highly educated and well versed in how to grow in an expanding industry. While a degree will likely become more important in the future, the challenge today is there is a shortage of qualified talent. That means everybody has a seat at the table right now… we need experience, smarts, and savvy. Let’s put an end to all of the code words for young or white or male… let’s find talent that will provide a solid ROI for your business, because that’s what business is all about.

C’mon man, it’s time to grow, get out of your own way.


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 |November 20th, 2015|Industry Commentary, Industry News, Newsletter|0 Comments