The coming year is set to be a year of change for businesses across all market sectors. A number of emerging socio-political issues such as the European debt crisis, the U.S. elections and the influx of veterans entering the workforce following troop withdrawals will require businesses and their employees to adapt and respond to new challenges. CLOs and human resources directors will play an integral role in helping both companies and their employees successfully navigate these shifting waters and create opportunity out of these challenges. The following are three key external market factors that will have the greatest impact on the workplace in 2012, and strategies for how CLOs and HR directors can prepare to guide businesses and their employees through these challenges.
The rush to merge: The 15 percent capital gains tax rate, a relic of the Bush-era tax cuts, is set to expire Dec. 31, 2012. To take advantage of this lower tax rate, many companies planning to exit the market through an acquisition in the next five years will make a major push to sell in 2012. While there are excellent tax reasons to rush an acquisition, many companies will lose sight of the less tangible effects of corporate buyouts, notably the integration of two unique corporate cultures and management styles. While corporate culture may be put on the back burner in favor of getting a deal done under this capital gains deadline, both buyers and sellers should be aware of the profound impact a bad cultural fit can have on productivity and ultimately the bottom line.
As acquirers across all market sectors bring new talent onboard en masse via corporate M&A activity, it is paramount that the orientation process be enhanced to include significant time communicating organizational values, culture and what it takes to win in the new merged entity. Leaders and employees won’t have had the opportunity to select one another per the usual interview process, so setting clear expectations is key to success.
Along with the orientation process, it is mission critical to implement learning curriculum and training programs that build skill sets around communicating during the transition and change. Learning and practicing together creates a robust opportunity to share organizational knowledge. Learning leaders from both organizations should work collaboratively to set new goals and build an employee development program designed to achieve them.
Three generations can be a crowd: With the lackluster rebound of the economy, many of those at or near retirement age won’t be exiting the workforce as planned. In fact, according to a December 2010 AARP survey, nearly 40 percent of baby boomers plan to “work until they drop.” While maintaining their institutional knowledge and experience is of great value to many businesses, many Gen X and Gen Y members may become frustrated with the limited growth and leadership opportunities. This dynamic may result in a loss of top talent and cause temporary strains on organizations that have not developed a strategy for talent retention.
To help retain and engage top talent from Gen X and Gen Y, learning leaders should ensure their organization has multiple avenues for opportunity by redefining growth to include lateral moves, not just upward movement. If typical leadership paths are clogged due to a lack of vacancy, they should encourage the younger workforce to explore multiple facets of the business. Being a highly collaborative and somewhat restless group, the opportunity to work amongst many different teams and experience the organization from multiple angles can prove quite fulfilling. The bench of future leaders will be incredibly strong given the variety and depth of experience.
Learning leaders can help create lateral moves by encouraging project delegation as well as creating multi-department committees. Delegating pieces of projects is a great way to share experiences across the organization. By having ownership of project components from other departments, the younger workforce is able to gain exposure and confidence around navigating within the organization as whole.
New veterans enter the workforce: During 2012, thousands of U.S. troops are expected to withdraw from warzones. Upon returning home, many of them will leave military service to enter the civilian workforce. While businesses are already jumping at the opportunity to hire veterans, the difference between military and civilian work, leadership and communication styles can make the transition challenging for both parties. Businesses will grapple with veterans’ divergent leadership and management styles, and they in turn will face significant hurdles integrating into new civilian jobs.
For both veterans and private-sector businesses alike, understanding that everyone comes into an organization with his or her own context around what it means to be a high performer is critical. Younger veterans may struggle with making decisions on their own or with the general autonomy that’s expected in the private sector. Non-commissioned officers may come in barking orders and expecting others to follow blindly. Neither one of these scenarios will mesh well with the civilian workforce. Learning leaders should provide training in communication, collaboration and leadership immediately to smooth the transition, and keep in mind shared values: dedication, hard work and commitment to furthering the best interests of the organization and its customers.
Businesses across all sectors will have to carefully consider where existing practices will provide stability and where new strategies need to be implemented to better adapt to these changing social and economic factors. CLOs in particular will need to be hyper-vigilant as these factors emerge in their organizations. No one is better positioned to spot these trends than the learning function within an organization.
Halley Bock is the CEO of Fierce Inc., a global leadership and development training company. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.