I was interested to see that demand for continuous improvement talent continues to be robust, according to the results of new research. As reported on prnewswire, executive recruiting firm The Avery Point Group reviewed 7,097 recent Internet job postings, and found that the combined demand for Lean and Six Sigma talent remained more than double 2010’s recessionary demand levels—for the third consecutive year. However, it did stay almost flat compared to last year’s overall talent demand levels.


     While this year’s study illustrates the on-going robust talent market for continuous improvement skills, there also is an unexpected finding. Tim Noble, managing principal and partner of The Avery Point Group, says that for the first time in the study's history, the group saw a very noticeable improvement in the year-over-year demand for Six Sigma talent, which stops years of demand erosion versus Lean talent.


     Based on this year’s study, the group found that demand for job postings looking exclusively for Six Sigma talent, with no mention of Lean in the job specification, rose to 27 percent of the postings reviewed. That’s up from last year’s record low of only 20 percent of the postings. This marked the first time in the study’s history where demand for pure Six Sigma talent saw a noticeable year-over-year improvement relative to Lean.


     At the same time, Six Sigma also became a stronger requirement within Lean Job postings. In the group’s 2012 talent study, only 34 percent of the Lean jobs posted sought candidates that also had a Six Sigma skill set. Today, that requirement rose to 43 percent of the postings.


     Notwithstanding, this year’s study still reinforced Lean’s standing as the more desired skill set over Six Sigma. The research found that demand for Lean talent exceeded that of Six Sigma by slightly more than 24 percent, which was a marked drop from last year’s record-setting 68 percent. Interestingly, this year’s results marked the first time in the study’s history where The Avery Point Group saw a year-over-year decline in the relative demand for Lean talent versus Six Sigma.


     Noble believes several factors are at work. To begin with, Six Sigma still has an important place in the overall corporate continuous improvement landscape, despite previous years’ declining trends. He says that with Six Sigma’s focus on variation reduction and powerful statistical tools, companies may be realizing their recent heavy focus on Lean may not have sufficiently met all their continuous improvement needs.


     Secondly, companies are still essentially focused on hiring a purer Lean skill set—with 41 percent of the reviewed job postings seeking pure Lean skills and only 27 percent seeking pure Six Sigma skills. Some companies may still feel the need to focus their limited resources around Lean as a hedge against the steep challenges of today’s economic climate, which they believe may be better served by Lean’s more immediate and practical focus on waste, flow, and flexibility, Noble says.


     Although Lean continues to remain the more sought after experience in today’s continuous improvement landscape, Six Sigma still has an on-going important role in corporate continuous improvement efforts. In the end though, as Noble says, we may need to wait until next year to see if the Six Sigma resurgence seen this year is a one-time aberration or, instead, is indicative of a more balanced post-recession execution of Lean and Six Sigma.


     To me, the good news in all this, is that demand for continuous improvement talent remains high. So whether companies or interested in Lean, Sig Sigma, or a combination, they obviously are working on continuous improvement. That’s also good for job seekers because demand for their talent remains robust.


     Is your company working on Lean, Six Sigma, or both?