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The employers behind September’s job numbers

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The September unemployment rate fell for the right reason, for a change: More people are seeking work and finding it. Students from the Annenberg School of Journalism profile four California companies that are hiring highly skilled workers. Here are their stories:

Profile: Ramping up but hard finding the right skills
Cornerstone OnDemand, a publicly traded company, provides talent-management, learning, and performance-management software that helps companies manage their workforce. Its clients include Starwood Hotels and Resorts, The Neiman Marcus Group and Turner Broadcasting.

Company: Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.
Location: Santa Monica, California
Industry: Information technology
Annual revenue: $ 75.5 million (2011)
2008 workforce: 152 
Current workforce: more than 650

The company’s workforce has more than quadrupled in the past four years, and it’s currently trying to fill 65 positions in fields such as marketing, information technology, finance and administrative services. It hasn’t been easy.

Tina Figueroa, Cornerstone’s vice president for talent and administration, says the company is often looking for people with skills that are already in high demand.

“What we’re finding, and what recent research supports, is that, despite the unemployment rate there are skills shortages,” Figueroa says. That has sparked what she calls “a war for talent.”

Figueroa adds that traditional recruiting methods just don’t bring in enough of the right candidates. She has begun leveraging social networks and online communities to look for talent. Cornerstone has also begun asking its own employees to scour their own social networks for qualified candidates.

– By Corrina Shuang Liu

Profile: Business and spending improving
In the past year, Joe Phelps has grown the workforce of his marketing and communications agency by nine positions, or 14%, thanks largely to clients increasing marketing budgets as the economy recovers. The salaries he offers average around $90,000. But he has been hiring people whose skills are in demand: software programmers, digital producers and search-engine-optimization specialists.

Company: Phelps (formerly The Phelps Group)
Santa Monica, California
Marketing and Communications
Annual revenue:
$65 million
2006 workforce:
53 (2006)
Current workforce:

Yet Phelps says he doesn’t expect profits to grow this year. Instead, he’s beefing up his staff in anticipation of new accounts and greater demand from longtime clients.

“For many of our hires, the revenue for which they were hired really hasn’t even come to fruition yet,” Phelps says. “Clients say, ‘We’re going to be spending this.’ And we need to be ready.”

Phelps’ clients include Panasonic, Whole Foods Market and Public Storage. In 2012, Phelps added Valvoline Instant Oil Change and real estate listings giant, among others.

Most of Phelps’ new employees are specialists hired from other companies or straight out of prestigious universities. Finding and evaluating new talent can be a challenge, he says.

He says he has been able to grow his company because his clients include industry leaders such as Public Storage, which continued to invest during the downturn while weaker competitors retrenched.

– By Aaron Schrank

Profile: Turning adversity into opportunity
MySocialCloud sees a business model in managing what many Internet users consider a major headache: keeping track of usernames and passwords.

Company: MySocialCloud
Location: Los Angeles, California
Industry: Internet startup
Current size of workforce: 10

The Los Angeles startup, the brainchild of siblings Scott and Stacey Ferreira, employs 10 people and expects to create 10 to 15 jobs in the new year, thanks in part to a big investment from Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. The company is currently receiving 50 to 75 applications a week.

Scott Ferreira, 21, started developing web applications as a teenager seven years ago. After dropping out of the University of Southern California, he founded MySocial with his sister, now 20, in May 2011. The idea was sparked by a fatal computer breakdown that wiped out the all of the Ferreiras’ online usernames and passwords, which were usually kept on an Excel spreadsheet.

The Ferreiras pitched the idea to Branson after meeting him at a charity event. He later later introduced them to venture investor Jerry Murdock. MySocialCloud also attracted the attention of Photobucket co-founder Alex Welch. The three now are the site’s primary investors and business mentors.

MySocialCloud says its users are college students, professors and small businesses. The website can automatically help users log in to any site that they’ve stored. As passwords get longer and more complicated, and more social media emerge, the company is betting that more people will see value in having one site safely taking care of all of their passwords.

– By Shako Liu

Profile: Healthcare and electronic records prove to be a boon
The government’s push to convert doctors’ paper medical files to electronic records is fueling a hiring boom at Practice Fusion.

Proponents of electronic medical records (EMR) say the digital systems do much more than just clear out closets in doctors’ offices. They help doctors communicate more effectively with patients and colleagues, which leads to more precise medication management, fewer unnecessary tests, more accurate diagnoses, and better outcomes.

Company: Practice Fusion
Location: San Francisco, California
Industry: Electronic Medical Records
Annual revenue: not disclosed
Workforce at the start of 2012: 130
Current workforce: 220

“We’re trying to make technology to help save lives,” says Sheila Ryan, Practice Fusion’s vice president of  People and Culture, who may have the world’s best job title.

It’s Ryan’s responsibility to make sure the privately held company is growing fast enough to satisfy the demand for that technology. Practice Fusion had 130 employees in January. That number is on pace to double by the end of the year, Ryan says.

Practice Fusion is hiring engineers, web designers and product managers. The firm also says it’s focusing more on customer service, and has grown its tech support team from one person to 20 over the past nine months. And, the company is trying to stock itself with a broad range of talent, such as a team of six data scientists who scour health records — with patient names removed — to dig for trends that could be useful in evaluating the quality of care.

Ryan says the company feels confident about its expansion plans, in part because of the federal government’s commitment to EMR: Doctors who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid are eligible for federal grants to help offset the cost of converting paper records to digital.

“Our biggest concern would be if economic conditions pushed these doctors out of business,” says Ryan. “But that’s what our product helps prevent. We want to keep the small doctors alive and well, by helping them switch to electronic records, by making them more efficient and more effective.”

– By Jake de Grazia

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