Workforce Crisis... Is It Over?

Bright Horizons
Progressive organizations have made it a point to advance causes and practices they believe will help them satisfy their growing demands for human capital.? While the current economic conditions make reconciling a human capital shortage more difficult, on closer inspection, the impending shortages remain a real threat. According to a recent article by Tammy Erickson, author of several books including, 'Workforce Crisis,' talent shortages are already here. Ms. Erickson sites two main contributors:

  1. Sticky jobs that rely on highly specialized workers, which make it harder for people to change careers even in down economic cycles. The result is roughly 3 million unfilled jobs in the U.S.
  2. Declining birth rates across the world.
She proceeds to state that the recession will hasten the movement to 'a change and variety in work arrangements which will better reflect the needs and preferences of people in different generations and stages of life. So what should employers do to balance the present need to trim organizations with the mid-term need to secure the human fuel they'll need to drive future growth?

1. Accept that people do keep score. While good organizations with strong cultures can trade on good will during bad times, even those employers must accept that challenging times lead to net withdrawals from the good will margin accounts of their employees. Being sensitive to this dynamic will help to balance the amount and type of change thought to be digestible at any given time. This is why some organizations looking for financial relief chose to freeze salaries for everyone while others chose to fund increases for lower earners out of the savings related with freezing the pay of executive-level employees. As the economy turns, people who may have felt stuck will no doubt test the waters if they believe their organizations violated its fair weather cultural contract.

2. Keep? investing. Layoffs, particularly in a recession, are not uncommon, and when managed in a way that is congruent with the stated values of an organization, the very process becomes an opportunity to make investments in the good will reserve. In my experience, people are more inclined to rationalize the outcomes in a positive way when they are feeling most disrupted and the process is consistent with supportive organizational values as compared to if they experience a fundamental departure from who an organization espoused to be in the good times during the bad times.

3. Trust the turn. According to a recent CNN Money poll of 45 leading economists, "Growth in 2010 is slated for a return to near its historical trend," the report said, predicting a 2.7 percent year-over-year increase. The NABE's February outlook had predicted a 3.1 percent uptick.? Although some are more optimistic, predicting early signs of a sustainable recovery to begin showing in the fourth quarter of 2009. The truth is, no one can predict when a return to economic expansion will occur with certainty but if the past is evinced of the future, a recovery will eventually happen. While the global economic crisis created an intense pressure on organizations to get lean quickly, the turn could present an interesting opportunity for organizations to rethink their operating and people practices.

''In the quiet, one finds truth." Taking the time to review what works, to strengthen core cultural practices and programs, and to reinforce through actions the essential and differentiated elements of an organization seem to be worthwhile investments that are both sensitive to the current economic environment and the longer term view of company growth.
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About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
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