Research: Women Are Winning More Scientific Prizes, But Men Still Win the Most Prestigious Ones

According to a study of 628 awards given over five decades.


Connect the cause to what the company stands for.


Don’t let your ego get in the way of your growth.
How to Do Digital Marketing (Even If You Aren’t an Expert)
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 05:00:00 -0800

As most of us know, digital marketing involves marketing products or services on the internet. If you're new to the world of digital marketing, an expert consultant or agency can give you the exact steps that can be taken for a product or services to best reach potential consumers. However, if you're on a budget, there are some simple and cost-effective digital marketing techniques you can implement yourself.

Here are five basic digital marketing strategies that any business can start using, even if they're not experts.

Editor's note: Need help with online marketing for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Use social media

Many businesses regularly use LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more in order to grow their following organically and reach potential clients. It is important to share content that is relevant to the business at hand and to keep it regular and unique.

Publish website content with smart keywords

Creating regular content on a website is a really simple way to reach people. A website is more likely to show up on a Google search when it is relevant and up to date. This can be done by writing weekly blog posts, by creating new products and by updating images. A website can often be the most important thing when it comes to a business’s exposure, so it is important to put a lot of time and effort to making it visually pleasing, mobile responsive and to include a lot of relevant, free content.

When creating content for your website, it is important to include relevant keywords. When deciding on what keywords to use, it is important to imagine what a potential client might be searching. They may type “health and wellness” into a Google search bar, meaning that a health website would want to include those keywords in their weekly blog posts. However, don't include your chosen keywords too much; otherwise, Google will register this as spam. Including a keyword three to five times is the perfect amount to get noticed by Google. 

Send out a newsletter

It is another method that can be implemented by beginners is sending out a regular newsletter. This newsletter can include general updates on the business, weekly blog posts or special deals and discounts that a company has to offer. Testimonials can be included as well as social media links and pictures. Sending out a newsletter is the perfect way to pop into someone’s inbox and gently ask them to become a client or for a sale. Regularity is key, as it elicits trust in the readers and lets people know that the business can be counted on.

Give out freebies

The perfect way to draw people to a website is by creating freebies. Many companies provide free e-books, webinars, email courses, infographics and much more in exchange for signing up to their newsletter. Others offer discounts upon signing up or access to a members only area. The possibilities are endless, and it is all about imaging what kind of thing would draw sometime to a website and keep them coming back for me.

Seek out the help of influencers

Influencers are people who have a highly engaged and loyal niche following on social media. These people can be contacted to work with to promote a brand, and a business will often feature them on their website or social media page in return. Again, it is important to seek out influencers who are relevant to your brand and who have an organic following of people that could become potential clients.

When it comes to marketing, time, effort and money can be saved by seeking out professional help. But some simple digital marketing can be done on your own. Implementing the basic strategies discussed in this article will ensure that more people are reached and more sales are made.

How to Tap the World of Public Relations with Technology
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 06:08:00 -0800

Technology has had a significant impact on the world of public relations. However, smart public relations professionals, like Emma Smith of Three Lions Public Relations, have learned to harness technology to make their lives easier, improve their business outcomes and expand their clients' brands.

Q: What devices do you use daily?

A: "PR professionals can, and do, work from just about anywhere," said Smith.

Smith uses the usual tools of the trade – a laptop and a cell phone – to keep her on top of what her clients need no matter where she is in the world.

Q: What technology do you use to get ahead of your competition?

A: Smith points to Hubspot as a big differentiator for 3 Lions. It provides her with actionable insights and visibility into how journalists are reacting to a message.

"Often, PR people have no idea whether journalist contacts have even opened their emails," she said.

Hubspot, however, lets her team see not only if an email has been opened, but how often and what messages and links the recipient has interacted with.

"This gives us some good insight into what has resonated, and with whom, allowing for more targeted follow-up – and potentially a shift in approach, as needed," Smith added.

Q: Is technology a significant enabler for your business?

A: Smith's team works remotely, so technology is an enormous enabler for her team.

"Technology allows for effective project management, research, communication and collaboration," she said.

But it has an even bigger and more surprising impact for her team: "The use of video conferencing technology, in particular, enables us to see each other, and other clients, face-to-face."

Thanks to video, Smith and her team can build deeper relationships with their clients and co-workers, even when they aren't in the same room. Plus, video helps provide clarity.

"Video calls allow all involved to pick up on non-verbal cues, and minimize the risk of a message being misconstrued," Smith said.

Q: Has social media influenced your business at all, from internal employee policies to the way you promote your company?

A: Obviously, as a PR firm, 3 Lions understands social media as a tool for its clients. Smith noted that they use it for marketing themselves as well.

"We've engaged with potential clients via social media, and we regularly participate in Twitter chats to share insights and best practices with other industry professionals," she said.

Q: Have you had to adapt your business because of security concerns brought about by the increased use of technology?

A: While security hasn't caused a drastic shift in how Smith's team does business, they are still cautious.

"Companies often grow complacent thinking it 'won't happen to them,'" she said, "but, at previous companies, I've witnessed first-hand the immediate challenges, and potential lapse in client trust, that can arise when a security breach occurs."

Her team uses tools to generate secure passwords and makes sure anti-virus, and other security tools, remain up to date.

Smith cautioned other entrepreneurs not to overlook this important element of their business: "Business leaders should ensure that employees are educated as to security best practices, and know how to identify potentially suspicious activity such as phishing."

Is Your Small Business Achieving Profitable Growth?
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 07:00:00 -0800

Most small business owners start their own business because they have a passion for something, a new idea, want to be their own boss or are seeking more financial stability and/or earning potential. However, very few entrepreneurs have an accounting or finance background.

According to a recent Intuit survey, only 40 percent of small business owners consider themselves “extremely” or “very” knowledgeable concerning accounting and finance. Sound familiar? 

Even though you might not have a financial background, you can get a handle on your small business’s finances by evaluating your venture regularly. Here are four tips to get you on the right track.

Editor's note: Looking for accounting software for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you with information.

1. Revenues Are Not Profits.

Contrary to popular opinion, sales alone do not drive profitable growth. That is only one part of the equation. Your ability to manage production and operating costs is the other part. Revenues are the monies your business brings in from the sale of goods and services. Profits are what’s left over after all the expenses to run the business, create the products and services, and pay taxes and interest, are taken out of revenues.

It’s possible to increase your sales but experience a profit decline. This can occur if:

Your sales increase comes from higher sales of low-margin items while you suffer a decrease in sales of high-margin products. The cost to produce your product rises more than your revenues. Your operating expenses erode the revenues generated from product and service sales.

A successful company typically grows its customer base and revenue over time to offset increased operational costs. You need to look beyond the revenues to evaluate your business’ profitability.

2. Line Item Profits Can Be More Revealing Than Bottom Line Profits.

Most small businesses focus on their bottom line net profit as a measure of the success of their efforts during the year. However, that doesn’t give a clear picture of what is happening in the business. Many small businesses can’t identify which of their product offerings or customers are or are not profitable. That means they are making decisions about what to sell, to which customers, at what price and with what resources based on limited information. 

You need to look at the contribution each product line or service makes to the bottom line. Break out your sales by product line and service and compare them year over year. Do you have any products that are losing sales? Certain key customers may be ordering less or pricing could be out of line. 

While many costs cannot be attributed to any one product, allocate your costs of sales and as many operating expenses as you can to each product. Do you have products that are generating losses? It may be time to consider ways to revamp the product to make it more appealing to customers or retire that product entirely. 

3. Margins are the Yardstick of Profitability.

The real tool for evaluating profit is not a dollar number – it’s a profit margin percentage. Profit margins can tell you:

Whether products are priced and promoted to drive profitable growth. 

Your small business likely offers higher-, medium- and lower-priced products. Are you selling more lower-priced products than higher-priced products? It could be that your higher-priced products are not priced effectively relative to the market. 

Whether all product and services offered are profitable.

In most businesses, there will be a mix of different products and services. Do you know which products are more profitable? Two or three products may be propping up one or more unprofitable products.

The value of each of your customer relationships.

Every business has customers that require more handholding and maintenance than others. Do you know whether the cost of doing business with those customers is worth the revenue they bring in, given the time and attention you spend on them? Is your attention better spent on business development, for instance? 

Whether resources are allocated efficiently. 

Profit margins are an indicator of whether or not you are spending money in the right areas of the business that directly impact the bottom line. What is the time and resource cost for each product or service? What are your marketing costs versus ROI?

4. You Can’t Rely on Financial Software Programs Alone.

In this age of do-it-yourself and software efficiencies, many small businesses have come to rely on accounting and bookkeeping software programs to keep track of their financial data.

While these programs are great at tracking numbers:  

They don’t give you a clear picture of your finances to help you assess the health of your small business.

While you can run many reports from a software program, you’ll still need someone with experience in finance to help you understand what those reports mean. Did you notice that your account receivable turnover is low? That could be a signal that some of your customers aren’t paying you on time. Has your gross profit margin been declining over the past six months? That could be a sign that it’s time to start talking to your materials suppliers about better terms.

They don’t give your small business an edge in determining your market and business growth strategy.

Do you know where you should focus your marketing dollars? Can you decide where you can achieve cost savings? Do you have enough cash flow through the end of the year? Software alone can’t help you answer those questions. 

They don’t automatically provide accuracy, nor can they evaluate possible gaps as a skilled, human bookkeeper can.

Are you reconciling your books each month? Do you know how to categorize every business expense? Are you familiar with accounting principles for your unique business and/or industry?

It makes a lot more sense to let a bookkeeper do the heavy financial lifting for your small business. A qualified bookkeeper, who is knowledgeable in finance, keeps up with the latest accounting policies, produces accurate books, ensures compliance with IRS methods and provides business consulting and advice. Your valuable time can be better spent making informed decisions to grow your business rather than wrangling receipts, accumulating data, formatting spreadsheets and calculating ratios. 

Health Insurance: Employer and Employee Costs in 2019
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:44:00 -0800

In the United States, nearly 60 percent of people have health insurance through an employer. While the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) made direct-purchase health insurance more accessible for those without employer-sponsored options, for many workers, health insurance is seen as a draw of regular employment. 

This means that the insurance benefits an employer offers, and how the costs of that insurance are shared, directly impacts a business' ability to hire the right people. 

"Employer health benefits are such a crucial part of attracting and retaining talent," said Michael Stahl, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at HealthMarkets. "It is essential to get it right." 

Health care is going to cost you, whether you own a business or you’re just an average employee. Stahl and two other health insurance experts helped us break it down.

How employer-sponsored insurance costs are shared

Costs are generally shared in two ways: premiums and out-of-pocket costs, said Stahl. Depending on the plans chosen by you and your employees, these costs can be split across a variety of payments and savings plans.

Out-of-Pocket Employee Costs Deductible is the amount paid for healthcare services before the insurer begins paying. Most deductibles are yearly amounts and are a portion of the cost shared by employees. For example, an employee may have a $2,000 yearly deductible, which means they must pay for $2,000 of medical services before the insurer covers the rest of the costs.  Co-payment, or co-pay, is the amount employees pay directly to a healthcare provider at the time of service. Not all services or plans require co-pays.  Coinsurance is the percentage of insurance costs that employees are still responsible for after their deductible and applies only to services covered by insurance. For example, if a plan has 20 percent coinsurance, then the insurance company will pay 80 percent of each covered medical bill, and the employee is responsible for the other 20 percent. Shared Employer and Employee Costs Premiums are payments made to the health insurer which allow employees to keep their coverage. These are due at regular intervals, often monthly or quarterly. Under most cost-sharing plans, employers and employees both pay a portion of the premium, with employers often paying the larger share.  Health savings accounts, or HSAs, are tax-free savings accounts that can be used for future medical expenses. HSAs can be paired with certain high-deductible insurance plans and do not need to be spent within a single year. Employees may contribute to these on their own, or an employer may contribute a portion of savings as well.  Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, are pre-tax accounts designated for healthcare costs not covered by insurance, including co-pays and deductibles. FSA funds are set aside by the employer, and the employee must use them by the end of the year. Funds that are not used are sent back to the employer. How employers can keep health insurance costs down Shop around.

"With so many different options, understanding and ultimately choosing the right health insurance plan can be confusing," said Stahl. "The key is to work with an agent who is unbiased and can show you all the options." 

These options may include group health sharing plans, traditional group plans, ACA marketplace plans, or even level-funded plans, which provide rebates at the end of the year if your employees have made few health insurance claims. 

"By having the opportunity to learn and compare from multiple carriers, you can be sure you are getting the best benefits structure with the best rates available," Stahl advised. 

Encourage proactive healthcare.

In general, said Rudolf Berzins, principal of Apex Benefit Group, it costs less to insure people who are proactive about their health. Many insurance companies will offer incentives for companies that encourage employees to participate in workplace exercise programs or regular visits to primary care providers. Before your select an insurance  provider, check if any of them will provide discounts or rebates for proactive health initiatives in the workplace. 

Shift cost-sharing to employees.

To reduce their portion of health insurance costs, employers often choose plans that shift more of the costs to employees, said Arthur Tacchino, chief innovation officer at SyncStream Solutions

"The employee will likely be required to contribute more to the cost of their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage," Tacchino said. "These contributions remain tax-advantaged, but ... it means a smaller paycheck for the employee." 

While this strategy can save money for employers, it may also hurt their ability to recruit and retain employees. 

Look for prescription drug discounts. 

"Pharmacy and prescription coverage has a tremendous impact on overall insurance premiums," said Berzins. 

In addition to saving money on insurance costs by seeking generic drug alternatives within you plan, Berzins recommends investigating whether you can get direct discounts: "Contact the pharmaceutical company directly for possible coupons or discounts."

Health insurance changes in 2019

Though many changes in the costs of health insurance will depend on the types of plans you choose and make available to your employees, some trends and legal changes are more systematic. These will affect employees and employers everywhere, regardless of what insurer you use.  

"Deductibles are continuing to increase, and there are more cost sharing options between employers and employees," said Berzins. 

This increase in options means that business owners can make more plans available than in prior years and lower the costs that employers pay. 

"Some employers saw rebate checks last year for the first time from fully insured plans," Berzins added. 

The largest increases in costs in 2019 will be in coinsurance and co-payments for emergency and hospital care, as well as in rising deductibles. Most of these changes impact what employees pay out of pocket. But employees can reduce their own expenses by choosing different tiers of insurance within their group health plan, said Berzins. 

And there is a definite benefit for employees who don't have many medical expenses: "These changes will help stabilize premiums," Berzins said. 

For many employers, though, the biggest change they will see in 2019 concerns the Affordable Care Act and what it means for their legal obligations to employees. Tacchino noted that 2019 is the first year that the ACA's individual mandate penalties are zeroed out, which may impact how many employees, and their dependents, participate in insurance plans.  

"Employers typically will continue to see rising premiums, which has been the trend… even before the inception of the ACA," said Tacchino. "Outside of this major change, there are no other substantive changes that affect employer-sponsored healthcare." 

This means that employers who were legally obligated to offer health insurance options to their employees are still required to do so through 2019. 

"The main takeaway is the ACA is here to stay and employers need to be aware and make sure they stay in compliance," Tacchino said. "There are always political debates, and more recently legal challenges that blur this fact for employers, but they must remain vigilant in their compliance efforts to avoid potentially significant penalties from the IRS."

How to Speak Advertising
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 09:00:00 -0800

Most human interaction can be summed up as advertising, because our intrinsic need for attention is at the core of what we hold dear. Because there are numerous ways in which we advertise, how do we speak the language of advertising fluently and how do we profit from it?

We live in the early artificial intelligence age, and everything we communicate online is judged, not only by other people, but also by the growing super-intelligence currently operated by Alphabet (Google). Without our voices resonating online, we are in trouble. Bringing our expertise to the internet is a requirement for business in this new era. 

Holding Attention

One of the main reasons people want to pay attention to you is because you are an authority. The moment you show impatience or that you are irritated they aren’t paying attention, you admit your content isn’t engaging enough to keep their attention and that they should pay attention to you simply because you are speaking. Try the following exercises for a lesson in holding the attention of others.

Test yourself. You can begin by drawing attention in your personal life. See how long you can hold the attention of those around you without becoming obnoxious. Ask questions. Remember, listening is a great way of earning someone’s attention. Back and forth is a prerequisite to hold attention.  Be aware. If you are going to make a request for someone’s attention, be sure you are willing to stop and listen where appropriate. Politicians know that they can only hold attention for a certain period of time. Hollywood knows it; movies rarely exceed three hours. Pop songwriters of every genre know it, typically not going past five minutes for their big hits. Knowing how long you can hold an individual’s attention easily translates into how long you can hold an audience’s attention. Practice for an audience of one, first, whether literally or in your mind’s eye.   Earning & Sharing Attention

Let’s also look at something most of us can relate to: relationships. To get married, you have to sell someone on the idea that they should spend the rest of their life with you. To do this requires a fluency in advertising. Every date is a planned event, requiring forethought and consistent communication. It’s easy to see parallels between business and dating. Keeping top of mind is a core component of advertising effectively. In a relationship, a great deal of time is spent earning and sharing attention. 

The goal is to learn how to broaden that experience to a larger number of people. Know that the advertising you’ve practiced in your relationships relates to the attention you seek from large audiences. You just need to apply those principles to a greater number of people. Politicians create fanatics who are practically in love with, or avidly hate, them. This is simply an extension of our relationship mentality. We can’t help but feel this way or that way about the people whom we know. 

Speaking Advertising

There are limitless ways to speak advertising. Digital is a metrics-based game in which we can measure engagement. Time on site, click through rate, bounce rate and return visitation are all clues as to how much attention we’ve earned. These metrics can be endlessly analyzed to provide insight into the direction to move in the future. Don’t get too caught up in analytics however, as it can easily become something that you focus on entirely, missing opportunities to act and continue to advertise.

You can write “advertising” as a language just as you can speak it. For example, most people skim blogs. No one reads every word of every page they see on the internet. With that in mind, include headers in your content that are engaging, shocking, and/or blunt. Know that most people are just going to read the headers and skim a few lines. If you can lock them in with the headers, you can get them to spend more time on the page, increasing your impact. 

By actively practicing the language of advertising at your job and in your entrepreneurial efforts, you will become more and more fluent, learning how to earn and hold attention for longer periods of time. If the attention you earn is strong enough, you can convert that into action. 

MIT Sloan Management Review
Thu, 14 Feb 2019 15:14:35 +0000

Disruption scholars have focused on how established companies, complacent in their industry position, fail to anticipate their collapse. The companies wither not because they are surpassed in their core capabilities but because they don’t recognize that the competencies that once made them distinctive no longer define success.1 These stories have a whiff of tragedy — companies that used to be front-runners are overtaken by a changing world and stick with the status quo rather than investing in capabilities that will bring the next win.

When volatility puts a leading company at risk, it also threatens the leaders, managers, and others who work for it — and that exacerbates the problem, because their insight is precisely what’s needed to curb the company’s tendency not to adopt new capabilities in the face of volatility.2 Companies of course can shift and enhance their institutional know-how by hiring new people, but individuals cannot swap out well-honed skills quickly enough to suit changing markets. As human capital theory tells us, even as people recognize their need to gain new skills, they seldom adapt rapidly.3 That’s largely because skills are accumulated slowly through years of formal education, training, and work experience. Learning simply takes time.

After World War II, managers who climbed the corporate ladder often had an expectation of implicitly guaranteed lifetime employment, as an inducement to deepen their institutional knowledge and their commitment to the company. Those personal investments made them more productive in their work for their current company but also limited their opportunities for alternative careers. Today’s executives, in contrast, rarely stick with one organization for a lifetime. As industry volatility has increased, the responsibility for career management has shifted from companies to individuals. Therefore, as you manage your career, you need to understand how broader trends in industry volatility affect your employability. You must learn how to preserve the value of your accumulated experience while carefully examining whether your current position is helping you acquire new, enduring skills.

In this article, we discuss how to diagnose the risks that disruptive industry forces pose to you — and offer suggestions on how to mitigate the threats. We base these recommendations on our recent analysis of individuals’ career histories in the professional services sector; our observations and others’ analyses in other settings, such as appliance manufacturing, oil and gas, health care, and education; and broader insights from previously published research on industry volatility and career mobility. (See “About the Analysis” for more detail about our evidence base.)

About the Analysis

The numbers and characterizations that underpin our analysis come from several sources:

Institutional Investor’s annual ranking of analysts Proprietary data on executive employment from a top-five executive placement firm (whose identity we have protected) Information on more than 2,000 individual career histories publicly available on LinkedIn Interviews we conducted with 10 individuals who made career changes Other published data that we directly cite
Diagnosing Your Industry’s Volatility

The volatility of the industry you work in directly affects the vulnerability of your career. The more things change in your field, the more likely that what you know today will be valued less tomorrow. But before you make any big changes, it’s important to ask two diagnostic questions: How volatile is my industry? And why?

How volatile is it? On average, industries are becoming more volatile. According to our analysis of Standard & Poor’s Compustat database, among the companies listed on the S&P 500 at the start of the 1990s, 70% were still listed there at the end of that decade. Over the course of the 2000s, the 10-year survival rate dropped to less than 60%. Companies within the S&P 500’s top 20% experienced a comparable shift: from 71% survival in the 1990s to 58% in the 2000s. Apart from this overall trend, turnover rates vary substantially by industry. (See “Volatility by Industry.”)

Volatility by Industry

Overall, the percentage of companies that remained within the top quintile of the S&P 500 for an entire decade dropped substantially from the 1990s to the 2000s, but there is substantial variation by industry. This volatility has great implications for executives and managers who must assess the volatility of their own career vulnerability.

Authors’ analysis of data from Standard & Poor’s Compustat database

Source: Authors’ analysis of data from Standard & Poor’s Compustat database

Your first step in diagnosing how much market volatility could affect your career is to look at the general trends in your own industry. Although no industry is immune to disruptive surprises, if you work in one that’s relatively stable, you can make deeper industry-specific investments in your professional development and worry less about facing skill irrelevance.

In major appliance manufacturing, for example, 80% of the market is controlled by a handful of industry leaders.4 Steep startup costs — for purchasing land, building manufacturing facilities, establishing supply lines for raw materials and machinery, and investing greatly in design and engineering services — insulate established manufacturers from disrupting entrants to some extent. Stable growth is also fueled by increasing demand for major appliances in some of the world’s largest developing economies, most notably China and India.

This stability affects human capital. The 2015-2016 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, which tracks job turnover by industry, shows that durable goods manufacturers had among the lowest industry percentages of new hires and separations.5 Therefore, people building their careers in that sector can take the time to deepen their expertise and knowledge within it, as demand for such capabilities shows no signs of subsiding.

But if you’re in a more volatile industry, you won’t have that luxury. The professional services industry, for instance, is among the most volatile in terms of company survival. That’s not surprising given that clients often solicit the help of professional services firms to respond to disruptive change in their own industries. Such support can be intense when called for, but demand can quickly cool after clients adapt.

Take, for example, large retail companies that seek to compete with local competitors by using big data analytics in order to make their stores more attractive to customers. By combining local sales and demographic information, retailers can customize their stores’ physical layouts to local tastes in a way that promotes sales.6 But they may not have the in-house skills to fully explore that potential. Hiring consultants with relevant expertise allows the companies to start using big data to make concrete business decisions and quickly capitalize on popular trends — without investing up front in internal capabilities.

That’s great for the retail company, of course: It can rely on outside support until it’s ready to bring analytics in-house. But what does that mean for the consultants who painstakingly acquired the expertise — and for their firms?

It used to be that organizations hired big name consultancies (think McKinsey, Bain, or Boston Consulting Group) for comprehensive, customized, long-term projects that involved thorough data gathering, analytical problem-solving, and specialized expertise. However, as clients have started to invest in creating and deriving value from their own big data repositories, they have begun to prefer shorter-term consulting projects that yield a more immediate return on investment. This trend has favored smaller boutique consultancies that have more standardized offerings, and it has pushed almost all consultancies to rethink the way they engage clients.

That’s why, during the past 15 years, McKinsey has invested in capabilities to build on client companies’ existing analytics efforts. Such offerings are challenging the old consulting business model that had remained largely unchanged for more than 100 years.7

For individuals who work at top-rated consulting houses, the path to becoming a partner once depended heavily on building long-term, broad-scope counseling relationships that facilitated the shaping of clients’ agendas. Today’s consultants must complement this approach by also developing minimally invasive, analytics-driven offerings that produce measurable results according to those same analytics. Consulting team managers who don’t embrace lighter, leaner models of engagement will limit their ability to build strong portfolios of client service, thereby jeopardizing their likelihood of making partner. Now more than ever, innovation in how services get delivered is defining what a successful partner looks like.

Congruent with this emphasis on innovation, firms like McKinsey have already started diversifying their sources of talent. Beyond the traditional talent pools of business school graduates, firms are also acquiring people with complementary backgrounds in areas such as design, creative services, data analytics, and digital services.8 And consultancies even sometimes acquire whole firms to achieve that complementarity. For example, in 2015, McKinsey acquired the product- and industrial-design firm Lunar. Such moves illustrate new career threats and opportunities that individuals in the consulting industry confront in the face of volatility.9

What explains the volatility? Once you’ve identified how volatile your industry is, you should examine the volatility’s source, to help determine whether industry dynamism represents an opportunity or a threat to you as an individual. Part of the rise in volatility across industries comes from greater interconnectedness. According to our analysis of trade flows among sectors using input-output accounts data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average number of steps required to connect any pair of industries in the overall economy (so-called degrees of separation) shrank from 70 to 64 between 1998 and 2008.10 This greater interconnectedness means that individuals are exposed not only to shocks in their own industry but also to ripples of volatility from related industries.

Consider oil and gas, a very volatile industry in recent years whose swings from unprecedentedly high prices to historic lows have been accompanied by complementary volatility in employment. Executive turnover rose from 17% in the 1990s to 50% in the 2000s. And since 2015, more than 200 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy.11

The impact of cheap oil has extended beyond the petrochemical industry. Biofuels are believed to be a crucial alternative to corn ethanol, an oil replacement that has big effects on food agriculture. Recently, low oil prices undermined the attractiveness of biofuel production, leading to a seven-year low in investment and a drop in demand for skills associated with that technology.12 Green technologies, such as wind and solar power, also need high oil prices to be in the running as viable substitutes. Therefore, for green energy producers, volatility often originates outside their industry rather than from rivalry within it.

The companies can adapt by hiring people with more relevant skills as needs shift, but the individuals who already work for them don’t change as readily when market preferences evolve or new technologies appear. The degree of risk an employee faces in this scenario depends on where the volatility originates.

From a global placement firm, we obtained proprietary compensation data on 2,034 executive placements, from 2004 to 2011, across multiple functions, industries, seniority levels, and geographies. Using years of industry experience as a measure of accumulated human capital, we found that the return on that capital appeared to be linked to industry volatility. Specifically, greater industry employment experience (by one standard deviation, or 7.5 years) was associated with a 4% relative increase in pay for job-switching executives in industries whose top firms face high volatility from intra-industry rivalry. In contrast, there was almost no relative pay increase for the same experience in industries that had less internal rivalry.

Therefore, intra-industry volatility may not erode the value of human capital to the degree it chips away at the value of a company. In fact, to the extent the volatility fuels competition for talent, it could benefit individuals who have focused on honing their industry-specific capabilities.

With externally driven volatility, in contrast, individuals and companies face similar risks. For companies, such as those in the green energy industry, it’s clear how cheaper alternatives can erode their value proposition. But individuals working in this setting also find themselves threatened because their industry-specific capabilities are less valuable to the rival companies (in this case, petroleum-based energy companies). Using the same global placement firm’s data on executive compensation among job-switchers, we found that people in more isolated industries garnered an additional 3.8% pay return on their years of industry experience. In contrast, for people working in more highly integrated industries (with greater exposure to external shocks), their work experience did not command a measurable increase in pay.

Preempting Your Own Disruption

Taking refuge in a stable industry is not an option for many people, and stable industries may not remain so for the duration of your career. But you can take charge of your career trajectory by scouting for early signs of industry volatility and getting ahead of them at your company, identifying other companies in your sector where your skills will be in high demand, and developing highly portable skills that will travel across industries.

Scout for early signs of volatility at your company — and beat it to the punch. Whether the volatility in an industry originates from the outside or from within, self-initiated career disruptions at your company can insulate you against surprises down the road. We will present two examples of such moves that allowed people to avoid being blindsided by forces beyond their control.

First, consider the story of Ken, a lead stock analyst assigned to the telecom sector in the research division of a Wall Street investment bank. The major clients of such banks are institutional investors who have billions of dollars under management on behalf of corporations, pension funds, and individuals. If an institutional buyer deems the stock analyst’s research to be useful, the institution buys and sells its stock positions through the investment bank, which acts as a broker on the institution’s behalf. The more value the analyst adds, the more trading the institution does with the brokerage firm.

When Ken recognized in 2001 that the dot-com era had peaked, he asked to switch out of covering the telecom sector, even though such switches are uncommon and rarely successful. Although initially reluctant, the firm’s management allowed Ken to switch to the airfreight and surface transportation sector in early 2002 — and provided the resources and space required for him to grow in his new role.

Our analysis of the data from this era backs up the wisdom of Ken’s decision. We looked specifically at Institutional Investor’s annual All-America Research Team poll, which ranks the effectiveness of stock analysts.13 Notable changes in the number of ranked analysts in a sector provide a barometer of the health or volatility of that sector, potentially revealing where talented people may be at risk. We compared, by sector, the number of analysts ranked in 2000 and 2010, looking for large changes that would signal upheaval. The two sectors with the largest declines and lowest repeat awardees were telecom services and IT hardware. Our analysis of telecom services suggests that the decline in the number of ranked analysts (by 72%) and the number of repeat awardees (less than 6%) were due to both external and internal industry volatility. This sector faltered in the wake of the dot-com bust and the 2008-2009 financial crisis, but it was especially unhinged as the world shifted from analog to digital communications.

According to our analysis of content in Institutional Investor and the commentary that accompanies its stock analyst poll rankings, most of the telecom companies whose stock prices performed best in 2000 were acquired or went bankrupt by 2010. As the companies in the industry collapsed, equity research analysts tied to those companies also suffered. Ken and his employer clearly made the right call in switching his sector assignment.

Of course, a career move like Ken’s is challenging for both the transitioning individual and his or her company — it means displacing talent and exercising patience as the job-switcher faces a learning curve. For those reasons, companies are more likely to entertain such moves only for very strong performers who show a willingness to share the risk. Ken told us by email, “Switching industries allowed me to understand a broader part of the economy,” surely a value add for his employer in the long run.

Our second example is that of David, a stock analyst at a different Wall Street investment bank, who made a less stark move than Ken’s. In 2002, David switched from covering health care technology to focusing on pharmaceuticals because, he said in an email interview, he “wanted to take on a new challenge and cover a much larger market-cap sector.” The investment bank had wanted to fill the position internally anyway, if possible, and facilitated David’s switch, providing support to him while he learned the intricacies of the new sector.

David describes the learning curve as very steep, with a genuine risk of failure, but also as providing “intellectual stimulation.” The move proved to be advantageous to both him and his employer despite greater industry volatility than anticipated and, according to David, “significant underperformance of the pharmaceutical sector during the 2002-2009 period.” His move within the health care industry allowed him to leverage his existing expertise and proven performance record within his company.

Of the thousands of Institutional Investor-ranked analysts on Wall Street from 2000 to 2010, Ken and David are two of only a few who successfully made the transition from a top ranking in one industry to a similar ranking in another industry. (Ken was ranked No. 2 in telecom and remained at No. 2 after switching to airfreight and surface transportation; David was ranked No. 2 in health care technology and then No. 1 after switching to major pharmaceuticals.) The experiences of these high-performing people reveal how self-initiated, preemptive career disruptions can succeed despite the inherent risks.

For Ken and David, making a big move within the same company was sufficient to keep them on top. For other people, a more dramatic move may be in order, as long as the job-switchers understand the volatility of their industry.

Deploy your skills with another company in the same industry. Even when a volatility-driven career move is not self-initiated, opportunities for redeployment within an industry often abound.

Consider Arthur Andersen, which used to be one of the Big Six accounting firms until it faced rapid contraction in the wake of the 2001 Enron scandal. Despite those events, many AA employees landed at new firms where they were able to use their same skills. That’s because the world still needed accounting services as much as they ever did, perhaps more so because of additional reporting requirements that ensued after the Enron debacle. Many AA employees found their way to firms that had been their former employer’s rivals; others remained in the industry working for smaller firms.14 Indeed, although the survival rate of individual professional services firms is not high, the industry’s overall retention of employment levels is strong. That’s because employees who are shed by closing firms still have the opportunity to be absorbed by a surviving firm if their skill set remains valuable.15

Take the story of Brigitte, currently a health insurer CEO, who started investing in her skill set at the intersection of quantitative financial analysis and health care. “I considered that combination specific enough to be recognized as a distinct specialization,” she says, “but general enough to be valued in multiple contexts related to health care.” Brigitte has navigated multiple moves between the health care provider space and payer organizations that provide medical insurance, an industry where volatility is common.

“Before going to business school, I decided to leave my business management position in a prescription drug distribution company as management was contemplating different acquisition strategies,” she explains. “I just wasn’t sure what direction the company was going to take and what my role would be. I found that my expertise in financial analysis within health care could be valued in many contexts, including health care consulting and insurance organizations.”

Today, Brigitte faces another acquisition-driven uncertainty as her employer, a major medical insurer, considers merging with a large retail drugstore chain. “The roles I’ve taken on here have helped me learn the health care business more deeply, and that knowledge is not specific to my current employer,” she says. “I think that feeling like your value as an employee is tied to just one employer is dangerous — I’ve seen people make bad decisions when their professional future gets put at risk by a possible reorganization. Feeling comfortable that there are other possible options for me makes me a more clear-eyed executive in my current role.”

Bolster skills that make you attractive across industries. In addition to hiring many analysts with industry- and firm-specific knowledge, Wall Street firms also seek analysts with expertise in areas that extend across categories — people who focus on regulatory trends, small companies, quantitative know-how, portfolio management, economics, or accounting. Institutional Investor’s rankings of analysts show that in five of those six areas, retention rates in 2010 were at least 25% higher than they had been in 2000; only the accounting sector did not reach this threshold. And four of the six areas experienced increases in the raw number of ranked analysts.16

What inoculates these types of analysts from industry volatility is that their expertise is broadly applicable to a diverse and unrelated set of companies. For example, an analyst who focuses on economics and portfolio management would be able to apply that expertise across various industries ranging from currency markets to utility companies. That kind of analyst’s skills would include understanding the implications of macroeconomic trends and applying the latest quantitative research methods. Analysts specializing in applied accounting expertise can use their knowledge in just about any industry. For example, according to Institutional Investor, analyst Christopher Senyek has accumulated six top ratings in the accounting category since 2009. His specialization in rating companies by earnings quality can be broadly applied to the task of identifying riskier investments across industry categories.17

Although the skill set of these generalist analysts is somewhat distinctive, it is still not of the highest value because it’s not as rare as well-cultivated expertise in a particular industry. Nevertheless, because the expertise applies to many unrelated settings, it is more resistant to the whims of industry volatility. This avenue will not suit everyone, but it is another option when you want to hedge your bets against the forces of disruption. It just may require some creativity and retooling.

This principle of making yourself valuable across industries also applies outside professional services. Consider the case of Michelle, who became dissatisfied after six years working as a teacher in a public elementary school. After she resigned her teaching job to spend more time with her young children and complete an additional master’s degree, she used her teaching experience to move into the corporate training field. She now works as a trainer in a regional bank, creating and designing solutions-based instruction. Michelle views her new career as providing stronger opportunities for advancement and a better match with her desire to use her entrepreneurial talents. “One of the things that drew me to education in the first place,” she says, “was my desire to help others discover and use their strengths. I now get to teach and train colleagues in an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.”

Industry volatility often is a topic of debate about the survival of companies, but it has equally meaningful implications for the executives and managers who work for those businesses. In short, recognizing and, when possible, anticipating industry volatility are keys to sensible career management. Just as companies can become complacent with their strengths, so too can individuals. Resting on one’s laurels is always risky.

Motivated individuals can start by diagnosing the volatility in their own industry and then analyzing what internal or external forces explain that volatility. Next, of course, it’s time for action. Whether you decide to make a modest shift within your own company or within your industry — or to switch industries altogether — will depend on what your diagnosis uncovers, your own career goals, and what options are realistic for you. The only naive approach is to assume that industry volatility is just something for the company to worry about and not a concern for you as a sole actor. Simply understanding the broader landscape of existing and imminent volatility — and your place within it — is a vital first step. We suggest you take it, soon.

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