Every now and again I look at Clancy’s hospital’s employment page. It’s unlikely that I would actually get a job there, but it’s a source of interest all the same. They recently had a job posting for a Health Information Specialist, which is basically an IT job with an information processing focus. What jumped out at me were the job requirements. Namely, that it listed a need for experience for Acronym Software. I had to look up what the acronym meant, because it was news to me. It turned out, they wanted experience in the precise medical records software they are using. Really obscure software. Software that is actually so bad that they are going to be retiring it next year after a petition made its way around the office. But they only want candidates who have used this.
Now, it doesn’t make all that much difference to me. The alternative to knowing the software already is having to train someone, and they’re not going to train someone that they know is going to be gone next year. So even if I were to apply, I’d be out of consideration either way. And I guess I see why you wouldn’t want to train someone in software that you’re going to retire anyway, thus wanting prior experience. Even so, this is all such short-balling that I find it quite aggravating. It’s something I have long considered to be a part of the larger problem of employers being unwilling to train employees. I’ve become increasingly hesitant to talk about this because it actually contradicts my professional experience, where after each move (until the current one) I found a job that required training. Yet even then, I remember at one point they ramped up the requirements such that I was no longer qualified for a position I’d held for over a year before being promoted out of.
Anyhow, I thought about that when I read Dave Schuler’s post on the reverse-side of our employment problem: the inability of employers to find the right people. The first thought that comes to mind is that they’re not offering enough money, but it looks to me like acronym requirements may actually be playing a larger role:
I recommend that your read the post in full but I’ll summarize it quickly. Roughly 10% of employers aren’t willing to pay what prospective employees demand. More than half of the employers report that they can’t find candidates with the necessary skills, experience, or inter-personal skills and there is some evidence to suggest that experience is the most important of these factors. Although once again I am reminded of the help wanted ad I saw in 1982: “IBM PC Expert Wanted; Must Have 5 Years Experience” (the IBM PC was introduced in 1981—not even the people who designed it had five years of experience with it).
With my generation, it was experience with Java longer than Java had been around. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
When I went to college, one of the things that they impressed upon me was that the work world was “each man (or woman) for himself (or herself)” and that nobody was going to stick around with employers forever and no employer was going to show any loyalty to its employees. This has a certain logic and efficiency to it. But it also comes at a significant cost, and the oft-cited cost (employee job insecurity) is only a part of it. On the employer side, churn causes a loss in accumulated tribal knowledge. Chances are, if I leave one company for another company, the company I am leaving actually lost more than the company I am going to is gaining. There are advantages to having new people coming in with new ideas and all of that, but the company I left has to train the next guy to know all that I knew, and the company I am going to has to train me on all of the things the guy I am replacing knew (if I’m replacing anybody). I’m sure that somewhere there is a perfect equilibrium between “new blood” and continuity, though the tilt has gone from from too far in one direction to too far in another.
One of the bigger costs, though, is that when an employee might leave at any given moment, it doesn’t pay to train them. Or to have to train them as little as possible. Now, it’s been my experience that employers are far too unconcerned with churn, accepting it as a fact of life as though there is nothing that can be done about it. But even if I had my way, where you try to hire people at the ground level and then raise them up to where they fit best as quickly as possible, there is little more reason to expect employee loyalty than there is to expect employer loyalty. So we have a stand-off. Nobody trusts anybody, employees are inclined to take their experience and leave, employers become demanding that they have to invest as little as possible in new employees. I don’t know how you break this cycle.
(None of this excuses Clancy’s employer. Hire someone who lives in Callie and likes it here, there are not many places for them to go with their Health Information Specialist training.)