10.20.2008

Lean Jobs: The Market May Be Slowing Down

Because of the financial crisis, there may be fewer lean jobs available in the near future – and the jobs that are available may require a broader range of skills.

Also, anyone considering changing jobs should look carefully before they leap.

Those are the views of Adam Zak, head of Adam Zak Executive Search, a company that specializes in filling lean jobs.

I’ve written in the past about my conversations with Adam, but we hadn’t spoken in some time – not since well before the current crisis.

Right now, Adam says, he has his hands full with plenty of searches. But he sees signs that the overall job market may be slowing down.

“We’re hearing people talking about deferring or delaying,” he said. “There’s just so much uncertainty. People that were planning on hiring in the 4th quarter for the 1st quarter – everything’s up in the air across the board. I can’t read the tea leaves yet. I’m getting very mixed signals.”

In addition, he said, more companies are “looking for people who can wear more than one hat. Now they’re saying what they really need is a person to do the operational role and also wear the lean hat. They can’t justify the additional headcount.”

Also, “I don’t have evidence, but I have some stories, that in the $85,000 to $125,000 range, there is going to be a dramatic decrease in the number of people brought on board,” he commented. (Adam’s firm generally handles searches only for positions of $150,000 or higher.)

Adam believes that companies today have a better understanding of lean. “More and more companies are understanding that lean isn’t just about tools. It’s about mindset, about engagement, it’s about business growth. Lean is not about stuff, it’s about truly improving our business. Even at more junior levels, people need to focus not just on ‘what am I doing on the shop floor,’ but ‘how is it affecting our business, our strategy, our customers.’ It’s not about being a technician as much as it once was. It’s about what are we doing through lean to drive our business.”

Every crisis contains some opportunities. For employers, Adam advises, “In times where there is a difficulty in the marketplace, if you in your business can make a projection that says you are going to successful, now is a great time to recruit people from your competitors, who may not be as strong as you. (Candidates) might consider making a switch if you are the stronger player. It’s a great time to build bench strength and recruit stars.”

However, he urges job-seekers to proceed with caution. ” For people making a job change, I would always suggest, but especially in times like this, that you not jump away from something, but look to be attracted something. Just because your company doesn’t have brightest prospects doesn’t mean its time to bail. You have to look at what a new potential employer can offer you that’s better. Make a move that’s good from a career perspective. Due diligence is just as important, if not more important, in this economic scenario.”

Adam also had some interesting thoughts regarding the growing focus on both lean and green (environmental) issues. I’ll discuss those in my next posting.

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