Monday, March 28, 2011

2011's Number One Game - Musical Chairs

Forces are building rapidly that will result in this year being one of the biggest for employee turnover in decades. Historically, there is a significant and natural increase in employees leaving current employers as the economy gains momentum and more job opportunities open up. After years of job insecurity, reduced or no bonuses, salary freezes or cuts, benefit reductions, and budget squeezes, employees are once again in the driver's seat - and they are on the move.

Itchy feet are natural during the course of a long career. People want to broaden their skills, take on bigger challenges, and be able to cultivate their professional networks. They crave an environment that will provide those opportunities. We are now on the upside of a V-shaped recovery for quantitative employment and, in addition to a significant increase in new jobs, we are seeing a tremendous increase in natural churn. This presents an enormous challenge for staffing in our quantitative specialty, as well as in all technically-based professions.

What can quantitative managers and human resources people do to stem this flow? Some ideas:
  • Money isn't everything - but let's face it, it's important, especially early in a career where personal demands of a new marriage, home purchase, and growing family push all the financial buttons. If you froze compensation during the recession, reverse or reinstate salary increases and bonuses and get things (at least) back to normal.
  • Make your employees more marketable - counterintuitive, right? Quantitative professionals hunger for opportunities to use the best tools and to stay abreast of the latest research in their fields. It's essential to promote these opportunites continuously to your staff, or risk losing them to more attractive experiences.
  • Feedback, especially constructive criticism, is welcomed. Yes, really. People always want to be recognized for what they are doing well, but they also want to know how they can be and do better. Quantitative managers can be wonderful bosses, but sometimes are not the best at delivering helpful criticism. Get over it - it's essential for growing and developing your staff.
Shifting economic tides require flexibility, vigilance, and the ability to look ahead. But you don't need a crystal ball to plan as the economy rights itself. All you really need is a little common sense. Attrition is a natural consequence of an upswing, but you won't lose all your best players as long as you consider what they need to stay happy, challenged, and motivated.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Math Education + Quantitative Job = Career Satisfaction

Few individuals in this world aspire to earn the title “geek”, but that may be soon to change given the Wall Street Journal’s listings of Best Jobs of 2011. As it turns out, analytically-minded individuals are thriving in their positions as Actuaries, Accountants, Statisticians, and Mathematicians. In fact, they very well may be the most satisfied working professionals out there.

The Jobs Rated report was developed to determine which careers offer the highest sense of gratification for the majority of workers in each profession. The ranking is determined by several criteria: work environment, physical demands, outlook, stress, and income. The best overall work situation in 2011 (meaning the highest ranking in the aforementioned categories) goes to the Software Engineer - not exactly in the statistical realm, but still reliant on a firm mathematical background. But scrolling down the list just a bit, it's important to note that Mathematician ranks number two, with an excellent hiring outlook. Actuary comes in a close third, followed by Statistician at number four. That's three of the top five rated careers belonging to math majors, each with excellent hiring outlooks.

A few years ago, I welcomed you to my dining room table for a little table talk. Back then, the conversation centered on the kids’ standing in the social hierarchy of our local high school, with my math geek son clinging to the bottom rungs of the social ladder. I was thrilled to be able to boost his self-esteem by quoting this article’s conclusions.

I’m equally thrilled to inform him once again (and you all as well!) that the mathematician’s ranking stands. Even more importantly, I’m happy to note following a career path in mathematics could very well lead to life-long fulfillment. When you find a career that offers opportunities to do what you love, work is not work. For those of you who have already chosen the quantitative path, your long-term prospects are looking good.

For more information, please click here: