Although the U.S. economy grew 2.6 percent in the third quarter, the job market still stinks. National unemployment is inching back towards double-digit territory and there is little hope that we will return to pre-recession levels anytime soon.
Optimists will point out that employment is a lagging indicator of economic recovery. Yet even if that’s the case, this cycle seems a lot different. Technological innovation - which continues to create new industries in the mobile, consumer Internet and green sectors - is also rendering many “full-time” jobs obsolete.
“Most companies aren’t worrying about a double-dip recession,” explains Jai Shekhawat, CEO of Chicago-based Fieldglass. “Work needs to be done. But the reason companies won’t open the spigot has to do with more structural changes that are in motion. There really is a new normal.”
Shekhawat, 47, co-founded the staffing software company Fieldglass in 1999. After raising $38 million in venture capital financing and executing a profitable business model helping companies like Baxter, Allstate and LaSalle bank manage temporary work forces; Shekhawat last September sold a majority stake of Fieldglass to Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners for more than $200 million. He continues to run the company, which also has a presence in Naperville, London and Australia.
The technologically enabled global economy allows companies of all sizes to recruit workers who don’t necessarily punch in for eight hours a time. Fieldglass technology helps companies optimize how they recruit and manage temporary workforces. Shekhawat believes the generations-old agreement between management and labor, which includes things like pensions, are a thing of a past.
While this will cause near-term discomfort for many, he acknowledges, the new employment dynamic offers advantages to individuals with entrepreneurial instincts.
“If you’re completely responsible for your future, work becomes more transactional,” Shekhawat said. “There is a natural separation between those who understand this and those who don’t.”
Energy entrepreneurs bid for $130,000 in funding
More than 70 business plans are being judged for the first-ever Clean Energy Challenge with the ultimate prize of $100,000 for the most promising Illinois-based companies in the sector. An additional $30,000 will be granted to the entity with the most innovative idea for the commercialization of clean technology.
Sponsored by The Clean Energy Trust, a nonprofit corporation backed by the likes of Nicholas Pritzker, Michael Polsky and the Illinois Technology Association, the Clean Energy Challenge will showcase finalist presentations on March 3 during the Midwest Energy Forum. The $100,000 in prize money comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, while additional funding comes from a range of organizations including Google, DLA Piper, and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.