Charting a New Course.
Newland Associates Guides Workforce Through Choppy Waters.
Robert Newland answered the phone nearly out of breath from back-to-back meetings. This particular Wednesday morning wasn’t an anomaly. It’s been a busy year for the CEO of Newland Associates, a Lake Mary-based executive search and HR consulting firm. In a year of unprecedented challenges in the workforce, including record numbers of layoffs and a complete overhaul of where and how people work, Newland Associates has taken the opportunity to chart new paths through murky waters for those most in need of a light in the dark.
Newland grew up in Puerto Rico, and it was there that two of his greatest passions were discovered. The first was a love of sailing. “I got bitten by that bug early,” he recalled of his first foray into sailing in high school. “I tried it, having only seen some diagrams from my grandfather about sailing, and it just felt right. Since that day, I haven’t wanted to stop.”
Listening to his instincts, paying close attention to changing winds, and navigating uncertain waters come naturally to him, and they have played a big part in his second passion: helping people. He founded Newland Associates three decades ago to enable employers and employees to reach their goals. He still spends nearly all his spare time on the water racing boats and teaching sailing lessons — and in his work, he still serves as both captain and lighthouse keeper for the people he helps.
This year has been tumultuous, to say the least, with COVID-19 causing surprising effects on every industry. “For us, this time has been interesting,” Newland said. “We’re a full-service talent management firm, and we can help with executive search, HR consulting and outplacement for laid-off workers. Some of those practice areas are going really strong, especially our search practice. In fact, we matched last year’s revenue in that division at the end of September of this year.”
The “outplacement practice” includes a new compass, PowerMyCareer Online Solutions. It was introduced in June — timing that could be described more as fate than strategy. “We didn’t start developing this because of COVID-19,” Newland said. “It was slated to be released in June before that. But the pandemic did accelerate its value. It was really designed to address the needs of people to have services remotely.”
The PowerMyCareer platform’s services are extensive, thanks to a careful design process and key relationships. “Our technology is top-notch, and we’re able to negotiate with vendors that allow us to package our services in a cost-effective way.”
Available in Spanish, English and French, the tool incorporates three resources into one interface for a one-stop shop for job hunters:
- PowerMyResumeCV is an online portfolio, profile and resume tool designed to help employers and employees find the best match.
- PowerMyJobSearch, created in partnership with Jobscan, is a resume analysis and keyword-boosting function that scans applicants’ resume for keywords, finds the best match and helps potential employees fine-tune their resumes for better performance.
- PowerMyInterview is the product of a partnership with HireVue, a video interview software and platform that offers interactive video interview training.
PowerMyCareer also includes an RSS feed of potential job leads customized to the industry, company size and news of the user’s choice, as well as live webinars with national experts and more than 350 e-learning courses covering everything from emotional intelligence to management skills.
“If you were previously a back-of-house employee or an hourly front-line worker, and now you’re interested in, say, looking for a job at a call center? Well, we have online courses to help with learning customer service,” Newland explained. “If you want to get an administrative job, we have courses to learn skills as an admin clerk. If you want to become a bookkeeper, we have courses in QuickBooks.”
In the current job landscape, Newland considers technology like this a must-have. “When recruiters are looking at resumes, they aren’t going to look at all 100 to 200 that come in. They are going to look at the top 20 or 30 candidates the machine shows them because their keywords match.
“If we were in a 100-meter race,” he continued, “and I was barefoot and you had running shoes, all other factors being the same, you would beat me because you have better tools. That’s what this does: It gives you running shoes.”
While the average time people spend on a job search is seven to nine months without this tool, Newland has seen that time substantially reduced with its help.
A New Mindset
Newland and his team have been adapting their tools for both employers and employees for decades now. When Newland founded his firm 30 years ago in Puerto Rico, and even when he moved to Orlando 17 years ago to expand the firm, the world looked a lot different. It has taken experience, analysis and a careful attention to trends to keep guiding his clients toward shore. In 2020, those trends have included both those that have been slowly but steadily encroaching on the market and the sudden changes brought about by the pandemic.
“As an HR consulting and executive search firm, when we started 30 years ago the focus was on solving needs that were rather transactional,” Newland said. “Now, in addition to there being a lot more technology, the market has evolved from a transactional mindset. It’s more about the employee experience. People want to go above and beyond for the job.”
This shift, he believes, can be attributed to how a new generation approaches work, and what younger people are looking for in an employer: “With this generation, it’s not just about the job but the impact it has on the world around them. They would rather work for an organization that has values they identify with personally.”
Statistics back that up. According to a late 2019 Gallup report, “millennials are motivated by mission and purpose,” with only 30% planning to stay in their position if they don’t know or identify with the company’s values. It doesn’t mean people in previous generations didn’t believe in social motives, Newland said, but the idea of work-life balance has shifted dramatically.
“In the past work-life balance, we felt work was one thing and life was another,” he said. “Now there isn’t a separate work persona and a life persona — it’s all you.”
Millennials and those who make up Generation Z are looking for jobs that align with their values, offer opportunities for personal and professional growth, and really engage them.
The pandemic brought about its own changes to the workforce. Many people who haven’t been furloughed or the victims of layoffs have transitioned to remote work, which saw a much quicker growth than previously expected. A joint CNBC/Change Research survey conducted in the spring of 2020 found that 42% of the labor force was working from home, with 24% saying they would like to work either entirely or more from home compared with how they worked before the pandemic.
These changes raise questions that employers may not yet have answered, but Newland and his team are working to do just that.
“We have to rethink our roles,” Newland said. “It’s not business as usual, and it won’t be even when things calm down.” Newland and his team are creating tools like PowerMyCareer catered to exactly what job seekers are looking for, and they’re using their expertise to prepare employers for what’s to come.
Navigating the Storms
This isn’t the first time Newland has leveraged the power of partnerships and platform to make a difference where it really matters. Throughout the decades, he has helped employers and the workforce through everything from recessions to natural disasters.
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and neighboring islands in 2017, displacing residents and disrupting their lives and livelihoods, Newland created a bilingual job search tool to provide evacuees all over Florida with direct access to thousands of job opportunities.
Today, the pandemic is presenting workforce challenges that resemble those from a different kind of disaster: an economic crash. “The last time it was this bad was the Great Recession,” Newland said. “People filed for bankruptcy, lives and relationships were shattered, nest eggs were reduced to nothing. It was really painful.”
The realities of being out of work in an uncertain time are again weighing heavily on many Floridians’ minds, and Newland’s team doesn’t take the change they can make for granted. “We believe that when we are helping individuals, in that moment it is all about them and their unique problems.
“The two things I see people struggling with most in these times are mindset and stress. People are thinking there aren’t any jobs out there so they are postponing their job search, which is a mistake. There are always jobs, and those who are looking for jobs will find them. I’d like to see that mindset shift toward opportunity.”
The second thing is stress, a word nearly synonymous with 2020 at this point. This year, even leaving the house can be a source of great stress, one that compounds the anxiety brought on by job searching.
“People are asking themselves: ‘What if I go out and start interviewing? What could I bring home to a relative or loved one?’” Newland said. “There’s so much stress, it’s just incredible. And then there is the stress of being out of a job, running out of money. We’re seeing a lot of desperation right now. Finding someone to talk to can make a huge difference, and a lot of the time, in these conversations with career counselors, these anxieties come up. The counselor can then offer guidance for next steps to reduce that stress. Just knowing you have a tool on your side, people at your disposal, you breathe better.”
As they keep their eyes on a brighter horizon, Newland Associates and its captain are working to guide clients toward a more hopeful future. “When you help someone,” Newland said, “when you see people seeing the light, it just feels so good.”