This past week I have connected with several companies in different industries and various geographic regions. Two consistent themes are reappearing in our conversations:
“I need to figure out how to help people do more with less.”
“I need to find cheaper and better ways to develop my talent.”
Unlike the previous three economic slowdowns that I have personally experienced in the past 25 years, there is something alarmingly different about this one. Yes, when budgets get tight and layoffs are occurring, people do think about doing more with less and finding cheaper and better ways. But this time around, the malaise is so communal, affecting most industries, and very personal (who’s retirement did not shrink in half?) that these same two themes have new meaning. This time, it’s for real!
I am convinced that organizations are fundamentally altering the way they will develop their talent in the future…and hopefully as soon as later this year! By fundamentally, I mean, in a paradigm-shifting way. Okay – I used that beat-up 90s term – but it is incredibly apropos. This recession has hit us all so hard that it is making all of us say, ‘let’s not put ourselves in this situation again’. From a organizational perspective, it is even more profound of a resolution. I had one major executive tell me ‘they won’t even let me buy pens!’
So the idea of sending managers and leaders off to Orlando or San Diego or some other distant city for a week-long seminar or conference is gone. Off-site learning and development will always exist in some form, but not in the manner to which we’ve been accustomed. Leaders in organizations want to see the tangible ROI – they want to see how that $7500 trip resulted in something clearly beneficial for the individual or the corporation. They also want to be able to track it and explain it. What did they learn in Orlando? How did they transfer new knowledge to the better the organization?
So for those of us in the human capital business, I posit that those that can demonstrate sustainable value for their businesses will do fantastic not just when the economy picks back up, but in 2010 and beyond as well.