Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dilemma of talent development in an economic downturn

“Pay packets to shrink as slowdown dents growth”; “Worst is still to come….”; “Salary cuts of between 15% and 25% on the cards for…..”

These are just some of the headlines screaming out of leading newspapers. So what does an organization do about talent development in such tough economic times – should it be treated like other operational levers which are pulled to reduce costs?

My opinion? Now is the best time to invest in talent development.
Sounds insane? No. Here’s why-

1. When things are going well, people are ‘too busy’ or ‘too successful’ to take the time to pursue a learning initiative, leave aside apply the learning at the workplace. Today staff are far more focused on up-skilling.

2. A large number of people have grown through the organizational hierarchy as a result of their technical skill base, less so as a result of their ‘conceptual’ and ‘human skills’. Now is the time to pause and implement a range of talent development strategies focused on these gaps as ‘minds may be more open’

3. Investment in talent development in these times has long term ramifications in terms of building company loyalty since the support and investment is available when it is most needed.

4. An objective assessment of individual capability is far easier since the historical perspective becomes less relevant as the focus is towards building a “new order.”

5. To create a new order, a ‘back to basics’ approach must be adopted where the fundamentals rather than experience play a larger role. Learning initiatives are key to refreshing these business fundamentals.

Of course the question that must be answered is “where will the funds come from since now is the time for some short term fixes”. To quote Ramsay Clark, “Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let's love turbulence and use it for change”. While a number of today’s success stories may be form a part of the ‘successes gone bust’ section of management reading of the future, and others may be in panic and cutting costs indiscriminately to survive, now, when the rules of the past no longer hold true, is the time to invest in building talent for the future and sustaining the cutting edge as far as human resources is concerned.


arun said...

This is a very unique observation. When people are talking about lay-offs and cost-cutting, your article was very refreshing and to admit … highly relevant. This economic crunch can easily be transformed into a time for talent development. Instead of laying-off people, they can be taught new skills which might prove productive in the long run for the company. Moreover, it’ll also reflect well on the HR Department as well as help increase loyalty among the employees. In fact this would be a highly innovative HR approach during the time of recession. Later you can publicize this approach through trade journals and even apply for HR Awards!

Rajeev said...

Kudos for the blog! As Arun pointed out it is definitely an interesting observation. I hope more and more Indian companies take up this policy instead of laying-off people. In fact Arun said that the companies can apply for HR awards on basis of this approach. It’s of high relevance, given the present scenario of economic crunch. There are various institutes that felicitate and recognize innovative HR policies. For instance we applied for the SAIL HR Awards at There is also the Amity HR awards, CII Awards, as well as various international awards for HR.

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