Since the 2008 recession, budgets for people-related initiatives have been very limited. At the same time, companies have been slow to hire. This means that as economic growth has returned the existing workforce is constantly being asked to do more. We’ve all heard the phrase “forget work/life balance, think work/life integration.” The point is that this time it’s really different. Business leaders, led by CFOs, have become depression babies, afraid to spend money on much beyond essential services.
The good news is that avoiding excess spending will help stave off another recession as companies remain highly productive, as measured by revenue per employee and net income per employee. The bad news is that a stagnant, overworked workforce does not generate creativity, competitive advantage or real growth. Put another way: you can cost cut your way to survival in a recession, but you can’t cost cut your way to prosperity in a recovery.
At the end of the day, you are as good as your people, and, if you don’t help them strengthen their skills, you are likely not to be good enough. We’re not suggesting that you should just throw large dollars at training most of your workforce. Instead, focus really meaningful programs on the right people — those in a position to make a real difference in your business. The emphasis should be on teaching the softer skills that drive collaborative behaviors and foster great leadership. It takes art and science to get this right. Now’s the time to get started.