Last year, an acquaintance of mine attended a 100th birthday celebration for his great-aunt. During the festivities, the guest of honor was asked to share a few pearls of wisdom acquired over the course of her long life. After thinking quietly for several moments, she simply said, “Things change. And always take a sweater.”
That’s brilliant advice for everyone, including business organizations. No matter what the circumstances, you can’t count on the continuation of the status quo, and you certainly can’t control the climate. Just when you think you know what normal looks and feels like, there’s a change.
Just a couple of years ago CEO Mohamed El-Erian and his colleagues at Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), the world’s largest bond fund, coined the phrase “the new normal” to describe the changing investment climate brought on by the economic crisis. He explained the term by saying “the new normal speaks to what is likely to happen given current conditions, rather than what should happen.”
In El-Erian’s vision of the new normal, industrial countries face, among other things, sluggish growth, persistently high unemployment and acceleration of the migration of wealth to emerging economies. But the term he coined has taken on a much more generic meaning. It is now widely used to express the view that business as usual is no longer so usual. It’s not just about the economy. Given the complex and evolving environment, we no longer expect even political and social circumstances to return to their pre-crisis norms any time soon.
With such far-reaching implications, the new normal is bound to have a profound effect on every business in every industry and, by extension, on every workforce. Several recent research studies show just how much things are changing and how unprepared many organizations are.
Right Management, a Manpower company that provides end-to-end talent management solutions around the world, surveyed 739 senior managers and human resource professionals in December to learn more about the pressure points and issues they are facing in the new normal. They discovered that businesses are facing a chilling reality — trying to rebuild and grow with only the talent left behind after the drastic cost cutting mandated by the recession. The skill sets and abilities, not to mention mindsets and attitudes, of this in-place workforce may not be what is needed to take their businesses forward.
Not only is there a growing disconnect between the skills current employees possess and those companies are likely to require as economies rebound, but organizations of all sizes also may have difficulty recruiting the new talent they need to compete.
Deloitte’s Talent Edge 2020 surveyed more than 300 senior business and talent management executives across industries at large companies worldwide. One important and unexpected finding is that even high and persistent unemployment rates have not generated the glut of top talent many executives anticipated.
There is a huge pool of job seekers out there, to be sure, but they don’t all have the education or skills to participate in an advanced economy, particularly those skills needed to drive innovation and growth, like research and development. And a talent pool teeming with the wrong candidates makes trying to hire the right people externally all the more costly and risky.
I think you can guess where this is leading. In the new normal many enterprises are at risk of being left out in the cold. They are at a point where they need to be more proactive, strategic and effective when it comes to investing in their workforce development.
For learning leaders, that means playing a crucial role in defining and preparing for what the new normal looks and feels like in their organizations. It will be up to CLOs to assure learning and development is not reactive but adaptive enough to speak to what is likely to happen given current conditions.
We will focus on Game-Changing Learning: Development for the New Normal when we convene our CLO Symposium on Oct. 12 to 14 at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Calif.
I hope you’ll join us.
Editor in Chief